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[Nb. Nippon is the Japanese for ‘Japan’]

Despite this being my first visit to Japan, it feels like a homecoming. This, after all, is the home of Nintendo.

This land spawned Zelda, Pokemon, Mario, Golden Sun, Donkey Kong, Kirby… and countless more classics! For me, such games seemed more ‘Virtual’ than ‘Reality’, but here in Japan the ‘Reality’ of them is brilliantly evident.

Incredibly, wandering through the small town of Takayama feels not dissimilar to exploring Hyrule’s icy mountain village in The Legend of Zelda (N64). It isn’t just a visual similarity, the whole experience feels familiar: the way you replenish health by purchasing drink from a vending machine; the signposted and mapped paths; the strict opening hours of shops and restaurants.

Cartoon plot sequences with infuriatingly excitable characters are found in reality in any shop. “Hello Link! Would you like to buy some slingshot ammo?” is replaced by “Hello there! Can I serve you a coffee?” but the style is the same.

Seasons, too, feature heavily in the vast majority of Japanese RPG or Adventure games. In Pokemon creatures appear at different times of the year, while the landscape and obstacles in Golden Sun change as months go by. To the Japanese, distinct and beautiful seasons provide an object of pride and admiration. No wonder Nintendo adopts them so readily.

Nintendo didn’t invent this stuff. In fact, they barely elaborated it.

Japan, of course, has contributed more to the world of technology and computers than just Nintendo. Cameras, trains, TVs, cars, watches, traffic lights, mobile phones. If Nintendo is anything to go by, this hoard of technology will have broadcast Japanese national characteristics worldwide. The politeness, the labelling, the season-like contrasts, the efficiency.

Of course, not all technology is Japanese. Far from it. But you’d be hard pushed to find an element of technology that escapes Japanese involvement entirely.

This, I think, is why Japan feels so familiar to me. Through culturally-coded technology, it’s national characteristics, historically developed in segregation from so much of the world, has come to infiltrate the world it never knew.

If you know Nintendo, and if you know technology, you know Nippon.

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