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138 Types of Japanese Culture

posted by John Spacey, October 30, 2015

Japan is an ancient culture that is remarkably unique. This is often

explained by its isolation as an island country with a large population.
Japan has been influenced by Asia, Europe and America but each new
idea from abroad quickly takes on Japanese dimensions until it is
transformed into something distinctly Japanese. The culture has also
been influenced by the landscape including factors as diverse as
earthquakes and fish.
The following are a few examples of Japanese culture.
1. Japanese Food
Japanese food includes thousands of dishes that represent one of the
world's great culinary traditions associated with distinct preparation
methods, aesthetics, ingredients, tastes, customs and manners.

2. Onsen
Onsen are Japanese hot spring baths that are surrounded in a number
of customs and traditions. Japan is extremely geothermally active and
natural hot springs can be found all over the country. Onsen are one of
Japan's great national pastimes.
3. Kimono
Kimono is a type of traditional Japanese clothing that consists
of layers of robes made of silk, silk brocade or weaved satin. They are
quite expensive but were once considered everyday wear in Japan. As
a result, the Japanese historically took great care not to damage their
clothing. Kimono fabrics were usually recycled over and over again
until they were finally used as toys and crafts. In modern
times, kimono are considered formal wear and come in dozens
of types that vary in formality, cost and function. For example, there
are special kimono for young single ladies, brides and geisha.

4. Manga
Manga is an artistic genre and literary format that is remarkably
popular with everyone from children to senior citizens in Japan. They
cover as many topics as regular fiction from business stories to
science fiction. Manga has both hardcore fans who devote much of
their free time to it and casual readers who take a glace once in a
5. Temples & Shrines
Japan has around 100,000 Shinto shrines and 80,000 Buddhist
temples. Some are architectural wonders while others are quiet
neighborhood spots that offerceremony, rituals and festivals to their
6. Hanami
Hanami, literally "flower viewing", is the Japanese tradition of
holding parties under cherry blossom trees when they bloom. The
term can also apply to plum blossoms that bloom in much colder
weather. Cherry blossoms are a symbol of Japanese culture that have
been celebrated in countless ways by art, music, literature and film.
The format of hanami parties is fairly simple, you lay down a mat
under the trees and enjoy snacks and beverages. Hanami ranges from
quiet afternoon conversations to large events with entertainment and
7. Japanese Architecture
Traditional Japanese buildings were mostly made of wood. Japanese
carpenters developed advanced techniques and occasionally built large
wooden structures without using a single nail. Architecture in
Japan evolved along unique linesthat reflected religious and aesthetic
ideas as well as practical concerns such as weather and earthquakes.
Japanese architecture, both traditional and modern, is something to
8. Festivals
Every neighborhood shrine and temple in Japan holds at least one
annualfestival meaning that there are well over 100,000 festivals held
each year across the country. Japanese festivals range from dance
competitions to rituals that involve large scale fires. They offer an
interesting view into Japanese life.
9. Tea Ceremony
Tea Ceremony is the pursuit of an aesthetic ideal in the humble act of
preparing, serving and appreciating tea.

10. Japanese Movies

Japan has been producing films for almost 120 years and currently
releases over 400 movies each year. Japanese films such as
Rashomon, Seven Samurai and Tokyo Story are widely considered
amongst the top films ever made.
11. Green Tea
Japan has done a great deal with the tea leaf. There are hundreds of
distinct varieties of Japanese green tea. Each type is farmed,
harvested, graded, dried and prepared in distinct ways that produce a
completely different cup of tea.
12. Kabuki
Kabuki is a type of traditional dance-drama theatre that was once a
popular form of entertainment typically located in pleasure districts.
All the roles in a kabuki play, including female characters, are
traditionally performed by male actors. In the Edo-era, it was common
for Kabuki performances to run all nightand actors were the nation's
top celebrities. Actors take the stage name of their teacher who is
often their father or grandfather. Families of actors are known to
preserve the same style, spirit and techniques of performance for
hundreds of years.
13. Bowing
Japan has a rich tradition of bowing for greetings, rituals, ceremonies
and apology. There are several styles of bow that range from a casual
greeting to a sincere and dramatic apology.
14. Kawaii
Japanese culture has several unique aesthetics but in modern times one
stands out as the most popular, the Japanese sense of cute known
as kawaii. The kawaii aesthetic can be seen in products, advertising,
media and even at temples. It also shows up in behavior, fashion and
anything else you can imagine. Japan loves kawaii stuff.
15. Izakaya
Izakaya are Japanese pubs that are found in large numbers throughout
the country. In the countryside they are often the only nightlife in
town. In citiesthey are popular spots to begin an evening that may
progress to karaoke and other nightlife options.
16. Miko
Miko are shrine maidens who play an important role in the rituals and
operation of Shinto shrines. They have a mysterious past and
historically were involved in what might be described as magic and
17. Japanese Masks
Japan has dozens of traditional masks for battle, theatre, rituals and
celebrations. Modern life in Japan is also filled with medical masks.
18. Japanese Candy
When Japan first opened to western trade in the 1850s candy was one
of the first western products to catch on. It wasn't long before there
were candy factories all over the country and soon Japan had
countless unique varieties of candy. This process has only intensified
in modern times, as the Japanese candy industry has become highly
competitive with new flavors and innovations that seem to come out
on a weekly basis. Japan also has hundreds of classic candies that hold
much nostalgic value.
19. Japanese Gardens
Japan has dozens of unique garden styles that are tied to other
elements of Japanese culture such as Buddhism, Tea
Ceremony and Japanese aesthetics. These include Japanese dry rock
gardens, tea gardens, pond gardens and strolling gardens. Japan has
also developed a number of interesting techniques such as
incorporating the surrounding landscape and architecture into a garden
design, a style known as borrowed scenery.
20. Japanese Fashion
Japanese Fashion includes traditional clothing, modern
designers, street fashions and fashion subcultures. Some are
statements of individuality while others are symbols of tradition,
status or group membership. Collectively they make Japan an
interesting place for people watching.
21. Sumo
Sumo is as much culture as sport. For example, it's associated
with rituals such as purification of the ring by each wrestler with salt.
Sumo wrestlers are required to live a traditional lifestyle and dress
in traditional clothing at all times.
22. Tatami
Tatami are soft mat floors that are found in Japanese houses, temples,
shrines and businesses such as ryokan. They are an important part of
the traditional Japanese lifestyle of sitting and sleeping close to the
floor. For this reason, it's common for new houses and apartments to
have a single tatami room. New tatami have a sweet smell that tends
to invoke nostalgia.
23. Chopsticks
Japanese chopsticks, or ohashi in Japanese language, are typically
made of wood or bamboo. They are shorter and come to a sharper
point that Chinese chopsticks. Japan has a unique set of chopstick
manners and customs.
24. Karaoke
Karaoke first emerged in Japan in the 1970s and large multi-floor
karaoke with private booths were a common sight in Japanese
cities by the mid-1980s. Karaoke is old enough that it's beginning to
feel like a traditional Japanese activity. Nevertheless, karaoke remains
a lively and popular nightlife option. Japan has an incredible supply
of Karaoke rooms with major neighborhoods such
as Shinjuku supporting dozens of large karaoke complexes.
25. Mikoshi
Mikoshi are taxis of the gods that can weigh several tons and are
carried by teams of volunteers at Japanese festivals. The custom of
mikoshi carrying began in times of epidemic and disaster. It was
thought that carrying deitiesthrough the streets could restore good
fortune to a city. Today mikoshi are a common feature of Japanese
festivals and carrying mikoshi is considered a rite of passage for youth
in Japan. The energy, sacrifice and teamwork required to
carry mikoshi builds a sense of community. Neighborhood mikoshi
teams tend to be fiercely competitive and may bounce mikoshi wildly
in the air to show they have more spirit than the competition.
26. Kami
Kami are the deities of Japan's Shinto religion. They are said to
number eight million but this is an old way to represent infinity. Kami
are an interesting bunch.
27. Japanese Literature
Japanese literature makes its first appearance in the 8th century with a
collection of poems called the Manyoshu. The collection includes the
world's earliest known description of time travel, a story about a
fisherman who saves a sea turtle and is rewarded with a trip to a
palace under the sea. When the fisherman returns to his village he is
surprised to find that 300 years has passed and all that he has known
has passed away. It's an eerie old tale that serves as an excellent start
to Japanese literature, one of the world's great literary traditions.
28. Service
Japan has a number of customer service practices that are reasonably
unique such as the practice of yelling "irasshaimase" to welcome
customers. Differences in service represent a bit of culture shock for
visitors but are one of the charms of the culture.
29. Jizo
Jizo is a kami who is thought of as a protector of children in the
afterlife. He takes many forms but is often depicted as a cute little
monk statue. These statues are popular and can be found in great
numbers in every region of Japan. People take care of jizo statues in
the winter by giving them bibs, hats and occasionally scarves.
30. Bento
Bento is the Japanese culture of lunch boxes. The custom of
packing bentobegan in the 13th century with the popularity of outdoor
parties to celebrateflowers blooming and moon phases. Bento became
all the more common as Japan industrialized and people spent more
time away from home at factories and offices. They are now
considered an important format of Japanese cuisineand have several
interesting variations such as Kyaraben, bento designed to look like
31. Japanese Rice
Japanese rice is a short grain variety that's slightly sticky. Rice gets a
great deal of respect in Japan and invokes much passion. Around 85%
of Japanese farms produce rice and rice paddies have pleasantly
transformed the Japanese countryside.
32. Kyudo
Kyudo is the Japanese art of archery. It's amongst Japan's
oldest martial artsand predates the Samurai. The bows used in Kyudo,
known as yumi, are exceptionally long and have an asymmetrical
shape. Yumi originated in the 3rd century BC and are an extremely
powerful bow that are a bit difficult to handle. As a result, Kyudo isn't
usually taught until the age of 15.
33. Yosakoi Dance
Yosakoi is a modern festival dance that is based on older influences
such as theAwa Odori. It has a flexible format that allows teams to
choreograph their own dances for competitions. This has made
yosakoi a popular dance and practically every university and college
in Japan has a team. It's also common for community organizations
and companies to have a yosakoi team. Yosakoi dance festivals tend
to be lively and original as each team works elements of their
hometown culture into their costumes and performances.
34. Japanese Houses
Traditional Japanese houses have charming features such as shoji
screens,tatami floors and fusuma that represent a unique lifestyle. It is
common for modern homes and hotels in Japan to incorporate
traditional features as they remain popular.
35. Ryokan
Ryokan are traditional Japanese inns that haven't changed that much
since theEdo-era. They represent a chance to experience traditional
Japanese architecture and culture.
36. Futon
Japanese futon beds are relatively thin mats designed to be laid out on
tatami floors at night and put away during the day. They allow for
rooms to be multipurpose as you store your bed in the day. Futon are
also part of Japan's traditional lifestyle of living, eating and sleep close
to the floor.
37. Origami
Origami is the Japanese art of folding paper. It is taught in
kindergartens in Japan and is a common skill. In some cases, origami
are used in ceremonies such as weddings, especially auspicious
symbols such as the crane.
38. Kendo
Kendo is a martial art that is based on Japanese swordsmanship
techniquesthat have a history going back at least 800 years. It is
practiced with a bamboo sword wearing armor and a hakama. An
estimated 1.66 million people in Japan have some level of kendo
39. Trains in Japan
Passengers in Japan travel 260 billion kilometers by train each year.
By comparison, Americans travel 10.3 billion kilometers by train
despite having a larger population. Taking the train is a daily routine
in Japan that has changed the country in numerous ways. As a result,
Tokyo highways are narrow as compared with smaller North
American cities such as Toronto. Trains have also impacted
the Japanese lifestyle. For example, the fact that it's relatively rare to
drive to work in downtown areas tends to stimulate nightlife.
40. Mama Chari
Mama Chari, literally "mother's chariot", are an old fashioned style
bicycle that remain the bike of choice in Japan. They are typically
single gear with a basket and build in lock system. Mama Chari are
practical for the Japanese lifestyle of getting to the train station in the
morning and returning in the evening with a few daily groceries.

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