Japan In Britain: Music and manga hit the mainstream

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The Independent Online
The profile of the Japanese community in Britain has changed dramatically over the last 20 years, helping to spark a booming interest in Japanese exotica, particularly among the nation's trendy twenty-somethings.

Some 55,000 Japanese currently live in the United Kingdom, compared to just over 6,000 in 1976, according to statistics compiled by the Japanese Embassy.

Almost 25,000 are concentrated in London. Traditional enclaves include Ealing, Edgeware, Finchley, Golders Green and Camden - though more and more expatriates are starting to move south of the river.

Company workers represent just under 40 per cent, while numbers of students, researchers and teachers have been growing steadily. In 1996 they comprised 43 per cent of the total Japanese population in the UK, up almost 9 per cent from 1995.

The result is a younger, more dynamic community - one that is less willing to keep itself to itself.

In addition, young holiday-makers back home are eschewing the traditional Hawaiian tours to visit Britain independently. Last year, 595,000 Japanese spent pounds 448m throughout the country, compared to 211,000 spending pounds 94m in 1985.

There are now more than 1,250 Japanese-owned businesses in the UK, including some 50 banks and more than 200 manufacturers. Throughout the 70s there were hardly 20.

As the community grows, so does the influence of Japanese culture. The first Japanese restaurants set up shop in London in the late 60s. Now there are more than 150. Noodle bars like the wildly successful Wagamama in Bloomsbury have sprung up from Brixton to Colindale, and sushi has become something of an institution.

The same is true of other Japanese exports - from karaoke to manga to tamagotchi. Popular music, too, has made its mark, both in the clubs and on the radio.

And just in case you've forgotten, the London-based pop group Shonen Knife did girl power long before the Spice Girls.