The Culture Of Japan

The Japanese culture has evolved over millennia from the prehistoric Jōmon period to the modern times.

Japanese culture is ancient, diverse, divine, and influences various facets of modern Japan even today. From diet to festivals, sports to fashion, the culture is ever present in them.

7. Social Beliefs And Customs In Japan -

Japan is a largely secular society whose people value harmonious relations with others by giving back, and regard fulfilling the social duty as more vital than personally relating to a god. Order, harmony, and self-development are three vital values that anchor Japanese social relations. Religious practices also emphasize the importance of harmonious relations with humans and spiritual beings; and fulfillment of social obligations within family and community, according to a study by the US Library of Congress. In Japanese myths, gods exhibit love and anger. That means behavior that results in positive relations with others is rewarded, and compassion treasured. But antisocial and harmful habits are condemned and the offender ostracized according to the myths. Japanese children are also taught that fulfillment comes through associating with others. For interpersonal relationships, the Japanese also avoid competition and confrontation and exercise self-control when working with others.

6. Cuisine Of Japan -

There are diverse traditional Japanese cuisines but the most ancient is the Washoku dish with over a 400 year history. In its authentic form its called Kaiseki, and consists of one soup dish, one main dish, and two side dishes. In modern day, Washoku comprises of an appetizer of rapeseed blossoms, salted salmon roe, and shellfish, all with individual dressings, thin slices of sea bream sashimi, and deep fried monkfish nuggets. Washoku has also been recorded on the list of UNESCO’s World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage, according to Japan National Tourism Organization. Other traditional Japanese cuisines are sukiyaki, tempura, Sushi, Sashimi, Yakitori, Tonkatsu, Shabu Shabu, and Soba and Udon.

5. Clothing Of Japan -

Wafuku is the general term to describe all traditional Japanese clothing. For every season there are clothes to complement it, and a person’s age and event determines what is worn. The Kimono a full-length robe is Japan’s most famous traditional clothing for men and women. Nagajuban refers to the clothing worn beneath the Kimono. The Haori are short hip to thigh level jacket worn by men and women. The michiyuki is a jacket worn on top of the kimono robe. The hakama are skirt-like garments won by Japanese men and women and are also won with the kimono. During summer or family events, special kimonos are worn called Yukatas for informal events. For formal occasions like weddings, Uchikake a wedding kimono is worn by men, while women wear the Shiro-maku, a white wedding gown. Among the youth, the Harajuku is the youth fashion clothing in Japanese culture according to LEAFtv.

4. Japanese Music And Dance -

Japanese music and dance, and some instruments are unique to the culture and tradition. The dances are characterized by slow gesturing with music accompaniment. The Bon Odori Japanese dance is performed at summer festivals in every city. People wear kimonos and dance with gestures and steps to the music. Bon Odori is associated with Bon Festival held in August to commemorate ancestors. Nihan Buyo another traditional Japanese dance, is performed on stage by people wearing kimonos, with items like Japanese fans and ropes. Nihan Guyo dance is taught by teachers called Shisho. Noh Mai dance style is performed with background music with lutes and drums, with at times vocals in between. At times performers wear varying costumes and wear masks, depending on the story of the dance. Kabuki is one of Japan’s famous and traditional dance dramas; and tells stories about Japanese history, lifestyle and society. Japanese music is performed in temples and the different style in it, is borrowed from the Chinese culture according to Japan Info. Some Japanese traditional musical instruments are the Shamisen violin, Shakuhatchi flute, biwa lute, koto string instrument, and the Wadaiko drum.

3. Japanese Arts And Literature -

During the early developments of Japanese painting tradition after the 14th century, there was a heavy Chinese influence in paintings. But after Japan isolated itself from the world from 17th to late 19th century, a unique art style began to form. This style had paintings leaning towards the abstract and naturalistic, allowing artists to be spontaneous and express their individuality, according to Cornell University study. This style was evident in individual paintings, scenes of daily life, religion, plant studies, and animals in order to capture the basic and essential subject characteristics. Today, Japanese artists continue expressing their individuality, but have dumped the old artistic traditions. They are exploring art afresh as well as the human being’s role in the modern world, according to Kawamura DIC Museum of Art. From the early 17th century to date, Japanese authors have always produced literature. Early Japanese literature works were influenced through cultural contact with China, Chinese literature, and oral traditions adopted and recorded in Chinese written form in early 8th century, in what was the Nara period, according to Japan: A Pocket Guide book. From the Nara Period, Japanese literature evolved to Heian, Kamakura and Muromachi, Edo, Meiji (1868-1912) periods, when written and spoken language unification was called for. In this period, literary forms began to widen as Japan opened up to the rest of the world. When World War II happened, foundations of modern literature were laid and writers expressed in their works the frustrations of Japan’s defeat in the war. Some modern themes of Japanese literature like in their art are also expressed through the narrators’ emotions.

2. Religions And Festivals Of Japan -

The earliest Japanese religion is Shinto, and it began before the country’s pre-historic period before the sixth century Common Era, when the country was pre-literate. Its deities were called ‘Kami’ who were believed to permeate the world through nature like mountains, trees, rivers and rocks. Worship rituals were also performed to restore harmony with nature. But ‘new religions’ like Buddhism, Confucianism, and Christianity that came up in 19th and 20th century; are common in modern day Japan, according to studies by Stanford’s, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. Traditional festivals called ‘matsuri’ are also treasured in Japan; and there are over 300,000 of them. These festivals are organized by local communities or temples where they are held, and participants wear matsuri costumes and a portable shrine called ‘Mikoshi.’ Performances like dances and religious rituals are done during these festivals and have their roots in ancient religions like Shinto, according to Tsunagu, Japan.

1. Sports Arts In Japan -

Besides contemporary sports like soccer and baseball, there are traditional sports like sumo which is popular and dates back to over 1500 years in Japan. Sumo is the de-facto national sport in the country and is also popular worldwide. Competitors weigh from 100 to 200 kilograms in this wrestling type of sport. Another one is Kendo, a fencing style sport where competitors use bamboo swords while wearing protective gears. Judo and Karate are self defense sports heavily steeped in martial arts, and whose competitors wear varying belts based on their abilities. Aikido is a less aggressive form of martial arts unlike judo or karate, ideal for fitness and mental training, and is popular with women senior citizens according to Japan National Tourism Organization.

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