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Culture of Japan

Sakura (Cherry Blossom)

A street with many cherry trees in full bloom

Cherry blossom is called Sakura in Japanese.
Japanese people including myself really love Sakura.

In the world, it is known that Sakura is a symbol of Japan.
And it is a culture of Japan.

If you will visit Japan, it is good for you to know Sakura in Japan.
I introduce the helpful knowledge to enjoy seeing sakura in Japan in the following page.

Sakura (Cherry blossom) in Japan

Samurai, Ninja, and Japanese Castle

Inuyama Castle (National Treasure)Inuyama Castle (National Treasure)

Are there still Samurai and Ninja in Japan?

Of course, the answer is “No”.
But, Samurai and Ninja always come out to Japanese historical drama.

In fact, it is not too much to say that medieval times of Japan was an era of Samurai.
And Japanese castles were related to the activities of them.

I introduce the knowledge about them in the following page.

Samurai, Ninja, Japanese Castle

Manga and Anime

A street with the signs of anime in Akihabara of TokyoAkihabara in Tokyo, an anime town

Manga and Anime have become an international word for comics, cartoon or animation of Japan.

In Japan, the word of "Manga" is mainly used for the pictures on the comics.
And the word "Anime" (shortened form of "animation") is used for the moving image.

The history is the following.

Some comical paintings are found in many works in the Middle Ages.
Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), who is a famous Ukiyoe artist, also created cartoony caricatures.

Between the late the 19th century and the beginning of 20th century, early manga works are created.
Most of them are caricatures, and they were affected by American ones.

Additionally, some artists created manga with story which was the prototype of modern manga.

In the 1930s, some manga books for children were created, then they became best-sellers.
But they were expensive, so many children could not buy them.

During the World War II, creation of manga declined, but it revived after the war.
Many shops for rental of books were opened, so every child was able to read any manga with their pocket money, so the service was developed.

In the 1950s, Tezuka Osamu, who was a great pioneer of modern Japanese manga, built up manga style with dramatic and long story.
(His Great Works : Mighty Atom (Astro Boy, 1952-1968), Hi no Tori (Phoenix, 1956, 1967, 1986), Black Jack (1973-1983), etc.)

In the 1960s, Japan entered high-growth era, then TV spread around country.
In this time, "Popeye" or Disney's cartoon from U.S. hit the air.

In 1963, Mr.Tezuka started the first Japanese TV cartoon "Mighty Atom (Astro Boy)", and it captivated children in whole Japan.

Around the same time, some comic magazines for boys and girls started.
And popular manga in the magazines were made into TV cartoon, so both magazine and TV were developed, and such way became a mainstream.

In addition, popular mange works were shown in movie theaters after editing for the screen.

And popular serial manga works are published in book form.
It is called Tankobon, and many tankobon are sold in most bookstores.

From the middle of 1980s, many anime production companies like STUDIO GHIBLI produced feature anime film for movie theater and DVD.

Now, "manga" has become an important culture in Japan.
The subjects are broad, and many manga artist are creating now.

Feature of Manga in magazines or books

  • Because of feature of vertical writing of basic Japanese language, you must see the flames of the picture in every page in a direction from right to left.
  • In a flame, you must read the balloons in a direction from right to left.

Manga in TV in Japan

  • Most manga works hit screens between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
  • Usually the airtime of one manga work is 30 minutes, and it is one time in a week.
  • A series manga work mostly continues to hit screens during a half year or a year.

Official English websites of major Manga publisher

Shonen Jump Kodansha Comics Shogakukan Akita Shoten (Japanese site)

Sumo

A Sumo match scene of Osaka TournamentOozumo Osaka tournament, Photo by HATOYA.COM

Sumo is a Japanese traditional sport.
It is one of fighting sports, so two wrestlers have a match.

The origin is very old, and a record of match around the 5th century is found in ancient writing.

Since old time, Sumo linked with Shinto, which is the indigenous religion of Japan.
Many Shinto shrine had hold sumo to tell whether people could get a good harvest or not.

Such background gives Sumo some ritual performances.

Sumo is Japanese national sport, but only part of Japanese people play it.
Because, it is a very hard sport using extraordinary physical strength.

Now, sumo is a sport to enjoy watching for common Japanese people.

Sumo tournament is the traditional Japanese sports show by professional Sumo wrestlers.
If you visit Japan, you may watch the performance.
I introduce the system of Sumo tournament.

Oozumo (Sumo tournament)

Japanese traditional music & dance

Dancing people of Bon Dance and a man beating Japanese drumBon Dance and Japanese drum

Many Japanese people like popular songs.
Also there is a music genre of "enka" which is a form of sentimental ballad music since 1950s.

These has been affected from the western music.

Except for this, there are Japanese traditional music and dance.
When you visit Japan, you may hear the music and see the dance in the festival of any temple and shrine.

I introduce such Japanese music and dance.

Japanese traditional music & dance

Japanese performing arts

Kabukiza theater in TokyoKabukiza theater in Tokyo

Kabuki is a known Japanese performing art.
And Noh, Kyogen are slow dance performing arts.
Bunraku is a puppet drama, and is also called Ningyo-Joruri.

These are based on the above Japanese traditional music and dance.

In the following pages, I introduce them.

Kabuki
Noh & Kyogen
Bunraku

Japanese visual arts

Some Japanese‐style paintings in an art gallery

There are traditional Japanese visual arts such as painting, sculpture.
Flower arrangement is a unique Japanese art.

Calligraphy is a common art with China using Chinese characters (Kanji).

Japanese traditional crafts may be the good souvenirs for your travel.

I introduce the outline of above arts.

Japanese pictorial art
Japanese sculpture
Flower arrangement
Calligraphy
Japanese traditional crafts

Tea Ceremony

A foreign guest is entertained at Tea Ceremony Japanese Tea Ceremony, Uji City, Japan, Photo by jimg944

Tea ceremony is called "Sadou" in Japanese, and it means "the way of tea".

To put it simply, it is a ceremony that the host makes a tea and entertains the guests with ritual.

Of course, when we do an entertaining for our guests at home, we serve tea to them.
But commomly it is not a way of tea ceremony but a casual way.

Additionally, most Japanese people don't know the formal way of tea ceremony, and if we want to join a tea ceremony, we must learn the rule of it.

So basically, the people who have learned or are learning are invited to the tea ceremonies held in various location.

I introduce the outline of tea ceremony.

Tea ceremony

Geisha & Maiko

Dancing Geishas in a Japanese roomDancing Geishas in a Japanese room, Photo by Gion Hatanaka in Kyoto

Geisha is the female entertainer in the room of high-class Japanese-restaurant.
She entertains the guests and performs Japanese classical music and dance in front of the guests.

Maiko is the apprentice of Geisha, and she works as the entertainer only in Kyoto.

Unfortunately, many foreigners misunderstand that Geisha are prostitutes.
It is entirely wrong.

Please know about the real Geisha and Maiko.

Geisha & Maiko