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The far east, the country of the rising sun, and more. There is only one nation that stands out and has a rich history. We are talking about Japan! Their traditions and culture are beautiful and complex, some could say that for a visitor from the western world, is it hard to understand and blend in.

In this article, we will go through all the important habits and we will also talk about what is inappropriate to do there. Some of the habits may surprise you.

Pronounced as “Nihon” or “Nippon” did you ever hear that? That is the correct pronunciation in Japan. It is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, approximately there are 6,900 islands but the most popular are Honshu, Hokkaido, Shikoku, and Kyushu. These four islands make 97% of the country. Combine all the islands they create a population of 127 million people. More than half of the country is mountainous. According to Wikipedia is it 73% of the whole country is mountainous, however, the majority of people live on the coastline, making it one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

China had a huge influence on Japanese architecture and when time passed, it developed its own aspects that are uniques to Japan. A great example is the Traditional gardens, which are influenced by ZEN ideas. Their gardens are so well known and so complex that they become an art form in Japan.

Sakura, cherry blossom threes Fuji volcano in distance.
Photo by JJ Ying on Unsplash

Culture and language

The modern Japanese language developed during the Edo period, between the years 1603 and 1868. The Edo period was characterized by many things, the most well know is the economic growth during this time. They also developed a strict social order and also they isolated the foreign policies. Doing this, they ensured and established a strong “no more wars” population. The enjoyment of culture and arts was blooming, due to this, many works of popular culture have roots in this period.

By these popular culture works we mean the rise of novels, films, comics, television shows, animated works, and of course manga. Thanks to the fact that the country is well developed, you can witness and live thru this period. Did you know that in Tokyo there is a theme park called Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura. The whole staff is dressed up as characters from this period, they symbolize the lower middle and upper class. You can even dress up as any character from the Edo period, and just walk around the park, you will witness different reactions from the stuff. They even speak and behave like from this period.

Girl in traditional Japan Kimono
Photo by bantersnaps on Unsplash

When the era of EDO fall in 1868, the process of self isolations was reversed. They started to adopt other cultural practices from all over the world and fusing them with what was established during the Edo era.

When the time passed and some years later, Western culture become the hugest influencer in all aspects of the Japanese culture. Art and lifestyle included and the “West” has its influence given in their food.

The primary language they spoke is Japanese. It is spoken across the whole country. However, the Old language called “Kanbun” originated from China.

These days they use the “modern” Japanese language and the alphabet is consisted by:

  • Kanji (logographic Chinese characters)
  • Hiragana (a phonetic Japanese alphabet)
  • Katakana (a phonetic alphabet used for foreign words)

The way of the gods

Where to start? The question should be, What is the main religion in Japan? Well, there are two main religions, the first one is called “Shinto” and the second most popular is imported from China, and it is Buddhism. We will try to describe and help you understand the Shinto religion since Buddhism is more well known than the traditional Japanese religion.

The indigenous faith of the people in Japan is the Shinto way of life and believes. To sum it up, it is more than a religion because it bounds the way of life and the way of doing things and that has become an integral part of the Japanese people for more than 2000 years. Far from the other well knows and widespread religions, Shinto does not have a founder nor possess any holy books or texts.

Fushimi-Inari, Kyoto, Japan
Photo by Alessio Ferretti on Unsplash

The world Shinto itself first appears in the Nihonshoki (The Chronicles of Japan) around the early years of the 8th century. Then, it emerges when the nation developed true centuries until the modern times. The correct meaning of the world Shinto can be translated as “Way of the Gods”.

Celebrations

Did you know that unlike the wast majority of people living in East Asia, Japanese people usually do not celebrate the Lunar New Year? Aside from that, there is a lot of Chinese residents that celebrate the Lunar New Year and many shrine and temples for religious purposes celebrate it in parallel with the Western New Year. However, in the biggest Chinatown in Japan located in Yokohama, tourists and locals come here to enjoy the fireworks and celebrate New Year’s eve.

In Nagasaki’s Chinatown, they have a festival called “Lantern Festival” which is well-known for many movies or novels. It is also attended by all many locals or tourists. There are some similarities with the Western celebration of Valentine’s day. They believe young people could find love during the Lantern Festival.

Interestingly during summer and spring, celebrations for the gods, or Matsuri take place. Every town holds its own Matsuri and these festivals are attended by almost everybody.

Sports

Everybody knows that the most well knows sport from Japan is sumo, judo, and karate. These are the traditional sports. Thanks to the influence of the “West”, they adopted even soccer, baseball, and rugby. Baseball however gained so much popularity, that it became the most-watched sport in the country. From the time it was introduced to the country, it has just grown ever since.

Did you know that there are 70 official sumo fight techniques for how to defeat your opponent? Sumo is the national and traditional sport in Japan and it is primarily practiced just there. What we see now is the modern sumo, and it was formed during the Edo era, since then not much changed.

Structure of the family

Japan has the highest life expectancy in the world and a shrinking population because the number of deaths was higher than the number of newborns. This snapped in 2005 when the government changed the approach to the working class. Nowadays it is still common that females will favor their career path than raising a child.

“Kazoku” is the name of the traditional Japanese family unit, containing mother father, and their children. By tradition, the Kazoku should take care, and live with their elderly parents. Unfortunately, our modern way of life and the influence of other countries took its price. The three-generation households are rarer nowadays the ever.

Cuisine

Sushi! This is what everybody knows about Japan. They are even the number one importers of fish in the world! From all the fish that are caught 12% is consumed in Japan!

There are 5 main types of sushi and they are divided into more types. These are the main five:

  • Nigiri
  • Sashami
  • Maki
  • Uramaki
  • Temaki

Which one is your favorite? Tell us in the comments section! Do not worry, we will talk about sushi more in the future! Here you can find many different and interesting articles.

In the end

Country of the rising sun, their story can be described as a country that went from isolation to globalism in a short period of time. Their culture represents the old way of life fused with a modern Western way of life. Visiting this country should be a must for everybody who loves to travel. Put it on your bucket list! You won’t regret it! till then BaiBai