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Culture & People
 
 
 

Culture

Japanese culture has evolved greatly over the years, from the country's original Jomon culture to its contemporary hybrid culture, which combines a number of influences from Asia, Europe, and America.

Historically, China and Korea have been the most influential starting with the development of the Yayoi culture from around 300 BC and culminating with the introduction of rice farming, ceremonial burial, pottery, painting, writing, poetry, etiquette, the Chinese writing system, and Mahayana Buddhism by the 7th century AD. In the pre-modern era, Japan developed a distinct culture, in its arts: (ikebana, origami, ukiyo-e), crafts (dolls, lacquerware, pottery), performances (bunraku, dance, kabuki, noh, rakugo), traditions (games, onsen, sento, tea ceremony, architecture, gardens, swords), and cuisine.

From the mid-19th century onward, Western influence prevailed, with American influence becoming especially predominant following the end of World War II. This influence is apparent in Japan's contemporary popular culture, which combines Asian, European, and, 1950-onward, American influences. Both within the country and abroad, its people have achieved international acclaim in fashion, films, literature, television, video games, and music. Also, the Japanese are the largest spenders of money on luxury goods in the world. Today, Japan is a major exporter of such culture, which has gained popularity around the world, particularly in the other countries of East Asia. Especially notable contributions of modern Japan to the rest of the world come from the technology sector, such as that of cell phones, camcorders, and mp3 players. This category also includes some of the highest caliber video games and game consoles. The unique art and thematic styles present in animation (anime) and graphic novels (manga) have also presented a unique addition to the world's entertainment field. Japanese culture has attracted many devotees in Europe and North America as well.

Clothing

Kimono (Japanese: literally "something one wears") are the traditional garments of Japan. Originally the word "kimono" was used for all types of clothing, but eventually it came to refer specifically to the full-length garment that is still worn today on special occasions by women, men, and children.
Creative Arts

Literature

Books, manga, magazines, and newspapers are also a part of the Japanese culture. Even though TV and other forms of entertainment have led to a decline in the time spent reading, bookstores are everywhere and public libraries offer a huge selection of books. Local municipalities offer reading sessions of writings such as 'Genji monogatari' (The Tale of Genji) as well as poem classes. There are also second-hand shops dedicated exclusively to selling used books, magazines, and music software cheaply. The Kanda district in downtown Tokyo has been famous for selling second-hand books for more than 80 years.

Music

Popular Japanese singers include Ayumi Hamasaki, Hikaru Utada, Kumi Koda, Namie Amuro, Gackt, Eikichi Yazawa and Kyosuke Himuro. However, many distinct styles and innovative artists play folk and classical music, much of it very intense, and others play distinct forms of rock, electronic music, hip hop, punk rock, and country music. Examples include famous punk rockers Boredoms led by Eye Yamitaka, garage rockers Guitar Wolf, noise pioneers Masonna and Omoide Hatoba, native Japanese Miho Hatori and Yuka Honda's duo Cibo Matto, mainstays such as Loudness, Yellow Magic Orchestra, The Alfee and Hound Dog, and fad sensation ukulele duo Petty Booka.

Food

Through virtue of a long culinary past, highly influenced by Korean and Chinese practices, the Japanese have developed a sophisticated, yet simple cuisine highly customized to the change of seasons. Modern Japanese enjoy a variety of traditional Japanese food, including many seafood dishes (sushi and sashimi for instance), as well as a multitude of foreign cuisine. One can easily find Chinese, Korean, and Thai dishes as well as non-regional American, French, and Italian foods. Japanese cuisine is a product of its environment and people. The ease of acquiring fresh ingredients led to sushi, high temperature and humidity led to varieties of pickled and fermented food like natto and soy sauce, and an adaptation of foreign cuisines led to ramen.


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