Japanese culture does touch many people from around the world, especially in the United States.
Cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, New York, and Washington DC have shown their interest in Japanese culture in any way shape and form.
For example, with the cherry blossom blooming every April, people in Washington DC has a parade to celebrate the blooming of cherry blossoms.
While it has been really nice that America has tried to learn and appreciate Japanese culture (even though they sometimes Americanized it), there was one question I had in mind:
- What about my state?
- What about my hometown?
I was born and raised in Baker, Louisiana, just 25-30 minutes away from Baton Rouge (the capital of Louisiana). With the population of about 14,000 people (as of 2017), it's a really small suburban town with not really much to do.
When it comes to Japanese culture, Baker does not have anything that celebrates or encourages Japanese culture whatsoever. Despite the manga section in the public library that not many people go to, events that have teens binge-watch anime, and a couple of Japanese travel guidebooks, Baker had literally nothing dealing with Japan and Japanese culture.
Baton Rouge is a little better than Baker since it is a lot bigger and more diverse. Despite having Japanese-themed restaurants such as Sushi Yama and Kaminari, the majority of the workers are Vietnamese. While yeah there are more books that deal with Japanese culture and language, it doesn't really have anything unique that can help teach the culture. It mostly spread pop culture and that was it.
I remembered going to the East Baton Rouge Parish Library, and there was a small section of books that are from a different language. Out of about 250 books that are in a different language, at least three of them are Japanese. The rest of the books are a combination of Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and Vietnamese.
Japanese culture and the rest of America
New Orleans is the only place in the state that does have decent exposure to Japanese culture. Societies such as the Japan Society of New Orleans and the Japanese Garden Society of New Orleans are prime examples that New Orleans is a great place in the South to have some decent exposure and knowledge about Japanese culture. In fact, the World War II museum in New Orleans is a great way for people to learn about the Japanese perspective of World War II before, during, and after their fight against the United States. The museum even shows events that not many people would know about in their history classes or in media.
However, even though New Orleans has the best exposure of Japanese culture to people in Louisiana, the entire state's overall exposure is lackluster and below the average American state. It's pretty upsetting because there are tons of youth in Louisiana that are interested in learning about the culture, but doesn't have much exposure to it besides anime and manga.
I'm not saying anime is not good exposure. Anime is a good start of learning Japanese culture, but the youth need a step forward into learning more of Japan outside of anime and manga. While there are big colleges and universities that offer study abroad programs to Japan, some (if not most) of the college students are either not financially capable of studying in Japan or barely capable at best. Or, they are more paranoid about being attacked in Japan (one of the safest counties in the world) because of how the media displayed Americans that are being attacked or killed outside of America. It's not even better the other way around.
Japanese people and Louisiana
Not many Japanese people would know about Louisiana, let alone where it's actually located.
In my prediction, out of 150 Japanese people that had been to America before, less than 15 would come to Louisiana because of the study abroad program in a particular college. It's not that Japanese people don't want to come to Louisiana. It's more Louisiana is a lot foreign to the Japanese than the average American state. In general, for people in Louisiana, it's extremely hard to branch out and learn about other things dealing with Japan that are outside of anime and manga.
Yeah, there are things the internet showcase, but it'll still limit the interest and it can show false information about particular topics.
Japanese culture and Louisiana
What should the entire state do in order to spread Japanese culture in Louisiana? The most efficient way to do it is to create events and programs in the Baton Rouge area and other big cities in Louisiana in order for people to come and showcase their passion and interest in Japanese culture. It may take a long process, but it's a great way to get people with the same interest together.
Is Louisiana Japanese-friendly now? Not much, but it can be in the future.