Last year when visiting Seattle my wife and I were walking through Uwajimaya, a giant asian supermarket. Being a long-time anime fan since the '90s, when I saw a book about the impact of Japans cultural history I had to snag it.
I wasn't expecting much, but what I got was an in depth history of Japans rise to global cultural superpower. Each cultural touchstone has it's own chapter - physical toys in the years after WWII, the karaoke machine, anime, kawaii culture, video games and more.
Growing up in the '80s Japanese culture was just starting to break out into the US. The first international breakthrough wasn't I expected. Rather than Mario, Astroboy or Hello Kitty, who was the first international superstar? Space Invaders. Others would follow in rapid succession through the video and anime filled 90s.
There are so many in depth historic stories in this book, and each of them could be it's own entire book. How performers who entertained guests in bars tried to stop the karaoke machine. How Hello Kitty started out as coin purse and grew to an international icon. How after the economic crash of the '80s it gave way for teenage self expression and girl power.
Even as someone who considered myself knowledgeable about most of these topics, this helped put it into a perspective I hadn't ever considered before.