If a student – or even a professor – is interested in a broad and general overview of “Japanese popular culture”, what kinds of basic starting points can they use to begin familiarizing themselves with what the concept actually encompasses? One such starting point is the recent A History of Popular Culture in Japan: From the Seventeenth Century to the Present (E. Taylor Atkins, Bloomsbury Academic), another, though slightly older now, is the Japanese Popular Culture and Globalization volume in the series of short “Key Issues in Asian Studies” handbooks published by the Association for Asian Studies. An excellent one is Introducing Japanese Popular Culture (Alisa Freedman and Toby Slade, Routledge), especially with its design specifically as both a textbook, a “go-to handbook for interested readers”, and a guide to the field’s most important sources and leading scholars.
And now, the University of Tokyo has launched a new resource of this type – the fully online Japanese Media and Popular Culture – An Open-Access Digital Initiative – “a reference work and alphabetical series of essays on important key concepts”. The “key concepts” cover a range of topics both in media, communication, and cultural studies in general, and in Japanese Studies in particular – as specific as “2.5-dimensional” and “fansubbing“, and as general as “cuteness“, “male gaze“, and “participatory culture“. Each “keyword” short essay is then directly connected to a “celebrity or “character” entry. Some of these connections include Mangaesque to Fullmetal Alchemist, Otaku to Okuda Toshio, Yuri to Hanedara Keisuke, and Database to Mimiketto – and, as explained in the site’s How to Use section, “celebrity or character” is actually expanded to mean “star, celebrity, talent, creator, or character from Japanese popular culture”. (more…)