OTAKU

Otaku are people who are literally obsessed with certain manifestations of pop culture, generally manga, anime or video games. Indefatigable collectors: manic, in fact.

In our country, on average, only the experts in Japanese things (not necessarily otaku) or those who deal with comics and cartoons know the meaning of the term, nor the editorial production has delayed specifically on the subject (if we exclude Generation Otaku by Azuma Hiroki, published by Jaca Book or the novel Train Man, by Nakano Hitori, published in 2007 by Isbn and which has an otaku as its protagonist).

Elsewhere, however, there are Westerners who study otaku, sometimes even enthusiastically embracing their spirit. This is the case of the American Patrick W. Galbraith, anthropologist and researcher, who recently published the book Otaku spaces.
The term otaku originally meant "your home" and was originally used as a second person honorific pronoun. It is in the Sixties that it acquires a new value: science fiction enthusiasts use it for the owners of rare books, as collectors.

But it is subsequently that the word takes on a completely different connotation. When, for example, the science fiction writer Arai uses it in an essay: this could have led to the emulation of fans and the total distortion of meaning compared to the beginnings.

As mentioned, it is not a neutral word in Japanese: it indicates someone separated from the real world, projected into a universe of fantasies and monothematic fixations, often with connotations of sexual deviance.
Even today it is difficult to dismantle the negative imagery that surrounds the otaku in Japan and which is closely intertwined with the terrible news stories that shocked Japanese society in the late 1980s.

In that period, in fact, the crimes of the serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki who killed and abused four minors were discovered. A huge collection of horror films, anime, as well as video fragments and images of his victims was found in his home. From here to the psychosis towards the otaku it was a short step. Journalist Akio Nakamori referred to the killer as an otaku and the label became final.
For years in the Japanese imagination, an otaku was thought of as a pimply and overweight four-eyed person who does not wash and does not socialize. He stays indoors watching anime, reading manga or playing video games, collects models and posters and dreams of getting married to his waifu, the 2d female character he fell in love with.

There is also a female caricature: a shy girl, with a dark and unattractive appearance, who hides an unbridled passion for shonen-ai and yaoi (homosexual stories between boys) and spends her days playing dating sims ("simulator of appointments ").

For a country like Japan, where public opinion has a considerable weight in everyday life, an otaku is a geek with obsessive obsessions.

Despite everything, otaku culture has a respectable place in the Japanese economy: just think of the famous Akihabara district, which owes part of its fortune to merchandising enthusiasts.
The otaku culture is not limited to manga or video games, but extends to all passions.

In this regard, we cannot fail to mention the idols, boys and girls who, as soloists or in groups, perform in concerts or television shows and who have countless followers of both sexes. Their world revolves all around the fans: the meetings, the signing-copies and the sale of merchandise are almost always sold out thanks to the otaku, for which the idols represent the ideal boy or girl.

The otaku culture is more varied and complex than you think and is not all that well regarded in Japan, but things are slowly changing and society is starting to accept it as an integral part of the Japanese identity.

YUKATA OR KIMONO?

Japanese culture is certainly vast and full of facets that we Westerners might miss. One of these is the difference from Kimono and Yukata, two traditional dresses which appear very similar, but which are different in many respects. In this post I will explain the difference between the two dresses, in which occurrences they should be worn and who can wear them.
The yukata and the kimono are traditional Japanese clothes very similar to each other whose main body is made from a single piece of fabric that is held by a large "belt" that is tightened around the waist. The shape of the knot at the waistband can change. There are dozens of parts of the women's kimono and each one has a specific name, there are as many accessories. On the contrary, the men's one is made up of only 5 pieces. In general we can say that the kimono is a very formal garment used in important events.
The yukata, on the other hand, is a lighter summer dress and decidedly less formal. It is mainly used in summer, during fireworks displays, at bon-odori parties and other summer holidays. Another use of the yukata is as a dressing gown after the traditional Japanese bath (onsen); the meaning of the word “yukata”, in fact, is bathing suit. We can find this use of the garment especially in traditional Japanese hotels (ryokans) that offer it to guests.
The first difference between the two garments lies in the materials used. The kimono is traditionally made of silk, but today there are versions made of cheaper materials, such as cotton, polyester, rayon or other synthetic fibers. The use of these materials not only makes the dress more accessible, but also more resistant. In addition, there is a lining, which makes it warmer.

The yukata, on the other hand, is generally made of cotton, linen or hemp as it must be lighter to be worn in the summer. Obviously, it is unlined and the sleeves tend to be shorter.
The kimono is a generally formal and fine dress, although there are many styles of the garment that also vary in the degree of formality. On the contrary, the yukata is a purely informal garment and practically varies only in colors and decorations. Generally, however, we are talking about women's clothing, given that men's clothing is decidedly more monotonous and classic, men in fact focus on dull colors such as dark blue.
Literally the word yukata (浴衣) means "bathing suit", and indicated the typical clothing worn by Japanese nobles after bathing in the onsen during the Heian period. Even today, the same ancient custom has remained, before and after the thermal baths, but it is not the only opportunity to wear yukata in Japan.

Originally the yukata was indigo colored, while nowadays it is found in many patterns and colors. Girls wear very bright colors, and all kinds of patterns, girls often opt for floral patterns, which are also colorful, while adult women usually choose simple, inconspicuous patterns and colors. Girls can indulge themselves with hairstyles, hair decorations, accessories such as bags or fans, and the obi knot, while men are more sober, both in clothing and in the type of yukata, and in the hairstyle.
If you have been to a ryokan (旅館), the typical traditional Japanese hostel, you will have happened to find in your room a yukata folded and placed on the bed. Here, the yukata can be used as a "dressing gown", to go to the internal onsen of the ryokan, or to eat in the dining room with the other guests of the hostel. This type of clothing is not limited to summer, but can be used in any season, so much so that in winter, if you are cold, you can wear the hanten, or the chabaori, a sort of heavier jacket that is provided in ryokans, and stroll the streets with your yukata.
yukata is the typical clothing worn during summer festivals (祭 matsuri) in Japan, or fireworks events (花火 大会 hanabitaikai). Unlike the kimono, which is worn on formal occasions such as weddings or funerals, the yukata has become a fashionable adornment and cannot be used in formal situations.
The yukata consists of a cotton robe, an obi belt and geta sandals. Generally, underwear is worn under the yukata, or there are those who wear a tank top to prevent the yukata from being in direct contact with the skin too much.

These are the steps to follow to wear yukata correctly:

The first thing is the robe. Insert the sleeves like a bathrobe, and first close the right side on the left side, also trying to adapt the length of the robe, and place over the left side doing the same here for the length as well.

 Remember: the left side (that of the heart to be clear) must be above the right side, because the opposite sense represents mourning, and there will be no lack of people on the street who will point it out to you. The yukata must not touch the ground, but must always remain about 10 cm above the ground, showing the feet, as well as walking more comfortably.

Once you have closed the flaps of the fabric, it is time to secure your yukata with the obi. For women, the obi belt is first knotted in front of you, creating a particular bow or knot, and then you can twist it on your back while keeping it around your waist. Men, on the other hand, will have to tie it around the hips.

The yukata is quite wide, it can be adapted to various sizes, but be sure to buy a size L if you are very tall, or if you are particularly sturdy.
Now is the time to put on the geta sandals. For yukata, geta are used without socks, unlike kimono, where white socks are used.

THE RED THREAD OF DESTINY

It is the RED THREAD 赤 い 糸 (akai ito) of the DESTINY of the Japanese tradition that unites two people indissolubly and that, sooner or later, will make them meet. We were born like this, with a red thread tied to the little finger that binds us to the person who will become the "loved" one for us, the right one. Regardless of how many adversities one may encounter in life, sooner or later that person will come to us. And we to that person. 
The two people so united, are destined to meet, no matter the time that will have to pass, the circumstances or the distances that separate them. Because, the red thread will be very long and very strong and will never break. It will be the same fate to keep him firm and united until they meet. During the Tang Dynasty, a man named Wei, whose parents had died when he was very young, searched for a long time for a woman to marry and start a family with, but he couldn't.

One evening, he arrived in the town of Song and at an inn a man told him that the governor's daughter would be the right woman. The next morning, Wei met an old man on the steps of a temple who was reading a book in an incomprehensible language and asked him what it was. The old man replied that he came from beyond and that he was there to take care of human affairs, especially weddings. He told Wei that his soul mate was only three years old now and that he would have to wait fourteen years before meeting her and having her all to himself. So Wei, curious, took him to the market to see his future bride.

Disappointed by the poverty in which the child lived, he decided to kill her to be sure he could choose who to marry. He then sent one of his servants to stab her and when he returned, he told him that he had hit her between the eyes. Wei went on with his life more calmly, forgetting that story.

Fourteen years passed without being able to find a suitable bride for him. By now he lived in the wealthy city of Shangzhou, and the governor of that city offered him his daughter in marriage. Finally Wei had a wife and intrigued by a patch covering her forehead, he asked her where she got that scar. She replied that at the age of three a man tried to kill her at the market. So Wei revealed the whole truth and understood that that old man from the temple was right: from birth we are destined for someone and that nothing and no one can break that bond.

THE SYMBOL OF CIRCLE

In Japanese the word Ensō means "circle", it is not a character but a real symbol. Closely linked to Zen culture and Zen Buddhist painting, the Ensō represents "the expression of the moment" in which body and spirit are creative. The meaning is a symbol of illumination, infinity and the absolute universe. How Zen philosophy represents everything (the universe) and nothing (absolute emptiness).
The enso is a sacred symbol in Zen Buddhism, and is often used by Zen masters as a signature in their works.

So do all Zen masters sign their works with the same symbol? At first glance it might seem like a kind of standardization but it is not at all. As stated, each enso symbol is unique and its individual meaning cannot be separated from the hand of the Zen master or the artist who designs it
The design of the circle is traced on silk or rice paper with a single and simple gesture, without the possibility of correction and for this very reason it represents the movement of the spirit at that given moment. Zen Buddhists are firmly convinced that "the artist's character and nature are fully revealed by the way he draws an ensō. Only a person who is mentally and spiritually complete can draw a true Ensō “.

The circle is the most common subject of Japanese calligraphy, it represents illumination, strength, the universe and emptiness. The most sacred symbol in Zen Buddhism and is often used by masters as a signature in their works, it can be painted with an opening (i.e. the circle is not separated from the rest of things, but is part of something larger) or completely closed.
In 1707, a young monk named Hakuin was moved by the sight of the crude handwriting of an old Zen master. He realized that by comparison his strokes, although they seemed sharper and clearer, did not reflect the same inner fulfillment as those of the old monk. I therefore understand that:

"Virtue shines, skill is not important."

For this he redoubled his efforts in Zen practice for another forty years. His art was born from years of discipline and meditation.
 
Buddhist teachers often say that Enso cannot be explained. actually there is only one way to get to understand it with all its nuances, in all its essence: to experience it. Because that symbol is not a simple circle and in fact it is not even an art form. We know that it is increasingly common to choose this shape as a tattoo, this minimalist expression of the Zen school. However, his involvement goes far beyond. 
Enso is a state of mind. It is that point of perfect harmony where the body and mind are freed to be able to overturn their internal perfection through a gesture, a movement.

The one who performs that hand to express a personal state where everything is complete, where everything and nothing exists in this present moment and can be contained in the form of a circle that remains open. where an opening is left to evoke that small part which is always open to infinity. 
Creating a Japanese Enso takes practice and mental calm. Because an Enso is painted in a continuous brush stroke, in a single stroke and with only one opportunity to complete it. There is no going back to correct it.
For the Zen Buddhist, on the other hand, the Enso (circle) evokes that perfect moment when the mind is free to leave the body so that the spirit rises. Therefore, only a mentally and spiritually complete person will be able to draw a real Enso.

It is, so to speak, the reflection of his illumination expressed through a drawing, the firm and sure pulse of an artist capable of evoking his inner perfection. If we ask now the origin of this symbol, we have to go back in time to the 28th century BC. C in China, at the time of this idea, this concept was later imported to Japan by Buddhist monks.
 

THE JAPANESE TEA CEREMONY

Cha No Yu is the Japanese expression that identifies the Tea Ceremony, a very ancient social and spiritual rite still practiced today. A real philosophy of life that the ritual expresses and that tells of intimate meditation, the search for essentiality and purification of the spirit typical of the Zen discipline. Here are the reasons why every single gesture of the Japanese tea ritual takes on precise connotations and important meanings.

Imported from China around the sixth century, where Camellia Sinensis found its origin, over time the tea left the narrow monastic confines, where it was used by monks in religious rites, to be appreciated also by the rest of the population. Initially, the Tea Ceremony was practiced in any environment but, over time, its close connection with the Zen discipline transformed a simple meeting between friends into an intimate moment, to be shared with a few people in a small and specially prepared room.
The tea ritual in Japan is characterized by some practical variations. Depending on the seasons, for example, the location of the kettle changes: in winter and autumn it is placed in a square-shaped hole made from the tatami, the traditional Japanese floor made up of a set of rectangular panels, while in summer and spring in a brazier, also placed in the tatami.

There are also two forms of tea ceremony in Japan: a shorter one and a longer and more complex one, which includes a meal, the service of thick tea (the koicha) and then the light one (the usucha). In both cases, however, matcha, pulverized green tea, which is mixed with water with a bamboo whisk, chasen, is used (in different quantities). This tea preparation method is called suspension and differs from infusion precisely because the tea is directly mixed with water, which is why its exciting effect is significantly intensified.
It is the philosophy of Zen life that inspires the Tea Ceremony in Japan. This takes place in a dedicated room, capable of embodying all the principles of Zen aesthetics: essentiality, absence of content, meditation, spirituality. The void is the undisputed star of the tea room. The material void of furniture is the transposition of the mental void to which one must aspire. What allows you to let go of worldly attachments and daily worries to free the Spirit and welcome and understand the Essence.

Furnished in an essential way, in order to recall the naturalness and spontaneity practiced by Zen, the room, the cha shitsu, is small and simple. It is accessible through a small door, which forces you to bend down as a sign of humility. This is how the guest is immediately immersed in an atmosphere with a particular and unique charm, where the light enters soft and almost suffocated by the screened windows.
Inside the room, on one side there is the tokonoma, a small niche carved into the wall, which is embellished with a composition of ikebana and rolls of paper written by expert calligraphers. The decor of the takonoma is carefully studied. Each element must be in tune with the people who will take part in the ceremony, with the environment and with the time of year in which it takes place.

In Cha No Yu everything is carefully thought out, every element, every arrangement and also every gesture with which to perform the ceremony. This is why the tea ritual in Japan is embellished with such intense and particular charm and mystery.
But how does the ceremony take place?
All the guests sit in the tea room, with the most important person or guest in first place. Then, through the sliding door enters the teishu, the one who prepares the tea, and kneels with the tips of his toes turned outwards.
As we said, there are two tea ceremonies:

a longer tea ceremony, that of thick tea;

a shorter and less complex one, that of light tea, the usucha. 

This continues with the positioning of the various utensils and with the preparation of tea in the cup, the chawan.
Each participant in the rite, starting with the most important one, is invited to consume the dessert with the ritual formula "okashi o dōzo" (help yourself to the dessert, please). Then he is offered the cup and, apologizing to his neighbor, asks permission to serve himself first. Grab the cup with your right hand, slowly place it on your left palm. He admires its beauty and again with his right hand he rotates it to expose the shōmen (the finishing part that acts as a reference). He drinks with short sips and expresses his satisfaction. He cleans the rim of the cup, places it in front of him and the teishu picks it up and washes it.
The ceremony proceeds the same way with all the other guests. When everyone has drunk the tea, the first diner asks permission to examine the utensils used during the ritual: the tea container, natsume, and the bamboo spoon, chashaku. After permission is granted, guests take turns picking up the utensils and looking at them, leaving the cup for last. This turns in your hands while the diners ask for information on the master who created it, the era and the style to which it belongs.
The ceremony ends with the teishu returning to the starting position, bows to the floor with the guests, leaves the room and closes the sliding door behind him.

JAPANESE SPRING

  1. It is said that the color of the cherry blossoms was originally white but that, following the order of an emperor to have the samurai who fell in battle buried under the cherry trees, the petals turned pink for having sucked the blood of those nobles. warriors. Even those who, among the samurai according to their code of honor, decided to commit suicide, it seems they used to do it right under the cherry trees “. The Japanese spring is characterized by the Hanami, the traditional festival of cherry trees in bloom which name derives from “hana” which means “the flowers”, “mi” (miru) which means “to see” hence the literal translation “admire the flowers “, in fact the Japanese in this period can enjoy the beauty of the flowering cherry trees, the sakura. Wonderful valleys in full bloom make the landscape a fairy tale, not for nothing the Hanami festival has ancient traditions, even millenary. There are 60 places famous for their large blooms and within a few days they attract real rivers of people who come to admire the delicacy of these trees. The spectacle of sakura in bloom takes up most of spring and can be admired from early April (in the south of the island of Honshu) until mid-May (in northern Hokkaidō). The party is also an opportunity to get together and have an outdoor picnic based on fresh fish, the famous sushi, accompanied by Japanese beer and sake, to be sipped in the shade of flowering trees. And while drinking under the cherry blossoms, the hope is that a pink petal carried by the wind will plunge into your own cup of sake. During the night the party does not stop, it would be a shame to waste time since the flowering lasts very little, but the party from Hanami becomes Yozakura or “The night of the Cherry”. The sakura that is celebrated does not bear fruit, it is a particular type cultivated solely for its flowers. The beauty of these flowers consists in their eternity, these flowers never wither, the wind scatters them in the skies, disappearing from view still in perfect condition. It is for this reason that the samurai adopted them as a symbol, an eternal youth, without aging, without withering, which is just what they hoped for, that is to have a life that could honorably break (in battle or with seppuku) still in the vigor of the years.
Another version on why the Samurai have adopted the sakura as their symbol, says that it is for their ephemeral beauty, or that when the flowering is at its peak the Japanese already regrets it as it is destined to end very soon, and hence their love for beautiful things that do not last is also born, that passion that makes them fine aesthetes, which grants them the wisdom to enjoy the moment while knowing how close the sunset is, indeed perhaps precisely in function of that. Also for this almost magical characteristic of not withering, for Japanese art and culture, the cherry tree in bloom is the symbol of immortal and perfect beauty, even if so ephemeral. The hometown of Japanese cherry trees is Yoshino, its hills are colored with a warm pale pink: the legend tells that the trees were planted in the 7th century AD, in the Nara period, by the priest En-no-Ozuno, who is said had put a curse on anyone who dared to bring them down. Whatever happened, yamazakura are at the root of hundreds of hybrids subsequently obtained, and have become the Japanese variety par excellence; Empress Jito (645-702) came here to admire its flowering.
Hirosaki Castle is one of the favorite destinations for the party, it is surrounded by 5000 cherry trees, hosts the Cherry Blossom Festival (23 April-5 May) In Tokyo you can visit the Ueno park which, with its thousand trees, is one of the busiest in the city. In Kyoto, the Maruyama park which, with its immense weeping cherry tree, is the favorite destination for hanami parties. In Osaka with the castle park which houses more than 400 cherry trees and the castle lights up at night. In the seventh century, based on the flowering of the cherry trees, the type of harvest was predicted, if the flowering was abundant, then it predicted a good harvest. The tradition began with the upper feudal class, which celebrated under the cherry trees, with an abundance of food and drink. The next century, the working class also began the traditional celebrations. In spring, Japanese cuisine also changes and becomes characteristic. You can taste Dango, a specialty made from rice flour, or Sakura Mochi, a red bean paste wrapped in a cherry leaf.

JAPANESE ROBOTS

He walks, kneels, moves his arms, articulates his fingers. The giant gundam built in Yokohama Bay, Japan is fully functional. With its 18 meters high and a weight of 25 tons, the robot, still in the test phase, is a perfect 1: 1 scale replica of the ‘Mobile Suit gundam rx-78-2’ model, the unit that appeared in the anime of 1979.
The Dragonar-1 and the other mechs in the series are very reminiscent of Gundam mobile suits and have beautiful heads. Coming to us on VHS in the 90s, the series was also broadcast on Sky, first on the defunct Italia Teen Television (2005) and then on Man-Ga (2010).
Masaaki Nagumo built this colossus himself, inspired by the animated series Mobile Suit Gundam born in the early 80s. It took six years to complete his work, which began in 2011. The man works in a company that also designs agricultural machines as life-size robots that have no other vocation than the fun
The mecha or mech are robots present in numerous fictional works, from literature to manga and anime, which are characterized by extraordinary dimensions, always superior to human ones and usually more than mammoth (but also not gigantic dimensions), and for the fact of being controlled by at least one pilot present inside the metal structure of these vehicles. The term is also used to specifically refer to the robotic science fiction genre.
The term “mecha” is used to describe war robots far more often outside of Japan than in their homeland. “Mecha” as a noun comes from the BattleTech series (where it is often written as’ Mech, short for BattleMech or OmniMech), and is not used in Japan in other contexts, except as an involuntary spelling error of “mecha” (except of the Japanese version of BattleTech, which tries to keep the English word). In Japan the term “robot” is much more frequent, and in Japanese stories themselves they are rarely known as “mecha”.
The best-known western context of mecha is BattleTech, which was originally a three-dimensional wargame (only to be transported to the world of video games with the MechWarrior saga), which has been very influential, representing a basis for much of the games and products in other media. FASA, the company that produced it, was however sued for copyright infringement for using several designs from series such as Macross and others without a license (its first edition, initially called BattleDroids, included two sets of 1/144 Japanese models from the anime. Fang of Sun Dougram).
Inside and outside the Japanese country there is also a difference from a graphic and functional point of view. In Japan automata are usually agile, fast fighting machines that are imagined to be much more humanoid in appearance and movement (with very few exceptions such as Gundam’s Guntank). Non-Japanese automata, on the other hand, are much more mechanical and less agile, portrayed as massive and powerful but not graceful and not always humanoid machines, such as the Metal Gear (which is Japanese in any case) in the video game series of the same name (also here some albeit less sporadic exceptions, such as Heavy Gear or Shogo, which are very influenced by Japanese souls in design). It can therefore be seen that, while in Japan the mechas are much more similar to extensions at the gigantic and robotic level of the pilot, that is, of the warrior himself, on the outside they are conceived more as simple armored vehicles on mechanical limbs rather than wheels or tracks.

KAWAII WAY

The word kawaii is an important part of Japanese culture. In English, it translates more closely with the term cute. Kawaii is used for everything, from clothing to food, from fun to physicality; and describes something charming, vulnerable, childish or lovable.
A few years have passed since the first time I happened to realize the economic value of a design attribute that is particularly appreciated by the female public, but not only: cuteness, or being cute.
Although the literal translation of this Anglo-Saxon adjective would be simply "cute", I soon realized that that sound contains a much more complex and profound semantic universe, which arises from the ability of certain objects, certain images and certain people, to trigger in whom an irrepressible sense of tenderness looks at them.
The photo of a laughing child is cute, but a sweet expression of an adult can also be; a kitten is cute, but also an object drawn with colors and proportions that accentuate the reference to the world of children, and above all it can be a comic, a cartoon, a puppet that inspires tenderness. 
noun corresponding to this quality is kawaisa (可愛 さ) which expresses the concept of cuteness in the context of Japanese culture, of which it has become an extremely relevant aspect, both from a social, economic and political point of view and which extends to entertainment , clothing, food, toys, personal aesthetics, behavior to the point of influencing the way people move and behave, facial expressions and gestures.




Something kawaii must not only be "cute", but also small, funny, ornate, innocent, childish, generally in pastel shades or bright colors.
Among the many Japanese words that derive from the word kawaii, one of the most emblematic to grasp the concept is kawaige (可愛 げ) which can be translated as "charm of an innocent child", but for what we will discover in the next posts I would not underestimate the word kawaigaru (可愛 が る?) which means "to fall in love" or "to be enchanted".
The origin of the Japanese people's passion for cuteness is lost in the mists of time: in the year 1000 the poet Sei Shonagon wrote in her famous Pillow stories that "everything that is small is cute", while Tomoyuki Sugiyama, author of Cool Japan book, even claims that the origins of kawaii fashion can be traced back to the Edo period (1603-1867) and the taste for small objects stimulated by the popularity of netsuke, precious carved buttons that allowed small boxes to be hung on the belt (inrō ) that compensated for the lack of pockets of the kimonos, illustrious ancestors of the modern pendants that the Japanese - and not only - hang on their mobile phones.
The main protagonists of the kawaii phenomenon, however, were manga (comics), anime (cartoons) and yuru-kyara (the equivalent of the English term "character") which in addition to having made a rich contribution to the GDP of the country were rightly seen from the government of Japan as phenomenal instruments for the planetary diffusion of Japanese culture and values, neither more nor less than what the powerful Hollywood machinery was able to impose on the world scene those of the United States.
Multinational companies like Sanrio made kawaii characters and their merchandising their core business, launching characters (I understand that Sanrio has developed more than 400) that quickly began to spread even in western markets such as the famous Hello Kitty, now a cult object. for women of extremely different nationalities (and ages) and a real kitten laying golden eggs, according to data provided by the New York Times which already in 2010 quantified the turnover of Hello Kitty at 5 billion dollars (which for wikipedia amounted to in 2002 a "only" billion).
Through the model of the protagonists of the manga and anime series, the Japanese obsession with cuteness soon extended to the human physiognomy, the look, the way of behaving, especially for the female audience. The unnatural and unattainable stylistic features of the designers were embodied by successful public figures who were inspired by this style in their look and attitudes. One of the most widespread youth phenomena from the 90s to today in Japan are the so-called aidoru (ア イ ド ル) or idols: pop music idols more or less ephemeral like Seiko Matsuda, Sugaya Risako or Kyary Pamyu Pamyu who in their competition for the "most kawaii of the realm ”Humanize the features of manga and anime by repeating their coaxing and affected attitudes. The idols have freed the fatal step: that from cartoon to person in flesh and blood, demonstrating the plausibility of manga and anime as a model to imitate and reproduce in behaviors as well as in the body itself and accrediting themselves with all Japanese pop culture analysts as main catalysts of kawaii fashion in Japan.

MANEKI NEKO

If you’ve been to a Chinese or Japanese restaurant, or an Asian-run supermarket or store, you’ve probably noticed a cat statue perched easily by the cash register. It is a lucky cat, called Maneki-Neko, a very popular icon among Japanese and Chinese cultures. This graceful talisman is thought to be a good luck charm and can attract prosperity, happiness and wealth for its owners. Hence, it is a very common item in shops, restaurants and other businesses run by Chinese or Japanese.
The fortune cat, known as Maneki Neko, is a term that in Japan means “the pointing cat”. Typically this cat has a raised paw as if it were indicating or calling luck for its owners. Others call the Maneki Neko the “money cat” and the “welcome cat”. Nessuno sa con precisione come è apparso il primo Maneki Neko. Tuttavia, la maggior parte dei giapponesi è d’accordo sul fatto che “il gatto della fortuna” ha avuto origine durante il periodo Edo, tra il XVII secolo e la metà del XIX secolo.
There are a couple of popular legends about the origins of the “Cat of Fortune”. One tells of a rich man who took refuge from a storm under a tree near a temple, where he noticed a cat that seemed to call him, then followed him into the temple. Shortly thereafter, lightning struck the tree, and because the cat had saved his life, the man was so grateful that he became a benefactor of the temple, bringing prosperity and wealth. When he died, a cat-shaped statue was built in his honor. Another legend tells of a geisha who had a cat. One day, while he was wearing his kimono, the cat tugged and ripped the dress. The owner of the brothel then assumed that the cat was possessed by evil spirits, and cut off its head with a sword. The cat’s head rolled onto a snake that was about to bite the girl, and its fangs killed the snake, saving the woman. The geisha was so saddened by the death of her beloved cat that one of her clients had a statue built in honor of the cat to make her happy.
In reality, the raised leg of the “fortune cat” has a meaning. If the raised paw is the left, the talisman becomes propitious for attracting new customers. If the raised paw is the right, it indicates luck, happiness and money. Precisely for this reason, sometimes, you can find lucky cats with both paws raised. Two raised paws can indicate also protection.
Although it is white, with orange and black spots, the most common color of the Maneki Neko, there can be statuettes of different colors, and each one has a special meaning. Calico: it is the preservation of the traditional colors, and considered the most fortunate White: happiness, purity and positive news that must arrive Golden: wealth and prosperity Black – wards off and chases away evil spirits Red – success in love and relationships Green – good health
The Maneki Neko is a finely dressed cat adorned with a bib, a collar and a bell. In the Edo period, it was common for rich people to dress their cats in this way; a bell was tied to the collar so that they could be identified more easily. A Maneki Neko can be adorned with other small symbols that bring good luck:
Koban: is an ancient Japanese coin from the Edo period. A ryo was considered a fortune in those days.
The magic wizard of money: if you see a small hammer, it represents wealth.
If shaken, the mallet should bring wealth and prosperity.
A fish (most likely a carp): the fish is a symbol of abundance and luck.
A gem: it is another propitiator of money.

DARUMA DOLLS

They are called Daruma (達磨) dolls of the Okiagari-kobōshi type. They are particular Japanese dolls that, due to their shape and texture, tend to go back straight every time they are pushed to one side. Whenever they are knocked down, they always come back to their feet. All time. Here you are. The secret is to do just like them.
The doll’s eyes are white: this is because tradition has it that the owner draws a first eye with black ink when making a wish or setting a goal. The second eye, on the other hand, will be drawn upon the fulfillment of the desire or the achievement of one’s goal.
You draw one eye making a wish, when it has come true you draw another eye. Many ask me “The bigger the more it works?”. Yes, it’s true. This tends to be the case. To me, whoever took the big one came back soon to tell me that he had already put a second eye. But I would recommend choosing the one that has more harmony, a more sympathetic one. Because Daruma is a companion until your dream is fulfilled.
In Japan, daruma dolls are probably one of the most bought objects as a good luck charm … they are figures without arms or legs and represent Bodhidharma, founder of the Zen tradition. The daruma is a motivational tool to achieve your goals, every time you look at the drawn eye and the missing one, it is a reminder of what you have promised to achieve. It must remind us that we must pursue and put all of ourselves into what we do, only with effort and perseverance can we achieve what we want. Always give your best and never lose sight of focus, in the face of obstacles, get up and continue always. The daruma doll is also used by companies that have to achieve an important goal, displayed where employees can see it as a reminder of the business goal.
How you can use it? Get a daruma.
Decide what is the goal you want to achieve with determination.
Draw one of the two eyes, symbolizing your commitment to achieving the goal.
Put the daruma in a visible place in your home or office, where you can look at it to remind you of the goal.
When the goal has been achieved, draw the second eye as a sign of thanks.
Behind the daruma write the goal you have achieved.
Once you have reached your goal, it’s time to get yourself another daruma and set yourself a new goal.
According to legend, the monk Bodhidharma founder of the Zen tradition from which the daruma takes its name, after meditating for ten years without moving, lost the use of his arms and legs. During meditation in a moment of weakness, the concentration of meditation waned and he fell asleep. When he awoke from shame he tore off his eyelids and threw them to the ground. Immediately afterwards, leaves sprouted that were able to ward off sleep, so the tea plant was born.

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