One Piece isn’t an anime– it’s a way of life

For more photos from my trip, check out my tumblr!

Also, if you don’t know what One Piece is, this post will probably hold little significance to you. My apologies! As a One Piece fan, this is a little self-indulgent of me.

My tutor, who’s been to Japan, once told me this:

I was a little confused. I asked him to elaborate.

One Piece, for those who don’t know, is a manga/anime series that’s been running in Japan for over ten years. It’s about a quirky pirate captain, Monkey D. Luffy, and his quest to find the fabled treasure “One Piece” and become king of the pirates. Throughout his travels, he accumulates a small and equally quirky pirate crew and together they roam the seas. They challenge the elements, other pirates, and even the World Government, weaving a wacky tale of epic adventure.

One Piece also happens to be one of my favorite series, due to its skillful blending of humor and action. It’s kind of well-known in America, too, if you’re into Japanese manga and anime. And I knew it was popular in Japan.

But I was not prepared.

For just how popular it was.

One of the first things I noticed in Japan was just how prevalent One Piece was. One character from One Piece– Tony Tony Chopper– is this little reindeer… thing. He’s cute. Therefore, every single souvenir shop we went to had a whole section devoted to solely Tony Tony Chopper phone charms.

Of course, the phone charms weren’t limited to Chopper alone. There were plenty of the other characters as well.

Like Nico Robin.

The merchandise was not limited to phone charms. There were plenty of One Piece socks…

One Piece plushies…

One Piece bags of popcorn…

Even One Piece…bath salts?

A lot of the stores I went to had whole sections devoted to One Piece.

It got even crazier when I realized that a lot of the One Piece souvenirs were created for that specific area. For example, in Tokyo, we’d see phone charms, of, say, Tony Tony Chopper sitting on Tokyo tower.

Or, at Noboribetsu, a hot springs town, we’d see One Piece characters at the hot springs…

Or, at Sapporo Dome, we saw One Piece characters playing soccer:

Japanese souvenirs, as we found out, are a bit different in that way. One Piece wasn’t the only line of characters sold with their own specialized souvenirs. Hello Kitty, for instance, could also be found in most stores:

Though this just happened to be a whole store devoted to Hello Kitty.

Another commonly seen character was a bear named Rilakkuma:

There was even a Hokkaido-specific character called Marimokkori, a portmanteau of marimo (a type of green algae ball that grows in Hokkaido’s lakes) and mokkori (a slang term for “erection.”) As you’d expect, some of Marimokkori’s merchandise was a little… weird.

But One Piece was, by far, the most popular. It was everywhere. It pervaded daily life. One of our students had a host brother in elementary school who wore only One Piece t-shirts. I’d often ask people if they watched anime– and the answer would often be:

Occasionally it worked as a conversation starter.

The extent of the popularity of One Piece didn’t hit me, though, until I entered a book store. First, I saw the One Piece section:

And then I saw a book of One Piece… “party skills?”

And then I saw this series of books:

And finally, the kicker:

Therefore, my trip to Japan was one of the most trying times of my life. Due to temptation. To my wallet. 

So One Piece in Japan was extremely popular to the point where I was shocked. It’s kind of like the Harry Potter of Japan in terms of popularity, except in America there isn’t Harry Potter stuff in all the stores. Really, I’ve never seen anything just be that popular before. Luckily, I managed to practice some self-restraint and not buy everything…

I might have snagged a shirt or two at a Uniqlo, though.

67 thoughts on “One Piece isn’t an anime– it’s a way of life

  1. Ahhhh! This is so funny! I’ve never read One Piece, but I’ll have to check it out. Happy 4th, by the way!

    • Happy 4th to you as well!
      Thank you! I was actually a bit worried posting this because not all of my readers have read/watched One Piece. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Hi! Go batoto and read it.

    You can watch the entire anime at Hulu. Please check it out it’s amazing.

    This has only solidified my white beard tattoo on my

    I would have bought everything 2..or tried 2 at least.

  3. This, this, this. Perfect post to describe the One Piece heaven going on right now.
    And I had the exact same conversation starter (to the “Zoro”), meeting several girls at school here.

    • It really works! I once had a 30-minute conversation where a girl and I freaked out over all the male characters from Shonen Jump, and One Piece was where it started.
      “One Piece heaven” is definitely the best way to describe it.

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  5. I LOVE One Piece I read the manga and watch the anime. Sanji is my favorite character. I plan on going to Japan myself when I finish college to buy a bunch of One Piece stuff. 🙂

  6. that’s really true. when i went to Hokkaido last year, almost everywhere there was One Piece, from souvenirs shops to even express way shop overs! I had the opportunity to go to an otaku shop too and there was a whole glass case shelf dedicated to One Piece Figures!! Love One Piece!!!

    • One Piece is the best! One of my favorite souvenirs from Japan is actually a “One Piece in Hokkaido” handkerchief with Luffy and Chopper. Gotta love Japan!

  7. Wow, I’m amazed. I never imagined… of all anime, One Piece? I never figured it was particularly good. Of course, I never bothered to try to get into it either. I once saw a short snippet of that show, and I didn’t like it, but now…?

    Still don’t know.

    btw, what ‘way of life’ is it? You never explained that. What does it actually mean to Japanese people?

    • It’s currently the most popular series in Japan and pretty big in Asia as well. NHK did a feature on One Piece and they interviewed people who talked about how One Piece is inspiring them and changing their lives, somewhat exaggerated stuffs like that.. but it says something. Some people couldn’t get past the art style and humor of the anime/manga, but once you do, it’d be all worthwhile. One Piece is just amazing to me, I can never understand why some people in the west hate it.

      • I have to say I agree. I always found it somewhat sad that people reject One Piece solely due to the art style. Tons of great comics have “strange” art styles, including One Piece– but One Piece’s quirks is what makes it so good! I do understand why new readers choose not to read it, though; getting through the OP archives takes a lot of time. One Piece will always be one of my all-time favorites, though!

            • Agreed! I still follow the big 3. I have to admit that I’m actually excited to see how Bleach (and Naruto especially) will end, and what the authors will write next!

            • Hello, first of all, THANKS(!!!) for photos! I love to have even a tiny glimpse of Japan!! ❤ I never knew One Piece was THAT great 🙂

              About why westerners hate it, I believe I might know something about it. There's a very evil organisation in America called 4kids, and they edit the show to censor out "scary things" that are not suitable for kids. Story lines are changed *drastically* in some parts, speeches are changed here and there, dubbed voices are FAR off … and the list will go on.

              It's a no surprise that people turn their noses away because they thought One Piece was supposed to be as bad as that.

              Have a look, if you will 🙂

              Of course, YouTube has much much more other OP episodes spoilt by 4kids, have a look at them! 😀 They are really funny but of course, I wouldn't substitute the real thing for this weird edited cartoon.. 😉

            • I knew that 4Kids ruined One Piece, but I never knew to what extent! That video! Luffy’s dumb laugh! The added stupid lines! THE HEAD-BONKER?! WTF?!
              …After some further Googling, 4Kids damaged Yu-Gi-Oh as well, right? The unnecessary accents, changed dialogue, and, of course, this:
              I grew up with Yu-Gi-Oh, so when I learned all this, it was shocking to me! It’s too bad 4Kids ruined OP in the US… in my opinion, OP deserves more popularity here 😀
              I’m glad you liked the photos! I think I have a few other posts about Japan– if you go to the search bar on the top and type in “Japan” they should come up. This one about One Piece is my favorite, though 🙂

            • Now Yi-gi-oh looks interesting… I might consider watching it 😉

              About 4kids, I think they might have good intentions actually. They wanted to bring Japanese cartoon to America, but they decided that there were too much ‘violent stuffs’, so they proceed to edit out the scary violent scenes.

              I’m okay with that.

              But it seems like they went overboard by editing TOO much stuffs, for example, they even “americanise” episodes. An example would be having the characters eat onigiri, but said it’s donuts. In the later episodes, they would change onigiri to sandwich entirely. (I’m talking about pokemon 😛 )

              I wouldn’t comment more on 4kids, because they should have their own version of justice? 😉

            • Agreed! I can understand why some of the violence in Japanese anime is a bit too much for kids. But onigiri to sandwiches? Totally unnecessary.
              Well, 4Kids definitely had its fair share of criticism. In fact, it almost went bankrupt! (Though for reasons other than its terrible dubbing)

  8. TvTropes brought me here. Best parts of this were *INSTANT FRIENDS!!!* and how One Piece is officially a religion.

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  11. Oh my gosh, I never knew one piece was THAT popular. I knew to a certain extent that it was well known but I never knew there were philosophy books and bibles based off of it. I have this strong urge to visit Japan now but I can’t speak Japanese… Still, it’ll be nice buying all the one piece merchandise and stuff…

  12. It’s the sheer depth of detail, both in every single panel and in the storytelling, that make One Piece my favorite manga by far. Being funny and awesome is great, but I think that the details are what make it so popular. It’s easy to get invested in the series and that investment actually pays off in a big way.

    Just saying. I love One Piece.

    • Yeah, I know what you mean! The One Piece crew travels to so many islands, and every time Oda manages to build each one into a unique and detailed world. Even the minor characters are fully fleshed out. It’s a series that can really pull you in.

      I agree. I love One Piece as well.

  13. ahahahaha this is amazing, really. Never really thought it could turns out that way much popular. Though until now, i’m still shock about the real life Thousand Sunny Go and Merry Go ships that have been made in Japan. It’s unbelievable, with thousands of fans squirming around, the dolls of Strawhat Pirates existence, the sizes of all those figures, they could make a One Piece village there, just as Detective Conan 😉 As Conan’s popular with crime-fighting in Japan (police stations there have a lot of DC posters, include at schools), i should’ve asked Japanese people about One Piece too when i was in Japan long ago (-,-). I love dear One Piece, hopefully u manage to buy the merchandises as many as u can soon, admin. haha XD

    • It’s amazing how Japan can open whole exhibits and museums devoted to One Piece, and get a huge turnout! I can’t think of any one show in America whose popularity can compare. I didn’t hear about the real-life Thousand Sunny and Merry Go ships, though. That must be amazing to see!

      • ahaha i can understand that, but you didn’t hear about the ships? I wasn’t see them eye to eye in Japan, but i found out about it while ‘googling’. Try it 😉 It’s like a dream comes true if one has to say, with many spectators with various age visiting the ships, and Thousand Sunny even set sail once with Strawhat crews in it, very spectacular. Oda really is something, not even a legendary Dragonball could have made that much of exhibition. Guess you’re right, as much as Dragonball is also one of the way of life to some people, One Piece has its own as well, in grand.

  14. Lol. I was in Japan about a year and a half ago. Everything you said – It’s so true. I saw everything from One Piece bucket and spade sets, One Piece ear bud things, One piece weight scales, One Piece shaving cream set – I think the only thing I didn’t see was a One Piece pregnancy test – though I would’t be surprised if that too was out there 😀

    One Piece is definently part of modern day Japanese culture – so awesome!

  15. Awesome post One Piece is hands down one of my all time favourite anime. I know this was a little while ago, but do you still remember the shop names or where abouts you found all these One Piece goods while you were in Japan? Because when I went to Japan last year, I literally could not find any One Piece goods in neither Akihabara nor Tokyo. I don’t know if its the reason because it is getting less popular in Japan now or I’m not looking at the right places.

    • Hi, sorry for the late response! I haven’t been on WordPress for a while because of grad school.

      I really did see One Piece goods everywhere. Akiba for sure, festivals, all sorts of generic souvenir stores, bookshops, it was nuts! Of course, it’s like you said– I was there years ago, so maybe it’s different now. Sorry I can’t be more help, and good luck with your search!

  16. No worries, and thanks for the reply! I think everyone is quite busy around this time of the year, especially when finals are just around the corner.

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