Japanese Culture (日本の文化)
This section picks up a wide range of events from the past to the present day about the whole of Japanese culture, gives explanations of summaries, and shows links.
Categories are in the process of development and organization, and are not formalized yet. This section also includes any culture which has been rooted deeply in Japan but has not been born in Japan.
This section does not describe people relating to the Japanese culture (men of culture), in principle. For those people, refer to the name list of people by occupation.
For a culture and popularity by field in each year, refer to the section of 'art, culture and fashion' in the article of each year which was traced in accordance with the chronological table.
(e.g.: Art, culture and fashion in 2000)
For a culture by prefecture, refer to the Category of Japanese culture (by prefecture).
The term "Culture" refers to anything including art and learning, which was generated by people and has a high level of achievement (high culture), and also refers to a system of custom or behavior which has been formed by a human society over the years. The latter meaning covers a very wide category from customs relating to general daily life including clothing, food and housing, entertainment, moral and religion, to a social structure including politics and economy. The Japanese culture cannot be bracketed simply because it contains various elements, the Japanese culture in a period from ancient times to the medieval period was affected by neighboring countries in Asia around China, and in the period from early modern times to modern times after the Meiji period was affected by western countries. As a result, the Japanese culture developed in a unique way through processes of repeated absorption and refusal, and various arrangements. The Japanese traditional culture was founded based on the Shinto religion and other religions while incorporating those, and has changed with times. However, even though it changed drastically on a superficial level, the Japanese traditional culture has an aspect of being able to point out very Japanese coherent elements and trends (e.g. even if rooms in the house changed from zashiki (Japanese style tatami room) to a Western-style room, the custom of taking off shoes when entering a house is not changed).
As a concept distinctively indicating the Japanese culture, the term 'Wa' is often used (e.g. Wago (words of Japanese origin), Wabun (Japanese text), Waka (a traditional Japanese poem of thirty-one syllables), Wafuku (traditional Japanese clothes), Washoku (Japanese food), Wafu-ryokan (Japanese hotel), etc.). The term 'Wa' has meant Japan from old times, and is used in contradistinction to things from foreign countries such as Han (China) and Yo (Western Europe). The term 'Yamato' is sometimes used (e.g. Yamato-kotoba (words of Japanese origin), Yamato-damashii (Japanese spirit), Yamato-nadeshiko (woman who displays the feminine virtues of old Japan), Yamato-e painting (a traditional Japanese style painting of the late Heian and Kamakura period dealing with Japanese themes), etc.). The term 'Yamato' (大和 in kanji (Chinese character) itself originally referred to the Nara district, and at the same time, it is an old word indicating the whole of Japan (in this case, the kanji '倭' was used in old times). This term has been often used as a word indicating phenomena considered to be unchanged in this country since ancient times.
Religion and cultural history
From ancient times, a culture forming Japan, or a mode of life or custom of people living in this country has rooted in the sense of worth based on a religion, and an influence of religion can be seen in various scenes such as industries including agriculture, forestry, fishery, civil engineering and construction, or seasonal events and festivals including New Years festivals, Shichi-go-san (a day of prayer for the healthy growth of young children), etc., traditional performing arts, Budo (martial arts), etc.
From ancient times, Japan has had a religious culture based on polytheism (yao yorozu no kami (eight million gods)) worshiping nature or spirits like shamanism or animism including the 'Shinto religion.'
A religion in Ryukyu with a limited influence by Buddhism still has an ancient form of Shinto religion. Furthermore, 'Buddhism and/or Esoteric Buddhism' (there is an opinion that Buddhism and Esoteric Buddhism are different religions from a religious scientific viewpoint) originating in India far from Japan, came down from the Continent, and Japan has established its original Buddhism or Esoteric Buddhism culture.
As in the case of other East Asian countries, Japan has also accepted 'Taoism' and 'Confucianism' (there is an opinion that Confucianism is a philosophy or thought, but not a religion), but was not influenced by those as much as the Korean Peninsula and China. Inyogogyo (the cosmic dual forces (yin and yang) and the five elements (metal, wood, water, fire and earth) in Chinese cosmology) and Hakke (eight trigrams) which originated from Taoism were extremely prosperous during a period from the Nara period to the Heian period. Along with Onmyoji (Master of Yin yang) gaining power, their thoughts which became a mode of life were transformed to Japan-specific thoughts, and have been passed down to the modern age.
(For example, it is said that 4-color or 5-color ingredients in chirashi zushi (vinegared rice with thin strips of egg, pieces of raw fish, vegetables and crab meat arranged on top) are based on Inyogogyo.)
Major people who directly accepted Confucianism were not only the samurai and townspeople who mastered Sinology, but Confucianism also influenced common people in Japan in an indirect manner. Shushigaku (Neo-Confucianism) lost its position as part of the education of samurai due to the Meiji Restoration, but chuko shisho (thought of loyalty and filial piety) of Confucianism was adopted in the Imperial Rescript on Education due to an influence of conservative scholars of the Chinese classics in the imperial court. It is said that Budo (martial arts) was also based on the Shinto religion, and developed into arts having kaigan seishin (spiritual awakening) and philosophy through practices after thoughts of Taoism, Confucianism and Zen sect were added.
Many of the various traditions and customs originated from foreign Buddhism, and such foreign Buddhism formed Japanese religions and cultures while it interacted with the Shinto religion. In Japan, the Shinto religion and Buddhism have coexisted and amalgamated for a long time in the form of a synchronization of Shinto and Buddhism. However, in the modern times, the new Meiji Government performed a re-separation of Buddhism and Shinto, and the Shinto religion which was treated as State Shinto was merged with militarism, and became a means of hegemonism. In the era of State Shinto, the religious position of the Shinto religion was made indistinct (the Government united the Shinto religion with the Emperor and obligated the people to respect the god under the theory that 'the Shinto religion was not a religion' (Jinjahishukyoron (theory that the Shinto religion was not a religion), and the Shinto religion was treated as an absolute thing. However, shrines and the Shinto religion were separated from politics after the war, and the Shinto religion has been officially treated as one of the religious fields since then.
Although a pure sense of worship for religion was not realized, an environment of present-day Japanese spirit and culture was formed based on the Shinto religion from the ancient times while adding mixtures of various kinds of foreign religions including Buddhism, Esoteric Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism, or 'Christianity' (also including a Christian culture in old times). It is impossible to talk about the essence of Japanese culture and spirit without religions focusing on the Shinto religion. For various problems in the modern age, this kind of Japanese sense of worship for religion may be effective, and when regarding this as a methodology, one example is that an idea of 'satoyama bunka (traditional village culture) (Chinju-no-Mori) (Sacred Shrine Forest) has a possibility of suggesting problem solving.
As a characteristic which is broadly seen in traditional performing arts, traditional sports, or in manners in Japanese daily life such as bowing, civility and rules of etiquette and table manners, a respect for 'kata' (standard form of a movement, posture, etc. in martial arts, sport, etc.) (or called katachi (pattern)) is pointed, and has been considered to be a virtue of Japan. In many cases, this kata implicitly contains a sense of respect or consideration for others because of an influence of jukyo dotoku (Confucian ethics) or based on shinsho (real nature) of avoiding a conflict with others and respecting a harmony. In these years, this kata was replaced by manners due to westernization of lifestyle, and there is an opinion worrying that these traditional Japanese senses of respect for rules and models may lose substance.
According to gene analyses, it is considered that Japanese people were based on people coming from the north via the Korean Peninsula or Sakhalin. It is considered that people coming from the Continent or the south brought a culture before Christ, but, with respect to spoken language and life, a culture endemic to Japan grew.
Applicable culture: Paleolithic culture, Jomon culture (ancient culture, Japan), and Yayoi culture
Japan started paying tribute to the court of dynasties in China around from the era of the Former Han, and came to accept products of culture in China which was an advanced cultured country. Representative products were metalware (mirrors, swords, etc.), kanji (Chinese characters) and Buddhism. Thereafter, Japanese envoys to Sui and Tang Dynasties China were dispatched, and scholars sent to China learned an advanced culture, and brought it back to Japan. Japan had a diplomatic and commercial relationship by accepting envoys to Japan from the Korean Peninsula, and sending Kenshiragi-shi (Japanese envoy to Shilla) and Ken-Bokkaishi (Japanese envoy to Balhae). In this way, foreign cultures were added to and incorporated in the culture endemic to Japan.
After the sending of envoys to Tang China were abolished (894), influences of foreign countries were digested in a manner specific to Japan, and the period of 'native Japanese culture' came. Kana characters were created from kanji characters by noblewomen, and literature including waka (a traditional Japanese poem of thirty-one syllables), tale and diary literature as typified by The Tale of Genji and Makura no soshi (the Pillow Book) was popularized. In the field of art, the architecture of Horyu-ji Temple and Toshodai-ji Temple was largely influenced by China, but, the Uji-byodoin Temple was constructed as preferred by Japanese people. This kind of cultural style is called a Japanese style.
When the samurai gained power during a period from the end of the ancient times to the medieval period, a culture peculiar to samurai such as yabusame (horseback archery) and inuoumono (dog-hunting event, a skill of archery) was born, and war chronicles (The Tale of the Heike, etc.) under the theme of battle were also created. Graven images were also transformed to those having a strong body (most notable is considered to be the Todai-ji Temple, Buddhist temple). Noh (traditional masked dance-drama) and dengaku (a style of dancing and music performed at agricultural festivals) developed in the capital and farming villages. After trading with the Sung by TAIRA no Kiyomori, the trade between Japan and the Sung Dynasty in China was performed actively. In this period, coming and going by Zen (Buddhism) monks were implemented actively, and cultures (a vegetarian dish, ink-wash painting, custom of tea drinking) brought along with the Zen sect had a big influence on subsequent developments of Japanese culture. Since the coming from and going to China were never discontinued due to Tenryuji-bune (Heavenly Dragon Ship) and the tally trade (between Japan and the Ming dynasty), a large amount of copper coins were imported, and karamono (things imported from China) were highly esteemed. Although the Muromachi period was the age of wars, sarugaku (form of theater popular in Japan during the 11th to 14th centuries) (Noh), tea ceremony and Shoin (reception room) (Shoin-zukuri style (a traditional Japanese style of residential architecture that included a tokonoma) developed, and many cultures considered to be a 'Japanese-style' culture at present were created in this period.
A new and different culture was imported from Europe in the Azuchi-Momoyama period (the European Culture). Firearms drastically changed the form of battle, and opened the road to the unification of the whole country. In addition, words of foreign origin and food such as tenpura (deep-fried dish) were imported. Missionaries of the Society of Jesus enhanced the propagation of Christianity. However, since territorial ambitions of Spain and Portugal (the San Felipe go incident, etc.) were known, missionaries were exiled, and a measure to ban Christianity was taken. The Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) which firstly aimed at friendly diplomacy could not remove the crisis, and decided to choose a policy of crackdown on Christianity and a road to national isolation. Around this time, missionaries and engineers captured in the Bunroku-Keicho War introduced the technique of movable type, and publications started appearing.
In Japan where the administration was stabilized and which was isolated from foreign countries due to national isolation, a peaceful time lasted long, and its own culture developed again. Due to the spread of Terakoya (Temple elementary schools during the Edo period) and Hanko (a domain school), reading, writing and arithmetic penetrated widely, and in addition to Confucianism recommended by the bakufu, natural science including herbalism developed. Among common people, performances (Kabuki (traditional performing art) and Bunraku (Japanese puppet theater)), and publications (Ukiyozoshi (literally, Books of the Floating World), Yomihon (copy for reading), Ukiyoe (Japanese woodblock of prints), etc.) were loved, and secular culture was prosperous (it was around this time when a grand sumo tournament which was the start of Sumo (Japanese-style wrestling) as a professional sport started). In addition, the study of Japanese classical literature to review Japanese original traditions arose, and an ideological environment of "Revere the Emperor and expel the barbarians" movement in the end of Edo period was formed.
Even under the circumstance of national isolation, exchanges with China and Korea continued in restricted form. Even though exchanges with western countries were strictly restricted, trades with the Netherlands were implemented through Dejima in Nagasaki. Chinese culture and western culture coming from Nagasaki stimulated the intellectuals' curiosity, and western studies, Western studies (medicine) and Chinese (herb) medicine developed. This flow became a power responding to approaches at the end of the Edo period by European countries in the imperialism period, and became one of motivations to mark the end of a long period of isolation.
Applicable culture: Azuchi-Momoyama culture, Kanei culture, Genroku culture, Tenmei culture and Kasei culture
Through the opening of the country to the world at the end of the Edo period, and the Meiji Restoration, Japan accepted products of culture and systems in European countries, and set its modernization as a national goal. Unprecedented modes of life were brought one after another, and trends of civilization and enlightenment spread. The government took the initiative in actively introducing western culture, and the rapid westernization was enhanced superficially in the period of Rokumeikan (Deer-cry-Hall). However, a subversive movement of respecting Japanese traditions again arose. The term 'wakonyosai' (Japanese spirit with Western learning) was often used. Enlightened thinkers denied feudal thoughts and customs, and introduced Western political systems and products of culture. In addition, the development of media such as newspapers and magazines, and transportation facilities such as railroad spread a new culture across the country, and this new culture had a great influence on the common people's lives. However, traditional events and lifestyles based on agriculture still continued in areas (rural areas) far from urban areas.
In around the Taisho period, Western culture gradually penetrated mainly in cities against the backdrop of the increasing advancement rate, and a consumer-driven culture typified by department stores, and popular culture were established. Due to the influence of American popular culture, apolaustic culture such as cafes and movie theaters spread in cities, and erotica, grotesque and nonsense became popular. On the other hand, a gap between the rich and the poor was widened, and disputes and socialism came to arise. Slumism in cities also became a social problem.
The Great Depression in the first year of Showa weakened the economy, and ruined farming villages. Public expectations focused on the military, and politicians who were accused of vacillating weakness lost their trust. When the Sino-Japan war started before long, crackdowns on communism and socialism were strengthened, and liberalism also oppressed. In order to lift the spirit for the war, the excellences of Japan and Japanese people were taught. In response to international criticism from Britain and the U.S., Japan concluded the alliance of Japan, Germany and Italy. Japan which was isolated from the world started the Pacific War with the Attack on Pearl Harbor, participated in World War II, and controlled food and resources for national warfare.
At the end of the Pacific War, Japan suffered serious shortages of food and supplies due to sea blockades and air raids by allied nations, and a labor shortage because of the military draft of men in their most productive years. In order to carry out the war, the government also controlled the common and traditional cultures.
Modern culture: Civilization and enlightenment, Meiji culture, Taisho culture and Showa culture
When Japan surrendered by accepting the Potsdam Declaration, and was occupied by the Allied Forces consisting predominantly of the United States of America, the exclusion, disorganization and banishment of peerage, arming and militarism, and the democratization of industries and the economy were promoted. Withdrawals from former colonies and demobilization from the front proceeded, and Japanese people were forced to lead a rough life for a while after the war.
The American modern culture was longed for by Japanese people after the war, and Japan has accomplished drastic industrialization and urbanization through a high economic growth. In association with this, a conventional lifestyle has changed drastically, and many of the traditional customs were lost. However, postwar Japan was not a copy of the United States of America. While accepting American modern culture, Japan digested and transformed it into an original and Japanese style, and created various and rich food cultures, and a new Japanese culture typified by animation and Japanese comics. Japan which became a major economic power following the United States of America regained self-confidence, and in the Osaka Expo in 1970, a slogan, 'Progress and Harmony of Mankind,' was set out.
In various countries excluding countries in East Asia, only a part of the traditional cultures such as 'samurai,' 'geisha,' etc. were known as Japanese culture until recently. However, in and after the 1990s, the number of people having an interest in Japanese modern and popular culture and subculture has also increased in various countries. In particular, fields such as computer games, animations, and comics, and a food culture have penetrated urban areas of Western and Asian countries, and as a result, related shops and facilities (Sushi Bars and comic shops) came to be established.
Modern culture: Showa culture, popular culture and subculture
Since recorded history, the Japanese culture which has belonged to Chinese culture has had aspects of imported culture and translated culture, and has actively ingested foreign cultures, and Japan has formed its original culture by fusing such foreign cultures with conventional culture, and Japanizing fused cultures. However, differently from the Republic of Korea and Vietnam which also received a profound influence from Chinese culture, Japan has never been politically controlled by Chinese dynasties and the Yuan which had conquered China. Although Japan discontinued exchanges with foreign countries in the Heian period and in the Edo period, one characteristic is that a culture specific to Japan was prominently matured in these periods.
In the era when the strong Tang-Dynasty of the Chinese Empire was prosperous, nobles established the Tenpyo culture modeled on Chinese culture, and an advanced culture learned by scholars sent to China became the standard for policies.
After envoys to Tang China were suspended, the 'native Japanese culture' arose, but the center of culture until this time were nobility and temples. The trade between Japan and the Sung Dynasty in China was implemented during a period from the Taira clan government in the late Heian period to the Kamakura period, and Chinese culture such as vegetarian dishes and literati painting were imported along with Kamakura Bukkyo (new Buddhist movements of the Kamakura period). Many of the subsequent Japanese traditional cultures were also descended from products of culture imported from the Sung in this period. In the Kamakura period, a samurai culture rose suddenly into power mainly in Kanto as a culture comparable to the dynastic culture in Kyoto.
In the Muromachi period, Chinese culture continued to be brought in by the trade between Japan and the Ming Dynasty in China, and textiles, earthenware, and calligraphic works and paintings which were imported during this time fed into techniques of traditional crafts remaining in the modern age. During the period from the Muromachi period to the Azuchi-Momoyama period, a localized culture was born in various regions by daimyo (Japanese territorial lord) in the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States).
In the Edo period, exchanges with China continued through Nagasaki even in the state of national isolation, and strong trends to admire China remained among Confucian scholars. However, due to a movement from awareness of the originality of Japan to return to traditions, studies including the study of Japanese classical literature also arose. The Edo period was the time when a townsmen culture was prosperous mainly in the three big cities of Edo, Kyoto and Osaka.
Thereafter, modern Japanese culture had a time of great transformation twice in the Meiji Restoration and the period of allied nations' occupation. Traditional cultures imaged by present-day Japanese people contain cultures which were born after the Meiji period (e.g. a wedding with Shinto rites) and originated from commonly-called foreign cultures (e.g. legend that "a stork brings a baby"; this is a European folktale, but is established regionally even in Japan). In the period 'from the Meiji Restoration to the surrender in World War II,' how to take a Japanese identity before the overwhelming civilization and advanced culture of Western countries was an issue under the international environment where imperialistic countries unfolded captures of colonies.
A movement to actively accept products of western culture for strengthening Japan (thought of leaving Asia) and a movement to strengthen traditions for independence (nationalism) coexisted, and Japan sometimes leaned toward an extreme worship of the West or toward exclusion of foreign countries. Although an imminent crisis had gone (has lessened) after World War II, both movements are considered to continue.
Theory of Japanese culture
Many theories of Japanese culture and theories of Japanese people which focus on the concept considered to give the Japanese culture or Japanese people a distinction are also proposed (refer to the section of theory of Japanese people).
Japan from the foreign viewpoint
The first thing attracting European people's attention to the Japanese culture were arts such as Ukiyoe. Thereafter, Japan has succeeded in modernization for the first time as a non-European country, and the world showed a keen interest in Japan which won the Japanese-Sino and Japanese-Russo Wars. Especially in the European and American block, the culture of 'Japan' as imagined by foreign people was likely to be exaggerated in some part or being mixed with China and being stereotyped, due to curiosity (exoticism) about a culture of which the ancestry was completely different from that of Christian culture, and many 'perception biases' from the Japanese viewpoint were seen (even now, there are many foreign travelers who are surprised to know that Japan has no 'ninja' (professional spy in feudal Japan highly trained in stealth and secrecy)).
However, Japanese products, contents, computer games, animations, comics and J-POP (Japanese pop music) have drawn attention in foreign countries recently, and more foreign people have an image of 'Japan' different from that in the past. In Hollywood movies, there are movements to make works which really draw the real Japan, remaking Japanese movies and using Japanese directors.
At the end of the 19th century, Japanese arts such as Ukiyoe and Rinpa school influenced impressionists and art nouveau.
Reports by people visiting Japan in the Meiji period after opening the country to the world, insistences of people visiting Europe, and impressions and understanding spread as a result of seeing Japan which won the Japanese-Sino and Japanese-Russo Wars
"Conveyor belt" sushi bar, soy sauce, tofu (bean curd), sukiyaki (thin slices of beef, cooked with various vegetables in a table-top cast-iron pan), teriyaki (grilling with soy sauce and sugar), etc. Japanese food known in foreign countries is sometimes different from that in Japan.
Economic animal, and Japan incorporated
These are words bantering Japanese economic activities during the period of high economic growth to the bubble boom.
(there are some opinions that these are not banter.)
("The 'economic animal' was a compliment - misunderstanding and mistranslation in modern contemporary history" written by Toshiyuki TAGA)
The Mario series, the Legend of Zelda series, the Sonic series and FINAL FANTASY series exploded in popularity.
Animation, karaoke, otaku (a nerd), Yaoi (manga (comics) themes of male homosexual love), fujoshi (girls and women who prefer Yaoi, etc.)
These were dispatched from Japan to the outside during a period from the Showa period to the Heisei period.
Works directed by Akira KUROSAWA, Yasujiro OZU and Takeshi KITANO were highly praised in foreign countries.
Visual kei (visual style rock musicians), techno-pop, and Japanese hardcore (music)
This influenced the world with a focus on Asia in the 1990s.
Brands such as Comme des Garcons, Yoji Yamamoto, etc. Japanese original movements such as Ura-Harajuku kei (the back of Harajuku style), Lolita fashion (fashion style characterized by frilly dresses, knee socks and bonnets), Gal's Fashion style, etc.
The term or concept 'Kawaii' indicating a good impression, preferably an image or posture aimed at expanding to other countries in around 2005 (as an example in other countries, 'cool' has the same meaning or concept in the United States of America).
Mottainai (too good, more than one deserves, wasteful, etc.)
This is one of the Japanese words which have two or more meanings and of which concepts don't existent in foreign languages. Wangari Maathai, ecologist, was impressed with this word, and spread the MOTTAINAI Campaign around the world.
Folktales, traditions and old stories
Various legends, folktales and old stories are passed down in various regions in Japan.
Urban legend and rumors
School Kaidan (Ghost Stories)
Major folktales and old stories in Japan
Momotaro (The Peach Boy), Kintaro (The Golden Boy), Urashimataro, Hanasaka-jiisan (The Old Man Who Made Flowers Blossom), Sarukanigassen (The Crab and the Monkey), Issun boshi (The Inchi-High Samurai), Shitakiri-suzume (The Tongue-Cut Sparrow), Tsuru-no-Ongaeshi (The Grateful Crane), Kasajizo (The Ksitigarbha Wearing Sedge Hats), Omusubikororin (The Runaway Riceball), and Urikohime-to-Amanojaku (The Urikohime and Perverse Person)
Hyakumonogatari (roughly "100 Stories"), Sarayashiki (The Dish Mansion) (Banshu Sarayashiki (The Dish Mansion in Banshu), Ban-cho Sarayashiki (The Dish Mansion in Ban-cho)), Yotsuya Kaidan (Yotsuya Ghost Stories) (Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan (Tokaido Yotsuya Ghost Stories)), and ghost stories contained in "Kaidan" written by Yakumo KOIZUMI such as Azukitogi (The Azuki Bean Grinding), Miminashi Hoichi (Hoichi the Earless), Yuki Onna (The Snow Woman), Botan Doro (A Tale of the Peony Lamp), Oitekebori, Hattanbo and Nabeshimahan-no-Bakeneko Sodo (The Monster Cat Riot at Nabeshima Domain)
Specter: Specters are deeply related to the Shinto religion, especially yao yorozu no kami (eight million gods).
Accessories such as magadama (a comma-shaped bead) found in the old remains of the Jomon period, and three sacred imperial treasures (magadama and mirror) appearing in the Japanese Mythology showed that clothing accessories including clothes of an early date had meanings of authority and magic.
When the Ritsuryo system (a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo code) was introduced later, clothing accessories came to officially show a difference of social status and class mainly in the government-regulated organization, facility, etc. In the Heian period when the continent culture was temporarily blocked, a Japanese-style costume of the Heian period developed.
Thereafter, costumes varied across the ages very quickly, but were classified to some extent according to the social status. After the Meiji period, western-style clothing was gradually adopted in the military, authority and schools, and in many cases, many present-day Japanese people adopt a style of wearing European clothes on a daily basis, and wearing traditional Japanese clothes on celebration days and festive days.
For detailed kinds of costumes and their details, refer to traditional Japanese clothes and the Category on traditional Japanese clothes.
Clothes generally known at present
Traditional Japanese clothes, kimono (Japanese traditional clothing), Sebiro (business suit), yukata (Japanese summer kimono), Tsutsusode (kimono with tubular style of sleeve), Tomesode (formal, usually black, kimono with designs along the bottom of the skirt worn by married women on ceremonial occasions), Iro-Tomesode (colored, not black, Tomesode), Kariginu (informal clothes worn by Court nobles), Homongi (semi-formal kimono for women), Tsukesage, Komon (kimono with fine pattern), Iromuji (colored kimono without designs), Tsumugi (pongee), Uru kimono (woolen kimono), Haori (Japanese half-coat), Sokutai (traditional ceremonial court dress), Juni-hitoe (twelve-layered ceremonial kimono), Jinbei (informal summer clothes for men (short jacket and trousers)), and Hoi (clerical garment)
General present-day costumes worn on ceremonial occasions
Bunkintakashimada and Tsunokakushi
Mourning dress (white clothing)
Setta (Japanese traditional sandals), Geta (Japanese wooden sandals), Zori (Japanese footwear sandals), Waraji (straw sandals), and Kanjiki (snow-shoes)
Kappogi (coverall apron), Monpe (women's work pants), and Monsura (women's work pants)
Fukin (dish towel), Tenugui (hand towel), and Furoshiki (wrapping cloth)
Tabi (split-toe socks), and Jika-tabi (work tabi, split-toed heavy cloth shoes with rubber soles)
Shawl and coat
Tekko (covering for the back of the hand and wrist), Kyahan (gaiters), and Dochu zashi (a kind of sword)
Sensu (folding fan), handbag, and Kaishi (Japanese tissue)
Mino (straw raincoat), Kasa (umbrella), Kasa (a cap), and Jingasa (a soldier's cap)
Kacchu (armor and helmet), and Jinbaori (sleeveless campaign jacket worn over armor)
Lipstick, comb, hair ornamentation, Magadama, and Ohaguro (black painted teeth)
Related to textile and sewing
For traditional crafts of textile in various regions in Japan, refer to traditional industrial arts.
Sewing, western dressmaking, and Japanese dressmaking
Textile, dyed fabric, and braided cord
Hari (needle)-kuyo (a memorial service for dull and broken needles)
Changes across the ages
Kantoi (simple type of clothing consisting of a large piece of cloth with a hole in the middle for the head)
Traditional Japanese clothes
Western clothes (westernization), unistyle, and Zangiriatama (cropped head)
Uniform (Tsumeeri (a closed/stand-up collar)) and sailor uniforms of schools which oblige students to wear uniforms
Kokuminfuku (national uniform (such as mandated for Japanese males in 1940))
Popularization of western clothing such as allocated western clothing, chemical fiber clothing, etc.
Popularity of neat dresses such as suits, and diversification of accessories
Costumes placing importance on showiness such as costume worn by Takenoko-zoku (bamboo shoot kids)
Regular clothing of elementary school boys changed from short-pants to half pants.
Gothic & Lolita, Kosupure (costume play, dressing up as a favorite character), Bodikon (body conscious, tight-fitting clothing), Gal's fashion style
Food in Japan is called 'Japanese food' (or 'Japanese cuisine' scientifically), and quite different from that in western countries. Countries in East Asia and Southeast Asia which share the same rice-eating culture have many cuisines and foodstuffs similar to those in Japan. However, there is such a difference in the manner of eating that East Asian people share a one-pot dish cooked at the table or dish arranged on a big plate and Japanese people use individual dishes and have meals using a tray on which accompanying dishes are served individually. Within the area of chopstick culture, Japan is considered to be the only country where only chopsticks are used (it is normal to use dippers such as renge (Chinese spoon) and spoons in other regions when eating soup and rice). In addition, it is often seen only in Japan that dishes such as bowls and plates are held with the hand not holding chopsticks, meals are clearly divided into a main dish and side dishes (rice and accompanying dishes) and eaten alternately (so-called Sankaku tabe (triangular eating)). In these years, low-fat Japanese food is evaluated, and is believed to be balanced and healthy food as a whole.
From the viewpoint of world history, not many years have passed since the Meiji Restoration, and food culture is not classified by prefecture, but classified by region under a domain which existed before Haihan-chiken (abolition of feudal domains and establishment of prefectures) in the early Meiji period. Since a domain was formed by a wide variety of number of territories in accordance with climate and natural features, political culture, food culture, etc., a different food culture was born in each region in prefectures which were formed as a result of merging two or more domains such as Yamagata Prefecture, Iwate Prefecture, etc., except for Kagoshima Prefecture which was formed by one domain, Kagoshima Domain (this was because in a period when prefectural transportation facilities did not develop, many borders were set out according to natural landscape such as mountain ranges).
As stated above, a regional difference in food culture in present-day prefectures occurs not only because of a difference in products picked inland and at beaches, but also because of the merger of two or more domains whose food culture and customs were different. These resulted in the creation of regional characteristics as local dishes.
Present-day Japanese people generally take three meals of breakfast, lunch and dinner. Thanks to development of preserving technique, fresh seafood is available in any place in Japan (Japan is the No. 1 consumer of fish and shellfish in the world). Japanese people have more opportunities for eating out or home-meal replacement than cooking at home. More people prefer eating bread and noodles to eating rice, and opportunities of taking traditional Japanese food reduce irrespective of generation.
For foreign people, it sometimes seems strange that Japanese people eat seafood and eggs raw. It seems that people in foreign countries seldom eat seaweed. A cooking method that eaters themselves season or cook raw materials served like a one-pot dish cooked at the table seems to be rare in other countries.
Japanese food (Japanese cuisine)
Kuzuyu (kuzu (arrowroot) starch gruel), and Kobucha (tea made of powdered kelp)
Food, foodstuff and ingredient
All food and foodstuffs from popular ones to brand products are included.
Whale (classified as fish before the Edo period)
Fish and shellfish
Tuna, bonito, salmon, Pacific saury, sardine, blow fish, mackerel, horse mackerel, crucian carp, and eel
Shrimp, squid, octopus, crab, and sea cucumber
Hamaguri clam, asari clam, common fresh water clam, turban shell, abalone, Turbo (Lunella) coreensis and oyster (shellfish)
Komatsuna (Japanese mustard spinach), lettuce, wakegi (scallion), Japanese white radish, Chinese cabbage, turnip, green onion, eggplant, and cucumber
Grain and beans
Soybean, azuki bean, black-eye pea, kidney bean, and green pea
Rice, Mugi (barley, wheat, oats, etc.), foxtail millet, barnyard millet, millet, and grain sorghum
Tubers and roots
Shiitake mushroom, matsutake mushroom, shimeji mushroom, maitake mushroom (fan-shaped mushroom with multiple layers), enokitake mushroom (long thin white mushroom), and nameko mushroom
Melon, Oriental Melon, Japanese persimmon, chestnut, and gingko nut
Satsuma mandarin (Citrus unshu), Chinese orange, shaddock, bitter orange, Iyokan (Citrus Iyo), citron, and Citrus sphaerocarpa
Pickles, Takuanzuke (yellow pickled radish), and Fukujinzuke (sliced vegetables pickled in soy sauce)
Dried bonito, kamaboko (fish minced and steamed), iriko (small dried sardine), dried scallop, noshiika (flattened dried cuttlefish), Matsumae konbu (a kind of shredded tangle), tatami iwashi (dried baby sardines flattened like paper), and Japan agar
Furikake (dried food sprinkled over rice), and fu (breadlike pieces of wheat gluten)
Katakuriko (potato starch), and konnyaku
Bean paste, soy sauce, mirin (sweet cooking rice wine), sake (Japanese liquor, etc.), and soup stock
Ama natto (sugared red beans), Uiro (a sort of sweetened steamed cake made of rice powder), Gyuhi (a kind of rice cake made from glutinous rice or glutinous rice flour), Nerikiri (a cake made of white bean jam which is artistically colored or shaped), Manju (bun stuffed with azuki-bean paste), Yokan (azuki-bean jelly), Rakugan (hard candy), Kintsuba (a sword guard-like shaped baked cake of azuki bean jam wrapped with thin layer of wheat flour), candy, and Shiruko (sweet red-bean soup with pieces of rice cake)
Kusamochi (rice-flour dumplings mixed with mugwort), Sakuramochi (rice cake with bean jam wrapped in a preserved cherry leaf), rice cracker, Kashiwamochi (a rice cake which contains bean jam and is wrapped in an oak leaf), Botamochi (rice ball coated with sweetened red beans, soybean flour or sesame), Daifuku (rice cake stuffed with bean jam), Arare (cube rice crackers), Abekawamochi (a freshly made rice cake coated with sweetened soybean flour or red bean jam), and Ankoromochi (a freshly made rice cake covered with azuki bean jam with crushed grain)
Dango (sweet rice dumpling)
Kibidango (millet cakes), and Mitarashi dango (a dumpling covered with kuzu sauce seasoned with soy sauce and sugar)
Furnace, shichirin (earthen charcoal brazier (for cooking)), stove, electronic stove for cooking, gas cooker, microwave oven, and rice cooker
Zaru (bamboo basket), Suribachi (earthenware mortar), and Kushi (spit)
Dishes and manners
Dishes (plates and utensils for Japanese cuisine)
Disposable wooden chopsticks, serving chopsticks, and iron chopsticks
Spoon, Chirirenge (ceramic spoon), Shamoji (wooden spoon), and Otamajakushi (tadpole)
Tea bowl, teacup, and Kyusu (small teapot)
China bowl, and Kobachi (small bowl)
Tokkuri (sake bottle), Choko (small cup), and Guinomi (large-sized Choko)
Breach of manners
Kiraibashi (banned usage of chopsticks)
How to be seated
Seiza (sitting straight), Agura (sitting cross-legged), and Yokozuwari (sitting with one's legs out to one side)
Gasshokin (bad combination of foodstuffs)
Kinds of Japanese cuisines
Shojin ryori (a vegetarian dish)
Honzen ryori (full-course haute cuisine)
Kaiseki ryori (formally arranged dinner to enjoy sake)
Kaiseki ryori (a simple meal served before a ceremonial tea)
Kyo-ryori (local cuisine of Kyoto)
Housing and architecture
For furniture, refer to civilized life in Japan.
For gardens, refer to Japanese gardens.
Housings have been built using local building materials in various regions in Japan from old times. Although such regional differences existed, wooden housings (Japanese-style housing or Japanese-style house) were built everywhere in Japan. The backgrounds of such housings were abundant woods, a humid climate, and the existence of engineers acquainted with the nature of wood.
Most housings were wooden until recently, but the number of ferro-concrete housings (separate houses and apartment buildings) is on the increase presently.
For Japanese architecture before the Kofun period (tumulus period), also refer to remains.
Architectural style of wooden buildings
Shrine architecture, Kirizuma-zukuri (an architectural style with a gabled roof), Yosemune-zukuri (a square or rectangular building, covered with a hipped roof), Irimoya-zukuri (building with a half-hipped roof), and Azekura-zukuri (an architectural style in which the sides of the building are made by placing logs across each other) (Shoso-in Treasure Repository)
Gosho (Imperial Palace) and Rikyu (an imperial villa)
Kyoto Imperial Palace, Shugaku-in Imperial Villa, and Katsura Imperial Villa
Ise-jingu Shrine, and Izumo-taisha Shrine
Garan of Saiin (West Precinct) and Yumedono (Hall of Dreams) of Horyu-ji Temple, Yakushi-ji Toto (East Pagoda), Todai-ji Temple (Hokke-do Hall, etc.), Toshodai-ji Temple (Kondo (main building with a principal image of the temple), etc.), Hoo-do Hall (the Phoenix Pavilion) of Byodo-in Temple, Chuson-ji Temple, Chuson-ji Temple Konjiki-do (golden hall), Sanjusangendo Temple, Rokuon-ji Temple (Kinkaku-ji Temple), Jisho-ji Temple (Ginkaku-ji Temple), Kiyomizu-dera Temple, and Nikko Tosho-gu Shrine
Hirosaki-jo Castle, Matsumoto-jo Castle, Maruoka-jo Castle, Inuyama-jo Castle, Hikone-jo Castle, Himeji-jo Castle, Matsue-jo Castle, Matsuyama-jo Castle (Bicchu Province), Marugame-jo Castle, Matsuyama-jo Castle (Iyo Province), Uwajima-jo Castle and Kochi-jo Castle (12 castles whose castle towers are now existing), and Nagoya-jo Castle, Osaka-jo Castle, Kumamoto-jo Castle, Shuri-jo Castle, Goryokaku, etc.
Early modern and modern construction
After the Meiji period, an architectural style and technique imported from Europe changed Japanese architecture drastically.
The Diet Building, Shushokantei (prime minister's official residence), and Tokyotocho (Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building)
Tokyo Station and Kyoto Station
Taiyo no To (tower of the Sun)
High-rise buildings (skyscraper): Kasumigaseki Building, Sunshine 60 Building, and Yokohama Landmark Tower
Towers: Tokyo Tower, Kyoto Tower, Tsutenkaku Tower, Fukuoka Tower, Nagoya TV Tower, and Sapporo TV Tower
Domed stadium: Tokyo Dome, Osaka Dome, Nagoya Dome, Fukuoka Dome, and Sapporo Dome
Athletics stadium: Kokuritsu Kasumigaoka Rikujo Kyogjo (National Olympic Stadium), Nippon Budokan, Saitama Super Arena, and Ryogoku Kokugikan
Japanese people's concept and consciousness of space
Kekkai (barrier) and Kimon (northeastern (unlucky) direction, person or thing to be avoided)/Eho (lucky direction)
Shakkei (making use of the surrounding landscape in the design of a garden), and Mitate (comparison)
Satoyama (outskirt of country), and Chinju-no-Mori (Sacred Shrine Forest)
Traditional industrial arts
Each region in Japan has souvenirs called 'specialty of the region,' and such daily necessities are the result of efforts made by local people who tried to make products in line with local nature, history, industry and tradition. Although many daily necessities came to be produced at plants of major companies presently, to the technique of production, the technique of traditional crafts accumulated from old times is often applied.
Nature of Japanese people
In general, Japanese people think that a modest attitude of keeping down self-assertiveness is a virtue, and have a concept of 'harmony' of trying to avoid conflict with surrounding people, and therefore, Japanese people have customs and etiquette in human relationships which are unique and are not owned by other races.
Bow and salute
Real intention and stated reason (superficial)
Greeting: The Japanese language has many linguistic concepts along with delicate nuances which are nonexistent in other cultural areas such as itadakimasu (expression of gratitude before meals), gochisosama (deshita) (phrase used after one has been treated (especially after meals), tadaima (I'm home!), okaeri (nasai) (welcome home), itterasshai (have a good day), ittekimasu (I'm going now), shitsureishimasu (shita) (excuse me), ojamashimasu (shita) (excuse me for disturbing (interrupting) you), etc.
Kamiza (seat of honor):
Conference on bidding: A very Japanese-natured original method to solve troubles through discussions among people only at the high level, not based on the fair rules. When the trouble is solved, a ceremony called teuchi (a Japanese custom of ceremonial rhythmic hand clapping, performed at the end of a special event) is performed. This method had originated from discussions between villages about water intake to rice fields during periods of drought, and has spread as a commercial custom as a method to distribute many public work projects including civil engineering and construction in these years. As in the case of cartels in other countries, this method came to be disclosed as a criminal act in commercial transactions.
This culture which is not or seldom seen in other countries has characteristics on the street in Japan.
Diversified vending machines are installed everywhere in cities of Japan. The most vending machines sell beverages. The number of vending machines installed across Japan exceeds the 8 million. This number is much bigger than that in other countries, and becomes a big characteristic of Japan.
Study of street observation
Free distribution of tissue paper
Funerals in Japan
In the modern age when the sense of religion fades, the Buddhist ritual funeral service in the form of Buddhism is often held for as a funeral ceremony, except for the special case of holding a Christian or Shinto ritual funeral service in accordance with religious beliefs.
This resulted from the fact that a relationship between a family temple and a Buddhist parishioner was continued from ancient times to modern times, and is considered to have been popularized and have become a custom rather than just as a pure religious event.
(Buddhism is also called soshikibukkyo (funeral Buddhism) by making a mock of such situations.)
Due to participation by funeral directors which appeared as a service business in the early modern times, and an increase in the number of people who are in doubt about commercialized Buddhist ritual funeral services, burial services in nature (ash scattering, burial in the space, burial in the forest) have also started spreading as a form of funeral ceremony. An organization () which promotes these free-form funerals can also be found.
Tsuya (a wake), funeral ceremony and funeral home, burial, mourning, death anniversary, grave and visit to a grave, memorial service, and Urabon-e festival (a Festival of the Dead or Buddhist All Souls' Day, around the 15th of July or August, depending on local customs)
Marriage ceremony in Japan
Miai (formal marriage interview), Yuino (exchange of engagement gifts), Nakodo (matchmaker), wedding ceremony and wedding center, San-san-kudo (a manner for a bride and groom to drink sake at a wedding ceremony), Ironaoshi (an event that either or both of bride and groom change a dress at the wedding reception), Tokoiri (consummation of a marriage), and honeymoon
Rite of passage
Shichi-go-san (a day of prayer for the health and growth of young children), entrance ceremony, graduation ceremony, coming-of-age celebration, farewell party, Kanreki (the celebration of a person's 60th birthday), Koki (the celebration of a person's 70th birthday), Kiju (the celebration of a person's 77th birthday), Sanju (the celebration of a person's 80th birthday), Beiju (the celebration of a person's 88th birthday), Sotsuju (the celebration of a person's 90th birthday) and Hakuju (the celebration of a person's 99th birthday), Wakashuyado (a kind of house in a village for wakashu (young people) to stay or work together), Genpuku (coming-of-age ceremony for boys), retirement, and becoming a priest, Tokudo (enter the Buddhist priesthood) and Teihatsu (tonsure)
Head family and branch family, family estate, adoption, Irimuko (man who takes his wife's premarital family name), Heyazumi (an adult-aged eldest son who has yet to come into his inheritance), Yakkaimono (dependent), Goke (widow) and Ikazu goke (unmarried old woman), and Myoji (family name) and Yago (house name)
Yoriai (gathering), Murahachibu (ostracism), neighborhood association, circular notice, Tonarigumi (neighborhood association (established in Japan in 1940)), network, drinking party and joint party, and various club activities
Gift and ceremony
Chugen (Bon gift), Seibo (year-end gift), New Year's greetings, Shochumimai (summer greeting card), Kanchumimai (winter greeting card), Kajimimai (expressing one's sympathy after a fire), Byokimimai (visit to a sick person), Kaikiiwai (celebrating recovery from illness), Uchiiwai (gift for close relatives or friends), Noshi (long thin strip of dried sea-ear attached to a gift) and Mizuhiki (decorative Japanese cord made from twisted paper), Koden (condolence gift) and Kodengaeshi (present given in return for funeral offering), ceremonial occasions, Mujin-ko (beneficial association) and Tanomoshi-ko (beneficial association), and Okaeshi (returning a favor)
Jichinsai (ground-breaking ceremony), Teiso (laying of foundation stone), Jotoshiki (the roof-laying ceremony), something Hiraki (or biraki) (opening, start, etc.) (e.g. jimushobiraki (opening of office), pianobiraki (start of playing the piano), Kagamibiraki (cutting and eating of Kagamimochi (a large, round rice cake offered to a deity), etc.), Nakajime (break) and Ohiraki (breakup (of a ceremony, wedding, party, meeting, etc.)), and Ipponjime (three sets of three claps and one final clap performed at the end of a special event) and Sanbonjime (three sets of Ipponjime)
School system and educational institutions
(For details, refer to the section of 'Japanese education.')
Boshikenkotecho (maternity record book), day nursery, kindergarten, and gakudohoiku (care of schoolchildren outside of school time)
Special support schools (school for the handicapped, school for the blind, and school for the deaf)
School education, social education, and lifelong education
Compulsory education, elementary school, and junior high school
High school, and technical collage
University, national university, private university, junior college, and graduate school
Bachelor, master, doctor, professor, and associate professor (assistant professor)
Technical school (special training school), various kinds of schools, night school (night education), and correspondence course
Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Education Board, school superintendent, principal (president), teacher, teacher's license, and teaching practice
Entrance examination, Ojuken (taking an examination), and unified secondary education program
Co-living with the handicapped
(For details, refer to the section of 'welfare for the elderly,' 'social welfare' and others)
Nursing care for the elderly, home-care worker, nursing-care center, nursing home for the aged, and Narayamaguchiko (The Ballad of Narayama)
Day-care center for children (day-care facilities for children)
Livingware and daily necessities
Tansu (chest of drawers), Chadansu (cupboard or chest for tea implements), Funadansu (chest made for the protection of fragile stuffs in a turbulence of a wild sea), Nagamochi (large oblong chest for clothing, personal effects, etc.), and Kori (wicker trunk)
Chabudai (low dining (tea) table)
Zaisu (small chair used while sitting on tatami)
Tsuitate (screen) and Byobu (folding screen)
Tatami, and Zabuton (traditional Japanese cushions used to sit on the floor)
Hibachi (brazier), stove, Kiserubon (ash tray), Kaya (mosquito net), Kayari (outdoor fire with dense smoke to repel mosquitoes) and Katorisenko (mosquito repellent stick), and Sensu (folding fan) and Uchiwa (round fan)
Kago (basket), Shoiko (wooden frame to carry things), and Furoshiki (wrapping cloth)
Mino (straw raincoat) and Kasa (umbrella), Waraji (straw sandals), and Tekko (covering for the back of the hand and wrist) and Kyahan (leggings)
Home electric appliances peculiar in Japan
Rice cooker, and Kotatsu (small table with an electric heater underneath and covered by a quilt) (* also refer to a list of appliances, home electric appliances)
Three sacred imperial treasures (electrical appliances), new three sacred imperial treasures, and brand-new three sacred imperial treasures
Japanese cellular phone
Cellular-phone culture in Japan
Commuter train, private car, bus (transportation facility), taxi, limousine, chauffeur service, motorbike, bicycle, and wheelchair
Shudantoko (going to school in groups), and taking babies and infants to and from
For Japanese calendar, also refer to Template seasonal topic, Template today's calendar, and Template what happened on this date in the past.
Contents of Rekichu (various information recorded in the almanac)
Nijushisekki (24 divisions of the old calendar), and Shichijuniko (72 divisions of the solar year)
Rokuyo (6 days of the Buddhist calendar), Kyusei (nine stars having own color, respectively, used for astrology), and Sanrinbo (unlucky day)
Sekku (seasonal festival), Zassetsu (specific days for seasons other than the twenty-four divisions of a year), and Getsurei (age of the moon)
Notation system of calendar
Era name, western calendar, and Japanese calendar
Date, and day of the week
Eto (Chinese astrological calendar)
Old lunisolar calendar
Genka reki (Genka calendar), Giho reki (kind of Chinese calendar), Taien reki (Taien calendar), Goki reki (Wuji calendar, a luni-solar calendar developed in the Tang by Guo Xianzhi and used in China during 762 - 821), Senmyo reki (a variation of the lunar calendar that was created in ancient China), Jokyo reki (Jokyo calendar), Horyaku reki (Horyaku calendar), Kansei reki (Kansei calendar), and Tenpo reki (Tenpo calendar)
New calendar (solar calendar)
Jinmu Tenno Sokui Kigen (Imperial era)
Annual events having a log of religious significance are listed in the cultural religions in Japan.
For events of each day, refer to 365 days.
Although events concerning agriculture, etc. were major events around before the war, they are only held in rural areas due to decreased farmers and mechanization.
(Refer to Noji reki (agricultural calendar))
New Year's Holidays (the first three days of the New Year from the 1st to the 3rd), New Year, Hatsuyume (the first dream in the New Year), Nengajo (New Year's card) (mainly on the first day), new semester, Hatsumode (the practice of visiting a shrine or temple at the beginning of the New Year), Nanakusagayu (seven-herb rice porridge), New Year's party, Kagamibiraki (the custom of cutting and eating a large, round rice cake, which had been offered to the gods at New Year's, on January 11) (the 11th day), and Sagicho (ritual bonfire of New Year's decorations)
Setsubun (the traditional end of winter), vernal equinox, and St. Valentine's day (the 14th day)
Doll's Festival (the 3rd), graduation, Haru no higan (the spring equinox), and white day (the 14th) (day of giving a gift in return for a gift given on the St. Valentines Day)
Enrollment, new semester, and April Fools (the 1st)
Boys' Festival (the 5th), Golden Week (early-May holiday season in Japan) (the time of the holiday changes every year due to the length of holidays before and after the 3rd, 4th and 5th), and Mother's Day (the second Sunday)
Koromogae (seasonal change of clothing), and Father's Day (the third Sunday)
Tanabata festival (the 7th), and Shochumimai (summer greeting card)
Zanshomimai (late-summer greeting card), Bon festival (a Festival of the Dead or Buddhist All Souls' Day), and Ochugen (Bon Festival gifts)
New semester, disaster prevention (the 1st), autumnal equinox, Jugoya (night of the full moon), Aki no higan (the autumnal equinox), and Respect-for-Senior-Citizens Day (the third Monday)
Koromogae (seasonal change of clothing)
Halloween (the 31st)
Shichi-go-san (a day of prayer for the health and growth of young children)
Oseibo (year-end gift), Christmas (around the 24th and 25th), New Year's Eve and bells on New Year's Eve (the 31st), and the year-end party
Events for which the date is not fixed
Events mainly held in spring
Cherry blossom viewing
Events mainly held in summer
Formal start of the sea-bathing season, the opening of a mountain to climbers (for the year), sea bathing, swimming, fireworks, and summer festivals
Events mainly held in autumn
Athletic meet, culture festival, school arts festival, Tsukimi (Moon watching), and the autumn festival
Events mainly held in winter
Snow festival, and snow viewing
For festivals, refer to "Japanese festivals" stated below.
In this country of which most belongs to a mild and humid climate zone, and where changes of the seasons are clear, a life by settlement based on rice cropping became a foundation of life due to these climate conditions. Therefore, people living in this country are sensitive to changes of the seasons, and are modest, but, the nationality of being very sensitive to the nature was fostered. Due to being an island country surrounded by the sea, and isolated, contact with other races was restricted to some extent, and in addition to the above characteristics, the way for generating a unique and rich culture was paved.
Harusame (spring rain), and spring storms
Rainy season, mid-summer, and lingering summer heat
Akisame (autumn rain), and typhoons
Mid-winter, snowfall, and snow storms
For festivals, refer to Category Japanese festivals.
Famous and major festivals in Japan are listed below.
Aomori Nebuta (nighttime festival in Aomori), Sanja-matsuri Festival, Gion Festival, Tenjin matsuri Festival, and Awa Dancing Festival
Festivals which have been held from old times in Japan are often held as events worshiping a deity, using Mikoshi (portable shrine carried in festivals) or Goshintai (object of worship housed in a Shinto shrine and believed to contain the spirit of a deity). The meaning of praising a deity, praying for a good harvest or health, or blowing away evils is contained. Various festivals are held irrespective of the time. Although there is no specific day when festivals are held in a concentrated manner like 'Christmas' or 'Halloween' in the Christian area, many festivals are held in summer from a seasonal viewpoint, and Bon Festival Dance and fireworks festivals are often held.
In Japan some households have both a Buddhist altar (where ancestors and the dead are enshrined) and household Shinto altar (where the God of Shinto is enshrined), while the number of households having neither of those increases lately.
Although many people are personally involved in a specific religion or religious school, Japanese people do not have a strong sense of religion as a whole, and the majority are substantially close to having none. There is seen such a phenomenon of mixed religious form as funeral services are generally held in accordance with Buddhist rituals, and wedding ceremonies are held in accordance with the Christian or Shinto rituals. Rather than professing a certain religion earnestly on a daily basis, Japanese people have a remarkable tendency of accordingly participating in religious events personally, or in units of family or group, on each occasion. Very many graves belong to each sect of Buddhism relating to each family; however, the number of irreligious graves is on the rise recently. There is also an example that some religious facilities are the target of prayer as Gongen (avatar) of syncretization of Shinto with Buddhism. Although some of religious events are spiritual (material) benefit gained in this world through observance of the Buddhist teachings, religious events including praying to God are implemented in some temples and shrines, not limited to folk beliefs, and many of these temples and shrines are sightseeing spots at present.
This is built to separate the sacred area from the secular world where human beings live.
Komainu (a pair of stone-carved guardian dogs)
This is a statue of an imaginary being considered to guard a shrine.
Feng shui, and Jichinsai
List of Japanese gods
List of terms of Shinto terms
List of shrines
This is a facility where renunciant monks live and perform religious rites. There are about 70,000 temples across Japan.
This is a statue in imitation of Buddha.
List of Buddhism terms
List of Buddhas
List of Japanese temples
Danka soshiki (supporter system of a Buddhist temple)
Syncretization of Shinto with Buddhism, and forked beliefs
Some are included in the above two items by definition.
This set the Buddha of Buddhism as honji-butsu (original Buddhist divinity), but, enshrines a deity by equating with it substantially.
Jingu-ji Temple (temples associated with shrines)
Onmyodo (way of Yin and Yang; occult divination system based on the Taoist theory of the five elements)
Ebisu shinko (Ebisu belief)
Koshin shinko (belief in Koshin)
There are Christian churches in various regions in Japan, and events including Christmas are familiar to Japanese people. However, the number of Christian believers is small, making up about 0.8%. The number of Catholics is biggest.
Christianity: Christianity in Japan
The number of believers is small, but tends to modestly increase.
The number of believers is very small.
The Constitution stipulates the 'religious liberty,' and various religions are professed although the number of their believers is small.
Recent issues: new religions (newly established religions)
Syncretization of Shinto with Buddhism, and separation of Buddhism and Shintoism
Principle of separation of religion and politics
For details of language in Japan, refer to a dialect of Japanese language or Japanese language.
The Japanese language is used in Japanese laws and official documents, and is the official language (Courts Law, Art. 74 stipulates the use of the Japanese language in trials, but there is no other express provisions statutorily). The Japanese language is also used in most actual cases.
Words used from the ancient times were Yamato-kotoba (words of Japanese origin), but Kango (words of Chinese origin) were also used at high rates because of an influence by China. In addition, after the Meiji period, Japanese people have often used words of foreign origin such as English, and waseikango (Japan-made Chinese words) which were translated words of foreign origin. Many Japanese people say that they are not good at English, but commonly use words of foreign origin which come from English (e.g. global standard, etc.), and 'English' specific to Japan which is called waseieigo (Japanese word constructed of elements from one or more English terms) was created. Due to this historical background and advanced globalization, signs and signboards came to also contain descriptions in English, Korean, Chinese and/or Russian along with Japanese ones.
The Japanese language has various dialects, and they are significantly different depending on the region. However, after the standard dialect or common language was developed based on a Tokyo dialect in the Meiji period, traditional dialects have been on a declining trend nationwide including Tokyo due to influence of school education, mass communication, etc.
Common language, and standard dialect
Dialects of the Japanese language
Kanji (Chinese characters)
Kanjiseigen (restrictions on the number of kanji recognized for usage), daily-use kanji (superseded in 1981), kanji for common use (list of 1945 kanji established in 1981), list of 1006 kanji taught in Japanese primary schools, and kanji officially for use in names
On-yomi (Chinese reading of kanji), kun-yomi (Japanese reading of kanji), and Kokuji (native script, kana)
Kana (the Japanese syllabary) (letter)
Hiragana (Japanese syllabary characters), and katakana (one of the Japanese syllabaries)
Modern kana usage (as laid out by the Japanese government in 1946), and historical kana orthography
Disorderly Japanese language
A language spoken in Okinawa Prefecture and the Amami Islands, Kagoshima Prefecture, is called 'Ryukyu dialect' as a dialect of Japanese, and is also called 'Ryukyuan language' as a different language. It is not always clear whether that is a dialect or a language because of researchers' thoughts and political thoughts. In present-day Okinawa Prefecture, a new dialect of Japanese language which is called uchina yamatoguchi (Okinawan Japanese) is spoken (except for the Amami Islands).
Languages other than Japanese
In Japan, the Ainu language is used mainly in Hokkaido, and also in Chishima (Kurile Islands) and Sakhalin. The Ainu language was used by the Ainu tribe, but, the Japanese language is totally substituted at present. Therefore, the number of speakers decreased drastically to only several hundreds, and this language is an endangered language (language which has a threat of going extinct).
Among many Korean residents in Japan, the majority speak Japanese. They also speak Korean, which has the second largest number of speakers in Japan. However, the Korean language spoken in Japan was affected by the Japanese language, and became a Japanized Korean language called Zainichi Korean.
Besides the above, Portuguese is spoken by Brazilian people in some regions.
Amusement existing comparatively from old times (before the early-modern times)
Noh, Kyogen (farce played during a Noh cycle), Kabuki (traditional drama performed by male actors), Bunraku (Japanese puppet theater), Rakugo (traditional comic storytelling), Kodan storytelling (or called Koshaku storytelling), Naniwabushi (a kind of sung narrative popular during the Edo period), and Yose (storyteller theater)
Amusement comparatively new (after the modern times)
Entertainment, theatrical performance, comical (story, song), "manzai" or a comic dialogue, comic or light-hearted short play, magic (Japanese Style Magic), circus (circus troupe), musical, revue (entertainment), and strip theater
Adult entertainment (businesses)
Cabaret club, Fashion-health massage, prostitution, brothel where one can bathe with the prostitutes, telephone club (chat line, dating service), couples cafe, and peep room
Pachinko (Japanese pinball), and Pachi-suro (slot machine in a pachinko parlor)
Tomikuji (lottery in the Edo period)
Takarakuji (lottery starting in 1945)
Sports Promotion Lottery
Amusement park, theme park, movie theater, and cinema complex (cinecom)
Izakaya bar, grilled chicken restaurant and roast pork restaurant, oden (various ingredients, such as egg, daikon, or konnyaku stewed in soy-flavored dashi) restaurant, small restaurant, snack bar (eating and drinking place), club, bar (tavern), and food wagon
Soba restaurant, udon restaurant, gyudon (beef bowl) restaurant, sushi restaurant and "conveyor belt" sushi bar, curry shop, family restaurant, set meal restaurant, okonomiyaki (savory pancake) shop, cafe and teahouse, and restaurant meal delivery service and catering
Trips, sightseeing and holiday-making
It is said that Japanese people like going on trips, sightseeing, and excursions.
Quasi-national park, national park, and government-run park
Onsen (hot spring), and toji (hot spring cure)
List of hot spring resorts in Japan, and bathing facilities without accommodations
Tourist spots in Japan
Tour (group tour) and overseas trips
School trip, fieldtrip, and camping
Ko (group of people professing the same religion) (Oisemairi (pilgrimage to Ise (Shrine)), Fujiko (Devotional Fuji confraternities), etc.), visit to seven gods, pilgrimage, Hatsumode (the first prayer at Shinto shrine and/or temple of the New Year), and higan mairi (visiting a temple or shrine at equinox)
Banquet, geigi (Japanese professional female entertainer at drinking party), karaoke (sing to a karaoke machine), Meikyoku Kissa (classical music cafe), Utagoe Kissa (coffee shop for people to sing songs), and Jazz Kissa (jazz music cafe) and jazz music club
Karuta Cards, and hanafuda (floral playcards)
Picture drawing, and coloring
Play using skills with the hands
Beanbag, origami (paper folding), cat's cradle, sessesse (traditional children's song with hand performance), Lily-yarn, plamodel, and taketonbo (simple helicopter-like bamboo toy)
Marbles, menko (Japanese style pogs), spinning top (traditionally made of Japanese babylon shell), and ohajiki (children's game similar to marbles, played with coin-shaped colored glass)
Slingshot, rubber-band gun pistol, blowgun, and air gun
Kite flying, cup-and-ball game, spinning top, stilts, pogo stick, and Hula-Hoop
Playing house, playing with dolls, ninja-gokko (childhood ninja games), detective games, and train games
Onigokko (tag), kagome play, hide-and-seek, Kick the Can, Daruma-doll fell down, and Doro-Kei (or Doro-Jun, cops and robbers)
Himawari, S-ken (one-legged jumping following a S-shaped line), Hanaichi monme (Japanese ancient game for children), and horseback riding
Rubber-band jumping, hanetsuki (Japanese badminton), hopscotch, and leapfrog
Sumo (Japanese-style wrestling), sword fighting, silver bullet gun, and water pistol
Fairs, mom-and-pop candy stores, and festivals
Playing at the river, playing at rocky shores, playing at the beach, and hiking
Tree climbing, flower picking, insect collecting (collection of small animals such as turtles, lizards, shimizu kani (freshwater crabs native to China), snakes, etc.), fishing (crayfish and Pseudorasbora purva), expeditions (sewage systems, bomb shelters, and small outer islands), and fort making
Horsetail picking, and edible wild plants picking
Sea bathing, fireworks, shell gathering, test of courage, and Kaidan (Ghost Stories) telling
Open fire, gingko nut picking, and enjoying various kinds of tastes specific to autumn
Winter and snow
Oshikuramanju (pushing one another for warming), Kamakura (hut made of snow), snowball fights, and snowmen
Skiing, skating, and sledding
School and ball games
Pillow fight, and unicycle
Baseball (Triangular Base, a baseball game for children for which a keystone sack is not used; Kick Base, a baseball game for children that is played using a soccer ball; Goro Base, a baseball game for children in which the pitcher rolls a rubber ball along the ground; and Hasami Oni, a game of tag in which the two demons called 'Oni' that are playing catch try to tag out another children that are trying to advance into the Oni's territory), indoor soccer (futsal), basketball (3-on-3 street basketball), and dodgeball
Video games, and arcades
Purikura (photo booth that prints out cards and stickers of the resulting photograph, which are then traded among friends), and stickers (playing)
Sumo, Judo (Japanese art of self-defense), Karate (traditional Japanese martial art), Aikido (art of weaponless self-defense), Nippon Kenpo (Japanese martial art), and Shorinji Kenpo (modern Japanese martial art based on Shaolin Kung Fu)
Japanese martial arts swimming
Sports after the modern times
After the Meiji period, games such as baseball, tennis, boat, field athletics etc. were mainly introduced in schools due to influences from foreign countries. Baseball enjoyed much popularity, and Japanese people also enjoy playing sandlot baseball and watching games by professional players. Golf came to be played actively after the war as one of the social opportunities, and Japanese people also play it frequently when entertaining business-related clients.
Development of players and improvement of players' skills
Sports club, various sports clubs, training camp, training, games, and dojos (hall used for martial arts training)
Amateur and professional players
Sports as recreation
Outdoor sports (any of these are recognized as hobbies)
Mind sports (these are recognized as hobby or recreation rather than as sport in Japan)
Gym, fitness, yoga, etc.
Athletic meets (athletic festival), Sports groups, and various circle activities
Grand sumo tournament, professional baseball games, high-school baseball, Japan Professional Football League, and combative sport (professional wrestling, K-1)
Hobby, preference and education
Sado (Japanese tea ceremony), Kodo (traditional incense-smelling ceremony), and Kado (flower arrangement)
Shogi (Japanese chess), and Igo (board game of capturing territory)
Radio Lessons and TV Lessons, culture center, Lifelong education (social education), and various group activities
Facility for exhibition of collections (museums under the Museum Law)
Museums, resource centers, art museums, literary museums, historical museums, science museums, aquariums, zoos, and botanical gardens
Art, music, literature, movies, etc.
Industrial arts and ceramic art
Makie (Japanese lacquer sprinkled with gold or silver powder), Raden (mother-of-pearl inlay work), metal carving, and traditional paper art
Earthenware, porcelain, lacquer ware, and rattan knitting
Japanese doll, and wooden doll with Japanese costumes made from cloth with the edges tucked into grooves in the wood
Shodo (calligraphy), Sado, Kado, and Kodo
Traditional performing arts
Category Japanese music
Traditional Japanese music, J-POP, and J-ROCK
Enka (Japanese ballad)
Gagaku (ancient Japanese court dance and music)
Shomyo (chanting of Buddhist hymns)
Category Japanese traditional music
List of categories of traditional Japanese music
Japanese musical instruments (traditional Japanese musical instruments)
Koto (a long Japanese zither with thirteen strings), So (a long Japanese zither with thirteen strings), Shamisen, and Biwa (Japanese lute)
Shakuhachi bamboo flute, Sho (Japanese flute), and Hichiriki (small double-reed wind instrument)
Literature utilizing kana
Comics, comics, magazines, weekly magazines, and monthly magazines
List of Japanese movies
Special effects films
Movies released in Japan by year
Classical plants for gardening
Chrysanthemum, asagao (common morning glory, Ipomoea purpurea), primula (any flower of genus Primula, which includes primroses, cowslips and cyclamens), Japanese iris, Japanese rhodea (plant of the lily family), alpine accentor (Prunellacollaris), Asian densilepidotula, Spearflower, Ardisia japonica, whisk fern, Dendrobium moniliforme, Neofinetia falcata, Chinese orchids, cherry tree, camellia, etc.
Bonsai (a dwarf miniature potted tree)
Study of Japanese classical literature, and Western studies
Confucianism, Neo-Confucianism, and Yomei-gaku (new Confucianism based on teaching of Wang Yangming)
Seismology, and herbalism
Information, communication and mass media
The development of information, communication and mass media had a big effect on the Japanese culture.
Wikipedia WikiProject broadcasting office
Wikipedia WikiProject broadcast program
Wikipedia WikiProject teledrama
Wikipedia WikiProject Community Broadcasting
Wikipedia WikiProject cable TV network
Related to printed matters
Newspaper company and newspaper distributor
Publication and bookstores
Textbooks, dictionaries, and encyclopedias
Books (independent books, paperback editions, and new books)
Magazines (monthly and weekly magazines), free papers, and kawaraban (commercial news-sheet of the Edo period)
Bookstores handling new books, and bookstores handling pre-owned books
Library, and book-lending shops
Advertisement, and public relations
Commercial message (CM: commercial message) and news paper advertisement
Signboard, and posting (distribution of leaflet)
Public service announcement, and municipality PR
Websites, mail, instant messenger, chat, and electronic bulletin boards
Telephones, telegrams, faxes, and cell-phones
Mail, and door-to-door delivery service
Dojin (literary group (coterie)), Yaoi (comics on the theme of male homosexual love), boys' love, girls' love, and Kosupure (costume play, dressing up as a favorite character)
Otaku (a nerd), fujoshi (girls and women who prefer Yaoi, etc.), and moe (a strong interest in particular types of character in video games, anime or manga)
Internet and electronic bulletin boards in Japan
Young people's words
Japanese rock, Japanese punk rock, Japanese metal music, Visual kei (visual style rock musicians), techno-pop, and Japanese hip-hop
Girl's culture, Lolita fashion (fashion style characterized by frilly dresses, knee socks and bonnets), and Gothic & Lolita
Gal, and Gal-o (man who imitates girls in dress, hair style, etc.)
Decorated truck, Itasha (a car that has been plastered with anime stickers and other forms of decoration), motorcycle gangs, and Hashiriya (Japanese slang term for streetracers/streetracing), kyushakai (old biker-boy clubs)
Furyokoi shonen (juvenile delinquent), and juvenile delinquents
Professional gambler or ruffian (especially a member of the Japanese mafia)
Gay culture, lesbian terms, and transsexual or transvestite performers