| The Japanese Culture and Traditions
Nihon no Bunka
The traditional Japan is as far away of our imagination as is the distance that separates us from the Country of the Rising Sun.
The only difference is the following one: what we imagine about Japan cannot be measured in miles, but in degrees and nuances of sensibility.
Due to Japan's geographical isolation, the expression of Japanese culture was perceived here in sequences and not as a structured unity. This unity of structure infers the unity of opposite things that we generally call "contrasts".
Indeed, these "contrasts" in themselves may be considered as the thesis of this article.
Thus the 11th century AC, when the states from Europe were just developing, finds Japan with a classical literature in a centralized state.
Tenderness and sensitivity so well expressed in the literature were in a deep contrast with the harshness of the Samurai's class. The Japanese warrior caste of Samurai began its ascent at that time and would lead Japans destiny for eight centuries.
In a country where torture was considered an art, hanami, cherry-blossom viewing, was a feast, not only for the eyes, but for the soul too.
On a religious level, in the 6th century AC, Buddhism spreads into Japan. Art, writing, social organization and state structures were deeply influenced by Buddhism.
However, the Japanese did not renounce to their own religion, Shintö (the Way of the Gods). Even today, Buddhism and Shintö cults coexist into a typical Japanese harmony.
After the Kamakura and Muromachi periods, Japan reaches the edge of the disaster due to the endless civil wars.
However, in the year 1600, after the battle of Sekigahara, the Shögun Tokugawa Ieyasu unifies Japan and establishes the "feudal peace" that will last about three centuries (1603-1868). It corresponds with the Tokugawa (Edo) period and will definitely engrave the Japanese culture and traditions.
Just at the beginning of this period, in the year 1639, the Shögun Tokugawa Iemitsu imposes the seclusion of Japan, by cutting off the links with all foreign states. Japan resigns thus to any connection with the external world and locks the door to the foreigners.
This situation led also to an effort of internal retirement that stood as the genesis of a unique culture characterized by introspection, analyze and an acute sense of temporality.
The concept of "Void" associated with Zen Buddhism enters in almost every compartment of the Japanese life, rendering thus a deep signification to the Japanese culture.
Architecture, etiquette, gardening, tea ceremony, poetry, theater follow a way called "Dö" and raise to an art level within an extreme formalization.
Festivals, ceremonies, clothes, manners and customs transpose and transfigure the everyday life into a world of symbols, which is understood and lived only by Japanese people.
Edo period was the time of Samurai's administration. From a cultural point of view, it was a time of so called "town people" culture. Merchants and craftsmen were included among the town people. Plays and literature developed and the Ukiyoe style of painting emerged. Ukiyoe strongly influenced later the European impressionism. In the closed society of that time, Japanese culture reached its highest level of development.
With the end of Edo period began the modernization of Japan. The Meiji period (1868-1912) brought many changes. Japan stopped the national isolation policy (sakoku) which had lasted almost 300 years and allowed the strangers to come into the country under the strong pressure of the United States.
The contemporary Japan has a modern look, due to these inevitable transformations.
However, the culture and the traditional Japan still subsist and render vitality and creativity to Japanese people.
Earthquakes, typhoons and tsunami struck Japan during its existence.
The Second World War was finished for the Japanese with the launching of the two atomic bombs over the towns of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They added a huge mass of victims as a final record of the war. However, no adversities could destroy the Yamato spirit into the heart of the Japanese people.
Japan rose from the atomic ash, as a huge modern Phoenix, but its culture remained for us remote, unknown and mysterious as ever.
The professor of philosophy Tetsure Watsugi explained thus the "status quo" of the Japanese culture: "Approaching another culture is similarly in a way with watching a Kabuki play where the ego of each character is hidden by a mask. The other culture is the mask, but the reality behind the mask is something else, of Japanese origin."
This "reality behind the mask" is the goal of our site, entitled, not by chance: Shögun.
Soon, information and details will be introduced, about:
The Traditional Japan
National Holidays and Festivals
Elements of Traditional Architecture
Houses and Furniture
Customs and Manners
The Tea Ceremony
The Japanese Poetry
Clothes and Footwear