Japan, “The land of the rising sun”, has always promised something unique to us in one or the other way. If you are about to visit Japan or have a keen desire to know more about Japanese culture and various Japanese cultural facts, I promise you are in the right direction. Here, the Japanese culture facts are summed up under multiple categories and subcategories to take your quick pick.
History of Japanese culture
Today’s Japanese culture rests upon the amalgamation of the Heian period and the Edo period.
The Heian period also known as the classical period of Japan was influenced by Chinese art. In contrast, the Edo period led to the individual growth of Japan concerning politics and socio and economic fronts.
Interestingly, Heian is present-day Kyoto, and Edo is present-day Japan’s capital Tokyo.
1. Japan and its nickname
Japan- the land of the rising sun is also known as ‘Nippon’ or ‘Nihon’ for the same reason, i.e. the sun originates.
Interestingly the sun never originates from Japan for the people of Japan, but it is from the Chinese viewpoint. Japan took into consideration the Chinese view to show its regard for china.
Therefore, when China wakes up, it looks up to the east, and this is how Japan got the title of the land of the rising sun.
2. Japanese people
People of a country together define the culture. Most Japanese people love to follow their traditions, making them everyday people.
Japanese people and their interpersonal skills
Japanese are very thoughtful and empathetic people. They think of others as if they are in the same shoes. Japanese culture facts are equally based on Japanese communication culture.
Japan has a homogenous society-an important cultural fact.
Homogenous societies consist of people with basically the same historical background.
This leads to shared values, beliefs, language, and customs.
Homogenous societies lead to proper communication in society, just like a family.
In Japan, it is a common saying that the eyes tell as much as the mouth.
Culture of respect
Japanese culture is a culture of respect. It shows in their manners and customs. At home, they respect their elders; in school, student respect their teachers, and in offices, workers appreciate their managers.
They not only respect one another but think of others before being selfish.
Follow the feudal hierarchy of position.
Modern Japanese culture still rests upon the feudal hierarchy of positions where a person gains regard based on age, occupation, knowledge and experience.
Japan follow Confucian principles of humanity, loyalty and morality. This philosophy is deeply rooted in every Japanese. So much so that every child in school or at home reared up following these ideals.
Bowing in Japan
Bowing in Japan is a way to greet one another. The head or torso bow depends on whom you welcome or meet in Japan. It is known as Yumi in the Japanese language. The most respectful bow is the kneeling bow, which is usually done to greet elders or priests.
Meeting someone new in Japan.
If you meet someone new in Japan, you present yourself with a business or name card known as meishi, holding it in your hands and bow. Japanese people are very welcoming to local and foreign tourists, and they are humble about their needs.
Entering someone’s house in japan
Make sure to remove shoes or slippers before entering someone’s house in Japan. Don’t forget to take with you a gift. Gift giving to the host is a common practice, and it is presented with both hands. It could be anything to eat too. It is considered attractive if you give a gift by removing the paper bag.
3. Japanese culture is influenced by climate
Japan, an East Asian country, has its north and south dimensions.
The temperature in northern Japan affects Japanese culture there. It is believed that it remains so cold in winters that Japanese people don’t like to talk much as it will release heat out of the body.
Interestingly Northern Japanese dialects require less mouth movement than southern dialects.
4. Japanese religion and faith
Japan’s faith in their religion makes their values more strong. Although the country has people following Shintoism or Buddhism and still percentage follows both. Shinto is the oldest religion in Japan. This religion is as old as the country itself. Although after the 6th century, most Japanese started following Buddhism. Zen Buddhism is the Japanese version of Mahayana Buddhism of China, focusing on dhyana. Still, the Japanese have the most organized religion as there are people who follow both Shintoism and Buddhism.
What is Shinto?
Shinto was coined back in the 6th century to distinguish their faith from Buddhism. Shinto is considered a way of life rather than a set of beliefs. It does not have any official founder or sacred text like Christianity or Buddhism. Shinto shrines believe in kami, i.e. spiritual energy. As per the Shinto belief, public baths are the way to cleanse yourself of your bad karmas.
Shinto and Sumo
This spiritual energy can be acquired from the sun, mountains or even deceased people. It binds the community together. Japan’s national sport, Sumo, is directly derived from Shinto rituals. The symbols of purity can be found on sumo wrestling rings.
What started as a performance to please Shinto deities became a national sport of Japan, Sumo.
Sumo wrestlers are strictly trained together at sumo stables in all aspects of life by sumo master.
Noteworthy, sumo stables are strictly public prohibited. It is only possible to visit or take a look if you have any Japanese counterparts in that part of town.
Shinto shrines bring together the community for festivals, hosting weddings and funerals. Many Japanese people keep Shinto shrine altars in their homes.
Buddhism as a coexisting religion
Buddhism mixed freely in Japanese culture from China. People believed in the teachings of buddha and followed clear doctrine. People visit Buddhist temples to ask forgiveness and help from buddha.
5. Japanese martial arts
The world at large reckons with Japanese martial arts.
- Samurai, the warrior class, are famous the world over for their fighting skills.
- Combat or hand-to-hand technique is the core of japan’s martial arts.
- Japanese martial arts comprise budo and bujutsu.
- Budo focuses on self-development, whereas bujutsu focuses on how to defeat the enemy.
- Judo, karate, jujutsu, kano, aikido are all Japanese form of martial art.
6. Japanese home
Traditional Japanese homes were made of wood compared to modern Japanese dwellings made of concrete and steel. But in both the styles, the house entrance is connected to the raised floors to remove shoes and is a way to distinguish between the outside and inside world.
Today, Japan boasts of inventive interiors of Tokyo and clever construction in Kyoto.
Some points to be followed when in a Japanese home
Japanese culture facts rest upon how they lead their day to day life. So friends, if any of your Japanese friends are playing hosts to you, please adhere to the following.
1. Sleeping facing north is considered to bring bad luck and death.
2. Tatami is a traditional Japanese grass made floor mattress, and it is considered that stepping on the edge of the tatami mat can bring bad luck to the family.
3. Mind your habit of cutting nails at midnight in Japan. They believe it brings death curse on your parents.
4. Seeing a spider in the morning is considered to bring the fortune whereas seeing them at night you must get rid of them as they are workers of demons!
5. According to Japanese people, never whistle at night, as this will attract snakes.
7. Japanese food
Japan is a land steeped in traditions, and this is no different for their cuisines. They eat with their eyes. The artistic blend given to the dishes adds extra flavours. Japanese food is based on the combination of rice or noodles along with meat, vegetables and soup.
Osaka is the culinary capital of Japan.
When in a Japanese restaurant, raise your hand to call the server. Politeness is the key in Japan.
- After the order is given, say thank you.
- Moreover, it is polite to thank the almighty and the chef when you get food on the table.
- Interesting facts about Japan, they follow the no-tipping rule as they think tipping is highly unfair.
While eating in Japan, make sure you hold your chopsticks upright as having them sideways and breaking may hit your partner sharing the table with you.
Placing of chopsticks
Never keep your chopsticks straight up in food because such is done only when food is offered to the dead.
Basashi – a slice of raw horse meat is one of the unique Japanese delicacies.
Karaage(Deep-fried Chicken) is a high-calorie dish in Japan, and Tonkatsu(pork) shares the same reason.
Ramen is the national dish as everybody in Japan loves it, but it is not considered healthy.
Triangle eating method
In Japan, when served, you are expected to eat all the dishes evenly instead of finishing a dish before starting another. So it goes as rice, vegetables, meat and soup(miso soup).
Miso soup is the basic soup made with a spicy or non-spicy paste of soya, tofu, and vegetables.
8. Japanese life and family
If born in Japan, you are the child of the entire nation. What to say to a family. The whole society is expected to do what an adult does for a child at home. The family, school and nation all follow a set of responsibilities for the Japanese children.
Despite the 21st century, the role of Japanese women is challenging.
- She is expected to be the epitome of love for the children in everyday life.
- One of Japan’s customs is that a woman is expected to be a full-time parent, whereas a man is not likely to work beyond fulfilling financial needs.
- Although women are working way far to break the shackles of traditional society and progressing toward equality in Japan.
- Japanese companies are leaving no stone unturned to tap female talent.
- Sometimes long working hours, Japan’s work culture keeps women at bay.
Japan has some interesting facts concerning men. In Japan, men are classified as
- Herbivore man describes a kind and gentle man who does not like to pursue romantic relationships.
- Carnivorous man- It is the opposite of the first one. They spend a lot of time on looks and wearing expensive clothes. But beware, they may not take the time to cheat in personal relationships.
- Bacon and Asparagus roll men are carnivore men outside and grass eaters inside.
- Cabbage roll- Common sense: grass eaters outside and flesh-eating inside.
Japanese people are most respect giving when it comes to society’s elders. This could be why the Japanese have long lives compared to the world.
- In Japan, people above the age of 65 are taken special care of by the local government.
- The nation has entered a “super-aged” society says a lot about Japanese culture.
- It is the Japanese traditions that have kept their elderly live long.
It is a Japanese custom to place the surname first. Interestingly when parents had several children, they suffixed numbers with ‘ro’ for boys and ‘ko’ with girls. Example “Ichiro” or “hiko”.
9. Japanese art and literature
Art and literature are not only reservoirs of a country’s culture but also act as a medium to reflect and develop the emotional and socio status of any country. Japanese culture facts rest upon its art and literature.
Japanese flower arrangement
The art of arranging flowers in Japan is known as Ikebana. This ancient art form dates back to arranging flowers to offer at altars in Buddhist temples. But today, it has taken a professional edge, and it is learnt to put flowers considering their colour, form, type, and position.
Japanese presentation of gifts
In Japan, appreciation and respect form an integral of its culture. Gift-giving is a way to show that.
- Even the simplest of gifts are packed and decorated with beautiful designs.
- The colourful cords are used to make patterns and are tied around gifts. This ancient art is known as ‘mizuhiki’.
- A word of caution– Never write someone’s name in red as it is considered highly disrespectful and unlucky in Japan.
- Never gift anyone in a set of four, as four in Japanese word means death.
Anime is the short form derived from the word animation. Today, Japan has a fair list of animation artists and characters. The credit goes to ancient travellers who narrated stories chronologically and the Edo period when shadow plays were famous.
They stand out from cartoons from western countries as they have more enormous eyes and smaller mouths; anime is closer to human emotion, whereas cartoons are more comical. Anime founds base in Japanese culture.
Japanese genuinely love music.
- When in the capital, you can find several shops offering karaoke.
- Karaoke means empty orchestra. Or simply put, it’s music without words.
- These shops are open 24 hours and one can enjoy it with a drink for 1000 yen for an hour.
- The Karaoke system is part of big machines that analyse your singing and review it.
Japanese fun games
Not only children but adults enjoy gaming machines.
Claw machines, old school video games, latest animated games are all part of gaming centres.
Taiko, a traditional music instrument of Japan, is also blended as a game. It is a vast drum-like thing with two sticks, and you hit it according to the music played. It seems easy in the beginning but becomes complex with the intricacies of music. It is pretty addictive too.
Geisha- a Gateway to Japanese customs
Geisha are trained to perform as artists and entertainers who perform art styles, dance, music, singing and even flower arrangement.
Japan today host a tea ceremony showcasing traditional Japanese culture by apprenticing women for geisha.
They are sometimes degraded as sex workers.
However, the first geisha was a man.
Women from other countries have also taken up Geisha as a job prospect in the modern world.
Japanese tea ceremonies
Japanese tea ceremony dated back 500 years ago. Japanese are always known for their hospitality and etiquette. Harmony, respect, purity and tranquillity are the keywords kept in mind in the tea ceremony. It starts with the purification of the cups and saucers.
Tea ceremonies mark the formal occasions as well as the celebrations.
Tea ceremonies can be as long as three hours.
Sometimes, Geisha plays host to the formal tea ceremonies as part of the country’s international protocol.
Japan’s literature owes its testimony to the oral traditions recorded after China’s writing system was introduced.
- With the completion of anthologies in myths, legends, and other stories, kojiki and fudoki, describe various provinces’ history, geography, products, and folklore.
- Another striking feature of Japanese literature is its acceptance of their customs as their literature accepts life(present), whereas, in western countries, literature portrays hopes and aspirations(future).
The earliest known Japanese works are the Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu and Makura no sushi by Sei Shonagon.
In 1968 Kawabata Yasunari was the first Japanese to win the Nobel prize for literature. In 1994, Oe Kenzaburo won the same title.
Natsume is the most excellent writer in modern Japan, established by the fact that his portrait appeared on the front of the Japanese 1000 yen note.
Japanese literacy rate
Japan’s literacy rate stands exceptional at 99%, though it has remained stable for ten years. Nine years of elementary education is compulsory for all.
10. Japanese nightlife
Japan’s capital boasts one of the best nightlife in the world. It is said that this city never sleeps.
Huge skyscrapers not only house various companies but famous hotels too.
Tokyo roads are full of bright neon light signboards which illuminate the city.
Bars and clubs are not only drinking outlets but socialising circuits too.
11. Japanese work culture
Japanese customs have an impact on the working population of Japan. This impacted Japanese culture too.
Japanese working population are seen as way ahead of their western counterparts in several ways mentioned as under
- Japanese people are highly empathetic, and this is why they never say no to long working hours, or more so, they fear they might create inconvenience for their employers.
- Drinking while communicating is another work culture practice in japan where coworkers drink with their employers after work. This is also seen as a way to climb the ladder in hierarchical positions.
- Japanese companies emphasise group harmony rather than individual interests. Japanese managers are often seen taking the place of mentors rather than mere managers.
4. Japanese culture exhibits in their workstation too. In spite of separate cubicles, the team is assigned a specific open workspace area.
12. Japan and the country’s high-speed train
Japanese high-speed trains are acknowledged the world over. Some of the facts about japan’s rail technology are as under
- Shinjuku and Shibuya in Tokyo are the busiest train stations in Japan.
- Bullet trains or Shinkansen cover 320km/hour.
- The coaches on the train are either termed ordinary or green.
- Green coaches are less crowded and offer more spacious seats. They are mostly reserved too.
- On long route trains, separate smoking zones are provided. In contrast, smoking is prohibited on short routes.
- If you have language barriers, it is better to buy the lowest fare ticket and pay the balance at the destination train station.
- Talking on mobile phones inside trains is forbidden as it may disturb co-passengers.
Japan, the island country with mountains, strings in the dream, hopes, and aspirations of one and all in this world. It has something or other to offer to whosoever wishes to be a part of it. A tourist never goes empty-handed, and a newbie worker with any Japanese company has only learning as a souvenir is one of the few Japanese cultural facts.
Since Japanese people are warm and welcoming, I assure visiting this country will surely strengthen your family bonds and revive your work spirit as this country has only to offer.