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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, […]

ARTS&CULTURE October 11, 2016

The Five Elements in Japanese Culture

Travel Stock / 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 / 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 […]