Feudal Era In Japan

Japan’s Feudal era introduced one of Japan’s more powerful and popular warriors in pop culture; the samurai. In 1185, Samurai Minamoto no Yoritomo became a shogun after defeating the Taira clan in the Genpei war. He then concentrated the power into Kamakura. The Hojo clan then became the successors after Yoritomo’s death, and became the next ones in line for the title of shogun. This period also introduced Japan to Buddhism, which was an influence from China and became popular and was quickly adapted by the samurais. Attempts of invasion by the Mongolians occurred on two occasions, in 1274 and in 1281, but were both stopped and resisted by the Kamakura shogunate. They were eventually defeated by the Emperor Go-Daigo, who himself got killed at the hands of Ashikaga Takauji in 1336.

Art from Historical Japan

Takauji then brought and shifted the power of shogunate into Muromachi, Kyoto, which marked the end of the Kamakura period and marked the beginning of the  Muromachi period, which started from 1336 until 1573. In this period, Zen Buddhism achieved greater popularity, and the shogunate was experiencing new heights of glory during Takauji’s tenure. It eventually evolved into the Higashiyama culture and continued to have glory up until the 16th century. A series of bad events, however, turned the tide and changed the scene again for Japan, as the succeeding shogunate failed to impose his control over the feudal warlords, which in turn escalated into a civil war that started in 1467. This period then paved the way for a dark period which was called the Sengoku period. During this period, Japan was able to have access with other countries such as Portugal, which opened the possibilities of trade and also cultural exchange. It gave Japan access to firearms, in which they used to alleviate their problems with the feudal warlords. Hideyoshi then succeeded after the assassination of the previous leader, and went on to reunite the nation and invade Korea.

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Street Fighter

Street Fighter is one of the most popular video games in the world. It is created by Capcom, and it is the second best selling video game franchise in Capcom’s existence. Street Fighter is a typical fighting game where each player has the option to choose between characters who all have unique skill sets and moves. It was first released to the public in 1987, in an arcade platform. The player is able to control the main protagonist, Ryu, who is also one of the more notable characters in the game.

Street Fighter IV characters

 

The main goal of the very first game is to defeat every opponent and competitor in the 20 man tournament. Ryu can perform different kicks and punches, and can eventually perform his famous special moves such as the hadouken, shoryuken, and the spinning kick tatsumaki senpukyaku. The popularity in the arcades eventually carried on to when it was brought into gaming consoles, such as the PC. 1991 saw the release of Street Fighter II, which was the sequel to the original Street Fighter. This was the first Street Fighter where the player was given the option and freedom to choose between characters who have different moves. The Street Fighter eventually became a major hit, boosting the Street Fighter’s popularity. Calculations of revenue in 1993 saw Street Fighter II taking home 1.5 billion dollars in revenue and establishing Street Fighter’s position in the video game scene as a sustainable franchise with a strong fan base and great playability. It also boosted sales in video game consoles for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Mega Drive and Genesis consoles. Street Fighter then released multiple gaming sequels, with Street Fighter EX and Street Fighter Alpha as notable ones, and expanded into having film releases, manga releases, toys, and cartoons, with each of them having varied success and high revenue.

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May J

May J, whose legal name is May Hashimoto, was born on June 20, 1988, in Yokohama, Japan. May J is of Japanese, Iranian, and Russian decent, and is currently signed with Rhythm Zone label. The letter “J” in her alias May J means “Jamileh”, which is Arabic for beautiful. Hashimoto is known to be multi-lingual and speaks fluently in Japanese, English, Spanish, and also Farsi. When she was a child, her Iranian mother completely denied her about her Persian roots, and this is because of Japan’s despise and negativity towards Persians back then. She was not allow to speak Persian completely during her childhood. Her biggest influences in music are Iranian singers Afshin and Googoosh, and had hoped and dreamed that she will debut in Iran.

Japanese Sensation May J

 

May J audition for Sony Music when she was 14 years old, where in she was successful and signed a contract to Sony Music Japan. Her biggest international influences include American singers such as Christina Aguilera and Whitney Houston, and also Canadian singer Avril Lavigne. She then appeared on MTV’s lookalike contest and went on to win the contest looking like Avril Lavigne. Her interest in R&B developed when she was studying at the American School in Japan. She made her debut with Neosite Discs, the hip-hop division of Ki/oon Records. In June 12, 2006 she released her debut album All My Girls, which featured some R&B and American pop influence. 2006 also saw May J opening for Cassie, and she also released her debut single titled “Here We Go” which charted at number 70. In 2009, she then switched to Rhythm Zone where she released her sophomore album titled “Family”. The single “Garden” was released in promotion of her second album. May J was then seen as doing the end roll version of the now famous Frozen song “Let It Go” which landed a number 8 spot in the Japan Hot 100.

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Miki Ando

Miki Ando was born on December 18, 1987 in Nagoya Japan. She is a former ice skating champion and figure skater, and has won multiple awards and accolades. Ando began skating at an early age of 8, and was mentored early on by Yuko Monna, who also mentored figure skating champions Mao and Mai Asada. She was coached by Nobuo Sato, and by the 2001-2002 season, she won both of the Japan Junior Championships and also the Junior Grand Prix Final, while also capturing bronze medals for her performance in the Japan Championships Seniors Division and at the Junior Worlds. A defining moment of Ando’s career happened in the 2002-2003 season, when she was able to land a quadruple salchow at the 2002-2003 Junior Grand Prix Final, making her the first female ever to be able to perform and land the quadruple salchow in any form of competition, and remains the only female skater to do so. She then went on to capture silver at the World Junior Championships and also defend her title and remain as the reigning national Junior champion.

Miki Ando

 

The 2003-2004 season proved to be more rewarding for Ando, as she won her third national title and also capture the Japan Championships Senior Division again. Through out the span of her skating career, Miki Ando has been accomplished and her resume boasts awards such as being a 2-time World champion back in 2007 and in 2011, a 2011 Four Continents championship, a 2004 World Junior Championship and being a 3 time Japanese national champion. After giving birth in April 2013, Ando went on a hiatus, and after about two years and 5 months, she came back for a performance at the 2013 Nebelhorn Trophy, where she placed at 2nd behind the Russian veteran Elena Radionova. She then competed at the 2014 Japan Figure Skating Championships, where she placed 7th. After that event, Ando then decided to retire her professional skating career and has since sparked an interest in coaching.

 

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Ichiro Suzuki, Japan’s Baseball Superstar

Ichiro Suzuki, was born on October 22, 1973, in Nagoya, Japan. Known simply as Ichiro, he is currently playing for the Miami Marlins in the Major League Baseball. Before he started his career in MLB, Ichiro first played in Japan in the Pacific League in 1992. He was known for his swinging style, which was then dubbed as the “pendulum”, which also garnered him some criticism from his manager Shozo Doi, and placed him in the farm system because of it. The whole duration of Ichiro’s stint under Shozo Doi saw him in the farm system, but that all changed when Doi was relieved of his duties in 1994. Doi was then replaced by Akira Ogi, who gave Ichiro playing time. He eventually earned a leadoff position, where in he further proved himself and his unusual and unorthodox swing were both effective and efficient. He then went on to set a single season Japanese record for hits, having 210 hits for that season. That record is not to be surpassed until Matt Murton had 214 hits in 2010.

Ichiro Suzuki

 

Ichiro then blossomed into a star, and garnered 7 consecutive batting titles and three consecutive Pacific League MVP awards. He then went on to lead the Blue Wave to a Pacific League pennant in 1995, its first one since 1983. Ichiro then moved in 2001 to the Major League Baseball and play for the Seattle Mariners. It eventually caught the attention of viewers, as Ichiro is the first Japanese position player to play for MLB. Ichiro had to prove his worth again, as spectators and critics predicted that the Japanese standout wont last long in the 162 game marathon of a seaon in MLB. He then set a rookie record of 242 hits in a season, the most since 1930 by a rookie. He then went on to play at the All-star game, and became the only player in MLB to win the Rookie of the Year award, MVP award, Gold Glove award, and Silver Slugger award.

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Akira Toriyama, Dragon Ball’s Creator

Akira Toriyama was born on April 5, 1955 in Nagoya Japan. Toriyama’s best known work is his anime series Dragon Ball, which went to become one of the most popular manga series and anime series of all time in the world. The manga sold over 230 million copies worldwide, and has achieved critical acclaim from readers, fans, and critics. Toriyama first discovered his talent for drawing when he was in elementary school with his friends, which became their source of entertainment. His skill became more developed, and noticed that he has surpassed the skill and talent of his classmates when he was able to do draw pictures of his classmates. His desire and passion for art however, became more noticeable when he won a prize for his One Hundred and One Dalmatians picture, and concluded that “art was fun”.

Akira Toriyama

 

When he was around 23 years old, he started working for an advertising company, designing their posters for three years. He then decided to leave, and aspired to have a career in the manga industry by joining a contest conducted by Jump magazine and submitting a work to have a chance of winning the prize money. He did not win the prize, but received a more valuable consolation prize; an encouragement coming from his future editor Kazuhiko Torishima. He then published his debut in the manga scene with his work, Wonder Island. It was published in Weekly Shonen Jump, but did not receive the popularity that he thought it would have. He would come back in 1981 with Dr. Slump, which proved to be a much stronger effort from him and ran from 1980 to 1984. This established his place as one of manga’s superstar writers. The series also earn Toriyama a Shogakukan Manga Award for best manga of the year. After the Dr. Slump series, Toriyama published in 1984 his greatest and most known work, Dragon Ball. It went on to be an international sensation, and sold 156 million copies in Japan, good enough for 2nd place in the best-selling mangas of all time list.

 

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Dragonball Z’s Vegeta

Dragonball Z is a manga series adapted into an anime series that revolves around the story of the protagonist Son Goku and his battles with the strongest villains in the universe. One of Goku’s earlier foes in the series and in which the first saga revolved in is also one of the most influential and important characters in the whole show. The name of this villain who turned into a hero later in the series is Vegeta. He was known as the Prince of the fallen Saiyan race, who were obliterated almost completely by the villain Freeza. Vegeta, along with Goku, Nappa, and Raditz are the survivors of the onslaught.

Prince Vegeta

 

Vegeta is known for his cocky, arrogant, and selfish attitude, and also his strong desire to surpass Goku in strength and in power. They first met when Vegeta, along with Nappa, landed on Earth in search for the dragon balls. Both of them eventually meet some of Goku’s friends, and with the dark intention of the two men, a battle broke out in which Nappa was man-handling Goku’s friends. Goku then proceeded into the fight and defeated Nappa. Vegeta then killed Nappa with his rage, and then moved on to fight Goku. The fight starts up with both sides having no clear advantage, but eventually with the use of Kaio-ken, Goku increases his power and speed exponentially and defeats Vegeta. Vegeta barely escapes the planet alive, and then seeks refuge on planet Namek with the sole intention again of gaining immortality. This time however, he is not alone in seeking the dragon balls for personal gain. Freeza is now introduced in this saga, and Vegeta assumes more of a supportive role. He plays a vital part however, and eventually he dies to Freeza. Due to his efforts, he is revived by the use of the dragon balls and develops an anti-hero character to Goku. Despite his jealousy of Goku’s success and power, Vegeta’s urge to do good outweighs the intent of surpassing Goku.

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Sumo Wrestling: Japan’s National Sport

Sumo wrestling is one of Japan’s most famous forms of entertainment and sport. The main goal of Sumo wrestling is that the wrestler, also known as the rikishi, should be able to throw his opponent out of the ring or by forcing him to touch the ground other than the soles of his feet by means of pushing, grappling, shoving, and any other forms of contact. The only country that practices this sport professionally is in Japan, and includes a series of rituals in its matches, which gives commemoration and homage to its Shinto roots. The sport is governed by the Japan Sumo Association, and provides the rules in which the wrestlers should abide to. The association requires its wrestlers to have a very strict training and eating regimen, and every aspect of their lives is closely monitored to ensure that they conform to tradition. The highest rank in Sumo wrestling is the Yokozuna, or the “Grand Champion”.

Yokozuna, or “Grand Champion”

 

Origins of the sport come from the Shinto religion, where shrines are found to perform ritual dances similar to that performed in Sumo wrestling. It is also seen as a vital part of tradition in the imperial court. It is compulsory for each and every provincial representative to attend and fight with other representatives. The popularity of Sumo wrestling depended on the orders of leaders at the time, and in dire need of the country especially in times of war. The winner of a Sumo wrestling match is defined by two things: The first one who forces his opponent out of the ring wins the game, and also the first one who forces his opponent to touch the ground except for the soles of his opponent’s feet wins the game. Sumo wrestling’s popularity worldwide has it closely associated to Japan, and it has for a good reason expanded and enriched Japan’s cultural significance around the world.

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Slam Dunk’s Hanamichi Sakuragi

Slam Dunk is a basketball-themed manga written by Takehiko Inoue. It was then adapted into an animated series in the 1990s and grew in popularity because of its unusual theme, slapstick comedy, and the charisma of its main protagonist, Hanamichi Sakuragi. Sakuragi is known to be a hot-blooded, lazy, and arrogant high school student who always gets into trouble with other students in the series. He is also known to have been dumped by about 50 girls in the series, and while that does not discourage him, he then falls in love with Haruko Akagi, who is known to have interest in basketball. This becomes a major turning point for Sakuragi, who then turns to basketball in order to impress Haruko. Haruko then provides him with encouragement to try out for the basketball varsity team of Shohoku, which is in need of good players. Sakuragi however, lacks proper training and basic knowledge about the game of basketball,but he is still accepted by the team as he compensates his lack of training with athleticism, height, and willingness to learn and impress Haruko.

Issue # 1 of Slam Dunk

 

During the varsity try-outs, he meets Takenori Akagi, who is the older brother of Haruko and is the team captain of Shohoku’s basketball team. Both of them despise each other immediately, which ends up in physical altercations and verbal exchanges, in which Sakuragi calls Akagi as “Gori” which is short for gorilla. In the varsity try outs Hanamichi Sakuragi also meets a fellow rookie in the name of Kaede Rukawa, who is a gifted basketball player, but is selfish. The two immediately start a rivalry. Sakuragi’s jealousy of Rukawa’s basketball skillset and charm to the girls becomes a staple in the series, and the two of them always end up fighting physically and verbally. Despite the differences of the two and the other members of the Shohoku basketball team, all of them improve, especially Sakuragi, who ends up receiving a pass from Rukawa and shooting the game winning basket in the final moments of the series.

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The Controversy of the Yasukuni Shrine

It was in 1869 when the Yasukuni Shrine of Japan was established by then Emperor Meiji. This is a special place for all the Japanese people as well as the Japanese history because it will be the home of the commemorated souls of those who had exchanged their lives to protect the Empire. At the time, Emperor Meiji composed a poem that stated ‘I assure those of you who fought and died for your country that your names will live forever at this shrine in Musashino’. Since then, all those brave men and women of Japan who risked and dedicated their lives for the honor of the Empire and the Emperor are commemorated in this special shrine. Those who fought at the wars that Japan has been involved with, from the earlier times up to the Second World War, they are given honor in exchange for their loyalty to the Emperor.

the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo

 

However, in the recent decades, the Yasukuni Shrine has been in a great deal of controversy especially with China and Korea. This is because of the fact that out of the many names of the military (especially during the Second World War) who are honoured and commemorated in this shrine, about 1100 of them are convicted of war crimes by what is known as a post-World War court. As many people know, the Japanese are accused of many crimes and violence during the Second World War. These include the Nanjing Massacre, slavery of Vietnam Comfort Women, those from China, Philippines, Korea and many more, the death railway in the Thai-Burma Border and many more. For the Japanese, unless these crimes are proven with sufficient evidence, these men will still be hailed as heroes of the war. This is because despite what they may have done, their best interest is to protect the Emperor and the country. This has stirred mixed emotions from many people, particularly the victims and the families of victims. With the war too distant from the present, it is unknown what is yet to happen to truth and justice.

Yasukuni Shrine Festival

 

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