Ayrton Senna's popularity in Japan

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In this article we will see the reasons that made the former Brazilian Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna (アイルトンセナ) so popular in Japan. We will also try to understand what are the possible reasons why this motorsport legend has won the hearts of Brazilians and Japanese alike.

Senna (1960-1994) is considered by many to be the best racing driver of all time and, in Japan, he was marked in the memory of the people for his great victories, for the beautiful tributes received (including from pop culture) and for his sympathy for with the Japanese.

The unforgettable pilot (even for me, who was born years after his death and was only able to learn about his achievements through YouTube videos and reports from relatives) is still remembered by the Japanese as a courageous and, above all, victorious figure.

Senna in Japanese POP Culture

Senna's success in Japan between 1988 and 1994 was so overwhelming that several manga about the pilot were published in the most famous weekly magazines (Shonen Jump, for example) and numerous drawings in his honor were made during this period.

In addition, one of Ayrton Senna's biggest fans was the famous mangaka Akira Toriyama (鳥山明), author of Dragon Ball and Dr. Slump. On one of his trips to Japan, Senna met with Toriyama and the two took several photos, exchanged ideas and shared tributes.

Some manga that make reference to the pilot, such as: F1 No Senkou – Ayrton Senna no Chosen and GP Boy, were published by Shueisha in the early 90s (1991 and 1992), with good sales and great acceptance.

Of course, in addition to the manga universe, Senna was also the subject of many video games in Japan. Games like Ayrton Senna Super Monaco GP II is considered a great success within the racing game niche to this day.

ayrton senna's popularity in japan

The game was released around the same time as Nigel Mansell's game (in the mid-1990s and 1992) for Super Nintendo, which also pleased the public.

A curious fact is that Senna, according to some sources (such as Journalist and Writer Ernesto Rodrigues), was a fan of the Speed Racer anime. Above all, Senna was a great admirer of Japan and the Japanese people and, during all the times he went to the country, he was extremely well received by the Japanese authorities and the general population.

Coming back to manga, it is worth listing some of the manga artists who paid tribute to Ayrton Senna through commemorative drawings and illustrations. In addition to Akira Toriyama, manga creators Tsukasa Hojo (北条司) creator of City Hunter and Noboru Rokuda, creator of F (エフ) also contributed illustrations for the pilot.

ayrton senna's popularity in japan

Reasons why Senna is so popular in Japan

In addition to having placed a small Japanese flag on his helmet (in honor of the Honda team that would say goodbye to McLaren in 1993), Senna gave many interviews to Japanese TV, was on the cover of magazines about celebrities and was the subject of numerous special reports. .

His way of being and behaving pleased the Japanese. He was courageous, discreet at the times he should be, he had a fighting spirit, willpower, solidarity and valued hard work (all these values highly appreciated within Japanese culture and society).

After his death in 1994, Japanese television broadcast prime-time coverage of his last run. TV Fuji, since 1987, broadcast the Formula 1 GP's with great frequency. The grand prix (GP) in Japan broke television audience records and Senna always put on a show.

ayrton senna's popularity in japan

Below, we can see the reaction of the Japanese when they found the idol:

In this other video, we see the emotion of reporters after the fatal accident in 1994:

Senna at the Japanese GP

It was in Japan that Ayrton gave more shows (besides Monaco, of course). It was in the land of the Rising Sun that he won the third F1 world championship (in 1991). Below you can see the end of the race:

OBS: We recommend as a complementary reading the UOL article that talks about Senna's partnership with Honda during the second half of the 80's. Click on the link to read: Senna's partnership with Honda turned the pilot into the biggest F1 idol in Japan (uol.com.br)

Formula 1 vocabulary

  • アイルトンセナ = Ayrton Senna;
  • レーサー = Race driver;
  • レーシングカー = Race car;
  • ドライバー = Pilot, Driver;
  • ワールドチャンピオン = World Champion;

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