Finding England Through Japan
I love England. My son loves Japan. We discovered the two countries weren’t as far apart as we thought they were.
I’m a dedicated Anglophile. I’ve spent years learning about the history and culture of the British Isles. My son loves Japanese manga (graphic novels) and anime (animated movies and TV shows), which spurred his interest in Japanese history and culture.
He discovered the Inuyasha manga series when he was ten years old and wrote a research paper on Osamu Tezuka, the father of Japanese manga in college. More than twenty years after discovering Inuyasha, he has more than 6,000 volumes in his manga collection.
He’s as comfortable reading a volume of manga from back to front as I am with listening to the accents on my favorite British soap, Coronation Street. Our interests were clearly on two different continents. Then he discovered a connection that led me on a journey to finding England through Japan.
The connection was a manga series called Emma by Kaoru Mori. The series tells the story of a young girl in Victorian England who is rescued from a life of poverty and trained to be a proper English maid. When Emma falls in love with a member of the gentry, the young couple finds themselves battling the rigid class constraints of the period. My son was thrilled that he’d finally convinced me to read some manga. I was enthralled by the artistry and detail in Mori’s work.
Next, we explored manga based on the works of William Shakespeare, including adaptations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and The Tempest. Then, he got me interested in quirkier series such as Black Butler by Yana Toboso and The Earl and the Fairy by Mizue Tani.
Once we’d developed a mutual admiration for one another’s interests, we started going to Japanese festivals, English pubs, and Japanese and English gardens. We’ve visited the Byodo-In Buddhist Temple in Oahu, Hawaii (pictured above), and the British Museum in London, England. We’ve also explored the outstanding collections at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art in Washington, DC.