5 reasons Brits are so obsessed with Japan

·Contributor
Sushi
Beats a steak-and-ale pie [Photo: Instagram/bitesofyum]

It’s official; the Hyper Japan festival is returning to London’s Tobacco Docks for another year.

On Wednesday 14 and Thursday 15 of July, Brits will gather at the huge venue to eat, see and hear everything Japan including performances, workshops and food.

But sushi is far from the only Japanese thing that Brits absolutely adore.

Despite being more than 5,000 miles away, the UK is somewhat in love with the island nation and, even when we can’t afford the plane tickets ourselves, immerse ourselves in its culture here on our rainy little island.

So what is it with the UK’s affair with Japan, exactly?

  1. The food

SUSHIIIIIII ????

A post shared by Mae Sakr (@bitesofyum) on May 17, 2017 at 1:57pm PDT

Let’s just get this out of the way; Brits love Japanese cuisine.

Whether we’re choosing to visit high-end West End restaurants, or buying it in packs from Tesco, we’re eating sushi in particular more and more.

According to Asian grocer Wing Yip Oriental Food Report, sushi was listed 14% more often on menus in 2016 than two years ago, so we can only imagine how much more popular it is in 2017 already.

And if weird gimmicky versions, such as sushi burritos and sushi doughnuts are anything to go by, our obsession won’t be disappearing anytime soon.

2. The bizarre celebrations

It’s hard to picture a giant phallus statue being paraded through the streets of London followed by people wearing and eating lots of penis-themed memorabilia.

Not in Japan. Kawasaki’s annual penis festival, Kanamara Matsuri, celebrates everything willy-related.

Said to originate in the 17th century when prostitutes prayed for protection from sexually transmitted infections at the city’s shrine, the event now raises funds for HIV prevention and education.

But we’re just obsessed by the giant penis float, to be honest.

3. J-Pop

While people in Britain are making a fuss about Little Mix being too ‘out there’, Japan, meanwhile, has J-Pop.

While it’s actually quite diverse, we know it for the bands that are bright, colourful, aggressively cute and upbeat.

Imagine some of Katy Perry’s earlier stuff on steroids; the past few years has seen an explosion of bands such as AKB48, Momoiro Clover Z and Morning Musume, and we can’t get enough of it.

It’s certainly a change from Ed Sheeran.

4. The gardens

On the other end of the spectrum, Brits love Japanese gardens and how aesthetically different they are from ours at home.

Unlike in the UK, where we’ll plant hydrangeas in any old place, Japanese gardening is inspired by particular philosophical ideas and looks beautiful, too.

From spiritually-significant bridges to carefully-positioned stones, every element and arrangement of each garden is carefully picked so that it all works in harmony.

We love them so much, that many locations in the UK have their own Japanese-style green spaces.

5. Manga and anime

Manga (comics) and anime (hand-drawn or computer animation) have been big in the UK for yonks and continue to grow in popularity.

Many Brits first stumbled across the style in the 90s when Pokémon aired in the UK, but it covers just about every genre from horror to business.

It’s best known for its distinctive visual style, and is popular enough in the West to have its own genre on Netflix.

Studio Ghibli – the animation studio behind the films ‘Spirited Away’ and ‘Princess Mononoke’is a pretty familiar name in the UK, and series such as ‘Cowboy Bebopand ‘Naruto’ have large, dedicated fan bases.

But if there’s any one reason that people from the UK love Japan, it’s because it’s so different – the grass is always greener, hey?

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