Other Japanese cultural imports?

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Fireminer
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Other Japanese cultural imports?

Post by Fireminer »

Beside anime, manga and music, what were the popular cultural goods people imported from Japan to the West in from 1970 to 2000? I've just read an interesting article talking about how the bubble economy helped to bring a lot of things from other cultures into Japan, and I just wonder if this exchange also happened on the other direction? Like, were there a lot of Japanese literature or feature films being translated to English back then?

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Re: Other Japanese cultural imports?

Post by davemerrill »

A surprising amount of Japanese live-action films were making their way to the United States in the 50s and 60s. Not just Godzilla or science-fiction movies, and not just art-house releases of Kurosawa films, but more middlebrow samurai pictures and the occasional "adult" film were also getting into the US distribution arm, like "Hentai" show here.
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once the kung-fu movie craze hit in the 1970s, a lot of similar Japanese films like Sonny Chiba's "Street Fighter" were shown in the grindhouse and drive-in circuits.

And of course America was awash in Japanese electronics from the late 1950s onward, and made-in-Japan toys were in every toy department.

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Re: Other Japanese cultural imports?

Post by Fireminer »

davemerrill wrote:
Sat Dec 26, 2020 7:36 am
And of course America was awash in Japanese electronics from the late 1950s onward, and made-in-Japan toys were in every toy department.
Dave, could you please tell me more about the type of Japanese toys sold in American department stores at the time? Were they just generic toys or characters goods? Like, when was the first time people sold Astro Boy or Speed Racer toys in America in under either their original names or different "repackaged" brands?

And how much percentage of these goods was sold through your normal everyday stores, and how many was sold through vendors in Chinatown and Japantown?

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Re: Other Japanese cultural imports?

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Martial arts! Specifically judo and karate but other Japanese arts have influenced American popular culture. "Karate" was a generic term for any un-armed martial art into the 1980s when I was growing up. Ninjutsu and ninjas was a boom thing in the 80s, from Sho Kosugi films, to Van Damme's Bloodsport, to turtles... Judo, too, was widely practiced by lots of kids growing up in the 60s and 70s. I am not as familiar with the history of Karate in North America, Judo had been practiced going back to the early 20th century, mostly among Japanese immigrant or Japanese-descent heavy communities and their neighbors. It had even been used as a base of US Military training for un-armed combat in the first and second World Wars. Mass mobilization in World War II, occupation of Japan following it meant a lot of men in their 20s and 30s were exposed to Judo and continued practicing it when they got out of the service. The 1964 Olympics, where Judo first appeared as an event, were predicted to heavily favor the Japanese teams and while they took gold in 3 out of 4 weight classes, the Silver and Bronze medals were picked up by Candians, Americans and Soviets. Lots of people picked up Judo after that, it appeared in movies and later satire and jokes. It was enough that even if a bunch of folks stopped practicing Judo, it was still familiar in the cultural zeitgeist for decades.

This sort of cultural exchange, in my opinion, made it easier for folks to get interested into other martial arts of non-Japanese origin but also make some of the foreign customs in the Japanese movies that Dave mentioned a little-less foreign.
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Re: Other Japanese cultural imports?

Post by davemerrill »

Fireminer wrote:
Sat Dec 26, 2020 6:46 pm
davemerrill wrote:
Sat Dec 26, 2020 7:36 am
And of course America was awash in Japanese electronics from the late 1950s onward, and made-in-Japan toys were in every toy department.
Dave, could you please tell me more about the type of Japanese toys sold in American department stores at the time? Were they just generic toys or characters goods? Like, when was the first time people sold Astro Boy or Speed Racer toys in America in under either their original names or different "repackaged" brands?

And how much percentage of these goods was sold through your normal everyday stores, and how many was sold through vendors in Chinatown and Japantown?
there's a whole galaxy of imported Japanese toys, ceramics, knick-knacks, and collectibles that were exported from Japan starting in Occupation days that didn't really end until the rest of Asia's manufacturing capacity caught up in the 80s and 90s. Here's a Chicago Tribune article about it: https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct- ... story.html

Most of the children's toys were super cheap generic plastic rack toys, or things like lithographed metal windup robots, vehicles, animals, and figures, dancing animals, bartenders, spaceships, trucks, jeeps, tanks, airplanes, you name it. See here: https://www.carters.com.au/index.cfm/in ... -japanese/

Astro Boy merchandise sold in the United States in the 1960s was American items like gum, coloring books, temporary tattoos, etc. If there was any Speed Racer merchandise sold in the US in the 1960s or 1970s I'm unaware of it; there was a big wave of licensed Speed Racer merch in the 1990s from "Speed Racer Enterprises", founded in 1991 when Harmony Gold employee John Rocknowski acquired the license for the original series from Tatsunoko Productions. The Speed Racer license has reverted to Tatsunoko, I believe. https://speedracer.fandom.com/wiki/Spee ... nterprises

Kimba The White Lion merch was similar to Astro Boy. Battle Of The Planets got lunch boxes and a few Japanese model kits repackaged for the American market.

A lot of 80s robot toys were sold in American toy stores due to the popularity of Transformers and Robotech - you could find toys from Macross, Xabungle, Dunbine, Dougram, Baxinger, and other 80s properties in Toys R Us, Spencer's Gifts, and elsewhere, even though most of those shows weren't being broadcast on American TV then, or ever. If it had a robot on the package, they'd try to sell it in America. Some of the higher end toy stores would import Japanese model kits and higher-end metal toys - my brother found a metal light-up Shaider figure, and I found some Plawres Sanshiro vinyl.

And if you lived in a city with a large Japanese population, there's no end to what you could find in their communities. The city I grew up in did not have a large Japanese community, however.

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Re: Other Japanese cultural imports?

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davemerrill wrote:
Thu Dec 31, 2020 7:24 am
there's a whole galaxy of imported Japanese toys, ceramics, knick-knacks, and collectibles that were exported from Japan starting in Occupation days that didn't really end until the rest of Asia's manufacturing capacity caught up in the 80s and 90s. Here's a Chicago Tribune article about it: https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct- ... story.html

Most of the children's toys were super cheap generic plastic rack toys, or things like lithographed metal windup robots, vehicles, animals, and figures, dancing animals, bartenders, spaceships, trucks, jeeps, tanks, airplanes, you name it. See here: https://www.carters.com.au/index.cfm/in ... -japanese/

Astro Boy merchandise sold in the United States in the 1960s was American items like gum, coloring books, temporary tattoos, etc. If there was any Speed Racer merchandise sold in the US in the 1960s or 1970s I'm unaware of it; there was a big wave of licensed Speed Racer merch in the 1990s from "Speed Racer Enterprises", founded in 1991 when Harmony Gold employee John Rocknowski acquired the license for the original series from Tatsunoko Productions. The Speed Racer license has reverted to Tatsunoko, I believe. https://speedracer.fandom.com/wiki/Spee ... nterprises

Kimba The White Lion merch was similar to Astro Boy. Battle Of The Planets got lunch boxes and a few Japanese model kits repackaged for the American market.

A lot of 80s robot toys were sold in American toy stores due to the popularity of Transformers and Robotech - you could find toys from Macross, Xabungle, Dunbine, Dougram, Baxinger, and other 80s properties in Toys R Us, Spencer's Gifts, and elsewhere, even though most of those shows weren't being broadcast on American TV then, or ever. If it had a robot on the package, they'd try to sell it in America. Some of the higher end toy stores would import Japanese model kits and higher-end metal toys - my brother found a metal light-up Shaider figure, and I found some Plawres Sanshiro vinyl.

And if you lived in a city with a large Japanese population, there's no end to what you could find in their communities. The city I grew up in did not have a large Japanese community, however.
Thanks for all the articles! I have no idea the "Made in Occupied Japan" label had that much meaning.

And as for the robot figures, yeah, I figure out that Dougram and Xabungle should had had some presents in America--their designs were lifted by FASA and put into BattleTech! Also, were there a lot of die-cast metal figures imported back them?

Since cars have cultural significant in America too, so I will ask about it. I heard that during the 70s Japanese cars exploded in popularity because of the oil crisis. Is this true?

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Re: Other Japanese cultural imports?

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Fireminer wrote:
Sat Jan 02, 2021 7:17 am
Since cars have cultural significant in America too, so I will ask about it. I heard that during the 70s Japanese cars exploded in popularity because of the oil crisis. Is this true?
Yes, that's true (I didn't even think about that, though). Japanese motor companies had started US/American subsidiaries earlier than that, but one of the chief effects of the oil and energy crisis of the 1970s was a push for smaller, more efficient cars, which American car companies, were not known for producing. Cars from Japanese makers, due to its subsidiary structure (as opposed to import partners) and favorable exchange rates were definitely cheaper than American cars but fuel economy and reliability were huge selling points. American cars of this era were not known to be especially reliable; so when a cheaper and more reliable car comes along, you should see sales increase.

American automakers didn't really adapt to this market change very well, and still insisted on larger cars and not really trying to improve fuel efficiency or reliability, kind of believing that once all of this "energy crisis" business was over, American buyers would come back to American cars (haha). In the 80s, popularity of Japanese autos increased still, especially after they began releasing their luxury and performance car lines here. As Japan's overall economic size grew to the second largest* economy in the world, there was backlash in the US about "Japanese junk" cars and such, and in some sections of the country (hello my native rust belt), buying Japanese cars was seen as un-patriotic. There is still a segment of the car owning public that will only buy American cars (my parents, some of my extended family); I grew up in American cars and my first couple cars were American cars. After all that, I refuse to buy American cars.

Not only my personal experiences, I think it's silly, from a micro-financial perspective, I want to buy the best car for my dollar (which often times are reliable Japanese cars). But at a macro-level, the auto market in America is full of American, German, Japanese, Korean, Italian and whomever else (I think Tatas are available here in some fashion), many of which are also manufactured here, so the idea of not buying an American car is putting an American out of work is kinda dumb.

*largest economy, depending on who's measuring and who's included, etc. etc. etc.
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Re: Other Japanese cultural imports?

Post by DKop »

Well you got Ford who is NOW trying to get onboard with the whole electric car scene by making electric Mustangs. The main pony horse behind stupidly loud, tuned up and hauling ass muscle cars across the roads can be done by eco friendly millennials who like to have the name of a Mustang and save the environment at the same time. And also don't want to be that jackass at 3am waking up the neighbors in their loud as hell car. I'm personally a fan of loud vehicles (not at night mind you, its to a point), but at least it didn't take Ford 10 years to catch on the electric vehicle market.

In terms of the car market, anime series like Initial D have driven up the value and market for its series iconic Toyota AE86. What was once a beater 3 door hatchback in the 90's and 2000's are now highly sought after sports cars for its full customizable aftermarket upgrades. The thing is Toyota has this label of being a nearly indestructible vehicle, which i'll throw my hat to that label based on how ive seen them run since I started driving.

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Re: Other Japanese cultural imports?

Post by mbanu »

mbanu: What's between Old School and New School?
runesaint: Hmmm. "Middle School", perhaps?

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Re: Other Japanese cultural imports?

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mbanu: What's between Old School and New School?
runesaint: Hmmm. "Middle School", perhaps?

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