© 2024 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Your Move: 'Pure Invention' Offers An Insightful Look At Japan's Impact On American Culture

For more than three decades, Japan has been a leader - the leader, in a lot of respects - in the global video game industry. Names like Nintendo, Sony, and Sega were the only names in video games for years, and even since Microsoft joined, Japanese companies still dominate the market. But of course these companies didn’t just emerge out of nothing, and Matt Alt’s book Pure Invention is a history of how Japanese pop culture exports shaped our culture, too.


The book begins shortly after World War II, in the fall of 1945, with the guerrilla toy manufacturers like Matsuzo Kosuge who built toys out of the heaps of tin cans and other trash left behind by American servicemen. The toys, were some of the few products being made in a country that had lost nearly all of its manufacturing capability, and they were a hit. Production quickly ramped up for export - with the only condition imposed being that every toy should be clearly labeled “MADE IN OCCUPIED JAPAN”.


The book then moves through stages in Japanese pop culture development and export, from the beginnings of anime in the 1960s, and Hello Kitty in the ‘70s, to the development of the Walkman and VHS, karaoke, and of course, video games.


This book provides a lot of context around Japan’s cultural and technological innovations that drove the nation’s postwar recovery. Each chapter tells a fascinating story about a particular facet of recent Japanese history, and it all ties together in a meta-narrative about Japan’s true cultural contribution to the world at large.


Even if you’re not particularly interested in Japan, Pure Invention is an insightful look at how the country has impacted our own culture over the last century.

Samuel McConnell is a games enthusiast who has been playing games in one form or another since 1991. He was born in northern Maine but quickly transplanted to Wichita.