The bombing of Pearl Harbor marked the U.S.’s entrance into World War II. Four years later, Japan surrendered after losing hundreds of thousands of lives to the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Despite the countries’ history as war enemies, Japanese culture and tradition are now deeply ingrained in American society. Throughout the past few decades, the relevancy of Japanese pop culture in particular has experienced exponential growth in the U.S. through various mediums like social media and entertainment.
As a multibillion-dollar industry, anime has made tremendous strides in transnational entertainment. With its target audience ranging from children to young adults, Generation Z and millennials alike have grown up watching anime such as Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z, and Sailor Moon. Unlike the majority of Western cartoons, anime has more detail in character design, facial expressions, and character development, enabling viewers to better engage with the characters and story. Due to anime’s success, some American production companies modeled cartoons after the Japanese animation style, with Avatar: The Last Airbender being a prime example. Many fans participate in anime conventions and cosplay as their favorite characters, creating vibrant communities within the U.S. held together by widespread interests.
Japan is also home to a variety of distinguished video game companies. Headquartered in Kyoto, Nintendo amassed international recognition for producing successful consoles like the Game Boy and Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The video game giant also designed numerous video game series including “Super Mario” and “Animal Crossing.” Meanwhile, Square Enix, headquartered in Tokyo, is known for its “Final Fantasy” and “Kingdom Hearts” role-playing video game franchises. The role-playing genre was innovated by Japan and remains as one of the most popular game types within the American gaming community. For introducing a new world of gaming to the U.S., Japan revolutionized one of the most popular forms of entertainment.
Although not as widespread as trending pop music, Japanese pop music is still internationally loved. The openings and endings of episodes in anime often include J-pop, and interest has grown with the popularization of TikTok, an international entertainment platform, especially within the U.S. For instance, “Summertime,” a Japanese dance and electronic song, has been used as a sound for over 3.2 million videos. A TikTok featuring the city-pop song “Midnight Door – Stay with Me” has amassed over 16.1 million views. While interest in all language courses excluding English and Korean have declined, enrollments in Japanese language programs proliferated.
Japan is best known for its contributions to pop culture but other aspects of its culture should not be overlooked. The cuisine, fashion, and values of Japanese culture also influence everyday life and habits for Americans. Whether through animation collaborations, fashion trends, or technological advancements, Japan will continue to impact American culture over the years that lie ahead.