May is Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage month, and as of right now, there’s a rise in racism toward Asians, both Asian Americans and Asians due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and inaccurate information being spread. However, I think a way to lessen the hate can be found through sharing our cultures, and understanding them before reacting out of ignorance. I want to show what it is to be Asian and to celebrate Asian culture through music, film, books and food.
Music: I know many of us are on the lookout for new songs or artists, and it can be hard to find new music.. So, I’ve listed some Asian musicians that I listen to. Below is a list of musicians that range from K-pop to rap and rock. These are not all of the Asian artists I listen to, however, because there are just so many!
Iñigo Pascual: A Filipino singer-songwriter I recently found, he’s got an amazing voice and his music is what I can describe as only the Philippines, lively and full of heart. I recommend listening to “Dahil Sa’Yo” and “Should Be Me.” Pascual sings in Tagalog (the Filipino language), and English. Another one of the songs that I like is “Love” by PRETTYMUCH feat. Iñigo Pascual (watch the music video too! It gives you an idea of some of the food Filipinos like to eat!)
BTS: I don’t think I could make this Asian-artist list without them. They have powerful voices and their message is really empowering. They truly care about the music they’re producing and playing and use it to create a positive message for those who listen. I recommend listening to “Magic Shop,” “Outro: Ego” and “DNA.” Their music videos (and other videos) are pretty fun to watch too.
IU: IU is crazy talented; her music and voice are beautiful. She ranges from giving off a relaxing coffee house vibe to upbeat dancing songs. I recommend “Blueming,” “Through the Night” and “Good Day.”
NCT: NCT is a blanket for all the subgroups that go by the name NCT (NCT 127, NCT DREAM, you get the idea). This K-pop group is cool because they have international members and they produce awe-inspiring music and they also have a plethora of YouTube videos (great for when you have a long YouTube binge). I recommend “My Page” (NCT DREAM), “WITHOUT YOU” (NCT) and “Highway to Heaven” (NCT 127). For “Highway to Heaven,” I’d say go Korean Version first, then English.
ONE OK ROCK: I found these guys during a sleepover, surfing Instagram, and I’m so glad I did! Their music is just rock enough but not too metal for me, and their music is super powerful. I really like it, and they sing in English and Japanese, so you take your pick in what language. I’d recommend “We Are,” “Koi no aibou kokoro no cupido” and “Stand Out Fit In.”
Eric Nam: He’s super funny and cool. Side note: he also grew up in the States! I like his music; it’s very mellow, but also can be uplifting. I really enjoy watching him on YouTube and listening to his music. He sings in both Korean and English, so I’m offering both kinds of songs. I recommend: “Honestly,” “FLOAT” (that was in Hotel Transylvania 3 – but it’s a good song) and “Can’t Help Myself (feat. LOCO).”
Amber Liu: She’s so cool! Amber’s a part of f(x), a K-pop group from SM Town (an entertainment company in South Korea), and is a solo artist, and her music is chill but also great for driving. Her vlogs on YouTube are awesome, and hilarious and you can find her with Eric Nam on their podcast with Dive Studios or on their respective YouTube channels. I recommend “Other People” (Mandarin version or English), “Lifeline” and “Curiosity.”
Higher Brothers: These guys are a Chinese hip-hop group with an awesome flow. They often rap in Mandarin, but they do sing/rap in English. I would not blast their music, because they do curse, but their music is wicked-powerful and makes (me at least) feel super kick-butt. I recommend “Made In China,” “Open It Up” and “Nothing Wrong.”
Jackson Wang: He’s a member of GOT7, but also an accomplished solo artist. His music is what I listen to when I’m studying, because his flow is super chill, but he has songs that are for pumping you up. I recommend: “X,” “Dawn of Us” and “Fendiman.”
Books: I’m a reader; I grew up reading instead of playing video games, so I’m kind of a nerd. These books are drastically different from what I’ve read all my life. They take place in Asia (a place that sometimes seems like a dream to me), show a window into the cultures there and have Asian characters that resemble me—something I never really found in stories I grew up with.
Red Girls: The Legend of the Akakuchibas by Kazuki Sakuraba: I like this book because it explores the traditions within a prefecture in Japan, and also some mystical abilities and tells the story of 3 generations within a family. It’s a good read.
A Small Charred Face by Kazuki Sakuraba: This was the first book I read by Sakurab. It’s a new take on vampires. They’re called Bamboo in the book and I like this story so much better than any other vampire story because the vampires seem so much more human and real than bloodthirsty creatures.
My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life by Rachel Cohn: This story is about a girl who meets her estranged father and learns to live in Tokyo. I like this purely because of the description of Japanese culture and scenery. I will warn you: there is addiction discussed in the book.
I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kahn: I’ve never read a romance book not focused on the romance. But this book did it, and it does a beautiful job of describing Kyoto and family. The romance was a bonus, but I found myself focusing on other parts of the story. I really like this one.
Bucket List to Love by C.P. Santi: I actually steal this book from my sister to read. I like this book because it shows love between two different races (the female lead is Filipina and the male lead is Japanese) and it also just describes the different culture, while still being relatable and showing you around Japan.
Manga: I put this as its own category because I feel like manga is a category of its own. I am using some manga genres, because the titles of the genre best explain the type of manga within the genre. I’ve listed the meanings if they’re unfamiliar. Shonen is action and adventure. Shojo is romance or slice of life.
Fairy Tail created by Hiro Mashima—Genre: Shonen
My Hero Academia (Boku no Hero) created by Kohei Horikoshi—Genre: Shonen
Tokyo Ghoul created by Sui Ishida—Genre: Thriller*
Attack on Titan created by Hajime Isayama—Genre: Shonen
Naruto created by Masashi Kishimoto—Genre: Shonen
Death Note created by Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata—Genre: Mystery
Orange created by Ichigo Takano—Genre: Shojo
Kuroko’s Basketball created by Tadatoshi Eujimaki—Genre: Shonen
Assasination Classroom created by Yūsei Matsui—Genre: Shonen
*I classified Tokyo Ghoul as a thriller because it’s more intense than Shounen, and it gets intense. Attack on Titan is also hovering on that edge of thriller due to the gore. However, both have fantastic stories.
I also went heavy on Shonen manga, because I haven’t read a lot of Shojo manga, so if you have recommendations, comment them!
Film: I have multiple genres to recommend, as well as TV shows, movies, anime—lots of stuff. I also broke them down so if you’re looking for a new show or movie to watch, you can pick a genre. If you want a little teaser of these shows, YouTube has trailers as well as Netflix!
Goblin: This is pretty cool. It’s more fantasy based as far a k-drama can go. It’s both romance and historical fiction. It’s about a goblin trying to find a human bride to end his immortal life, and obviously, things don’t go as planned (after all, what’s a good story without a little straying from the path?).
One Spring Night: This is full-on romance; I like that it has real problems that many people face. The story is about a love triangle between a pharmacist, a librarian and a banker, while dealing with daily life and the expectations of parents.
Fight for My Way: You’ll notice a theme with the next few because Park Seo-Joon is in many dramas. This story is about an MMA fighter and an aspiring announcer, who both persevere to achieve their dreams. This is your romantic underdog story.
Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth: This is a historical drama, and it’s awesome. The story is about a group of young men training to be warriors, while discovering their passions and building friendships. The character development seen in the show, makes this show worth your time and your tears (yes, you will cry. I’m sorry!).
Itaewon Class: This is the last of Park Seo-Joon related dramas, I promise. Itaewon Class is about an ex-convict who works on making his dream of opening a street bar a reality with his friends. I like the vibe of this drama;it’s real enough, but still an escape.
Crash Landing on You: This drama is about a South Korean heiress crashing (and I mean literally) in a North Korean officer’s life, who decides he will help her hide. I think this drama is kind of like Romeo and Juliet, but it’s still its own.
Kingdom: This is another historical drama, but a little more thriller and mystery. It takes place in the Joseon period (in Korea) and it’s about a prince who runs into a life-threatening situation while he’s investigating a plague.
Reply: This is more your slice of life kind of drama. Think of it as the Korean Friends, possibly more relatable because they’re in high school and we’re not all Joey. This series goes through the years of 1997 to 1994, in the seasons. I might like this a little bit better than Friends.
Anime: I put a majority of the manga I listed earlier into this list because I think it’s cool to read the manga and watch the anime, without fearing the dreaded change of the story (in most cases).
Naruto: Ninjas, ramen, epic fights, great animation—need I say more?
Fairy Tail: it’s amazing to see the quality of animation progress throughout the series, and those little stories at the end of books? They’ve become filler episodes. It’s super fun to combine those in the anime series!
Tokyo Ghoul: The animation is amazing, and truly breathes life into the characters and story. But, again it is kind of graphic, so just a heads up.
Attack on Titan: This is most likely the epitome of animation when it comes to action. I would not recommend watching at 1 a.m. as I did. It kind of freaks you out, unless you like imaging titans eating people.
My Hero Academia: Teenagers learning to be superheroes, and the animation’s great! If you read the manga, this is one to watch; even if you didn’t, I’d recommend this one.
Demon Slayer: This is a newer anime that’s popular. I haven’t watched it, but it looks super intriguing and interesting. It’s about a brother who becomes a demon slayer, while protecting his sister who turned into a demon. Sounds interesting, huh? If anyone has seen it, comment what you think!
Japanese Drama: I only have one of these, but this is my golden goose and a good place to start with Japanese dramas.
Miss Sherlock: This is a whole new take on Sherlock. And I find the twist on it is intriguing and refreshing. It’s like a roller coaster (I like roller coasters)t. This series takes the idea of Sherlock from the early 20th century to modern-day with modern-day mysteries to solve. As the name suggests, the lead is a female, but she’s just as eccentric, and she’s a great detective. Gore warning: in the first episode, people implode, so there is blood, dead people and guts.
Movies: These movies take place all over Asia, and you may recognize a few. I’m going to try to write a teaser in one sentence.
Parasite: Oscar winning—leaving that right here. Language: Korean
Keyboard Warriors: This is an action/mystery set in Singapore in which a group of tech-savy nerds investigate an armored-car robbery. My sister really likes this one, and it’s a good watch. Language: Cantonese
The Farewell: Awkwafina stars in this film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. I really wanted to see this one. Teaser: saying goodbye to a family member, but also dealing with family in general. Language: English and Mandarin.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Michelle Yeoh is super well known and this is one of my favorite movies with her in it. Teaser: The chase for a stolen sword. Language: Mandarin.
Crazy Rich Asians: All Asian cast, awesome story, and yes there is romance. Teaser: A common girl meets her rich boyfriend’s family and tries to win their approval. Language: English and Cantonese.
Hello, Love, Goodbye: Philippines set, and it’s the truth for many Filipinos who leave their country to work and send money back to their families. Teaser: A struggling worker and a bartender try to figure out their love and lives in Hong Kong. Language: Tagalog
My Neighbor Totoro: Honestly, any Ghibli Studio movie is worth watching; this is just one of my favorites. Teaser: A family moves into an old house and the children find many playful spirits. Language: Japanese
Comedians: These are Asian comedians who make me laugh, while doing a good job of explaining our cultures. Win-win.
Jimmy O. Yang: He’s in Crazy Rich Asians and his Amazon Prime Special is out!
Eddie Cheng: Also, in Crazy Rich Asians, and his Netflix special is hilarious, especially when he talks about food allergies.
Jo Koy: A Filipino comedian who makes funny videos of his family, and even teaches some Tagalog in funny videos for “Tagalog Thursday.” His Netflix special is rib-breakingly funny!
Ken Jeong: He’s pretty recognizable, I remember him best from “Zookeeper.” Any of his Netflix specials are ridiculously amusing, as well as his answering medical questions on YouTube.
Ali Wong: She’s super funny and great at telling jokes. All of her content is funny and puts a smile on my face.
Nigel Ng: He’s a standup comedian in the U.K. and his shows are hysterical and they do a great job of explaining parts of Asian culture. His podcast “Rice to Meet You” co-hosted by Evelyn Mok is priceless and a great listen!
Food: Last but not least, one of my favorite categories! I have a list of restaurants in Fort Collins (and in one case nearish to Fort Collins) that have great Asian food and some grocery stores that have Asian foods. These restaurants are available for take-out, and it’s important to support our local businesses at this time.
Taj Mahal: a great place to get Indian food! They’re on Oak Street in Old Town.
Lulu’s Asian Bistro: Lots of good Asian food: sushi, Pad Thai and Kung Pao chicken, etc. They’re on South College in Old Town.
Bamboo Express: I prefer this over Panda Express. All the food is made fresh every day, has more flavor. It is in Loveland though, so it might be a drive. Bamboo Express is on West Eisenhower Boulevard in Loveland.
Sally’s Kitchen: It tastes great and has a range of options! It’s on South Timberline (by the Cinemark, inside Schrader’s Country Store).
White Tree Sushi and Asian Cuisine: Good food, lots of options, especially their sushi. They’re on South Taft Hill Road, near CSU’s campus.
Bann Thai: This is one of my family’s go-to restaurants. I love their Green Curry, that’s the only time I like eggplant. They have two locations: one in Front Range Village, the other is near CSU’s campus.
King Soopers: The Asian section is kind of small, in terms of instant noodles and snacks, but they have real mochi, not just the ice cream mochi. I like the Imperial Sesame mochi the best. They also have frozen dumplings and my personal favorite is the Wei-Chuan Korean pork dumplings.
Trader Joe’s: This store rocks. That’s all I have to say; they started selling Ube Ice cream last summer and that was one of the best moments in my life. Not kidding. I haven’t had Ube ice cream since I visited my grandparents in the Philippines and it’s good! They also added Ube pancake mix and I’m so excited to try it! Trader Joe’s is in The Square Shopping Center.
If you have recommendations or comments on some of my recommendations, please let me know what you think!