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 竹コプター (take koputaa) which is a combination of the Japanese word for “bamboo” (竹) 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 どら猫 (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?
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:
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.
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!
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!
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: