Japan is a country abounding with ancient customs and traditions that have been passed on from generation to generation no matter the development it has gone through over the years. This modern country still has a firm grasp over its ancient roots.
Japanese traditions are some of the most unique traditions of the world and in this article, we will explore and gain familiarity with the insane Japanese traditions.
1. Love Locks
Love Bell of Enoshima Island is a romantic spot with a myth involving a goddess and a dragon. It is a place where couples write a message on the padlock and lock it up. After securing the padlock, the couple is then, supposed to throw away the key in the sea so as not to retrieve it. This romantic island is constantly bustling with couples.
In Japanese traditions, the love lock symbolizes eternal love. Since then, many beautiful and romantic love lock spots have evolved and have become famous tourist attractions, especially for lovers.
2. Floating Lanterns
Toro Nagashi is an important festival of Japanese tradition which depicts the journey of souls to the afterlife. It is celebrated by lighting the traditional lanterns (toro) and setting them off to float in the rivers.
It is believed that during the Japanese Obon Holiday, the spirits of near and dear ones return to the world. Therefore, on the last evening of the Obon festival, thousands of lanterns are floated in rivers every year.
Japanese traditions believe human beings originated from water, the lanterns represent the spirit’s departure to their element (water). Toro Nagashi also commemorates tragic events of Japan, for instance, the Atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
3. Bowing, An Etiquette
Bowing is a traditional way of greeting, thanking, apologizing or even asking for a favour. A bow can be a small nod of the head or a deep bend at the waist. A deeper bend at the waist is considered a strong sign of respect and emotions whereas a nod is a casual or an informal way of greeting.
This Japanese tradition of bowing is the most well-known tradition known to the Western world. Japanese kids are well-acquainted with bowing from a very young age. This etiquette is so important that many Japanese companies provide training to get this bowing act right.
4. Japanese Adult Adoption
One of the unusual Japanese cultures is that many companies adopt their workers. The highest level of adoption takes place in the case of men aged from 20 to 30 years old. This is done to maintain one of the ideologies of keeping the ‘family-run business’ title.
Previously, there was a civil code in Japan that commanded the family business or wealth to be passed down to the male in line. If the family did not have a son then the adopted son is supposed to carry on the family name.
Since family is an integral part of Japanese society, it is the role of adopted men to expand their family tree.
5. Dondo Yaki
Dondo yaki is one of the insane Japanese traditions of burning old lucky items such as Daruma dolls, omamori or things with that year’s zodiac sign as it is deemed unlucky to keep lucky items for more than a year.
Rather than throwing them in the bin, they are burned at Shinto shrines in the middle of January all over Japan.
6. No Tipping Culture
Tipping might be a common practice in the western world to express your gratitude towards the service provider but that is not the case in Japan. It is completely service-oriented.
Tipping is often considered an offensive gesture to the waiter, driver, or any staff, no matter how pure your intentions are. Also, if you accidentally tip the server, it is likely to be rejected, and if you insist, it may create chaos.
Therefore, while traveling to Japan, do not forget that tipping culture is a huge NO in Japan.
Instead, you can express your gratitude to the server by a simple thank you (arigato) or give honest yet constructive feedback.
7. Slurping On Noodles
Not slurping while eating noodles is rude!
Yes, you read that right. It might seem a bit weird for non-Japanese but that is a part of their culture. They enjoy their noodles as they slurp it away without a care in the world.
That is so because slurping enhances the tastes of noodles or soup. It is a sign that the person is content with the food and is enjoying the meal. It is also a symbol of appreciation towards the chef and hence, it is considered one of the polite etiquettes of Japanese traditions.
Finishing your plate to the last grain is deemed as good manners in Japan.
8. Sleeping on Others’ Shoulders in Train
in Japan, while commuting on trains, it is a common practice to sleep on other people’s shoulders. The long tiring day plus long travel makes the people sleepy and as a result, they often fall asleep in the train.
9. Abundant with Centenarians
Believe it or not, Japan is the only country in the world that has around 30,000 people above the age of 100. This country has the highest life expectancy rates because of the attention provided to the healthcare system.
Japanese people opt for a healthy diet and regularly practice physical exercises. They have extended their working years plus the involvement of the government has promoted the longest life expectancy in the world. It is assumed that the people who follow the dietary guidelines given by the government have a better lifeline than their colleagues.
Old people are in great numbers because even after retiring people tend to stay active and even go back to working by choice. In Japanese tradition, it is a belief that people living with purpose and who spend time with the local community and young family members are likely to live longer.
10. Yamayaki Mountain Burning
The ‘Yamayaki’ is a mountain burning festival in Japan that is celebrated by burning of the vegetation before spring. The fireworks show displays a spectacular view in the nighttime.
In ancient times, due to boundary disputes between two temples and to scare away animals like boars, mountains were burned.
Every year, this Japanese tradition is enjoyed on the fourth Saturday of each January with much zeal throughout Japan. The Wakakusa Yamayaki of Nara is the best annual festive location for Yamayaki Mountain Burning.
11. Shugi Bukuro
A special envelope card sealed with money is shugi bukuro and it is considered as a gift of celebration in Japan. Although it is given to anyone, this is one of the Japanese traditions specially meant for newlyweds.
It is a common practice of giving money as a gift at weddings in shugi bukuro with the giver’s name written on it.
12. Slipping off Your Slippers
No matter where you are, slipping off your slippers on the doorstep is essential. You will often find footwear lined up outside a shop, temple, restaurant or any other place.
Along with a hot and humid climate, Japan also experiences plenty of rain. Stepping into the house or any place with shoes on gets the floor dirty and as a result, Japanese traditions of taking off the shoes came into existence.
Furthermore, it is taboo to wear outdoor shoes indoors because the Japanese consider outside to be dirty and their culture is linked with cleanliness.
The place where people remove their shoes is known as genkan, it is a step lower to the main floor.
You can embrace this tradition by removing your slippers as well.
13. Japanese Setsubun Tradition
As per the Japanese lunar calendar, a day before spring, the Japanese observe the Setsubun, which literally means ‘seasonal division’.
In these Japanese traditions, the people believe that the spirit world is nearest to the world. On the day of the festival, people throw soybeans outside the house to drive away from the oni (evil spirits or demons).
Setsubun is made a fun festival as one parent dresses up as an oni and children throw roasted soybeans on them.
14. Zabuton Throwing
Zabuton is a Japanese cushion for sitting.
In Japan, sumo wrestling is very famous and many people go watch this match. There is a tatami area in the sumo stadium where the audience is given zabuton pillows to sit on.
In the Yokosuka tournament, if one of the wrestlers loses to a low-ranked wrestler, then the upset audience throws the zabuton towards the ring at the players.
15. Hokkai Heso Matsuri – Belly Button Festival
This festival is a part of Japanese traditions celebrated in Furano, Hokkaido. At this place, the dancers paint their stomachs to make it look like a face making their belly button the mouth of the character and later, walk down the street dancing.
If you are planning to pay a visit to Japan, ensure memorizing these Japanese Traditions for a wonderful journey.