Japanese cultural influence in Taiwan- cosplay

Just after I wrote my post the other day on Japan’s influence on place names in Taiwan, I saw this article at Yahoo News on the popularity of Japanese style “cosplay” in Taiwan.

As the fashion catches on across the island, experts have said that it could help Taiwan‘s young people break out of the strictures forced on them by the traditional Chinese pressure to conform.

Since “cosplay” first hit Taiwan little over a decade ago, its enthusiasts have been dressing up like their favourite manga characters and gathering at cafes, parks and manga expos across the island.


In Taiwan, role-playing dates back to around 1995 but has been gaining in popularity in recent years largely thanks to the Internet, said Mio Chang, supervising editor of bi-monthly cosplay magazine “Cosmore”.

“Cosers admire the ‘manga’ or ‘anime’ characters and want to imitate them. It is a passion for them to recreate the looks, the costumes and props,” said Chang, herself a coser for many years.

I don’t normally post about this sort of thing, except that while I was living in Taipei I just happened to stumble across one of the very events described in the article.

At a recent expo at National Taiwan University’s stadium, cosers were seen portraying a wide variety of roles from princesses to maids, space warriors, martial arts masters and even Death.

When I was studying at NTNU and considering switching to the program at National Taiwan University, I was riding my bike around, checking out the area one day, and just happened to ride through the campus right into the middle of a massive cosplay convention, which was taking place in and around the main gymnasium/hall building. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera, but it was a highly amusing thing to run across at random.

And of course, the topic of Taiwanese cosplay is always a good opportunity to post this amazing photograph of former Taiwan president Lee Teng Hui, dressed as high school principal from a Japanese manga. As his wikipedia entry says on the topic:

The cosplay was centered on Heihachi Edajima (江田島平八 Edajima Heihachi), a hawkish principal of a boarding school in the Japanese manga Sakigake!! Otokojuku (魁!!男塾) (Shonen Jump). The ; this was used as an advertisement on his personal website and “school” (輝!李塾) beginning in late 2004. This manga comic was a comedy centered on a fictitious reform school for contemporary boys, modelled under the Imperial Japanese Army.

15 thoughts on “Japanese cultural influence in Taiwan- cosplay”

  1. I was shocked several years ago, when I learnt that even in Germany, cosplay is gaining popularity (to some degree).

    There is also a band called “Tokio Hotel”, which was originaly influenced by Japanese “visual-kei” J-pop (at least that was the explanation given to me).

    You can at least glance the influence in the following video clips, especially on the hair style of the lead vocalist.

  2. An interesting fact is that actually Japanese anime and other sub-cultures were quite popular in Europe for a quite long time.

    In germany, most (if not all) anime I watched when I was a kid were Japanese. I did not know that. In France the influence of Japanese anime was more significant that it became a kind of social problem during the late 80ies. 10 years ago, I spoke with a French girl and it was amazing that she knew all of the major anime’s during the late 70ies to early 80ies because she saw them on French TV.

    And in Italy, they even aired some Jidaigeki and Shin nihon pro-wrestling. It was weird speaking with an Italian who was an admire of Antonio Inoki and Kozure Okami (Lone wolf and the cub).

  3. I’m not sure about the rest of Europe, but I know that France (and I believe by extension, French-speaking Africa) gets a huge amount of children’s manga and anime that we don’t in English. French guys I knew studying in Japan were very familiar with stuff like Doraemon and Kinnikuman, which do not exist in English translation and I guarantee I would never have even heard of if I had not studied Japanese.

    My hypothesis is that because the US always had a very strong domestic industry producing comics and cartoons for children we never had nearly as much of a market need to import that stuff from Japan as European countries, which produced far less of the stuff themselves- and could just as easily import from Japan as from America. Although there were some Japanese childrens cartoons brought over in the 80s, they weren’t particularly marketed as Japanese until much later. I think the success of Japanese games, mainly Nintendo, (which represented something not being produced by the American industry at the time) is what first prepared American children for other Japanese media. And of course, when children that watched that stuff as kids (my generation) grew up, they were ready for Japanese comics and animation aimed at older people- the sort of material which had historically rarely been produced in America until the 1980s and later.

  4. “This manga comic was a comedy centered on a fictitious reform school for contemporary boys, modelled under the Imperial Japanese Army.”

    Er.No.It’s modelled under the old prewar high school.See Suzuki Sijyun’s “Elergy for Fighting”,You would get the picture.

  5. With the Japanese cartoons abroad thing, one interesting aspect is how in the US they were changed to erase the ‘otherness’, with Sailor Moon being a famous example – street scenes were flipped LR to prevent poor innocent Americans being confused by people driving on the “wrong” side of the road, for example. Conversely, in Italy for example, I’ve seen anime on TV complete with kanji signs.

    I think with a name like Edajima Heihachi, there can be little doubt that his ideas are inspired by prewar Imperial Navy stuff (Etajima being the famous Naval Academy, Heihachi being short for the Heihachiro in “Togo Heihachiro,” the Russo-Japanese War hero). Wiki Japan says 軍神とまで謳われた海軍中将、江田島國義の一人息子として産まれる。 – born of a war hero, with a given name that (and this may be pure coincidence of course) that looks a lot like 国家主義 or 国粋主義. It also notes that 戦前の軍国主義そのままに苛酷なシゴキを敷く鬼教官が登場する軍国主義コメディであり, so I’m inclined to see it more as ‘militarism’ rather than prewar education – though the issue would be complicated by the increasingly militaristic aspects of prewar education of course.

  6. Whether it was pre-war high school tradition or pre-war naval academy, the essence was for comedic effect it had to be anachronistic.

    I have no doubt that therefore the author choose (rather randomly) to base it on pre-war high school fashions and tradition, adding something from martial arts “Taikukai (school sports union)” and “Oendan (male cheer groups)” flavors, mixed with pre-war naval academy spices.

    And also very cheesy Chinese kung-fu and qigong mysteries.

  7. ” so I’m inclined to see it more as ‘militarism’ rather than prewar education – though the issue would be complicated by the increasingly militaristic aspects of prewar education of course.”

    True.Back in the days in the 30’s,there were military drills in the high school education and uniform officers came to school for training and “mental education”.Something post-war education(especially the teachers unions)consider it as the darkest years.
    The manga is actually a satire(or at least read as such by my generation back in the 80’s)that the post-war education system had so many juvenile delinquents especially in the 80’s,they need to build some gulag-like school to house all the JDs and re-educate them in the pre-war style education.Something actually conducted at Tozuka Yacht school and had few students killed during the school hours.

  8. Well, prewar Navy is even more anachronistic in that sense. Probably is a mix of sorts. But does anyone actually have some quotes from the author that might be the last word on the subject?

  9. One of the thing I found funny about the picture is Lee Teng Hui is widely seen in Japan as the product of the good old days of pre war 旧制高校.Just like Lee”Harry”Kuan Yew is seen sometimes as “The perfect Etonian Briton in the east of Suez”.

  10. Wow. I did not think I could see the title of けんかえれじい in an English-language blog. The original novel of that movie is my favorite. Actually, that movie and the original novel described the life of a Christian student of pre-war junior high school (旧制中学), not high school (旧制高校). The original novel is a semiautograph of the author and a good read for learning the life of Japanese youth in the pre-war period. I learned from that novel that the Vatican has been allowing Christians to visit Yasukuni. The novel had long been out of print, but it is now available from 岩波現代文庫.

  11. I’m a big fan of the Kenka Ereji film (and novel). You shouldn’t be surprised to see it mentioned on an English language blog (well, Ace is Japanese so….) because Suzuki Seijun has a HUGE cult following in the English-speaking world. I own a copy and I could rent one at any of a dozen places in the pretty big North American city where I am living. Tokyo Drifter (Tokyo Nagaremono) is also more well known in NA film buff circles than it is in Japan at this point.

  12. that’s actually pretty darn cool. i read about this fellow cosplaying as Edajima and just had to see a picture, and your site was the first one to have one. add to the fact that he’s supervised by a Momotaro and a Togashi and that just adds to the coolness. i can just picture him shouting out the classic catchphrase except instead of declaring himself to be the principal of otokojuku, edajima heichi as his answer to everything, he declares himself the former president of taiwan, lee teng hui. but of course i’m just being silly here.

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