How Pokemon Led Everyone to “Find Themselves” in South East Asia

As promised, here is my second instalment of my nostalgia series. I aim to make these to laugh, and maybe bring a little bit of joy to an otherwise joyless Tuesday. But, although I’m trying to lighten the mood, I do provide some truth. I want to understand how our childhood pleasures shaped who we are today. This week it’s our obsession with Asia.

As a child I was obsessed with Pokemon. I imagine the majority of people reading this had their own amazing collection of Pokemon games, cards, special edition gameboys and played Pokemon Go! for hours on end.

But it’s not like we only had a love for Pokemon. I personally had a little obsession with Yu Gi Oh, namely the cards and the TV show. I had the actual deck holder, that you put on your arm and played with. I used to buy God cards, an obsession doesn’t really tell the whole story.

Some people liked Dragon Ball Z, some people loved Mario, some people loved Tekken. The general gist is, we all loved Asian stuff. Rightly so, it was all fantastically designed and extremely detailed. It was readily available and all your friends had it. Our affinity to Asian cartoons and games is understandable.

Years later, when we all grow old, and it’s time to start university, we all embark on our yearly, or summer trips. Many take a year out on their ‘gap yah’ to truly understand foreign cultures. Whereas realistically, the majority of people are there to drink cheap, have shroom shakes and get a hand job off a Thai mum.

Of course the obvious reason to go to Asia is above. It sounds great. But I don’t believe we all suddenly decided to embark on our gap years to Asia for solely that reason. There are plenty of places in the world you can go have a great time. In South America you can live the Pablo Escobar life, in Africa you can see some of the most amazing wildlife and scenery in the world, in Canada you can ski and have all the maple syrup you want, and in America, you can probably do everything you do in Thailand but exchange the drinking for getting high. So why Asia? Why do we all fucking adore Asian culture.

In reality, if we’re all honest. Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam are beautiful, but they are also a shit hole. Bangkok is full of old men with girls half their age on their side, Ho Chi Minh is lovely, yet run down, Phnom Penh is beautiful but poor as hell.

And they all smell.

Granted, you have the time of your life with your friends, and meet some more friends for life. But surely we could do this anywhere. Why does every single public school kid go to Asia?

It’s because it was engrained from a young age.

As I was saying earlier, Japanese and Asian influence at a young age was huge. Not only did we take in all of the kiddy culture, every electronic we owned was Japanese. Everything was Japanese. The future was there. It was all we heard and all we knew, Japan was bloody cool.

The obvious flaw in my argument is that if this is the case, we all would have soaked up Japanese culture on our year abroad. But it’s expensive. So the next best thing came about. South East Asia.

Our age group has the largest affinity to nostalgia marketing. As Forbes rightly stated, brands make huge money out of this. Doesn’t it figure that a Gap Year travel brand would use our affinity to nostalgia to push a cheap, Asian culture upon us. Someone was obviously going to buy into it. Then it snowballs, the first traveller tells the next one about the happy endings and so on, then everyone wants to go. Not only for this, but also, subconsciously for a trip down memory lane.

In the past, America was the world’s shining light. Post war, America championed everything, cars, culture, TV, Film, cool presidents, the hippy movement. American culture was the benchmark for the rest of the world to emulate. So our parents end up travelling there. Subconsciously, they dreamed of being part of this culture for a short period of time.

For us, America is continually fucking itself over with the unlawful Iraq war, dumb presidents, drug abuse and police violence. For us, Asia is the dreamland. Growing up, dinner party conversation consisted of; ‘Japan is going to rule the world’ then a little while after, ‘China is going to rule the world’. God forbid it could be North Korea next. But either way this ideal has been pushed down our throats. Not only from cute cartoons, but also from us having to love this culture, because everyone said we were eventually going to be run by them.

The implications of this aren’t as simple and elegant as, we all like to travel there. It’s probably more far reaching, and we will want to work there too. That has farther reaching implications than anyone can imagine.

The Big Apple is still a dream for many, but how many of you reading this seriously want to work in Chicago? How many of you really wanna go get potentially shot or beaten by a cop in LA? How many of you actually want to have a family in America.

What about Shanghai? What about Tokyo? Maybe those grab your attention. For me they certainly do. I want to go work there and live there. I want to travel there, I want to go skiing there, I want to have some part of my career there, and I don’t have the same desire to move to America, apart from New York. But I don’t know why.

The only thing that can feasibly explain the majority of my career based decisions, is my obsession with Japanese and Asian culture from a young age.

We are products of our nurture. Our nurturing consisted of using something Japanese from a young age. Think how many things you own today are Japanese, and think how many things you used as a child that were Japanese. To illustrate a point, up until now, I forgot that my playstation was Japanese, I forgot that my camera I use every day was Japanese. And that’s today.

Back in my childhood the number of Japanese products and TV shows, and products I owned is truly inconceivable. I’ve always wanted to travel Asia, I’ve always wanted to soak up the culture there, and so have my friends. No where else has actually piqued my interest.

The only reason why I think this is the case, is because I fucking loved Pokemon.

words by Frazer Worboys

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