Promoting exchange between international schools in Japan and the world,
connecting the world with Japan.

The Appeal of Japan

Japan is a country that continues to send out new cultures and technologies into the world, while still preserving and continuing the traditions of its own long history.

Japanese Lifestyle

Currently, both Japanese and Western lifestyles co-exist in Japan, with many houses possessing both Japanese-style and Western-style rooms. The Japanese-style rooms have traditional flooring called tatami, which is made from rush straw. People sit directly on the tatami mats. In each Japanese house, you must take off your shoes at the entrance before entering. It is also common to take off shoes and change into slippers or indoor shoes when entering schools.

The Four Seasons and Annual Events in Japan

In Japan, the four seasons are very distinct and there are various events and festivals that are held throughout the year. There are innumerable festivals, including those that pray for a good harvest, those that take place at the beginning of harvest, those that celebrate a good harvest, and those that welcome the spirits of ancestors.

Spring

・Girl's Festival
March 3rd is known as Hina Matsuri, or Girl's Festival. During this time, families with daughters decorate their homes with dolls. This festival originated from the practice of releasing paper dolls into rivers, meant to protect daughters by receiving any disasters that may fall upon them. It is also known as "hina-nagashi".
・Boy's Festival
May 5th is known as Boy's Festival, officially designated as a national holiday under the name Children's Day. On Children's Day, families place irises on their roofs, hang up streamers in the shape of carps, put out dolls of young warriors, eat mochi rice cakes, and pray for the healthy growth of their children.

Summer

・Tanabata
Tanabata takes place on July 7th. During this time, customarily people put up a bamboo branch decorated with paper slips with wishes written on them. Originally, this was to pray for artistic skill improvement, but it is now common for children to make all sorts of wishes. " ・Obon
Obon is an event that honors the ancestral spirits and takes place around August 15th every year.
During obon, people visit graves and make a fire to welcome the spirits. They honor the spirits by setting up an altar for obon and placing welcoming gifts and foods on it. As with New Years, many people return to their hometown during this time, so the roads get very crowded.

Autumn

・Tsukimi (Fifteenth Night)
Tsukimi is held in the middle of September and is meant to show appreciation for the harvesting of crops. People choose a place from which to watch the moon and decorate it with susuki grass; eat dango, taro, soybeans, and chestnuts; and serve sake (rice wine). Taro in particular is in season during this time, so some regions call the full moon during Tsukimi "Imo meigetsu," or "potato moon". Since nowadays there are fewer people involved in agricultural work, it has become more common to just eat dango while watching the moon.
・Shichigosan
On November 15th, people pray for the healthy growth of their children, in particular those ages three, five, and seven.
Long ago, the death rate of toddlers was high, so many people would thank the gods if their children made it to the age of three. They would also pray for their continued healthy growth.
It is also said that this is an event to celebrate the milestones of development: learning words at three, acquiring knowledge at five, and growing adult teeth at seven.

Winter

・New Year
January 1st, or "gantan" in Japanese, is a national holiday and celebrated nationwide. In order to welcome the gods of the new year, many houses prepare decorations and special dishes. On December 31st, or "omisoka," it is common to eat soba buckwheat noodles, hear the ringing of the New Year's bell, and go to temples and shrines. This is called "hatsumode". ・Setsubun
Originally, "setsubun" was a word used to indicate the turning of the season, but now it refers to the day before February 3rd (the day the season changes from winter to spring) and is celebrated by throwing beans to keep out evil spirits and welcome positive ones. A famous setsubun custom is to eat the same number of beans as your age and pray for good fortune for the year.

Japanese Traditional Culture

Japan has a traditional, unique sensibility about it, as expressed in the phrase "wabi sabi." "Wabi sabi" describes an ideal of a quiet, clear world. Wabi is the principle that makes concise, simple things beautiful. Sabi is that which finds beauty in the transcendent.
This idea has become integrated into Japanese culture and developed together with Zen and is thought to be a way of spiritual practice.

Judo

Judo is a synonym for sport and is an internationally famous aspect of Japanese culture. The basics of judo are not to directly attack the opponent but to use the opponent's own strength to defend yourself. There are different colored belts for different levels (for example, beginners wear white and those at the highest level wear black).

Kendo

Kendo is a sport derived from swordsmanship, an important martial art for samurai. Participants follow strict rules, wear special armor and attack the opponent's head, body, and hand with a bamboo sword.

Sado

Sado is a general art form of Japan that is currently attracting international attention. It is also being taught in schools. Sado, or tea ceremony, has been loved by the upper class as a beautiful ceremony. Currently, sado is used to learn etiquette or spiritual courtesy and is appreciated by the general public. Since there are schools that teach different methods of sado in various parts of Japan, as well as hotels with sado rooms, you can easily experience sado.

Kado

Kado is a traditional art born under the spirit of incorporating human thought and perceiving plants and flowers as to be of the same life as human beings. In a Japanese-style home, there is a place called "tokonoma". Kado was born from arranging flowers to be given to the Buddha within that room. Since then, kado has combined with sado in various ways to create the form it is today. Due to the different forms and techniques, there are twenty different forms of kado. Currently, there are many schools in Japan that teach the different forms and techniques. In addition, you can view ikebana, or completed forms of kado in hotels, departments stores, and lobbies of public facilities.

Noh

"Noh" is a traditional art form that ritualizes god and includes elements of theater and drama. Performers wearing traditional costumes don a mask to conceal their faces on stage while dancing an emotional dance. Characteristics of noh include the songs, dance, dialogue, and movements on stage. Performers wear a mask in order to express the characteristics of the characters. Noh music has a 700-year history that is said to have roots in religious ceremonies. It is also a representative art form of Japan.

Kabuki

Kabuki is a Japanese play that is popular all over the world. In Kabuki, performers dance up-tempo songs and dialogues. It is said to be more flashy and poignant than noh. Kabuki peaked in the seventeenth century among the common people. All the performers in kabuki are male and female characters called "onna-gata", or female figures. Kabuki is a drama culture unique to Japan and includes versatile content with themes relevant not only to history but current affairs as well.

Modern Japanese Culture

The contemporary Japanese culture called "cool Japan" has been attracting attention from abroad recently.

Sub-Culture

Sub-culture is an important part of Japanese culture that must be included when discussing contemporary Japanese culture, including internationally famous fashion, anime, and manga . Takeshitadori, a street located in Harajuku, has become the birthplace of youth culture, including Lolita fashion, and is the most surprising fashion city throughout Japan. Here, hundreds of young boys and girls wear anime-style and visual costumes while hanging out with people of similar fashion. Another famous fashion spot in Japan is the department store 109 in Shibuya. It is the birthplace of a fashion style known as "Gyaru Fashion".

Cutting-edge Technology

In addition to industrial products and cars, Japan's cutting-edge technology is widely used in various places. The toilet and vending machines in particular have evolved siginificantly in Japan. Japanese toilets called "washlettes" automatically open the lid when approached. Washlettes also have an array of buttons that may confuse you at first, but will provide you the most confortable experience. With one button, you can wash and dry your bottom. Additionally, the toilet seat is heated for comfort during cold seasons. Also, Japanese vending machines sell food, drinks, manga, and even underwear. Recent vending machines can even recommend products based on the time, season, gender, and age of the consumer.

Copyright@Japan National Tourism Organization All Rights Reserved