A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Pokémon, Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario, Alfred J. Kwak…
I have a confession to make; I had never really thought that so many of my childhood favorite characters actually originate from one country, Japan. Okay, I kind of knew that but I had never considered how huge an influence this single Asian country has on our Western popular culture.
In April, Museum Volkenkunde opened a temporary exposition, Cool Japan, which is part of the Asia Year that is celebrated in Leiden this year. The museum advertises its expo all around South Holland and, hence, I was very curious seeing how it is.
Last weekend, I decided to stop by at Museum Volkenkunde, or National Museum of Ethnology, which is definitely one of my favorite museums in Leiden. I have never studied humanities but, since I find history and other cultures very interesting, I always get the feeling that visits at Volkenkunde teach me much new.
Cool Japan was not an exception. The expo takes its visitors to a journey through centuries, illustrating how widely Japanese culture has influenced on visual arts, literature, television, horror stories, and technology, among other fields.
Actually, Japanese traditions and phenomena, all the way from samurais to Harajuku girls, have had a great impact on almost everything we do on our spare time in the Western world. We play Japanese games, using Japanese equipment, watch Hollywood movies that are actually just popularized versions of Japanese movies, listen to American pop musicians who get their inspirations from Japanese street styles…
Japan can be seen everywhere. We just don’t necessarily notice it.
I think it is great that Volkenkunde values Japan’s impact and increases our knowledge about this fascinating country. In my opinion, Cool Japan is a very interesting exposition and, as a plus, all the written material in it is also available in English.
However, what was slightly disappointing to me was that the expo is not very large; I walked through it in an hour and, now and then, the provided information is somewhat shallow. Manga is over-represented, whereas many other Japanese subcultures are not even mentioned.
Besides, even though you get a chance to try out some cool things, like playing Japanese games, I really wish there was an opportunity to try out a real Japanese karaoke box!
Nonetheless, I would recommend everyone visiting, or living in, Leiden to stop by at Volkenkunde to see Cool Japan. The expo will be running until mid September.
Last but not least, some good news to all the Leiden University students: by showing your student card, the entrance to the museum is free of charge.
Have you visited Cool Japan or are you going to do so? Please, share your thoughts in the comment box!