Sumo: Japan’s Ancient National Sport

Sumo: Japan’s Ancient National Sport

Sumo is known to have dated back thousands of years, and the sport is even mentioned in Kojiki - the oldest known historic text in Japan (written in 712 A.D.). According to legend, sumo is said to originate from a time when two gods fought over the ownership of the Japanese islands.

The Seto Inland Sea: Takamatsu and Surrounding Islands

The Seto Inland Sea: Takamatsu and Surrounding Islands

Previously we introduced Naoshima, an island teeming with art and creativity. This time we will introduce some other noteworthy places that are located near Naoshima; Takamatsu and the surrounding islands.

Japan's Revolutionary Artist: Hokusai

Japan's Revolutionary Artist: Hokusai

Katsushika Hokusai (1760- 1849), most famously known for his series of Mt. Fuji prints, was a revolutionary artist of the late Edo period. At a time when interaction with other countries was strictly restricted, Hokusai incorporated not only various Japanese styles but Western styles to his works as well, and was recognized both domestically and internationally.

Sustainability in Pre-modern Japan

Sustainability in Pre-modern Japan

In recent times, people around the world are becoming more and more aware of the need to recycle and conserve energy to create a more sustainable society, but what if we told you there was a place in the world that already achieved this centuries ago and kept it going for more than 200 years? 

Introduction to Japanese Aesthetics

Introduction to Japanese Aesthetics

The appreciation of beauty and its effortless integration into the daily rituals of life in Japan constitutes a history of ‘cultural addition’ as Japanese composer Ito Teijii points out. As such, the aesthetic concepts of wabi, sabi, and miyabi, explored below, have not only survived, but rather flourished over time.

Shochu: Japan's Most Versatile Drink

Shochu: Japan's Most Versatile Drink

When dining at an izakaya in Japan, one is bound to notice the word shochu (pronounced show-chew) while glossing over the list of alcoholic beverages. Typically lesser known than the popular “sake” (which refers to nihonshu), shochu is a widely enjoyed versatile drink that is created through a fairly intricate brewing process.

Preparations before participating in Tea Ceremony

Preparations before participating in Tea Ceremony

Tea ceremony (called chadō or sadō) is one of Japan’s most enduring artistic traditions. Tea ceremony is a means to aesthetic appreciation and social interaction that has had a profound influence on other forms of Japanese art, cuisine and philosophy.

Kaiseki Ryori - The Pinnacle of Authentic Japanese Cuisine

Kaiseki Ryori - The Pinnacle of Authentic Japanese Cuisine

Kaiseki embodies the fundamental concepts in washoku, such as the attention to the seasons, and the emphasis on using natural local ingredients to create an eating experience that is not only delicious, but also demonstrates how preparation and execution of a meal can be an art form.

An Introduction to Washoku, Traditional Japanese Cuisine

An Introduction to Washoku, Traditional Japanese Cuisine

While the term literally means "Japanese food," in reality the term refers to a much broader and important cultural concept. In 2013, washoku was actually added to UNESCO's list of intangible cultural heritages. The organization's explanation of washoku reveals why it is so much more than food, and why it deserves to be enshrined as an invaluable part of world culture. 

The World of Sake

The World of Sake

When people are asked to think of a food or drink they associate with Japan, one of the first things that comes to mind is none other than sake, Japan's national beverage. Global consumption of sake has been growing steadily in recent years, and people around the world are coming to recognize its distinct qualities.

A Journey Through Japanese Gardens

A Journey Through Japanese Gardens

Japan’s emphasis on the natural form also has a significant influence on its gardens.  While the idea of gardens was originally brought to Japan from China, over time it has evolved into an irreplaceable aspect of Japanese culture.

"Real" Wasabi

"Real" Wasabi

Wasabi (わさび), Japanese horseradish, is a root vegetable eaten with many Japanese dishes. Many of you have probably seen wasabi in the form of a finely grated green paste with your sushi, sashimi, or soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles). But did you know that even in Japan, most of the wasabi eaten is, in fact, not “real” wasabi? Then what have you been eating all along?

Koi Fish: The Japanese Carp

Koi Fish: The Japanese Carp

Although koi are the national fish of Japan, they are not a native species —they were brought to Japan from China in the 1st Century A.D. as a source of food. In fact, the earliest record of koi farming traces back to China in the 5th Century B.C. Koi has since spread its fins beyond Japan and is now loved by people around the world.

Kimono - More Than Just "A Thing to Wear"

Kimono - More Than Just "A Thing to Wear"

The word kimono (着物) was historically used as a general term to describe clothing, as it literally translates as “something to wear.” Today, the term specifically refers to the long garments that have become popularly recognized throughout the world as a symbol of Japanese traditional clothing.

Mingei - The Revival of Japanese Folk Art

Mingei - The Revival of Japanese Folk Art

The Mingei Movement focuses on the overlooked beauty of art and crafts made by average people that are practical and used in daily life. Mingei can also be seen as a response to Japan's rapid industrialization, as it elevates things made in large quantity by the hand's of the common people, rather than in a factory.

Urushi Lacquer - 9000 Years of Beauty and Durability

Urushi Lacquer - 9000 Years of Beauty and Durability

Japanese lacquerware and lacquerware production is known as urushi (pronounced “oo-roo-shee”). It is a word that can also refer to the lacquer itself, which is harvested from the sap of the urushi tree (lacquer tree). It culminates the beauty and elegance of Japanese aesthetics into practical objects, and it can be regarded as the pinnacle of Japanese craftsmanship.

Onsen: A Culture of Bathing

Onsen: A Culture of Bathing

If you are planning a visit to Japan and wish to experience one of the heights of Japanese luxury and culture, including a trip to an onsen is highly recommended. Onsen (温泉) are naturally-occurring hot springs that are found throughout the island nation. Onsen are an incredibly relaxing way to enjoy one of Japan’s oldest and most popular traditions.

How to Participate in a Geisha Dinner

How to Participate in a Geisha Dinner

So you've decided to take part in a formal Japanese dinner, maybe at a tea house.Today's topic is probably the most important for our readers making plans to go to Japan: How to prepare for and participate in a geisha dinner. What should you wear? What will happen during the dinner? What interactions can you expect?

The History of Geisha in Japanese Culture

The History of Geisha in Japanese Culture

Believe it or not, the original geisha hardly resembled modern geisha in any way. The first geisha were actually male, appearing around the year 1730. It was only about 20 years later that female geisha began to appear in the forms of odoriko (踊り子, meaning dancers) and shamisen players, and they quickly took over the profession, dominating it by 1780.