MPI takes a considered look at Japanese culture

Painting of a traditional Samurai warrior
Nagoya DJ brings Japanese history to life

Japanese culture, particularly traditional Japanese culture, has developed many of its roots from traditional Chinese culture. However, Japanese culture (even historically) has differed from Chinese culture and due to the separation of the two land masses, plus the enforced periods of isolation from the outside world, further extended the differences between the two cultures.

It is with some irony then that in modern times the younger Chinese generations have looked to modern Japanese culture as a source of inspiration, particularly in the field of modern Japanese fashion, where the Chinese are inspired by Japanese fashion magazines. However, Japanese fashion isn’t just a set of modern fashion trends and sub cultures.

Japanese (layereds) street fashion
Young Japanese beauty in Kimono-style dress

Japanese fashion includes many traditional forms of clothing including the kimono and its associated accessories. The Kimono is the most famous form of traditional Japanese clothing for women. The Kimono is actually a style with many different forms; from the casual to the wedding style, all of which have a particular meaning and are worn to different events or occasions.

A Geisha in her resplendent finery
The kimono is a traditional form of clothing

From a historical perspective, the Japanese Samurai were a traditional warrior class in pre-industrial Japan, who were easily recognised as they were the only men allowed to carry two swords. Samurai were committed to a single daimyo (normally a wealthy leader), and devoted their total loyalty and service to that person.

White men are hugely attracted to the Geisha culture
Western friends playing at being Geishas

Additionally, the Geisha are famous female traditional entertainers, who sing, dance, play traditional Japanese musical instruments and engage their clients with interesting conversation. Today there are still some active Geisha in places such as Kyoto and Kanazawa. An extremely important part of traditional Japanese culture is the Tea Ceremony. This is a highly developed art form, with several different schools or ‘styles’ in existence.

A traditional taste of japan
Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony, with a tea master in Kyoto

The Japanese Tea Ceremony is a very formal event in which many exacting steps are followed. Equally, the traditional Japanese wedding ceremonies are normally based on the Japanese Shinto religious ceremonies. Traditional Japanese weddings are major occasion with the wearing of traditional Japanese clothing including the bride in her wedding kimono.

Himeji Castle - the best example of a Japanese Castle
Japanese Temples - Golden Pavilion

Japanese Music also forms a major part of Japanese culture which spans from the traditional Japanese music and instruments to modern Japanese music including J-POP and Japanese Rock Music. The Japanese have even developed their own unique version of Reggae music, which is a very interesting slant on the Jamaican music. One of the most important instruments in Japanese music is the Koto, which is one of the most refined and sophisticated of the traditional Japanese musical instruments.

Senafest Japanese restaurant
Diners inside a Japanese restaurant

To the western ear the Koto would sound similar to a harp. But the most amazing thing about the Koto, is seeing it carried by very petite Japanese woman. The Bon-Odori Festival is a traditional Japanese summer festival featuring Japanese drum music, dancing and special summer food. Additionally, Shichi-Go-San Festival is a traditional Japanese festival where parents celebrate on the fifteenth of November, their children growing up as they turn three, five and seven years of age.

Japan's little league world series
Sumo wrestling, the national sport of Japan

Japanese New Year is celebrated at same time of the year as western countries, but is celebrated in a distinctive style. Japanese New Year is an important family time of the year and there are many traditions involved. Christmas in Japan for most Japanese is a variation on the more commercial style Christmas seen in many western countries. However, there are some Christian Japanese who follow a very old style of celebration.

A tattooed yakuza, yakuza means criminal
The Ama pearl divers dive naked for pearls

Finally, Japanese castles were one of the key to structure and life of many Japanese cities. Culturally, there is a great link between Japanese castles and temples. Temples are mainly Buddhist, and are found throughout Japan, and they date back over one thousand years. There are several Japanese temples which are world heritage sites.