Jack's Notes on Japanese Culture

What a Bay Area Anime Fan did before the Internet

Books

Some books that helped me better understand Japan and the Japanese.

The Japanese, and More About the Japanese, by Jack Seward, © 1971 Lotus Press, Tokyo. Mr. Seward is an American who lived in Japan from just after World War II to the 70s. These books are full of little anecdotes about life in Japan. He enjoys the Japanese people, and Japanese culture, but does not romanticize them. He is plain spoken: female readers may not appreciate some of the frat-boy high-jinx that Mr. Seward and his friends got up to when they were young.

Some of the information in these books is dated, just as a guide to America written in the 50s would be today. But at the same time, there is a great wealth of background information about Japanese culture. I found it helpful for understanding Japanese food, movies and anime cartoons.

I found these books at my local library. Searching for the author's name on amazon.com shows that these books are currently out of print. However, it appears that the first volume has been reissued as The Japanese : The Often Misunderstood, Sometimes Surprising, and Always Fascinating Culture and Lifestyles of Japan.

Thinks I like about Japan

I've only been to Japan once, and only for a few days, but I liked it. Sure it was crowded and expensive, but I had a lot of fun. I liked:

  • The Tsijiki fish market in Tokyo.
  • The Akihabara electronics market in Tokyo.
  • The resort town of Nikko.
  • Japanese hot baths.
  • The giant department stores in and around Shinjuku station.
  • Cheap sushi in the basement supermarkets of several large department stores.
  • The little snack food that's like a biscuit with sweet bean jam inside it. 

S.F. Bay Area Japanese Resources

The San Francisco Bay Area does not have a very large Japanese-American population, compared to other Asian immigrant groups. However, because popular Japanese culture is interesting to other Asian cultures, you can find a lot of stuff, if you know where to look:

  • S.F. Japan Town. This area has a large mall, with lots of Japanese shops, resteraunts, and a big  Kinokunia bookstore.
  • San Jose Japan Town. Some stores that sell Japanese stuff. This area has a pretty good anime store in the Nikaku shop. The Nikaku shop has a bulletin board that often has announcements for local Japanese cultural happenings.
  • Macarthur Square Mall, Milpitas. Primarily a Taiwanese-American mall, has a store, "Howie's High-Tech Games", that rents Japanese versions of console video games.
  • There's another big Taiwanese-American mall in Cupertino at Wolfe and Homestead. It has several stores that rent Chinese dubbed anime.
  • Many comic book and video stores rent anime. I often rent from Comics & Cards in Sunnyvale.
  • No Name Anime - great monthly free anime shows (usually subtitled or dubbed) at the Santa Teresa Library in South San Jose.
  • Foothill Anime - good monthly free anime shows, at Foothill community college in Los Altos. Free, except you have to pay $2 for parking.
  • East Asian Film Society, San Francisco. A monthly free film festival. Anime, Hong Kong fight films, Japanese game shows. Not always dubbed or subbed. This is fun because it's in someone's home, just bring some food to share. (Don't know if this is still going on?)
  • Channel 26 is a broadcast TV channel that shows Japanese language programming on Saturday nights.
  • Channel 54 is a PBS station that shows English dubbed Japanese Anime on Sunday nights.

South Bay Japanese Restaurants

There are probably 20 or 30 Japanese restaurants in the South Bay. Some of my current favorites are:

  • Sushi Tei, Castro Street, Mt. View. On the other side of El Camino from downtown. Nice lunch box specials.
  • Miyaki's, De Anza Blvd, Cupertino. Crowded, loud, and cheap. Good selection of vegitarian sushi.
  • Azuma, Steven's Creek Boulevard, Cupertino. Nice, quiet.

Reading Japanese Text on the Web

I wrote a FAQ on Reading Japanese Text on the Web