Japan is a country that has been long known for its rich cultural practices and traditions. It is home to many of the most popular animated shows and other aspects of Japanese media, such as manga. But what are some things you might not know about Japan? Let’s find out!
Japanese culture is a beautiful mix of traditional and modern elements. Although the same thing goes for other Asian countries, western cultures, or other cultures, Japan is said to be more advanced and developed. With the continuous flow of new technology, Japan has remained true to its roots by keeping many of its traditional customs alive. Like their traditional music and food!
For example, the country celebrates several traditional festivals throughout the year, such as the New Year’s celebration and the Cherry Blossom Festival.
We will discuss more of the cultural aspects of Japan throughout this article.
Family is an integral part of Japanese culture. Japan is home to a traditional Japanese family structure which is called the ōke. The ōke consists of a father, a mother, and their children. Extended family members also live with the ōke.
The father is said to be the head of the household and makes all the decisions for everyone at home. He is also responsible for providing for his family. The mother takes care of the home and raises the kids. She is also responsible for teaching them about their culture and traditions.
Families in Japan are close-knit and support each other through thick and thin. Children are expected to obey their parents and show them respect. Families in Japan typically spend a lot of time together enjoying activities such as eating dinner, watching television and going on trips.
The religious Japanese culture is a mix of Shintoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Shintoism is the indigenous religion of Japan and is based on the belief in spirits called kami. Many shrines throughout Japan are dedicated to different kami.
Buddhism was introduced to the Japanese people in the 6th century and quickly became popular. Buddhism teaches that there is suffering in the world and that the way to end this suffering is to achieve Nirvana.
Confucianism is a Chinese philosophical and ethical tradition that was brought to and introduced to Japan’s population. It emphasizes filial piety, which is the respect and obedience that children owe their parents.
Sport is a popular pastime in Japan. The most popular sport in the country is baseball. Other popular sports in the country include sumo wrestling (established in the Edo Period), martial arts (originated from China), judo and karate.
Athletes in Japan are often considered to be some of the best in the world. This is due in part to the rigorous training that they undergo. Many athletes who originate from Japan also compete with other nationalities from around the world in the Olympic Games.
Ancient paintings have formed an integral part of Japanese culture. Whether it is the E-maki and Genji narrative handscrolls or drawings from the Muromachi period, there are a number of painting styles dominating the art landscape of the country, Japan.
In order to understand the background behind a lot of the artworks of the country, being familiar with Japanese will help a lot. By being proficient with the language, you can really gauge the stories behind those paintings.
Ceramics, pottery, and porcelain are very well recognized and appreciated all over the world. Japan has really held its own when it comes to ceramics and pottery. If you look at ancient Japanese art dating back from the Jōmon period, you will find intricate vases and figurines that form an integral part of the legacy which they have left behind.
This Japanese writing system has an equally long legacy with historical parchments found in temples, museums, and various other places. This realm of artistry has a specific linguistic aspect attached to it. Without knowing the language, it would be tough to appreciate these unique pieces of artistry.
Manga is a more modern Japanese art, amply depicted in various cartoons, comics and graphic novels. Manga has a far more profound and direct connection with the Japanese since it is commonly published in the country.
Manga represents comic books, just like their animated shows which are distinctively Japanese, manga is, as well. Manga is especially relevant to people’s curiosity about Japan since it delves into the country’s history and Japanese culture. This, in turn, has an exciting background whereby early forms of manga have been seen in various structures of artistry for centuries now.
As with other Japanese popular cultures, most manga is in Japanese. Thus, you will appreciate the culture best when you master the language. Consider learning Japanese and their culture if you are keen on appreciating manga a whole lot better. You can easily enrol yourself in an online course in Singapore to get started.
Many Japanese films and filmmakers have assumed cult status over the years. Akira Kurosawa or Kon Ichikawa are icons in this area. The genuine appreciation of these films is much easier when you learn Japanese. Simply reading off the subtitles is not as impactful and may fail to convey the correct meaning accurately.
The characteristics of animation, which is peculiar to Japan culture, has led to anime becoming a craze worldwide today. The animated characters have their stylized depictions that are simply unmistakable. While a lot of these shows are visual, many textual elements in Japanese are best appreciated when you know the language.
The rise of the Meiji era brought about a transformative shift in several of its industries, including the arts and crafts. Skilful artisans were able to incorporate new techniques into their modern Japanese craft and be introduced all around Japan.
As with any traditional Japanese crafts, it’s hard to go against the efficiency and cost-efficiency machinery offers. Now that mass-production is possible, many traditional Japanese crafts and materials began to disappear, only to be replaced by cheap and low-quality counterparts.
However, in recent years, we are beginning to see a revival of traditions that were once extinct. By rediscovering its symbolism as an item of the past and its local cultural identity, these products and their craftsmanship are being brought back to the present.
The Satsuma kiriko was once the favourite of Shimazu Nariakira, a feudal lord in the late Edo period. A cut that features delicate cutting of overlaid coloured glass, it was celebrated for its rich and beautiful gradation of colours. Unfortunately, they lost favour and eventually died out, but now a workshop is hoping to revive the craft form and the local identity.
Once a wardrobe standard of the people in Japan, the kimono, which was heavily influenced by traditional clothing in China, has become a garment that’s relegated for only formal occasions – and there are reasons why. These stunning and elegant Chinese-influenced garments are not only typically expensive, but they are also hard to wear. One usually requires the help of an expert, as donning a kimono requires endless tucking, strapping and nipping.
In 1975, the kimono industry accounted for 1.8 trillion yen, but this sharply decreased as more affordable and wearable alternatives came into the market. By 2016, the industry’s market size is of 278.5 billion yen.
There was a short revival with the introduction of kimono schools in the 1960s, where those who had never learnt or were never influenced to dress in the native dress were taught those who did. However, these lessons were for the upper-middle class and for housewives to spare, thus severely limiting the accessibility of such Japanese culture. Compare this with the Internet, which many are using to explore and promote cultural interest.
People are using the Internet to bypass kimono shops to explore what the garment has to offer. In October 2008, there were 2.4 million hits for ‘kimono blog,’ which only increased to 24.7 million hits in May 2012. Kimonos mixed with traditional and unconventional ideas, motifs, and colours were showcased at the Tokyo fashion week in 2018.
There are 14 Ryukyuan languages in Japanese and the highly-interested Ainu language. These languages are mutually unintelligible with Japanese and also with each other. Those speaking in one of these languages won’t be able to understand a native speaker due to regional differences.
This traditional language was the language of the indigenous Japanese people of Hokkaido before the Japanese replaced it. Now, there are only about ten native speakers left in the world, and efforts are being made to save it from extinction.
Japan is well-known all over the world for its culinary delicacies. Today, its capital, Tokyo, stands proud as the city with the most number of Michelin star restaurants, far ahead of even its closest rival, Paris. There are just so many unique dishes on offer across all the numerous culinary havens that dot the landscape of Japan.
Amid all this, there is absolutely no doubt at all that these gastronomic experiences are appreciated even better when there is greater familiarity with Japanese culture. After all, there is a lot of background to these exquisite dishes, which is much better understood and savoured when you know the story behind them.
One of the foremost aspects of appreciating Japanese cuisine is to appreciate its Washokuform, which literally translates to “Japanese cuisine”, also referred to as Kappō or “culinary arts”. This is an affirmation of the artistic stature of the cuisine culture in Japan, whereby in many ways, it is a craft form in itself. These intricacies are undoubtedly best appreciated when you are also very familiar with the language and culture of the people from Japan.
The ubiquitous sushi we so fervently consume in Singapore, other countries in Southeast Asia and worldwide has so many nuances, intricacies and forms to it that we don’t even realize until we align ourselves closer to Japanese culture. For instance, the staple ingredient “sushi rice” of sushi, referred to as sharior sumeshi can be brown or white rice and also medium or short grain.
Furthermore, it can be prepared with a variety of seafood, including tuna, salmon, eel, or squid. The Japanese references to all the ingredients can be quite overwhelming.
Just as intricate and interesting as the sushi are the noodle variants in Japan. First, there is Udon, which refers to thick wheat noodles. Then there is Soba, a thinner form with a greyish-brown tinge since it contains buckwheat flour. With these noodles, you are likely to have shrimp tempura, which is coated in batter and fried.
Along with noodles, various condiments called yakumi go really well with them. Examples of the spices include wasabi, shichimi, nori, and many more. Knowing these names definitely helps and can be made easy by signing up for Japanese classes.
Noodles are also quite famous around the world, especially in China. This is because the people in this country would mostly eat noodle-based dishes!
Once you’re done treating yourselves to some truly sumptuous Japanese main course items, it is time for desserts! Without further ado, we present wagashi, the Japanese term for desserts and sweets. Kakigōriis an excellent example of a dessert made with shaved ice, syrup, and a sweetener such as condensed milk.
Then there is the kids’ favourite – dorayaki or sweet pancakes. Once again, Japanese classes come to the rescue to remember these sweet treats! Dorayaki is a red-bean traditionally-made pancake consisting of two pancake-like castella patties that are filled with a sweet red bean paste.
Japanese culture and traditions are fascinating, to say the least. They are intricate, beautiful and definitely deserve to be experienced more fully. The best way to do that is to sign up for Japanese classes to appreciate better all that Japan has to offer! Who knows, you might even end up going there on a gastronomic trip someday and learn how their daily life goes!