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Japan – Land Of Contrasts

Japanese culture has evolved greatly from its origins. Contemporary culture combines influences from Asia, Europe and North America. Traditional Japanese arts include crafts such as ceramics, textiles, lacquerware, swords and dolls; performances of bunraku, kabuki, noh,dance, and rakugo; and other practices, the tea ceremony, ikebana, martial arts, calligraphy, origami, onsen, Geisha and games. Japan has a developed system for the protection and promotion of both tangible and intangible Cultural Properties and National Treasures. Nineteen sites have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, fifteen of which are of cultural significance.

Japanese cuisine is based on combining staple foods, typically Japanese rice or noodles, with a soup and okazu — dishes made fromfish, vegetable, tofu and the like – to add flavor to the staple food. In the early modern era ingredients such as red meats that had previously not been widely used in Japan were introduced. Japanese cuisine is known for its emphasis on seasonality of food, quality of ingredients and presentation. Japanese cuisine offers a vast array of regional specialties that use traditional recipes and local ingredients. The Michelin Guide has awarded restaurants in Japan more Michelin stars than the rest of the world combined.

Japanese music is eclectic and diverse. Many instruments, such as the koto, were introduced in the 9th and 10th centuries. The accompanied recitative of the Noh drama dates from the 14th century and the popular folk music, with the guitar-like shamisen, from the sixteenth.[206] Western classical music, introduced in the late 19th century, now forms an integral part of Japanese culture. The imperial court ensemble Gagaku has influenced the work of some modern Western composers.

Notable classical composers from Japan include Toru Takemitsu and Rentarō Taki. Popular music in post-war Japan has been heavily influenced by American and European trends, which has led to the evolution of J-pop, or Japanese popular music. Karaoke is the most widely practiced cultural activity in Japan. A 1993 survey by the Cultural Affairs Agency found that more Japanese had sung karaoke that year than had participated in traditional pursuits such as flower arranging (ikebana) or tea ceremonies.

Japan’s population is estimated at around 127.1 million, with 80% of the population living on Honshū. Japanese society is linguisticallyand culturally homogeneous, composed of 98.5% ethnic Japanese, with small populations of foreign workers. Zainichi Koreans, Zainichi Chinese, Filipinos, Brazilians mostly of Japanese descent, and Peruvians mostly of Japanese descent are among the small minority groups in Japan. In 2003, there were about 134,700 non-Latin American Western and 345,500 Latin American expatriates, 274,700 of whom were Brazilians (said to be primarily Japanese descendants, or nikkeijin, along with their spouses), the largest community of Westerners.

The most dominant native ethnic group is the Yamato people; primary minority groups include the indigenous Ainu and Ryukyuan peoples, as well as social minority groups like the burakumin. There are persons of mixed ancestry incorporated among the Yamato, such as those from Ogasawara Archipelago. In spite of the widespread belief that Japan is ethnically homogeneous (in 2009, foreign-born non-naturalized workers made up only 1.7% of the total population), also because of the absence of ethnicity and/or race statistics for Japanese nationals, at least one analysis describes Japan as a multiethnic society, for example, John Lie. However, this statement is refused by many sectors of Japanese society, who still tend to preserve the idea of Japan being a monocultural society and with this ideology of homogeneity, has traditionally rejected any need to recognize ethnic differences in Japan, even as such claims have been rejected by such ethnic minorities as the Ainu and Ryukyuan people. Former Japanese Prime Minister Tarō Asō has once described Japan as being a nation of “one race, one civilization, one language and one culture”.

We were struck by the blending of old and new, hip and conservative, seemingly co-existing peacefully . Everywhere we went, we saw tradition and we saw change, each with its own unique beauty. Cutting edge fashion and kimonos. Salarymen and skateboarders. We saw kids rebelling against their culture, but maintaining the manners and manner of their elders. It’s impossible to know what’s beneath the surface, but old or new, we were continually moved by the vibrancy and warmth that is the Japan that we experienced. Throughout the country, we were treated with respect by all that we met, and that was a part of the beauty of the country that went far beyond the visual. The many contrasts were everywhere, and a visual treat to observe.

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source: wikipedia / trippstreetstudio

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