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asianbeat original pop culture colum ~Hokusai Manga~

All the world’s a manga!?

木版画 神奈川沖浪裏(富嶽三十六景) 芸艸堂版
Vogue Japan July 2009 has manga as a feature

The article asks whas Japanese manga become such a force in the world today? The answer is clear and simple. In the feature article, they put this question to world renown pop artist Murakami Takashi and this was his answer:

"Japanese have a flair for drawing".

That makes sense!

Flair for drawing leads to mass content consumption

Japanese are good with their hands, therefore, generally speaking, they have a flair for drawing.

Because of this flair they want to show off their work, and there are so many opportunities for them to do so.

That’s it. That’s right.

“The flair for illustration” is the starting point for the production and consumption of manga content. The output/consumption cycle revolves at breakneck speed. The Japanese manga market is one of the toughest markets there is. Essentially, to survive in this environment the quality of the manga must be world class.


In the December 2008 edition of the magazine BRUTUS, it stated that Japan was the world’s most prolific viewer of YouTube. The average Japanese view an average of 1hr 14 min 13 sec of YouTube per month.

This compares with an average of 51 min per person per month in America – the country that gave us YouTube. From this you can see that Japan has been a huge consumer of content, which has given impetus to its subculture.


The following was written in an article in “Neppu”, a booklet published by Miyazaki Hayao’s Studio Ghibli.

“The reason our animation is able to make the grade is because Japan has a population of over 100 million. We can make the profit line in the domestic market, so any benefits we get in the international market are like receiving a bonus.” As you see, they feel the same here in Ghibli.

If you can make it in a mass consumer market of over 100 million people, you have reached the world standard.

UKIYO × Complexity = MANGA

If you put together the Japanese flair for drawing and MANGA, you will come up with the Hokusai Manga of the Edo period.

Katsushika Hokusai was a genius of an artist from the latter Edo period. He left many works such as Fugaku Sanju-roku Kei (Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji). His collection of sketches “Hokusai Manga” were known as sozoro-ga, and were created with a free will and no specific theme. Sozoro-ga was the nickname he gave to these sketches he drew.

The sozoro-ga that Katsushika Hokusai drew in the Edo period have now become known as manga, and have spread throughout the world.


北斎漫画 芸艸堂刊

富嶽百景 芸艸堂刊
Popular Japanese manga such as ”Fullmetal Alchemist (Hagane no Renkinjutsushi)” and ”Naruto” have had a major influence on the world – mainly due to the characteristic of being so “manga like”.

The girls with their large glittering eyes, long slender legs and tight waists – boys too.

It is as if the main characters have escaped from the world of manga. UKIYO = unrealistic. This is the essence of manga.

In the world of UKIYO the main characters are unrealistic, and develop as the complex story unfolds. The unrealistic characters grow realistic personalities as the stories develop.

The story is full of trials and tribulations, but has uplifting messages. It has a strange power to draw you in, and this power has crossed borders and transversed the world – and has become the symbol of cool Japan – manga.



左絵:木版画 凱風快晴 (富嶽三十六景) 芸艸堂版



The word UKIYO originally meant painful and bitter – a very distressing situation. And in the Heian period it went on to mean “the world of pain and distress”. Then moving into the Edo period it went on to mean “let’s forget the pain of life and live happily”, bringing a positive outlook on life. This went on to become part of UKIYO and manga.

The antithesis of the real world – the race to the unrealistic

As I watch the news and see the financial crisis and the reality of war, I sometimes feel the world is becoming much like a manga.
Today, the realistic is getting more like the unrealistic.
In this world of UKIYO what we need is the strength that erupts from reality – for without it the world will not get any better.

This seems to be why America’s premier actor Clint Eastwood makes movies. In the Dirty Harry Series he gained popularity with the Hollywood stereotypical standard of good triumphing over evil. In his academy award nominated movies like “Unforgiven” and “Million Dollar Baby”, you can read how his movies are becoming like UKIYO, the antithesis of the world.
Japanese manga are just the same. Manga is more eloquent than any Japanese politician conveying a message to the world.

The government is planning to build the “National Media and Arts Center (Tentative) “– a sort of a manga hall of fame. Even if they construct such a huge structure with manga in Japan, it probably won’t attract worldwide attention.

If you are going to build something you may as well build a manga hall of fame in Las Vegas in the style of an Edo period castle. The casino would feature dealers dressed up as Japanese manga characters, and the world’s wealthy would happily gather to gamble.

We could then share an empty story of wasting money, while giving the visitors hope and dreams. Don’t you think that this is the real Cool Japan?


Manga is the key to diplomacy
The world is waiting for a hero – just like the one from a Japanese manga character – attractive with a complex mind.

Article and graphics provided by

UNSODO Publishing
Address: 459 Teramachi-dori Nijo-minami Irumyo-manjimae-cho Nakakyo-ku, Kyoto
Phone: +81-75-231-3613


UNIQLO T Shirt collaboration.
UT×HOKUSAI
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Author
Shuji Nakamura
President of the Paper Company Ltd and Kinax Holdings Inc. Born in Shiga Prefecture is the behind the scenes brain for advertising agencies, while helping many businesses get off the ground. Planner, concept creator.

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