15 May 10 things about Japanese culture that will intrigue you
150 years have passed since the Kingdom of Italy and the Empire of Japan signed the Treaty of friendship and trade and Milan for the occasion, from 22 September to 29 January 2017, organized an exhibition at Palazzo Reale, Hokusai, Hiroshige, Utamaro. Places and Faces of Japan, which reconstructs, through the paintings, serigraphs, and illustrations of these artists, a culture, as distant to us as that of Japan. The themes it deals with are various: family, nature, landscape, animals, and female beauty.
There are many in Japan ONSEN
Japan is a country with high seismic and volcanic activity and there are many thermal baths with natural hot waters linked to geothermal springs distributed throughout the territory. It often happens that it is outdoors, but there are also those in closed structures. They are not only a tourist attraction for those who want to relax and escape from the chaotic metropolis, the Japanese consider them important because they allow a “communion in nakedness” and allow you to get to know other people in a different and more familiar atmosphere.
In most cases, the onsen has separate areas for men and women, and costumes are not accepted because, according to a deep-rooted belief, everything that is not a naked body risks dirtying the water. Sometimes it is also forbidden to enter for people who are tattooed or who cannot cover their tattoo because it is too big. These drawings, in fact, are associated, because of their prerogative, to the Yakuza, their mafia. Some onsen even boasts special guests who can keep you company amidst the fumes of warm waters and snow: wild monkeys.
The national sport is not football
There is two main sport of Japan, baseball, which was introduced by the Americans following their massive presence after the Second World War, and sumo with an ancient tradition. For baseball, there are two main professional leagues which are also flanked by teams linked to schools and university leagues. Among the other sports practiced and followed at a national level are volleyball, table tennis (yes, it is the technical name of ping-pong), basketball and golf.
They have the (meteorological) forecasts for cherry blossom
Every year for the Japanese there is a magical period that can go from April to May in which you can enjoy the beauty of the spring flowering of cherry trees, the hanami. The real protagonists are the sakura, cherry trees in their ornamental variety, which color streets, gardens, and lakes pink It usually happens that many moves from cities to the most famous places in Japan where they can watch the show, admire nature, celebrate with a picnic. There are also forecasts, similar to meteorological ones, to understand when the flowers will bloom and how long their explosion will last.
Their temples are hidden in the landscape
Japan has millennia-old religious traditions that are intertwined. There are many and spectacular, despite their discretion and simplicity, the Buddhist temples that dot the territory: they sprout in unthinkable places, are hidden among the trees in the woods, are surrounded by lakes with green waters, are in perfect communion with the landscape. Buddhism, then, coexists the Shinto philosophy, an ancient indigenous religion still rooted, which places at the center the cult of the ancestors and harmony with nature. These are the two main philosophies that imbue Japanese culture and represent its major aesthetic inspiration.
The Japanese since ancient times have attributed spiritual and sacred powers to the various elements of nature and for this, they have revered them as deities.
They have arts called “of the ephemeral”
This is the name of those traditional practices that the Japanese feel are true forms of art, but which are destined to run out in a short time. Among these are the tea ceremony and ikebana, the art of arranging cut flowers according to particular rules inspired by the sense of harmony of the universe. These activities allow them, like real spiritual paths, to master the values of Wabi, the beauty of austerity, and of Sabi, the elegance and serenity of a past time.
Their theater is made of masks
One of the best-known artistic expressions of Japan is the no theater which was born in the fourteenth century and is still staged today. It is characterized by a particular slowness in the actions and by the protagonists whose face is camouflaged by typical masks that hide all types of facial expressions. The actors move with signs that always acquire codified and well-defined meanings and the roles are fixed, four to be precise. The stories always belong to five categories: there is the representation of divinities, the one about warriors, women, demons, and then the one that can juggle different themes. The accompaniment is performed by instruments such as the flute and drums.
Their inspiration is nature
Japanese painting, and in general the whole world of the arts, always has a connection with nature and with the seasons, each of which is linked to different traditions that have their origins in the past. There are many artists who have dedicated themselves to the landscape, transforming it into a subject of pure contemplation that transmits serenity, peace, a sense of dream, and of the marvelous. The favorite subjects, in fact, return in the various eras and declined on different materials – silk, terracotta, paper -. In most cases, such as Hokusai, Hiroshige, Utamaro, these are scenes taken from legends, portraits of everyday life, expanses of the sea, mountainous landscapes, forests as far as the eye can see, riots of flowers.
Their gardens are small miniatures that symbolize the world
Japanese gardens are miniatures that reproduce nature according to the principles of Shinto philosophy. Over time, they also suffered the influence of Buddhism and Hinduism. There are many legends related to their creation: according to tradition, in fact, their goal is to recreate the places inhabited by the gods. There are the eight perfect islands, the lakes, the legendary Mount Horai which symbolizes the idea of a perfect world. Every single element of a Japanese garden has an abstract and highly stylized meaning.
They had, from the beginning, two main purposes, on the one hand, they were designed for the aesthetic pleasure and recreation of the emperors, and on the other, they were functional to meditation and contemplation. They can be of different types: there are those consisting of only rock and white sand, which indicates the sea, those with tea houses where the typical ceremony takes place, those where it is possible to follow a meditative itinerary.
They love products that whiten the skin
There is a canon of beauty that is defined in Japanese BIHAKU, BI, beautiful, HAKU, white. In fact, the whiteness of the skin has always been associated in women with the concepts of purity and nobility and is contrasted with a darker complexion synonymous with the lower class. This idea of beauty has ancient origins, it has always been an element of seduction, and also for this reason there are many products on sale in Japan for skin whitening.
A particular woman: the geisha
The figure of the geisha was widespread in Japan, especially between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Today they still exist, but they are about to disappear. Theirs is a long story and in the beginning, in reality, the role was played by men. They were in fact “people in charge of the arts” who had the task of entertaining the great feudal lords with artistic performances and storytelling . From the 18th century their work was done by women. They have always distinguished themselves for particular characteristics: they wear elaborate hairstyles that leave the neck uncovered, considered one of the most sensual points in a woman, and they dye their face white to achieve the purest ideal of feminine beauty. Today their figure is often confused with that of a luxury courtesan.
The kimono is a dress for all occasions
The kimono is the traditional dress of Japan that has a T shape, wide sleeves that can also reach the ground, and a tubular bust. It is worn by men and women and is usually paired with thong sandals that are worn with a specific sock type. The typical ones are usually made and decorated by hand and can have different decorative motifs that sometimes are also linked to the season – flowers, animals, elements of nature -. There are kimonos for various occasions, from the most formal to the most private and familiar ones. The most precious and elegant ones are in silk and their elegance is also given by the colors and the matching accessories.
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