Culture of Japan

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Crown Prince Akihito & Michiko Shoda Wedding 1959-4.jpg
Empress Michiko, then Crown , wearing a Jūnihitoe, 10 April 1959
Osaka Castle Nishinomaru Garden April 2005.JPG
Castles in Japan were built to guard important or strategic sites.
Osechi, new year special dishes in three-tiered box

The culture of Japan has changed greatly over the millennia, from the country's prehistoric Jōmon period, to its contemporary modern culture, which absorbs influences from Asia, Europe, and North America. [1]

Japan Country in East Asia

Japan is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies off the eastern coast of the Asian continent and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea in the south.

Jōmon period the time in Japanese prehistory from about 14,000 BC to about 300 BC

The Jōmon period is the time in Japanese prehistory, traditionally dated between c. 14,000–300 BCE, recently refined to about 1000 BCE, during which Japan was inhabited by a hunter-gatherer culture, which reached a considerable degree of sedentism and cultural complexity. The name "cord-marked" was first applied by the American scholar Edward S. Morse, who discovered sherds of pottery in 1877 and subsequently translated it into Japanese as jōmon. The pottery style characteristic of the first phases of Jōmon culture was decorated by impressing cords into the surface of wet clay and is generally accepted to be among the oldest in East Asia and the world.


Strong 9,000 year old ancient Han Chinese cultural influences, including the 8,000 year old ancient Han Chinese writing script, [2] are still evident in traditional Japanese culture as China had historically been a global superpower, which has resulted in Japan absorbing many elements of ancient Han Chinese culture first through what as then the Imperial Chinese tributary vassal state of Korea, then later through direct cultural exchanges during China's Sui and Tang dynasties.

The Han Chinese, Hanzu, Han people, are an East Asian ethnic group and nation native to China. They constitute the world's largest ethnic group, making up about 18% of the global population. The estimated 1.3 billion Han Chinese people are mostly concentrated in mainland China. In Taiwan they make about 95% of the population. Han Chinese people also make up around 75% of the total population of Singapore.

Superpower Very powerful nation

A superpower is a state with a dominant position characterized by its extensive ability to exert influence or project power on a global scale. This is done through the combined-means of economic, military, technological and cultural strength as well as diplomatic and soft power influence. Traditionally, superpowers are preeminent among the great powers.

Korean influence on Japanese culture refers to the impact of continental Asian influences transmitted through or originating in the Korean Peninsula on Japanese institutions, culture, language and society. Since the Korean Peninsula was the cultural bridge between Japan and China the throughout much of East Asian history, these influences have been detected in a variety of aspects of Japanese culture, including technology, philosophy, art, and artistic techniques.

The inhabitants of Japan experienced a long period of relative isolation from the outside world during the Tokugawa shogunate after Japanese missions to Imperial China, until the arrival of the "Black Ships" and the Meiji period. Today, the culture of Japan stands as one of the leading and most prominent cultures around the world, mainly due to the global reach of its popular culture. [3] [4]

<i>Sakoku</i> Japanese isolationist policies in the Tokugawa Shogunate

Sakoku was the isolationist foreign policy of the Japanese Tokugawa shogunate under which relations and trade between Japan and other countries were severely limited, nearly all foreign nationals were barred from entering Japan and common Japanese people were kept from leaving the country for a period of over 220 years. The policy was enacted by the Tokugawa shogunate under Tokugawa Iemitsu through a number of edicts and policies from 1633 to 1639, and ended after 1853 when the American Black Ships commanded by Matthew Perry forced the opening of Japan to American trade through a series of unequal treaties.

Tokugawa shogunate Last feudal Japanese military government which existed between 1600 and 1868

The Tokugawa Shogunate, also known as the Tokugawa Bakufu (徳川幕府) and the Edo Bakufu (江戸幕府), was the last feudal Japanese military government, which existed between 1603 and 1867. The head of government was the shōgun, and each was a member of the Tokugawa clan. The Tokugawa shogunate ruled from Edo Castle and the years of the shogunate became known as the Edo period. This time is also called the Tokugawa period or pre-modern.

Japanese missions to Imperial China diplomatic missions or embassies intermittently sent from Japan to the Imperial Chinese court

The Japanese missions to Imperial China were diplomatic embassies which were intermittently sent to the Chinese court. Any distinction amongst diplomatic envoys sent from the Imperial Japanese court or from any of the Japanese shogunates was lost or rendered moot when the ambassador was received in the Chinese capital.


Japanese is the official and primary language of Japan. Japanese has a lexically distinct pitch-accent system. Early Japanese is known largely on the basis of its state in the 8th century, when the three major works of Old Japanese were compiled. The earliest attestation of the Japanese language is in a Chinese document from 252 AD.

Japanese pitch accent

Japanese pitch accent is a feature of the Japanese language that distinguishes words by accenting particular morae in most Japanese dialects. The nature and location of the accent for a given word may vary between dialects. For instance, the word for "now" is in the Tokyo dialect, with the accent on the first mora, but in the Kansai dialect it is. A final or is often devoiced to or after a downstep and an unvoiced consonant.

Old Japanese Oldest attested stage of the Japanese language

Old Japanese is the oldest attested stage of the Japanese language. It is attested in documents from the Nara period. It became Early Middle Japanese in the succeeding Heian period, although the precise separation of these two languages is controversial. Old Japanese was an early member of the Japonic family; no conclusive links to other language families have been demonstrated.

Japanese is written with a combination of three scripts: hiragana, derived from the Chinese cursive script, katakana, derived as a shorthand from Chinese characters, and kanji, imported from China. The Latin alphabet, rōmaji, is also often used in modern Japanese, especially for company names and logos, advertising, and when inputting Japanese into a computer. The Hindu-Arabic numerals are generally used for numbers, but traditional Sino-Japanese numerals are also very common.

Hiragana is a Japanese syllabary, one component of the Japanese writing system, along with katakana, kanji, and in some cases rōmaji. It is a phonetic lettering system. The word hiragana literally means "ordinary" or "simple" kana.

Katakana is a Japanese syllabary, one component of the Japanese writing system along with hiragana, kanji and in some cases the Latin script. The word katakana means "fragmentary kana", as the katakana characters are derived from components or fragments of more complex kanji. Katakana and hiragana are both kana systems. With one or two minor exceptions, each syllable in the Japanese language is represented by one character or kana, in each system. Each kana represents either a vowel such as "a" ; a consonant followed by a vowel such as "ka" or "n", a nasal sonorant which, depending on the context, sounds either like English m, n or ng or like the nasal vowels of Portuguese.

<i>Kanji</i> adopted logographic Chinese characters used in the modern Japanese writing system

Kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters that are used in the Japanese writing system. They are used alongside the Japanese syllabic scripts hiragana and katakana. The Japanese term kanji for the Chinese characters literally means "Han characters". It is written with the same characters in the Chinese language to refer to the character writing system, hanzi (漢字).


Torii entrance gate at Kamigamo shrine, Kyoto Japan-1454396 640.jpg
Torii entrance gate at Kamigamo shrine, Kyoto

Shintoism and Buddhism are the primary religions of Japan, though a secular Christmas is widespread, and minority Christian and Islamic communities exist.

Buddhism World religion, founded by the Buddha

Buddhism is the world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices largely based on original teachings attributed to the Buddha and resulting interpreted philosophies. Buddhism originated in ancient India as a Sramana tradition sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, spreading through much of Asia. Two major extant branches of Buddhism are generally recognized by scholars: Theravada and Mahayana.

Christmas holiday originating in Christianity, usually celebrated on December 25 (in the Gregorian or Julian calendars)

Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it is preceded by the season of Advent or the Nativity Fast and initiates the season of Christmastide, which historically in the West lasts twelve days and culminates on Twelfth Night; in some traditions, Christmastide includes an octave. Christmas Day is a public holiday in many of the world's nations, is celebrated religiously by a majority of Christians, as well as culturally by many non-Christians, and forms an integral part of the holiday season centered around it.


Shintoism is an ethnic religion that focuses on ceremonies and rituals. In Shintoism, followers believe that kami, a Shinto deity or spirit, are present throughout nature, including rocks, trees, and mountains. Humans can also be considered to possess a kami. One of the goals of Shintoism is to maintain a connection between humans, nature, and kami. The religion developed in Japan prior to the sixth century CE, after which point followers built shrines to worship kami. [5]


Buddha sculpture Buddha-830916 640.jpg
Buddha sculpture

Buddhism developed in India around the 6th and 4th centuries BCE and eventually spread through China and Korea. It arrived in Japan during the 6th century CE, where it was initially unpopular. Most Japanese people were unable to understand the difficult philosophical messages present in Buddhism, however they did have an appreciation for the religion's art, which is believed to have led to the religion growing more popular. Buddhism is concerned with the soul and life after dying. In the religion a person's status was unimportant, as every person would get sick, age, die, and eventually be reincarnated into a new life, a cycle called saṃsāra. The suffering people experienced during life was one way for people to gain a better future. The ultimate goal was to escape the cycle of death and rebirth by attaining true insight. [5]

National character

Cultural map of the world according to the World Values Survey, describing Japan as highest in the world in "Secular-Rational Values" Culture Map 2017.png
Cultural map of the world according to the World Values Survey, describing Japan as highest in the world in "Secular-Rational Values"

The Japanese "national character" has been written about under the term Nihonjinron, literally meaning "theories/discussions about the Japanese people" and referring to texts on matters that are normally the concerns of sociology, psychology, history, linguistics, and philosophy, but emphasizing the authors' assumptions or perceptions of Japanese exceptionalism; these are predominantly written in Japan by Japanese people, [6] though noted examples have also been written by foreign residents, journalists and even scholars.


Early works of Japanese literature were heavily influenced by cultural contact with China and Chinese literature, often written in Classical Chinese. Eventually, Japanese literature developed into a separate style in its own right as Japanese writers began writing their own works about Japan.[ citation needed ] Since Japan reopened its ports to Western trading and diplomacy in the 19th century, Western and Eastern literature have strongly affected each other and continue to do so.

Visual arts

A page from the Man'yoshu, the oldest anthology of classical Japanese poetry Genryaku Manyosyu.JPG
A page from the Man'yōshū , the oldest anthology of classical Japanese poetry

Japanese calligraphy

The flowing, brush-drawn Japanese rendering of text itself is seen as a traditional art form as well as a means of conveying written information. The written work can consist of phrases, poems, stories, or even single characters. The style and format of the writing can mimic the subject matter, even to the point of texture and stroke speed. In some cases, it can take over one hundred attempts to produce the desired effect of a single character but the process of creating the work is considered as much an art as the end product itself.This calligraphy form is known as 'shodō' (書道) which literally means 'the way of writing or calligraphy' or more commonly known as 'shūji' (習字) 'learning how to write characters'. Commonly confused with calligraphy is the art form known as 'sumi-e' (墨絵), literally meaning 'ink painting', which is the art of painting a scene or object.

Japanese painting

The Great Wave at Kanagawa
Carved by Hokusai Great Wave off Kanagawa2.jpg
The Great Wave at Kanagawa
Carved by Hokusai

Painting has been an art in Japan for a very long time: the brush is a traditional writing and painting tool, and the extension of that to its use as an artist's tool was probably natural. Japanese painters are often categorized by what they painted, as most of them constrained themselves solely to subjects such as animals, landscapes, or figures. Chinese papermaking was introduced to Japan around the 7th century. Later, washi was developed from it. Native Japanese painting techniques are still in use today, as well as techniques adopted from continental Asia and from the West. Schools of painting such as the Kano school of the 16th century became known for their bold brush strokes and contrast between light and dark, especially after Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu began to use this style. Famous Japanese painters include Kanō Sanraku, Maruyama Ōkyo, and Tani Bunchō. [7]


Ukiyo-e, literally "pictures of the floating world", is a genre of woodblock prints that exemplifies the characteristics of pre-Meiji Japanese art. Because these prints could be mass-produced, they were available to a wide cross-section of the Japanese populace—those not wealthy enough to afford original paintings—during their heyday, from the 17th to 20th century.


Ikebana(生け花, 活花, or 挿花) is the Japanese art of flower arrangement. It has gained widespread international fame for its focus on harmony, color use, rhythm, and elegantly simple design. It is an art centered greatly on expressing the seasons, and is meant to act as a symbol to something greater than the flower itself.

Traditional clothing

The clothing of Samurai is also a kind of Kimono. This Samurai is in armor in 1860s Samurai.png
The clothing of Samurai is also a kind of Kimono. This Samurai is in armor in 1860s

Traditional Japanese clothing distinguishes Japan from all other countries around the world. The Japanese word kimono means "something one wears" and they are the traditional garments of Japan. Originally, the word kimono was used for all types of clothing, but eventually, it came to refer specifically to the full-length garment also known as the naga-gi, meaning "long-wear", that is still worn today on special occasions by women, men, and children. The earliest kimonos were heavily influenced by traditional Han Chinese clothing, known today as hanfu (漢服, kanfuku in Japanese), through Japanese embassies to China which resulted in extensive Chinese culture adoptions by Japan, as early as the 5th century AD. [8] It was during the 8th century, however, that Chinese fashions came into style among the Japanese, and the overlapping collar became particularly women's fashion. [8] Kimono in this meaning plus all other items of traditional Japanese clothing is known collectively as wafuku which means "Japanese clothes" as opposed to yofuku (Western-style clothing). Kimonos come in a variety of colors, styles, and sizes. Men mainly wear darker or more muted colors, while women tend to wear brighter colors and pastels, and, especially for younger women, often with complicated abstract or floral patterns.

The kimono of a woman who is married (tomesode) differs from the kimono of a woman who is not married (furisode). The tomesode sets itself apart because the patterns do not go above the waistline. The furisode can be recognized by its extremely long sleeves spanning anywhere from 39 to 42 inches, it is also the most formal kimono an unwed woman wears. The furisode advertises that a woman is not only of age but also single.The style of kimono also changes with the season, in spring kimonos are vibrantly colored with springtime flowers embroidered on them. In Autumn, kimono colors are not as bright, with Autumn patterns. Flannel kimonos are most commonly worn in winter; they are made of a heavier material and are worn mainly to stay warm.One of the more elegant kimonos is the uchikake, a long silk overgarment worn by the bride in a wedding ceremony. The uchikake is commonly embellished with birds or flowers using silver and gold thread.Kimonos do not come in specific sizes as most western dresses do. The sizes are only approximate, and a special technique is used to fit the dress appropriately.

Woman in kimono at Fukuoka City Hall. Stylish person at Fukuoka City Hall.jpg
Woman in kimono at Fukuoka City Hall.

The obi is a very important part of the kimono. Obi is a decorative sash that is worn by Japanese men and women, although it can be worn with many different traditional outfits, it is most commonly worn with the kimono. Most women wear a very large elaborate obi, while men typically don a more thin and conservative obi.Most Japanese men only wear the kimono at home or in a very laid back environment, however it is acceptable for a man to wear the kimono when he is entertaining guests in his home. For a more formal event a Japanese man might wear the haori and hakama, a half coat and divided skirt. The hakama is tied at the waist, over the kimono and ends near the ankle. Hakama were initially intended for men only, but today it is acceptable for women to wear them as well. Hakama can be worn with types of kimono, excluding the summer version, yukata. The lighter and simpler casual-wear version of kimono often worn in Japanese summer festival is called yukata.Formal kimonos are typically worn in several layers, with number of layers, visibility of layers, sleeve length, and choice of pattern dictated by social status, season, and the occasion for which the kimono is worn. Because of the mass availability, most Japanese people wear western style clothing in their everyday life, and kimonos are mostly worn for festivals, and special events. As a result, most young women in Japan are not able to put the kimono on themselves. Many older women offer classes to teach these young women how to do the traditional clothing.

Happi is another type of traditional clothing, but it is not famous worldwide like the kimono. A happi (or happy coat) is a straight sleeved coat that is typically imprinted with the family crest, and was a common coat for firefighters to wear.Japan also has very distinct footwear.Tabi, an ankle high sock, is often worn with the kimono. Tabi are designed to be worn with geta, a type of thonged footwear. Geta are sandals mounted on wooden blocks held to the foot by a piece of fabric that slides between the toes. Geta are worn both by men and women with the kimono or yukata.

Installation arts


Horyu-ji is widely known to be the oldest wooden architecture existing in the world. Horyu-ji45s2s4500.jpg
Hōryū-ji is widely known to be the oldest wooden architecture existing in the world.

Japanese architecture has as long of a history as any other aspect of Japanese culture. Originally heavily influenced by Chinese architecture, it has developed many differences and aspects which are indigenous to Japan. Examples of traditional architecture are seen at temples, Shinto shrines, and castles in Kyoto and Nara. Some of these buildings are constructed with traditional gardens, which are influenced from Zen ideas.Some modern architects, such as Yoshio Taniguchi and Tadao Ando are known for their amalgamation of Japanese traditional and Western architectural influences.


Ritsurin Garden Ritsurin.JPG
Ritsurin Garden

Garden architecture is as important as building architecture and very much influenced by the same historical and religious background. A primary design principle of a garden is the creation of the landscape based on, or at least greatly influenced by, the three-dimensional monochrome ink (sumi) landscape painting, sumi-e or suibokuga.In Japan, the garden has the status of artwork. [9]


Guardian in Todai-ji, Nara NaraTodaijiStatue0214.jpg
Guardian in Tōdai-ji, Nara

Traditional Japanese sculptures mainly focused on Buddhist images, such as Tathagata, Bodhisattva, and Myō-ō. The oldest sculpture in Japan is a wooden statue of Amitābha at the Zenkō-ji temple. In the Nara period, Buddhist statues were made by the national government to boost its prestige. These examples are seen in present-day Nara and Kyoto, most notably a colossal bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana in the Tōdai-ji temple.

Wood has traditionally been used as the chief material in Japan, along with traditional Japanese architecture. Statues are often lacquered, gilded, or brightly painted, although there are little traces on the surfaces. Bronze and other metals are not used. Other materials, such as stone and pottery, have had extremely important roles in the plebeian beliefs.


Fumie Hihara playing shamisen (Kabuki dance, Guimet Museum, Paris) Fumie Hihara, au shamisen (danse du Kabuki, musee Guimet).jpg
Fumie Hihara playing shamisen (Kabuki dance, Guimet Museum, Paris)

The music of Japan includes a wide array of performers in distinct styles both traditional and modern. The word for music in Japanese is 音楽 (ongaku), combining the kanji 音 "on" (sound) with the kanji 楽 "gaku" (enjoyment). [10] Japan is the second largest music market in the world, behind the United States, and the largest in Asia, [11] and most of the market is dominated by Japanese artists.[ citation needed ]

Local music often appears at karaoke venues, which is on lease from the record labels. Traditional Japanese music is quite different from Western Music and is based on the intervals of human breathing rather than mathematical timing.[ citation needed ] In 1873, a British traveler claimed that Japanese music, "exasperate(s) beyond all endurance the European breast." [12]

Performing arts

Noh play at traditional Noh theatre Chun Ri Shen She Xiao Shan Weng Feng Na P1011774.jpg
Noh play at traditional Noh theatre

The four traditional theatres from Japan are noh (or ), kyōgen , kabuki , and bunraku . Noh had its origins in the union of the sarugaku , with music and dance made by Kan'ami and Zeami Motokiyo. [13] Among the characteristic aspects of it are the masks, costumes, and the stylized gestures, sometimes accompanied by a fan that can represent other objects. The noh programs are presented in alternation with the ones of kyōgen, traditionally in number of five, but currently in groups of three.

The kyōgen, of humorous character, had older origin, in 8th century entertainment brought from China, developing itself in sarugaku. In kyōgen, masks are rarely used and even if the plays can be associated with the ones of noh, currently many are not. [13]

Kabuki appears in the beginning of the Edo period from the representations and dances of Izumo no Okuni in Kyoto. [14] Due to prostitution of actresses of kabuki, the participation of women in the plays was forbidden by the government in 1629, and the feminine characters had passed to be represented only by men ( onnagata ). Recent attempts to reintroduce actresses in kabuki had not been well accepted. [14] Another characteristic of kabuki is the use of makeup for the actors in historical plays ( kumadori ).

Japanese puppet theater bunraku developed in the same period, that kabuki in a competition and contribution relation involving actors and authors. The origin of bunraku, however is older, lies back in the Heian period. [15] In 1914, appeared the Takarazuka Revue a company solely composed by women who introduced the revue in Japan. [16]

Sports and leisure

Two students practicing kendo at Hiroshima University Jian Hun Guang Dao Da Xue Ti Yu Hui Jian Dao Bu 2005 (9014981997).jpg
Two students practicing kendo at Hiroshima University

In the long feudal period governed by the samurai class, some methods that were used to train warriors were developed into well-ordered martial arts, in modern times referred to collectively as koryū. Examples include kenjutsu, kendo, kyūdō, sōjutsu, jujutsu, and sumo, all of which were established in the Edo period. After the rapid social change in the Meiji Restoration, some martial arts changed into modern sports, called gendai budō. Judo was developed by Kanō Jigorō, who studied some sects of jujutsu. These sports are still widely practiced in present-day Japan and other countries.Baseball, Association football, and other popular western sports were imported to Japan in the Meiji period. These sports are commonly practiced in schools, along with traditional martial arts.Baseball, soccer, football, and ping pong are the most popular sports in Japan. Association football gained prominence in Japan after the J League (Japan Professional Football League) was established in 1991. Japan also co-hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup. In addition, there are many semi-professional organizations, which are sponsored by private companies: for example, volleyball, basketball, rugby union, table tennis, and so on.


Traditional breakfast at ryokan Breakfast at Tamahan Ryokan, Kyoto.jpg
Traditional breakfast at ryokan

Through a long culinary past, the Japanese have developed sophisticated and refined cuisine. In more recent years, Japanese food has become fashionable and popular in the United States, Europe, and many other areas. Dishes such as sushi, tempura, noodles, and teriyaki are some of the foods that are commonly known. The Japanese diet consists principally of rice; fresh, lean seafood; and pickled or boiled vegetables. The healthy Japanese diet is often believed to be related to the longevity of Japanese people.

Musashi Miyamoto in Vagabond by Takehiko Inoue, adapted from an Eiji Yoshikawa's novel, Musashi Vagabond21.jpg
Musashi Miyamoto in Vagabond by Takehiko Inoue, adapted from an Eiji Yoshikawa's novel, Musashi

Japanese popular culture not only reflects the attitudes and concerns of the present day, but also provides a link to the past. Popular films, television programs, manga, music, anime and video games all developed from older artistic and literary traditions, and many of their themes and styles of presentation can be traced to traditional art forms. Contemporary forms of popular culture, much like the traditional forms, provide not only entertainment but also an escape for the contemporary Japanese from the problems of an industrial world.

When asked how they spent their leisure time, 80 percent of a sample of men and women surveyed by the government in 1986 said they averaged about two and a half hours per weekday watching television, listening to the radio, and reading newspapers or magazines. Some 16 percent spent an average of two and a quarter hours a day engaged in hobbies or amusements. Others spent leisure time participating in sports, socializing, and personal study. Teenagers and retired people reported more time spent on all of these activities than did other groups.[ citation needed ]

Many anime and manga are very popular around the world and continue to become popular, as well as Japanese video games, fashion, and game shows. [17]

In the late 1980s, the family was the focus of leisure activities, such as excursions to parks or shopping districts. Although Japan is often thought of as a hard-working society with little time for leisure, the Japanese seek entertainment wherever they can. It is common to see Japanese commuters riding the train to work, enjoying their favorite manga, or listening through earphones to the latest in popular music on portable music players. A wide variety of types of popular entertainment are available. There is a large selection of music, films, and the products of a huge comic book industry, among other forms of entertainment, from which to choose. Game centers, bowling alleys, and karaoke are popular hangout places for teens while older people may play shogi or go in specialized parlors. Together, the publishing, film/video, music/audio, and game industries in Japan make up the growing Japanese content industry. [18]

See also

Books on Japanese culture:

Related Research Articles

<i>Kimono</i> Japanese traditional garment

The kimono(着物, きもの) is a traditional Japanese garment. The word kimono literally means ki + mono.

<i>Kabuki</i> Classical Japanese dance-drama

Kabuki (歌舞伎) is a classical Japanese dance-drama. Kabuki theatre is known for the stylization of its drama and for the elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers.

Japanese traditional dance

Japanese traditional dance has a long history, the oldest known ones may be among those transmitted through the kagura tradition, or folk dances relating to food producing activities such as planting rice (dengaku) and fishing, including rain dances. There are large number of these traditional dances, which are often subfixed -odori, -asobi, and -mai, and may be specific to a region or village. Mai and Odori are the two main groups of Japanese dances, and the term Buyō (舞踊) was coined in modern times as a general term for dance, by combining mai and odori.

Japanese tea ceremony Traditional Japanese ceremony

The Japanese tea ceremony, also called the Way of Tea, is a Japanese cultural activity involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha (抹茶), powdered green tea.

Japanese clothing Japanese clothing, traditional and modern

There are typically two types of clothing that the Japanese wear: the Japanese clothing, such as kimonos, and Western clothing. Japanese traditional fashion combines multiple styles that reflect early Japan's visual culture. It represents the culture's visible artistic and traditional values and joins them together to create a form of fashion recognizable to foreign cultures. The most well known form of Japanese traditional fashion is the kimono, but other types include the yukata and the hakama. The different styles have been produced, expressed, and transformed by artists well known in Japan, including fashion designers Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, and Rei Kawakubo. Their works have influenced numerous designers outside of the country that showcase their designs in fashion shows exposed internationally. From the intricate patterns to the layers of fabric, the essence of beauty that was found in traditional wear has influenced the modern fashion that is immersed in Japan's community on a daily basis, specially found in Tokyo, the capital of Japan.

<i>Hakama</i> traditional Japanese trousers

Hakama (袴) are a type of traditional Japanese clothing. Trousers were used by the Chinese imperial court in the Sui and Tang dynasties, and this style was adopted by the Japanese in the form of hakama beginning in the sixth century. Hakama are tied at the waist and fall approximately to the ankles. They are worn over a kimono (hakamashita).

Japanese art

Japanese art covers a wide range of art styles and media, including ancient pottery, sculpture, ink painting and calligraphy on silk and paper, ukiyo-e paintings and woodblock prints, ceramics, origami, and more recently manga which is modern Japanese cartoons and comics along with a myriad of other types. It has a long history, ranging from the beginnings of human habitation in Japan, sometime in the 10th millennium BC, to the present-day country.


Buyō (舞踊), or Nichibu (日舞) short for Nihon buyō/Nippon buyō (日本舞踊) meaning Japanese dance, refers to a traditional Japanese performing art that may be a mixture of dance and pantomime. It begins with early dance traditions such as mai and odori, with major development in the early Edo period in the form of kabuki dances, which incorporated elements from the older dance genres. Although the term Nihon buyō means "Japanese dance", it is not meant to refer to Japanese dance in general, rather it refers to a few dance genres such as kabuki buyō performed in theatre, Kamigata mai that encompasses the style of dancing performed by geisha, as well as some Japanese dances with modern choreography. Nihon buyō differs from other Japanese traditional dances in that it is a more refined style of dancing intended as entertainment on a public stage or in private functions.

<i>Noh</i> Classical Japanese theatre

Noh, derived from the Sino-Japanese word for "skill" or "talent", is a major form of classical Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 14th century. Developed by Kan'ami and his son Zeami, it is the oldest major theatre art that is still regularly performed today. Traditionally, a Noh program includes five Noh plays with comedic kyōgen plays in between; an abbreviated program of two Noh plays and one kyōgen piece has become common in Noh presentations today. An okina (翁) play may be presented in the very beginning especially at New Year, holidays, and other special occasions.

<i>Kyōgen</i> Traditional Japanese comic theater

Kyōgen is a form of traditional Japanese comic theater. It developed alongside Noh, was performed along with Noh as an intermission of sorts between Noh acts on the same stage, and retains close links to Noh in the modern day; therefore, it is sometimes designated Noh-kyōgen. Its contents are nevertheless not at all similar to the formal, symbolic, and solemn Noh theater; kyōgen is a comic form, and its primary goal is to make its audience laugh.

Theatre of Japan

Traditional Japanese theatre includes Kabuki, Noh and the puppet theatre, Bunraku.

<i>Jūnihitoe</i> elegant and complex kimono that was only worn by court-ladies in Japan

The jūnihitoe (十二単) is a set of formal and highly complex kimono garments worn only by court-ladies in Japan. Translated, the term means "twelve-layer robe", however, the number of layers varies, and during the Heian period up to fifteen or twenty layers of kimono may be worn. The jūnihitoe is still worn by members of the Imperial House of Japan on important occasions.

Religious habit Distinctive set of garments worn by members of a religious order

A religious habit is a distinctive set of religious clothing worn by members of a religious order. Traditionally some plain garb recognisable as a religious habit has also been worn by those leading the religious eremitic and anchoritic life, although in their case without conformity to a particular uniform style.

Kamigata (上方) was the colloquial term for a region today called Kansai in Japan. This large area encompasses the cities of Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe. The term is used particularly when discussing elements of Edo period urban culture such as ukiyo-e and kabuki, and when making a comparison to the urban culture of the Edo/Tokyo region. The term was no longer used as name for the Kansai provinces when Emperor Meiji moved to Edo in 1868. An account described Kamigata suji as one of the two regions that emerged from the division of Japan for the purpose of taxation with the other being Kwanto-suji.

Tōsha Rosen VI is a Japanese percussionist in the tradition of traditional Japanese dance and drama, the sixth iemoto (head) of the Tōsha school. He specializes in the taiko and tsuzumi, and performs as a member or leader of the hayashi in the kabuki theatre, as well as in a variety of other traditional contexts.

Taishū engeki

Taishū engeki is a genre of popular theatre in Japan, frequently described as "light theatre", and compared to forms such as musical theatre and the revue.

<i>Kosode</i> Japanese robe

The Kosode is a basic Japanese robe for both men and women; the literal meaning of the term kosode is "small sleeve", which refers to the sleeve opening. It is worn both as an undergarment and an overgarment, as such it is sometimes interchangeable with a nagajuban. The kosode were traditionally worn during the Japanese Edo Period (1600–1868).

<i>Hayashi</i> (music) group of musical performers

A hayashi (囃子) is a group of performers who provide musical accompaniment for Japanese Noh or kabuki theatre, yose performances of rakugo, or a festival.

<i>Nōgaku</i> Classical Japanese musical drama

Nōgaku (能楽) is one of the traditional styles of Japanese theater. It is composed of the lyric drama noh, and the comic theater kyōgen (狂言). Traditionally, both types of theatre are performed together, the kyōgen being interposed between the pieces of noh during a day of performances.

Kokaji is a Japanese Noh play by an unknown author.



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Further reading