It can be said that Japanese culture has become intrinsically linked with Zen. First introduced to Japan around the 7th century, Zen ideology spread rapidly throughout the 12th century, a time known as the Kamakura period. Zen generally refers to a meditation practice derived from Buddhism, and its influences can be found throughout daily life in Japan.
The Japanese word "kominka" literally means "old house," and the term usually refers to houses built no later than the Second World War. It also usually refers to houses built using traditional Japanese architectural methods, often without using any nails and choosing the type of wood depending on its use.
Matcha (抹茶) is a powdered green tea. Known for its particularly strong flavor, it holds a special place in Japanese culture as the leading role in the Japanese tea ceremony, where it is served along with a confectionary sweet, known as wagashi (和菓子).
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
When asked to explain in simple terms who Kitaoji Rosanjin is, you’ll struggle to find words to summarize the numerous and varied artistic accomplishments of someone with such an illustrious career.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Geisha, at the most fundamental level, are professional entertainers. They are trained in a variety of Japanese traditional arts, such as dancing, singing, flute, and shamisen (a traditional Japanese three-stringed instrument), as well as the art of hospitality. They also play games and engage in conversation with visitors, all in service of providing the most welcoming and intimate environment possible.
Do you remember making your first paper airplane or paper crane? Although commonly known in Japan today as a childhood pastime, origami (折り紙) has evolved into a major medium for artistic expression, with leading artists transforming simple geometric shapes into awe-inspiring imaginative forms.
There is something really exciting about taking a shapeless substance and transforming it into something unique, dynamic and brilliant. Perhaps this explains why, for thousands of years, extremely skilled and inspiring Japanese artisans have been transforming clay and other natural substances into extraordinary works of art.