From prehistoric Jōmon period to modern era, the culture of Japan has evolved from Asian as well as Western cultures and in ways more than one. The Asian country is known for its distinct culture and heritage, which has been preserved by the Japanese since ancient times. The age-old Japanese traditions and customs which give a unique character to the lifestyle of the Japanese people have to be experienced to be truly appreciated.
The original Japanese gardens were inspired by Buddhist and Chinese philosophy and later evolved into their own distinct Japanese identity. The verdant gardens in Japanese temples and shrines are inspired by the Shinto religion and the belief in an ideal state of harmony. The Japanese attempt to recreate this idealized harmony in their beautifully laid out gardens that include aspects such as water, rocks, gravel, moss, and miniature plants or Bonsai. One of the best examples of Zen Rock Gardens in Japan is the Ryōan-ji (Peaceful Dragon Temple) in Kyoto.
Traditional Japanese Architecture has a distinct style heavily influenced by Buddhism and Shintoism. Houses and temples are made out of wood, placed on stilts to raise them above the ground, and with sloping roofs made of thatch or tiles create a stunning silhouette. The use of lightweight wood and bamboo to create Fusuma (sliding doors) and straw or woven grass to create Tatami (mats) are other features of Japanese architectural design. People didn't mind sitting on the floor, and furniture only came into widespread use after the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Japanese Tea Ceremony
The Japanese ceremony of preparing and offering tea to revered guests is a formal and stylized ritual, almost like a meditative performance. The art or skill of preparing tea and all the elements of the tea ceremony have special and symbolic meaning. Deeply influenced by the Zen Buddhism, the ceremony has evolved into a cultural ritual which means much more than a mere sampling of powdered green tea, and is a unique part of Japanese traditions.
Japan is an island nation and seafood plays an important role in the cuisine of the region. Rice and fish along with vegetables are staple foods of Japanese. Tofu or soy bean curd is another popular and healthy dish consumed by the people in Japan. Sushi (rice flavored with vinegar and combined with seafood or seaweed and sometimes vegetables) and Sashimi (cut and sliced raw meat, usually seafood) are forms of Japanese cuisine which have become popular worldwide. Teppanyaki or food cooked on an iron griddle is another popular form of Japanese cuisine. Sake is also enjoyed at traditional dinners as a toast to the health and long life of one's dining companions. And yes, it's perfectly alright to make slurping sounds while eating noodles, it means you're enjoying the food.
People in Japan celebrate many festivals, most of which are of the Buddhist and Shinto religions. Different temples or shrines across Japan have their own specific Matsuri or festive holiday. Some festivals that began long ago are also celebrated today in a modern form. The Aomori Nebuta Festival, Hadaka Matsuri Festival, and Cherry Blossom Festival are an integral part of Japanese culture.
Cherry Blossom Festivals
Every year in spring, the Japanese people find time to appreciate the beauty of nature as the Cherry trees burst into full bloom and their lovely pink flowers are a treat for sore eyes. People go for a picnic in the Cherry groves, drink tea and Sake, and enjoy music in the delightful ambiance of Cherry blossoms. The Cherry Blossom festivals at Okinawa and at Matsuyama Castle in Ehime are some of the most popular festivals across Japan. The natural beauty of the Cherry blossom season is celebrated by the Japanese in their art, music, and even traditional clothing.
Kimono, a traditional Japanese costume, is a graceful full-length robe that falls from the wearer's shoulders to the ankles. The robe is tied around the waist with a sash called the Obi. Kimonos for special occasions are made of rich fabric such as silk, satin and brocade and feature designs inspired by nature such as cherry blossoms, autumn leaves, butterflies, and pine trees. Kimonos are now worn mostly for ceremonial occasions and social events.
Japan has a long tradition of painting and woodblock printing. One of the famous Japanese painters, Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) is famous for the Ukiyo-e or woodblock printing style of art. Another famous Japanese painter is Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) who is known for a series of woodblock prints depicting Mount Fuji. The best known among these is The Great Wave off Kanagawa.
The Japanese script consists of characters which were traditionally painted using smooth brushstrokes on handmade paper. The fine art of calligraphy requires many years of practice and is considered essential learning for an accomplished person in Japanese society.
The Japanese cultural practice of flower arrangement is a fine art that includes the ideas of aesthetics, spirituality, discipline, and harmony with nature. It is believed to have evolved from the Buddhist practice of offering flowers in the memory of the departed loved ones. The emphasis on minimalism, attention to the line and form of the plants or flowers used in an arrangement, and the harmony of the overall arrangement exemplify this Japanese tradition.
There are many more fascinating aspects of traditional Japanese culture, such as viewing Mount Fuji, the Samurai Code, Sumo Wrestling, and the role of Geisha.
Japanese Customs and Traditions
|Japanese Gardens||The gardens in Japanese temples and shrines are inspired by the Shinto religion and the belief in an ideal state of harmony.|
|Japanese Architecture||Traditional Japanese Architecture is influenced by Buddhism and Shintoism. Earlier, people usually sat on the floor. Furniture only came into widespread use after the late nineteenth century.|
|Japanese Tea Ceremony||The Japanese ceremony of preparing and offering tea to revered guests is a formal and stylized ritual. The Japanese tea ceremony is deeply influenced by Zen Buddhism.|
|Japanese Cuisine||Seafood plays an important role in Japanese cuisine. Tofu or soy bean curd is a popular and healthy dish. Sushi and Sashimi are famous Japanese seafood.|
|Japanese Festivals||Famous Japanese festivals are Aomori Nebuta Festival, Hadaka Matsuri Festival, and Cherry Blossom Festival.|
|Japanese Kimono||Kimono is a traditional Japanese costume. It is a graceful full-length robe that falls from the wearer's shoulders to the ankles.|
|Japanese Painting||Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) and Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) are famous Japanese painters.|
|Ikebana||Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement and is believed to have evolved from the Buddhist practice of offering flowers. It includes the ideas of aesthetics, spirituality, discipline and harmony with nature.|
Last Updated on : August 23, 2016