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ARTS&CULTURE

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, […]

ARTS&CULTURE October 11, 2016

The Five Elements in Japanese Culture

Travel Stock / Shutterstock.com When traveling around Japan, there are a number of different statuary that will quickly become familiar: the komainu (lion dogs) that stand at either side of a Shinto shrine entrance; the numerous orange torii gates; and, of course, there is the Buddha in his many forms. The godai is the five […]

ARTS&CULTURE October 5, 2016

Japan’s “High Context” Society – Tips on Reading Between the Lines

Lodimup / Shutterstock.com It is a truism to say that every culture is unique, and it is also unnecessary: Everyone can see that food, dress, language, architecture and social customs can vary greatly from country to country, or even within countries. But some differences are not so obvious, and that makes them harder to grasp; […]

ARTS&CULTURE September 27, 2016

7 Ways the Meiji Restoration Shaped Modern Japan

Although Japan had been absorbing external cultural influences since the 7th century, especially from Korea and China, it spent many hundreds of years purposely cut off from the rest of the world. It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that Japan began opening up to the outside world. While western history records this as the “opening” […]

ARTS&CULTURE September 20, 2016

Who the Geisha Really Were – and Are

As any visitor to Kyoto will soon notice, geisha are not just historical figures. With some luck, a visitor wandering in the city’s ancient Gion neighborhood may well catch a glimpse of one of these exotic, mysterious women as she moves quickly through the area’s narrow streets, on her way to work. But who are […]

ARTS&CULTURE September 13, 2016

Introduction to the Art of Ikebana

Flowers are valued as offerings throughout Asia. From Thailand to Bali to India, bouquets or even single flowers are an offering to the gods: a gift of life, given in thanks, to the Source of Life. And around the world, flowers have been offered at funerals as gifts to the spirits of the dead. But […]

ARTS&CULTURE August 31, 2016

Gifts, Obligations and Japan’s Obsession with Beautiful Packages

Visitors who spend any amount of time in Japan quickly become aware of the importance, even the primacy, of presentation. A nice meal, or a gift, or even an everyday object, is always appreciated for itself – but just as important is how it is wrapped or otherwise packaged. Go to a shop, even to […]

ARTS&CULTURE August 29, 2016

The Samurai Class: More Than Warriors

Warriors, nobles, scholars and ultimately outcasts, the samurai, or as the Japanese are more apt to call them, bushi, were crucial figures in Japanese history for nearly a thousand years. For a third of that time, they ruled much of the country, but about 150 years ago, they all but disappeared. To understand why, we […]