Usually, Japanese schools will hold ‘Cultural Festivals’ that may incorporate both traditional and modern culture. Typically, museums will have special events based around Japanese culture, parades will occur here and there, and people who have distinguished themselves in the fields of education and the arts may be presented with awards on this day.
The Japanese certainly have a lot of wonderful culture and customs worthy of celebration. Even outside of Japan, certain facets of Japanese culture have become extremely popular, especially with regard to Japanese food. Sushi, Suki-yaki, Tempura and Teppan-yaki restaurants have enjoyed much success overseas, and millions of people around the world have become familiar with green tea. The majority of schools in Australia teach Japanese language, and along with that the students are exposed to various aspects of Japanese culture.
When I taught Japanese language in Queensland, Australia, my students loved watching videos of Sumo wrestling. Martial Arts from Japan, including Judo, Karate, Aikido, and to a lesser extent, Kendo, Iaido (live-blade sword) and Jujutsu are seen in Dojo’s (martial art training halls) in many numerous countries now.
But apart from food, traditional sports and fashion, what are some famous features of Japanese traditional culture? For me, as a poet and writer, I am really fond of Japanese Haiku. The simple three-lined poems can be surprisingly mesmerizing and meaningful despite their brevity. I am a fan of Matsuo Basho (1644 – 1694) in particular, but I also like Haiku from Buson and Issa, as well as some contemporary Haiku poets. For those wanting to write their own Haiku, the rules are easy: three lines, consisting of a 5-7-5-syllable structure, and typically focusing on nature, the seasons, and various aspects of love and beauty. The first two lines, known as the ‘phrase’, set up the Haiku for the third line, known as the ‘fragment’. Sometimes there can be a juxtaposition of two images.
Learn more about writing Haiku using this link:
Japanese traditional art, especially Ukiyo-e (a particular style of woodblock prints popular in the 17th, 18th & 19th centuries), is truly spectacular. For those wanting to view scenes of traditional Japan, I urge you to ‘Google’ such artists as Katsuhika Hokusai and Ando Hiroshige. Utagawa Kuniyoshi was another master. This type of art typically depicts finely detailed landscapes, scenes of everyday life, nature, and even traditional sports such as Sumo wrestling as well as pictures of samurai, Kabuki actors and ladies in beautiful kimonos.
Whatever aspect of Japanese culture you favor, there is a lot on offer here. You can eat the very best cuisine made fresh by top Japanese chefs (including the famous marbled beef in Matsusaka), see the latest technology (especially in Akihabara in Tokyo, Denden Town in Osaka, and Osu Kannon in Nagoya), enjoy a tea ceremony in a Japanese temple, catch a glimpse of Fuji-san as you speed by at 300 km/hour on the Shinkansen, sink into the steaming hot waters of a natural spring, visit famous places such as Nikko, Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Osaka, Hiroshima or the other islands – Hokkaido, Shikoku, Kyushu and Okinawa, tour inside stunning traditional castles, experience staying in a traditional inn on an island such as Miyajima, or even enter Tokyo Disneyland.
There is a plethora of things to see and do. Mandy and I have enjoyed most of the experiences listed above, as well as skiing in the mountains of Gifu, whitewater rafting on the Nagara river in the same prefecture, seeing a live Sumo exhibition in Ogaki, riding in a Ferris wheel above the city in Osaka, and we have even been dressed and photographed in traditional clothes (me as a Samurai Warlord) in Eiga Mura (Movie Village – a smaller, traditional version of Universal Studios)! It was a lot of fun, and an enjoyable way to experience traditional Japanese culture.
A few of my favorite sightseeing places would be Nikko Toshogu Shrine (dedicated to Edo period’s feudal shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu), Fuji-san, Ise Shrine in Mie, the famous temples of Kyoto, Todaiji in Nara, Himeji castle in Hyogo, the Hiroshima Peace Museum, Miyajima (an island off Hiroshima in the inland sea), and of course Okinawa, the Yaeyama islands in particular. One of the best ways to observe and participate in authentic Japanese culture is to live and work in Japan, but I know that’s not for everyone. Mandy and I have lived in Japan now for 18 years – as long as we’ve been married! We have worked in English conversation schools, University preparatory schools, elementary and junior high schools, and we even tried our hand working in a Japanese restaurant here for a while. During that time we traveled around Honshu (Japan’s main island) and Okinawa (Miyako, Ishigaki, Iriomote and of course Naha). It has really opened our eyes to the culture and customs of this amazing country. We hope that you can also enjoy the many wonders of Japan, if you haven’t already.
Take care, and warmest regards.