Japan or Nihon/Nippon is a Pacific Ocean island nation off the coast of mainland Asia, known for its rich culture and beautiful tourist spots. Japan has maintained its legacy over the years. Modern Japanese or Nihongo is their national language consisting of Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji. Since their early culture was first heavily influenced by China so was their way of writing during the early 8th century.
During the Edo era, Japan entered a period of long isolation, closing its doors to the outside world thus cultivating their own distinct culture. This is also where Modern Japanese was developed and diverged into different styles of speech for people depending on their status. After the fall of that long era in 1868, Japan started to adopt cultural practices from all over the world, fused it into their own culture and has evolved rapidly. Western culture has also influenced aspects of their culture especially on art, sports, lifestyle and food.
Evolutions in their culture have introduced new lifestyles and cultural traits to its people. The Japanese family structure or kazoku, traditionally, often live with their elderly parents. But because of the cultural changes some have fallen in favor of more modern arrangements. The Japanese culture has always emphasized a patient, gentle and harmonious lifestyle but today, workaholism has also emerged. Workforce in Japan is extremely dedicated and there is much pressure to strive for excellence and perfection. The fear of letting down family or society and losing honor dominates almost everything else. Karoshi (過労死) or death by overwork in Japan causes 1000 deaths per year.
Even so, traditional values of Japan still underpin their culture. Working in harmony is a crucial element of productivity. There is emphasis on politeness and teamwork and they are gentle and courteous even if they disagree with what you are saying. One sign of respect is the Ojigi, this means giving a bow to symbolize respect and is an essential part of Japanese culture. The lower the bow the higher the respect.
Japanese people are also known to be religious as well with Shinto and Buddhism being their two main religions. Despite being heavily dedicated to work, Japanese people still enjoy attending celebrations and doing sports. The largest holiday for them is the New Year’s Celebration and depending on the season, festivals or Matsuri also take place. Matsuri are also held for honoring the guardian deities, gods and goddesses of their land and these are widely attended by all.
Sumo, judo and karate are traditional Japanese sports with Sumo being their national sport. Up to this day, Sumo is primarily practiced only in Japan with very few changes in Modern Sumo. Baseball, soccer and basketball have also been adopted from other cultures.
Japan is the #1 fish importer in the world and this is one of the reasons why Japanese are primarily fish eaters. This is also why, sushi, a cuisine including fresh fish, seaweed and rice is one of the most well-known Japanese dish. Some sushi chef masters perfect their craft for years.
In additional to all these cultural traits, Japan in its own, is a beautiful place from the start. It was officially the best place to travel in 2018 by magazine Travel + Leisure with its towering mountains, beautiful cherry blossoms, sceneries, shrines, castles, islands and even neon flooded streets.
One of their cultural practices is called “hanami”, publicly watching and celebrating Sakura or cherry blossoms when they bloom in the spring. Japanese people are also known for their discipline and have been able to maintain the beauty and cleanliness of their country.
Japan’s culture was shaped by its rapid transition. It is a mix of old world and western culture practices. It is also very collectivistic, sharing a common heritage, history, identity and most of their perceptions are consistent with other Japanese around them. These diversities in lifestyle continue to re-emerge as people evaluate their goals and purpose in the modern age. Nevertheless, one fact still remains, that Japan’s culture has been beauty and mystery over the years.
Written By: Patricia Joanne O. De Guia