Culture

What is Doraemon? Everything You Need to Know.

If you’re a fan of manga, anime, or anything else from Japan, then you’ve most likely come across a strange, blue creature who goes by the name Doraemon. What is Doraemon and why is he such a big deal in Japanese culture?

To sum it up in a single sentence, he’s kind of like the Micky Mouse of Japan.

He started off as a manga back in the late 60s and grew in popularity to the point where over 100 million copies of the manga have been sold!

Of course, when something becomes that popular, it spreads like wildfire into other forms of media as well. Besides the original manga, you can find Doraemon in anime, in video games, on coffee mugs, all over clothing, and pretty much anything else you can think of!

If you visit Japan, you’ll definitely run into him. So you’d better know all about him!

Get ready because it’s a long-winded explanation as to exactly what he is.

Doraemon is… this picture says it all!

Basically, he’s a robot from the future. A cat robot! But why doesn’t he have any ears then?

The short version is that he did have ears originally, but they were eaten by robot mice! How terrible!

And actually, Doraemon used to be yellow, but after he lost his ears he cried too much that he turned blue (literally).

Why did he time travel and what is his mission?

Basically it’s to save Nobita (the main kid in the story) from a horrible fate. And you’d better believe that Nobita needs all the help he can get! This kid seriously messes everything up!

Doraemon’s got his work cut out for him, indeed.

Doraemon has a ton of gadgets that he uses in the series. Nobita tend to misuse them, but I’ll leave that to the show to explain how. There’s not enough time to go over all the gadgets, but some notable ones are:

The どこでもドア (dokodemo doa) which means “anywhere door” and allows people to (what else?) go anywhere! I have to say that I would LOVE to get my hands on this particular one!

Then there is the コプター (take koputaa) which is a combination of the Japanese word for “bamboo” () and also the loan word for “helicopter” (コプター). This is a tool that has a little propeller he puts on his head and then it allows him to fly in the sky.

Next there is the スモールライト (sumooru raito) which is a loan word that combines the two English words “small light.” This particular tool is used to make people small by shining the light on them.

Also we have the タイム風呂敷 (taimu furoshiki) which is a “time wrapping cloth” that lets you go forward or backward in time! Are you noticing a trend with all the use of all these loan words?

And lastly, where does he get all of these things from? Out of the “4-D Pocket” Doraemon’s got on his tummy!

Two Interesting Facts about Doraemon:

(1) His Name

Doraemon’s name is spelled ドラえもん which you will notice used both katakana (ドラ) and hiragana (えもん) in it. What exactly do these two words mean?

The word ドラ (dora) comes from the word どら (dora neko) which means “stray cat.” Although, the actual word for “stray” in Japanese is のら (nora) like in the anime ノラガミ (Noragami) that means “stray god”, but どら is simply a slight distortion of のら.

The second part of his name is えもん (emon) which was a common addition to male Japanese names in ancient times. I’m sure you’ve heard of the famous Goemon, right? The main character from two great Nintendo64 games Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon, and Goemon’s Great Adventure?

The “emon” in Goemon’s name is the same as the one in Doraemon’s name.

This is a little ironic when you consider that Doraemon comes, not from the past, but from the future.

But the play on words doesn’t stop there!

Doraemon’s favorite food is dorayaki (see, they both have “dora” in the name!) which are Japanese style pancakes that have red bean filling inside of them. Yum!

The word “dora” in Japanese also means “gong” which could be a reference to how his body is shaped. I’ve heard it both ways on this last one – that it is meant to reference a gong, and that it isn’t. I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

(2) His Ambassadorship

Did you know that Japan literally has Anime Ambassadors? That is, anime characters whose job it is to spread anime culture throughout the world?

Kind of reminds me of the anime Outbreak Company where Japan spreads otaku culture to a new world that they gained access too.

Anyway, back to the topic of anime ambassadors, Doraemon is the first one and was appointed the position back in 2008.

I guess it makes sense that the first anime ambassador would be the one who is the most well-known, and family friendly.

His job is to help the rest of the world come to know, understand, and love anime the way that Japan does. He even showed up in the 2016 Olympics and you can bet that you will see him again in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics too!

Where Can You Find Doraemon?

See how Nobita (on the left) is messing up the Take Koputaa?

 

Maybe you’d like to check Doraemon out for yourself to see what all the fuss is about? How would you go about doing that?

Well, you’ve actually got a ton of options. Here are some of the main ones:

In Manga

Of course Doraemon got his start in manga, so that it the first place that you can find him.

The series ran for nearly thirty years! And you can probably find it at any store that sells manga. If not, you can always use Amazon to get them, since they have released 200 volumes as of last year!

What’s really interesting is that there’s even a version of the manga that is used to teach Japanese kids English! All the text bubbles are in English, but on the outside of each panel is a translation in Japanese.

So if you want to learn English, Doraemon will help! I guess you could also do it in the reverse if you wanted to. That is, learn Japanese from manga by using the side translation and the English text in the dialog bubbles to interpret.

In Anime

Like pretty much all manga that get’s popular, Doraemon has been adapted into an anime. Multiple times in fact!

The first time was in 1973 and it only had 26 episodes. Pretty brief for something as popular as Doraemon, but of course the manga was always the primary medium for the story.

Then in 1979 a new studio took over and aired 1,787 episodes!!!

Now that’s more like it.

Then in 2005 a deal was made with (who else?) Disney to bring this icon over to the American people.

Of course each new iteration of the anime brought with it a different look and new voice actors. The most drastic changes were when we got the show here in the USA, since there had to be a lot of localization changes made so that things would make sense for American kids.

And in addition to all the anime, there have also been several movies created for series.

In Video Games

I said at the beginning that Doraemon is basically a Japanese Micky Mouse, but after seeing all the games that this guy has, it may be better to compare him to Mario!

That’s because there are over 80 Doraemon video games!!!

Granted that most of them are Japanese only, but lately we’ve been seeing more of them on our consoles and mobile devises.

So if you just can’t wait, and want to try out some Doraemon for yourself, try looking in the App Store or Google Play Store now!

In His Own Museum

The awesome people over at tofugu.com actually visited the Doraemon museum and wrote up an article about it!

It’s pretty cool and I highly recommend that you check it out if you want to know even more about Doraemon, or if you are looking for interesting things to do while visiting Japan.

You can ride a Doraemon themed bus, eat Doraemon themed food and drinks, and of course learn more about the author of the series, one of the most important mangaka of our era, Fujiko F. Fujio.

You can even visit his desk that he created his famous works on!

What Else?

Honestly there is still so many more Doraemon-related things out there that you can enjoy… like the musical!

But by now you should know what Doraemon is, what his story is about, and what you can do to enjoy it for yourself!

As a final note, why don’t I leave you with the Doraemon theme song to enjoy?

What do you guys think?

Do you like Doraemon? Do you have any of the manga or anime?

Let me know with a comment below!

32 Comments

  • cbuffone

    Hi Nick,

    Your blog on everything you need to know and what is Doraemon is not only very informative but also entertaining and sprinkled with some great tidbits about the Japanese culture. Who knew that Doraemon is everywhere in Japan. a great read.

    I enjoy Anime, reading some Manga, and of course playing Japanese Video Games, who doesn`t. I would say anyone planning on traveling to Japan, needs to read this blog and visit your website.

    I will definitely bookmark your site for future visits.

    • Nick Hoyt

      Hey thanks, it’s kind of crazy just how much Doraemon is a part of Japan’s modern culture. Just the other day I was watching some Japanese commercials and there was a car commercial that had actors dressed up just like Nobita and Doraemon. It was pretty hilarious! 

  • mrsdehm

    Wow! I learned a lot from this website. I had no idea that Doraemon exsisted and that it’s similar to our MICKEY Mouse. I have heard of Manga, but I had no idea it was so widespread and in books, games, songs, etc.This website is packed with information on how and where to learn Japanese.

    • Nick Hoyt

      Yeah pretty much. I bet that 99% of my American friends have no clue about who the heck Doraemon is and just how big of a deal he is over in Japan!

      What’s interesting is that the Japanese culture likes to look at others and take the best things, make them better through a process of Japanifying them, and then release the new version to the world.

      But I’m not sure how much of the reverse happens. Thankfully (in my view) the trend has been for more and more things that are huge in Japan to become big over in America. I love seeing the stuff from that country at my local stores!!!

  • stella

    Doraemon is not a stranger in my house. In fact, I don’t think, a day can go by without my children watching the anime. I actually grew up not knowing anything about Doraemon. I discovered him through my children who do not like missing any episode . They always talk about him and Nobita and listening to them got me interested enough to watch and I still do if I happen to be less busy when it’s on. Thank you for this post.

    • Nick Hoyt

      Haha, yeah it’s kind of funny that you mention that, because my parents ended up watching all of the classic Disney movies due to me and my siblings. I guess it’s not uncommon for parents to watch all the same shows as their children.

      I can definitely remember remember when I was a kid and I HAD to watch Pokemon every single Sunday morning when it aired. Kids can be a little fanatic when it comes to their favorite shows, lol! 

  • Elisa

    Hi Nick,

    How I am impressed to see this website, my son always wants to learn Japanese since he was a little boy. Starting with the most popular manga superstar Doraemon makes much much more fun and easy to do it. Amazing that you have turned your passion into a career and have done it so well, I do admire you. Japanese culture is a very unique and mystic, your website has translated it to a very lovely and joyful culture, I joined in your facebook right away.

    • Nick Hoyt

      Thanks Elisa, I’m glad you really like the site!

      That’s pretty cool that your son wants to learn Japanese. They are definitely lots of great Doraemon manga and anime that could be used in combination with traditional study materials in order to make it that much more fun and gratifying!

  • Elisa

    This article makes me smiles, it has brought back so many nice memories to me. I was born and grew up in Taiwan, where is very close to Japan. Japanese culture has rooted in Taiwan since my parent’s era, the manga, especially Doraemon is popular all the time when I was teenage to my daughter and now my grandson. I am amazed the author of this article can illustrate Doraemon in such fine details give the warm heartfelt impression of this Japanese Mickey Mouse. I love Doraemon even more!

    • Nick Hoyt

      Hey that’s pretty cool! I’ve heard from relatives who has lived in Taiwan about how big Doraemon is over there. What can I say, he is one cool dude! He’s one of those classics that people grow up loving and continue to like, no matter what age they reach.

  • Susan

    I am so glad to find this site because I am a huge fan of manga and anime too. I am no stranger to Doraemon of course although I did not follow the manga as much as compared to other manga.
    *Spoiler alert: I have heard of the final ending scene of doraemon and I remembered finding myself hard to believe, do you have any source to know what is the actual ending of doraemon?
    Also, where is the doraemon museum that you have mentioned in the blog? I will be sure to check it out next time when I am in Japan!
    Loving the site and thanks for the useful information! =)

    • Nick Hoyt

      Oh, you know what I have not actually seen the very ending of Doraemon myself. Although I would bet that you can watch the ending of it somewhere on YouTube since they’ve got videos of just about everything you can think of.

      As for where the museum is located, perhaps the best way for me to show where it is, would be by giving you a link to its location on Google Maps. You can Click Here To See it Now.

      If you do end up visiting it in Japan, you’ll have to take lots of pictures and share them! I’d love to see it sometime myself too! 

  • Dave

    I love Japanese culture and language. The writing is so interesting. I asked a Japanese friend about Doraemon and she said that she grew up with this and many other characters. I think Doraemon is succeeding in his job to spread anime around the world. Thanks for the blog and I’ll keep following your site.

    • Nick Hoyt

      Yeah, the Japanese culture is one of the coolest in my opinion. And Doraemon is definitely a part of it nowadays!

      Having an anime ambassador who’s mission is to “spread the faith” of loving anime is something that is totally hilarious, and very Japanese. You know what I mean?

      When you take a look around the world, it’s actually a little surprising just how popular anime has become. It’s very popular in the Spanish speaking parts of the world, and Doraemon in particular is huge in India!

      If you go to YouTube and try to find any of the Doramon movies, 90% of them will be in Hindi.

  • kenuetrecht

    Haha, I remember Doraemon from back in the day. Never knew he was such a big deal in Japan, its cool to see that he is still around and they still make games and merchandise with his face on it. He is most def. like the anime version of Mickey Mouse! And that theme song is very catchy.

    • Nick Hoyt

      Yeah, it’s one of those things where you kind of just know about him from seeing him around, and then you find out that he’s a ridiculously big deal over in his home country.  

      There’s a couple characters like that over in Japan, but Doraemon reigns king for sure.

      I’ve never played any of his games, although I am temped to pick one up the next time I see it. I think some of the newer ones look pretty interesting.

  • Win Bill

    I have been brought up watching Doraemon. People around China used to call him “ding dong”. I watched him since I was little that’s why I know most of his techs. My favorites are the time traveling machine, the underwater submarine, and the gravity paint. Time machine is self explanatory. The cool part about the underwater submarine is that it has the ability to convert local microorganism into your everyday food like hamburgers and pizza. The gravity paint is also awesome because you can paint your ceiling and literally paint it and stand on it like a floor. There’s more but that will be too much to write here. It was an interesting series and they have a lot of movies too. I haven’t tried the games yet but they should be cool too. What’s your favorite Doraemon movie?

    • Nick Hoyt

      I’d have to say that the one I enjoyed the most was Nobita’s Secret Gadget Museum since it was not only a mystery movie, but it also showcased a TON of gadgets since the location takes place in the Secret Gadget Museum.

      Can you believe that there are over 30 Doraemon feature length movies?!!! I think the last time I counted it was up to 38 or something. That is a crazy amount! But I guess it just goes to show you how much people like him.

      And that’s pretty dang funny about him being called “ding dong” around China! 

  • Frank

    When I was a kid I used to watch Doraemon all the weekends. The fact that this creature had the ability to take out awesome things from his magic pocket was really magical. I used to dream of having my own Doraemon as Nobita.

    I’ll look definitely in the app store so I can get some beautiful memories back.

  • Steve T

    Doraemon is too cool – thanks for this great article! While I’m a big fan of Japanese culture in general, I’ve only had a small exposure to anime and virtually no experience with manga. Your post may have infected me with the manga bug!

    While I’ve traveled in Japan a good bit, I’ve not really noticed Doraemon that much, until now. I suspect I will now see him a lot, since I have the full back story.

    • Nick Hoyt

      Yeah, I suspect it’s one of those situations where you kind of ignore it every time you see it, but once someone points it out to you, you start to see and notice it everywhere! 

      Keep an eye out for Doraemon not only in Japan, but any other places you visit too. Especially any place that sells anime, manga, or video games!

  • elias

    It’s so cute, I can see why its such a big hit in Japan. I haven’t heard of it before which is quite surprising as I watch a lot of anime, but I’ll definitely be on the lookout for this one. I love how you explain everything about the character, from the way the name is written, right down to the fact that it has its own museum.

    Thanks for the article, very informative! Keep it up!

    Elias

    • Nick Hoyt

      Hey Elias, yeah I had actually never heard about Doraemon either for the longest time, except for when other anime I was watching would reference it!

      It happened several times across a few different anime, and I finally said “Enough is enough! I gotta’ learn who this guy is!”

      It’s kind of crazy how, even though we are so connected to the rest of the world through the internet, there are still aspects of each culture that is absolutely huge in their respective countries, but nobody else knows anything about it!

      But if I had to make a prediction though, I would say that Doraemon is only getting started and will be around for a long, long time.

  • Monica Bouteiller

    Lol… I love the Doraemon Theme Song and thank God the lyrics show too. I’m Japanese and sad to say I lost much of the language after my Grandparents passed away years ago.

    I was taking private lessons to pick the language and quit after tragedy struck. My little sister is going to Japan next year, for the first time, and I’m definitely going to let her know to keep an eye out for Doraemon. I’m bookmarking this and send your post to her. I had no idea it even teaches Japanese. How can I do this?

    Thanks Nick!

    • Nick Hoyt

      Hey Monica, the Doraemon manga that I picked up is one that was originally meant to teach Japanese kids English, but it can certainly be used in the reverse way as well for someone who wants to learn Japanese.

      Although, you’ll have to already know how to read a fair amount of the Japanese writing systems in order for it to work, so it’s probably not the best resource for someone who is relatively new. 

      If you want to check out where you can get a copy of the Doraemon manga, then click here to do so now.

      Otherwise, there are several pages on my blog that are intended for people who are just getting started. Check them out by clicking on the “BEGINNERS” tab on the menu bar at the top.

      And thanks for the comment! I hope your little sister has a great time in Japan!

  • Brent

    Pretty cool stuff!!! And he def sounds like a hip cat, ears or not!!! Thank you for sharing this character. He certainly gets around. I am assuming he is a he since you said he was like MICKEY Mouse.

    Great post.

  • Beth

    I had no idea what Doraemon was until we moved to Taiwan and there is Doraemon bread, Doraemon cookies, and Doraemon towels! Tons and tons of Doraemon stuff here. I loved reading your post about this, and how clever to use him to learn Japanese. I wish I learned about Doraemon sooner!

    • Nick Hoyt

      Yeah, I have to admit that I’ve only ever seen a random toy of him here and there in the USA. I had to look him up the first time as well, since I keep seeing all these references to him in anime. I was like “what the heck is this Doraemon that everyone keeps talking about?!”

      That’s pretty cool that his big in Taiwan too! Anytime they decide to make food that looks like you, you know you’ve made it big, lol!

  • Erisa

    I didn’t know that you can also learn Japanese with Doraemon. Very good information I really enjoyed reading it.

    I am interested in learning a new language, I used to start learning Japanese a few years ago by myself but it’s a little difficult so I quit. But I think that one day I am going to get back on track. Thank you for this great post!

    • Nick Hoyt

      Hey Erisa, I’m glad you enjoyed learning more about Doraemon!

      Yeah, I had no idea that you would learn Japanese with him either until I came across the manga one day! I picked up the first copy, and I think that English speakers certainly could use it to learn Japanese, but they might have a little bit of trouble if they are beginners since it used full kanji, with no furigana.

      You might spend a lot of time looking up new words, which would probably get a little frustrating.

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