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ARTS&CULTURE

ARTS&CULTURE March 22, 2017

The Kimono, Japan’s Traditional Garment

The kimono may be a cultural marker as familiar as the baseball cap, and it has been adapted for continued use in a country that long ago adopted Western clothing by Imperial edict. The kimono is a simple visual shorthand that says “Japan” as strongly as do sushi or anime. But the actual kimono, whether […]

ARTS&CULTURE March 16, 2017

Sumo Wrestlers: A Life of A True Warrior

Along with the samurai and the geisha, one of Japan’s iconic character types is the massive sumo wrestler, a figure of great cultural, as well as physical, heft. In Japanese, of course, this sport is not called “sumo wrestling”; it is simply sumo, which literally means ”striking one another.” But unlike various forms of boxing […]

ARTS&CULTURE January 30, 2017

The Heian Period: Japan’s Classic

Japan’s “classical” period, when what we now know as Japanese culture first flowered, came later than classical periods in the West, China and India. But once it began in the late eighth century C.E., the four centuries of the Heian period saw the archipelago transformed. The Heian period – named for the original name for […]

ARTS&CULTURE January 24, 2017

Amaterasu and the Gods of Ancient Japan

The early myths of Japan were first compiled beginning in the fifth and eighth centuries C.E., in books known as the Kojiki and the Nihongi. This is rather late compared to the myths of nearby China, not to mention Greek and Rome. But perhaps because of their relatively recent vintage, these myths seem to resonate […]

ARTS&CULTURE January 17, 2017

Honne vs. Tatemae

In English, it is called a “white lie”: the not-quite-true fabrication, or shading of the truth, that is designed to soften what would otherwise be a hurtful comment or uncomfortable social reality. Most cultures around the world recognize that giving an unvarnished opinion or stating a truth plainly can cause not just personal distress, but […]

ARTS&CULTURE January 9, 2017

Elements of a Traditional Japanese Wedding

The whole world around, there is probably no event more important, and more common to every culture, than the wedding ceremony. The Japanese take this ceremony very seriously: The amount of money the Japanese spend on clothes, decorations, food and venue can match a year’s wages, and the attention to detail can be uniquely Japanese. […]

ARTS&CULTURE December 29, 2016

From Food to Flooring: The Many Amazing Uses of Bamboo

If one could create out of thin air a single physical thing that humans could use to create a variety of products, it would be difficult to come up with something better than bamboo. There are other crucial plants in Japan: Rice and rice straw are ubiquitous and fundamental, tea has been bred and processed […]

ARTS&CULTURE December 5, 2016

The Japanese Concept of Ikigai: A Reason For Living

In recent years, the modern world has been inundated by books, workshops and even public lectures about the importance of finding one’s purpose in life. Those spreading this notion assure their audiences that knowing one’s purpose will not only improve one’s life, but could raise one’s income and lengthen one’s life. In Japan, the idea […]

ARTS&CULTURE November 28, 2016

Haiku and the Japanese love of brevity

In a land of people who love miniatures, efficiency and a clean, simple aesthetic, the haiku may be the ultimate Japanese literary form. Familiar all over the world, these almost impossibly brief, elegant glimpses of life and spirit have grown in popularity in many languages. As in Japan itself, the form has changed from the […]

ARTS&CULTURE November 11, 2016

Japan’s Spectacular, Diverse Geography

Geography isn’t just destiny, as the old saying points out; it can also be culture, cuisine and worldview: Witness Japan. A shimaguni, or “island country” of 6,852 islands, Japan is a mountainous, lush but rugged land that stretches from a subtropical south to a largely temperate north. It lies east of the Koreas and Russia, […]