Watch this anime to learn about bits of Japanese culture

One benefit of watching foreign media is the opportunity to learn about the place of origin, and anime is no exception. Series like Naruto or demon slayer put an imaginative spin on familiar pieces of Japanese culture, such as ninjas and samurai. Others, like Aggretsuko, discuss the social problems unique to life in Japan. But most, especially anime-like Toradorasimply exist in the country and follow standard media tropes.

All these examples and more allow anime fans to pick up tidbits of Japanese culture. Typically, the audience can learn about how the school year is structured and the events that take place throughout, or common characters in folklore such as yokai. Still, there are other anime that go deeper than what the Japanese consider common knowledge. These series explore something inherently unique to the country. For anime fans who want to learn more about Japanese culture, these shows are a good start. RELATED: Japanese Kami and Their Influence on Anime, Explained


Those Snow White Nuts

Every part of the world has its own instruments, and Japan is no exception. Those Snow White Nuts shows one such instrument, known as the shamisen. To a Western audience, the appearance is similar to a banjo or a lute. Those Snow White Nuts uses the shamisen every chance it can, incorporating it into the show’s soundtrack and opening and closing tracks. Along the way, the audience will hear historical stories related to the instrument, as well as a selection of styles and techniques that players use.

Amid these deeper dives into the shamisen and showcases of its sound, Snow White Notes is a story of struggle. Main character Sawamura Setsu flees to Tokyo after the death of his grandfather as a master shamisen player, but cannot escape the grip the instrument has on him. Unfortunately, he also cannot escape from his mother, who is determined to carry on his grandfather’s legacy. Reluctantly, he joins his high school shamisen club, which desperately needs someone of his talent.


As the season progresses, Setsu struggles with his identity and whether he is wanted. He’s competing in competitions for the first time in years, but it feels like all anyone wants to hear from him is his grandfather’s sound. Within this conflict Snow White Notes tackles the heavy burden that an inheritance can be. RELATED: Kagerou Project: An Inside Look At The Popular Music-Based Franchise

Kono Oto Tomare! Sounds of life

Like Those Snow White Nuts, Kono Oto Tomare! spotlights a specific cultural instrument. However, it has a higher position than the shamisen as the national instrument of Japan. The koto is steeped in tradition but, like so many things, is not particularly popular with younger generations. The series makes this clear from the beginning of Episode 1, where the koto club’s room has been taken over by bullies and club president Kurata Takezou is unable to stop it.


That said, every niche has people who enjoy it, and the koto club is about to take on a new lease of life. Like Snow White Notes‘ Setsu, main character Kudo Chika is chased by the koto. In an effort to understand his late grandfather’s words and passion, Chika decides to join his school’s koto club. However, Takezou has no interest in anyone with Chika’s delinquent reputation joining the club. Chika must fight to become a member and may only do so after proving that he cares about the koto.

Kono Oto Tomare! is everything a music themed anime has to offer, from great characters to a palpable passion for the subject. All the while, the audience is learning a little bit about an obscure instrument. RELATED: Kono Oto Tomare Should Be On Every Music Lover’s List — Here’s Why


Chihayafuru

Chihayafuru highlights a competitive card game entirely unique to Japan known as karuta. The game revolves around the historical Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, or 100 Poems. Each work in the collection was written by a different poet and is often taught in Japanese schools. Karuta is often used as a fun way for children to memorize the poems, as the goal is to match the first half of the poem with the opponent’s second half.

Main character Ayase Chihaya has maintained a passion for the game well into her teens, with her sights set on becoming a karuta champion. Together with her childhood friend Taichi and members they collect along the way, she builds a karuta club from scratch. As the series progresses, the audience gradually gains a deeper understanding of the game and the customs surrounding it. Chihaya and her team even bring back a few that have fallen out of practice, such as wearing traditional outfits to every match.


Chihayafuru is also a great choice for romance fans as all three seasons develop a love triangle between Chihaya, Taichi and their distant friend Arata. RELATED: Why Female-Led Sports Anime Never Reach High Levels of Popularity

Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju

Perhaps the most obscure of the bunch, rakugo is a form of comic storytelling. Artists tell stories passed down from generation to generation, but no two people tell it the same way. For example, a character depicted as a ghost in one person’s act might be treated as a yakuza boss in another’s. While the stories themselves are a big part of rakugo, the charisma of the narrator makes each story unique.

In addition to this traditional art, the story of the past belongs to one and the future to another. Former inmate Yotaro’s life changed when he witnessed a rakugo performance in prison. After his release, he goes in search of the man who performed, Yurakutei Yakumo, and begs to be accepted as an apprentice. However, getting involved in Yakumo’s life means learning more than just rakugo. Within days of living with his master, Yotaro learns that the man is charged with the murder of a fellow rakugo performer.

Curious, Yotaro explores the work of this late man, Yuurakutei Sukeroku, and becomes captivated by his rakugo. This newfound passion leads Yakumo to tell Yotaro about his past. From here, the story jumps between the past and the present, telling two stories in tandem, and coming to the truth about what really happened to Sukeroku.

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