Thursday, December 9, 2010



Area:369,698 sq. km.
Population: 127.8 million (est.)

Japan is a country that is made up of many islands and it is in the continent of Asia. It consists of four main islands, Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. It is situated around 200-700 km off the east coast of the Asian mainland across the Sea of Japan.
As the sun rises from the east, Japan is often called "The Land of The Rising Sun." The Japan flag represents a red sun on a white background, because the Japanese refers their country as "Nippon" or "Nihon" which in english, means "source of the sun".

The capital of Japan is Tokyo. In fact it is one of the largest cities in the world.

Tokyo is one of Japan's 47 prefectures; however, it is called a metropolis rather than a prefecture. The metropolis of Tokyo consists of 26 cities, 5 towns and 8 villages.

In the next few posts, I'll be talking more about Japan, it's culture, traditions and many many more.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


The word “geisha” means ‘arts person’ in English.

Traditionally, Geishas were trained since their childhood days. Geisha were very common in the 18th and 19th century. However, today's Geisha are much fewer in number, there are only about 1000 Geishas are left.

Geishas are skilled entertainers who have to endure years of tough trainings. Firstly, they started out by working as maids, and once they become an apprentice geisha (also known as maiko), they would begin to learn and practice the art of being a geisha. They would learn how to dance, sing and play the shamisen.
(This is how a shamisen look like)

Many people have the misconception of geishas being prostitutes. However, they are not. Though there is a right for their clients/customers to "buy" their virginity (mizuage), they have the rights to not have sex with them even if they had bought their virginity.

Geisha in the modern era
Modern geisha are no longer sold into slavery, but geisha training remains long and difficult. The reason for the decrease in the number of Geisha today is due to the traditional and tough trainings. Many girls would not want to give up their life for being a Geisha.

However, Young women who wish to become geisha now most often begin their training after completion of middle school, high school, or even college. Many women begin their Geisha careers in their adulthood as compared to the past, women start being a Geisha at the age as young as four.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010



Kimonos are made of silk and are usually very expensive. Nowadays, Japanese people rarely wear kimonos in everyday life. Kimonos are reserved for occasions like weddings, funerals, tea ceremonies, or other special events, such as summer festivals.

Kimono differ in style and colour depending on which occasion it is worn to, and also depends on the age and marital status of the person wearing the kimono.


Putting on a kimono isn't an easy task and practice is needed.
For female, wearing a proper kimono includes proper hairstyle, traditional shoes, socks, underwear and a small handbag.

Yukata, on the other hand is more of an informal leisure clothing for the Japanese. It can be a comfortable dress during summer or after a hot bath. As yukata are made of cotton, it is usually inexpensive as compared to a kimono. If you go to Japan and stays in a Ryokan, yukata will normally be provided for wearing. Nowadays, even in some modern hotels in Japan, yukata are also provided.

Monday, December 6, 2010



Zori is a traditional Japanese footwear which is usually worn with other traditional clothing and is not seen often these days. Zori are sandals that are made from rice straw or lacquered wood and worn with kimono on formal occasions.

Other than Zori, other traditional footwear in Japan is the Geta. Geta are raised wooden clogs that are worn with yukata. Geta are most often seen these days on the feet of sumo wrestlers. You will most likely hear them before you see them as they make a distinctive clacking noise as the wearer walks.


Another kind would be the waraji, and you may see the occasional Buddhist monk wearing wearing them. Waraji are sandals made from straw rope and it is a standard footwear for the common people in the past in Japan.

Sunday, December 5, 2010



Tea ceremony in Japan is a ceremonial way of preparing and drinking tea. This custom has been strongly influenced by Zen Buddhism.
The tea ceremony nowadays is a relatively popular hobby in Japan. The tea ceremony consists of many rituals that have to be learned by heart as each hand movement is prescribed.

Japanese Tea Ceremony Procedures
The steps to the ceremony are quite simple:
First up, the serving bowls is to be clean. Then, boil a pot of water. After which, serve a sweet to your guests before the tea. After serving the sweet, mix powdered bitter green tea (matcha) and water to make a frothy tea. Serve the tea to guests.
[The flavors of the sweets and bitter tea compliment each other. This is a sign of harmony.]

1.Bow when you receive the cup of tea (Chawan)
2.Take the chawan with your right hand and place it in the palm of your left hand.
3.Turn the chawan clockwise three times before you take a drink.
4.When the tea is gone, make a loud slurp to tell the host that the tea was truly enjoyed.
5.Wipe the part of the chawan where your lips touched with your right hand.
6.Turn the chawan counterclockwise and return to the host.

Saturday, December 4, 2010



A sento is a Japanese communal bath house. These bath houses are quite utilitarian, with one large room separating the different sexes by a tall barrier, a line of showers alone a wall and a single large bath tub for the bathers to sit inside together.
Bathers are supposed to wash themselves up along the line of showers then step into the bath tub. No soap should ever enter the bath tub and all bathers are supposed to go inside naked without any under garments or swim suits.

A special form of the sento is an Onsen, which is a sento using water from a natural hot spring.
Public baths (public in that anyone may use them as opposed to the private baths of ryokan and hotels which may only be open to guests)can be found throughout Japan and typically cost 200 to 2000 yen.

Friday, December 3, 2010


There are several types of traditional, Japanese music (hogaku).
Some of them are listed below:

• Gagaku:
Ancient court music from China and Korea. It is the oldest type of Japanese, traditional music.
• Biwagaku:
Music played with the Biwa, a kind of guitar with four strings.
• Nohgaku:
Music played during Noh performances. It basically consists of a chorus, the Hayashi flute, the Tsuzumi drum, and other instruments.
• Sokyoku:
Music played with the Koto, a type of zither with 13 strings. Later also accompanied by Shamisen and Shakuhachi.
• Shakuhachi:
Music played with the Shakuhachi, a bamboo flute that is about 55 cm long. The name of the flute is its length expressed in shaku an old Japanese unit of length.
• Shamisenongaku:
Music played with the Shamisen, a kind of guitar with only three strings. Kabuki and Bunraku performances are accompanied by the shamisen.
• Minyo:
Japanese folk songs.
(extracted from

Music instruments
Tsuzumi drum

Thursday, December 2, 2010



The Ainu are a group of people with a cultural and racial background which is different from the ethnic Japanese. Last time, they are mainly populated around Hokkaido, northern Tohoku,the Kurile Islands and Sakhalin. However, there is only a small population of Ainu people remaining in Hokkaido today.

According to one of the several theories, Ainus are descendants of Mongoloid migrants who entered the Japanese islands before the Jomon period. They were later displaced when the ethnic Japanese expanded their territory northernwards.
In the Meiji period (1868-1912), the Ainu received the status "former aboriginals". However, they suffered official discrimination for few years. And in 1997, a new law was passed which provides funds for the research and promotion of the Ainu culture.

Traditional Ainu culture was quite different from Japanese culture.

The men of Ainu had full beards and moustaches as they stopped shaving after a certain age. Both men and women wear their hair at shoulder length. The women of Ainu tattooed their mouths at a young age. The tattoo is a small spot on the upper lip, slowly increasing with size.

As for their traditional dress, it is spun from the inner bark of an elm tree. Varios styles of clothing were made, it generally consists of a simple short robe with straight sleeves, which was folded around the body, and tied with a band about the waist.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010



Japanese ranks as one of the world’s most important languages with over 126 million speakers.
Japanese is believed to be linked with Ural-Altaic, Polynesian, and Chinese. Of these, Japanese is most widely believed to be connected to the Ural-Altaic family, which includes Turkish, Mongolian, Manchu, and Korean.

Korean is the most frequently compared to Japanese among all these languages. This is so because both languages share significant key features such as general structure, vowel harmony, lack of conjunctions, and the extensive use of honorific speech.

The Japanese writing system consists of three different character sets:

  • Kanji (includes several thousands of Chinese characters)
  • Hiragana
  • Katakana

Japanese texts can be written in two ways:

  • Western style. i.e. in horizontal rows from the top to the bottom of the page,
  • Traditional Japanese style. i.e. in vertical columns from the right to the left side of the page.

Both writing styles are accepted today.





Mode of education
Japanese schools in Japan are mostly public, less than 5% are privately owned and run. Until junior high school, students study at the school which is in the catchment area of their home. However, for senior high schools, they have overlapping catchment areas meaning that there is competition among schools for the best students in a particular area. Over 1/4 of senior high schools are private. This indicate the extent of the competition in higher level Japanese schooling.

Kindergarten (Yochien)
Kindergarten in Japan is an optional education. However, in year 2000, the number of new entrants to kindergarten compared to primary or junior school was over 63%. This indicates that well over half of all Japanese children start their education earlier than the required by the state.

Elementary School (Shogakkou)
Elementary school is the first compulsary education for all Japanese students. They start their elementary education from age of 6 to 12.

Junior High School (Chugakkou)
Junior high school is an important phase in the upbringing of a Japanese child. Age from 12 to 15 years old attends Junior high. It is important as their Junior high results can determine their entry to a good senior high school and hence a good university and career. At this point of time, Japanese children usually stay late in school, always busy with different clubs and activities as well as studies at a Juku (cram school)

Senior High School (Koukou; koutougakkou)
The most pressure put on a student in Japan is from 15 to 18 years old whereby the entry to a senior high school is through an entrance exam. To prepare for the exam itself is usually through attending a good Juku. In order to get into a good university, a student needs to go into the right senior high school. Therfore, the entrance exam can have a huge impact on the future of Japanese students. Although not compulsory in Japan, over 90% of all children attend Senior High School.

Juku (Cram schools)
As the pressure of education in Japan is great and the future of a child depends a lot on going to the right school and university, a child's school day does not end with the school bell. Many children in Japan attend cram schools called "Juku". Juku have extra lessons which may be used to push bright students further or help the slower ones to catch up with the rest. The classes may run late and having a 12-hour day is not unusual for a Japanese high school student (before homework).



New year and Obon are the biggest festivals in the annual calendar. Families are expected to gather at their family home not matter how scattered they are. This is to honour their ancestors.
They will visit local shrines on the night of new year's eve or the next day. There are usually no wild countdown celebration for new year.

During Obon, the souls of the dead are said to return, so people visit and clean their family grave and light a path to their house. Although Obon traditionally is in July, most people in Japan take their annual summer Obon vacation in August, making it the busiest and more expensive holiday season.

Seijin no Hi celebrates people coming of age at 20. On the second Monday of January 20-year olds dress up and visit a shrine or attend a municipal ceremony to honour their reaching of adulthood. It is a good opportunity to see many young people in their finest traditional dress. Many young men wear kimono too but the majority tend to go for suits nowadays.

Setsubun. February 3rd or 4th marks the beginning of spring. Setsubun literally means "the spliting of the seasons". People throw beans at someone wearing a mask and representing a demon and chant 'Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi' which means 'Out with the demons, in with good luck!' Often celebrities visit major shrines to throw out beans and other goodies to large crowds.

Hina Matsuri or Doll Festival is a display of dolls representing the emperor, empress and their court in formal dress. Young girls will have a display, from simple dolls and cards to elaborate setups costing hundreds of thousands of yen in their homes.



Hanetsuki is a traditional Japanese New Year's game. It is played with a wooden paddle called hagoita and a shuttle called hane. The game resembles badminton,only difference is that it is played without a net. While the game's popularity has declined in recent times, beautifully ornamented hagoita are still a popular collection item.

Sumo is Japan's national sport and is a Japanese style wrestling. It is originated from the ancient times as a performance to entertain the Shinto Gods. Many of the traditional rituals are still followed today.
The basic rules of sumo are simple: the wrestler who first touches the ground with anything besides the soles of his feet, or who leaves the ring before his opponent, loses. The fights take place on an elevated ring, called a "dohyo", which is made of clay and covered in a layer of sand. The fights themselves usually last only a few seconds, or in rare cases, about a minute.


The aim in Judo is not only winning fights but also training one's body and soul. The literal translation of Judo is "the gentle way". Techniques are much more important than stamina in Judo.

Karate is related to Chinese Kung fu ands Korean Taekwondo. In karate, one strikes with their fists, elbows and feet in a defensive action. Karate is more of defensive rather than attacking. Karate-do means "the way of the empty hand" because karate only uses bare hands and feets, rarely with weapons.

Kendo is Japanese fencing. It means "the way of the sword". The participants in modern kendo are well protected and use bamboo swords. Similar to all the Japanese martial arts, the training of one's mind is essential.

Kyudo is Japanese archery and its literal meaning is "the way of the bow"
Bows have been used for many centuries in Japan, both as weapons of warfare and as hunting tools.

Kyudo is quite a popular recreational activity which is practiced in kyudojo. Special kyudo facilities can be found in schools, culture centers and the like. The bow used for kyudo is about two meters long.

Translating Aikido, it roughly means "the way of the harmonious spirit". Aikido techniques allows one to overpower their opponent without much strenth and also without much injury to both parties.


Anime has entered people's mind when they think of Japanese pop culture. Anime is popular among all the youths in Japan and even in other countries like Singapore. The main reason why anime is such a big industry in Japan and also why it is so successful mainly is because it has always been taken seriously and has the diversity to appeal to all age levels from kids to adults.
Manga also appeal to all age levels and popular mangas are able to sell up to the tens of millions. This shows that the fan-base for any new manga-based anime is huge and loyal.

Cosplay is a subculture in Japan centered around dressing up as characters from manga, anime, video games etc. The term is a Japanese contraction combining the words "costume" and "play" which correctly describes the hobby of having fun by dressing up as one's favorite characters. Other then dressing up for cosplay conventions, people also dress up together with cosplay fanatics for get togethers and whatnot.

Cosplay has spread across the world in recent years, joining with costuming at science fiction conventions in North America and Europe.

Origami is the art of folding paper and glue or scissors are usually not used in the process. One of the most popular origami is folding of cranes as it is said that folinf 1000 cranes will make a wish come true. Also, 1000 cranes are given to sick people for fast recovery. Other popular folding objects are flowers, balloons, gold fish, frogs, swans, and many more.

When we hear Japan, one can immediately think of sushi. A world famous delicacy enjoyed by everyone. It is not only delicious but also very healthy. Sushi is usually made with rice, and ingredients rolled up with seaweed for consumption. The rice are mixed with appropriate amount of Japanese vinegar to give it abit of sour taste. It is also very easy to eat as sushis are relatively small in sizes. The reason why sushi is appealing to almost everyone is because there are many different flavours to a sushi and u can also easily invent your own favourite flavour of sushi.

The Shinkansen(new main line)also known as the bullet train, is a network of high-speed railway lines in Japan operated by four Japan Railways Group companies.
Starting with 210 km/h, the shinkansen now speeds up to 300km/h. test runs have ever reached 443 km/h and up to a stunning world record of 581 km/h. Only in Japan you can experience the fastest bullet train in the world.

Cherry blossoms also known as sukara is Japan's unofficial national flower. It has been celebrated for many years and holds a very pominent position in the Japanese culture.
There are many dozens of different cherry tree varieties in Japan, most of which bloom for just a couple of days in spring. Many people travel to Japan during their spring time just to catch the bloom of the cherry blossoms. The Japanese celebrate that time of the year with hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties under the blooming trees.


The Disneyization of society argues that the contemporary world is increasingly displaying characteristics of the Disney theme parks. There are 4 aspects to Disneyization, mainly, theming, hybrid consumption, merchandising and performative labour.

THEMING – clothing institutions or objects in a narrative that is largely unrelated to the institution or object to which it is applied, such as a casino or restaurant with a Wild West narrative.

In Japan, there are many different kind of themed cafes and restaurants. One example is the maid cafes. Since around year 2000, maid cafes have been opened in major Japanese cities like Osaka, shinjuku and tokyo. Inside maid cafes, waitresses are dressed in typical manga-style maids and serve tea and cakes. When a customer walks into the cafe, the maids give a flattering greeting like "welcome home, master" to play the role of a house servant. The purpose of the maid cafes and their unique services is to make customers relax and feel at home.

Although excellent customer service is typical in Japan, maid cafes strive to be different in a way as they take special care to pamper their patrons.

HYBRID CONSUMPTION – a general trend whereby the forms of consumption associated with different institutional spheres become interlocked with each other and increasingly difficult to distinguish.

Due to the high influx of tourists into Japan, Japan has been getting a lot of foreign influences. This might cause Japan to lose their own culture or a mix of both local and foreign cultures.

One example would be that in recent years, Japanese has been celebrating christmas and it is made into quite a big festival. It is obvious that Christmas is brought in by the foreign culture into the Japanese culture as Japan's religion are mainly made up of Shinto and Buddhism.

Online forums said that they feel weird that Japan has embraced the western traditions and are celebrating festivals like Christmas and halloween.

MERCHANDISING – the promotion and sale of goods in the form of or bearing copyright images and/or logos, including such products made under licence.

Hello Kitty is a cartoon character created in Japan and it is a world wide figure now. Everyone knows Hello Kitty and every girl loves Hello Kitty. Hello Kitty is copyrighted under Sanrio, Japan and all Hello Kitty items are exclusive and imported world wide.

Countries like Taiwan gain the copyrighted permission from Sanrio to put Hello Kitty theme into their cafe, and even hospital.

PERFORMATIVE LABOUR – the growing tendency for frontline service work to be viewed as a performance, especially one in which the deliberate display of a certain mood is seen as part of the labour involved in service work.

For performative labour, I will be using Maid cafe as an example again. Because of Japan's well known high service of standards, Maids in the maid cafe are always putting on a smile on their face (be it a real smile or a fake smile) to make their customers happy and to uphold the service standards of their cafe.

Also, things like kneeling down to help a customer stir their tea is also part of their job and they have to do it with no complaints. The maids deliberately display a cheerful and happy mood for all their customers because their job scope requires them to.



Tourism has greatly impacted Japan in many ways, both positive and negative.
The growth of tourism definitely brought in more revenue for Japan as a whole and has contributed greatly to Japan's economic. Not only will it generate tourists receipts for Japan, it also helps to increase sales and revenue in sectors that are affected by tourism like F&B, accommodation, retail, attractions etc. Having a better economy also means that more jobs will be created and lesser people will be unemployed in Japan.

Because of a better economy, Japan's government can then invest in building and improving infrastructures like airport, shopping malls, attractions and many many more. This in return allows the Japanese to have more choices for leisure and recreation purposes. It not only benefits the tourists, but also benefits the locals. This is so because it improves the locals' quality of life.

As we all know, Japan is rich in their own culture and traditions. Tourists go to Japan to experience the way and life of a Japanese and to learn about their culture and different kind of traditions. Because of this, it will push Japan to preserve their culture to attract more tourists into the country. This is also known as cultural tourism. An example of cultural tourism would be visits to Japan's temples and shrines to learn more about their religious views and beliefs.

However, good things aside, tourism can also cause Japan to lose its own culture due to the influence of western culture. As tourists starts streaming into Japan, cultures are being exchanged and Japan might lose some of their own culture in the process of cultural exchange. This is inevitable as the western influence on Japan is too strong and they are slowly losing some of their own cultures. For example, Japanese kids are starting to behave more like kids in the western country with more rowdy and rude behaviour. As compared to the past, Japanese children are all very obedient. This is quite sad as Japanese are well known for their good and accommodating behaviour.

In conclusion, I feel that yes, tourism definitely has commoditised the cultures and traditions of Japan but only to a certain extent. Japan used to be a country so rich in their own cultures and believes but is now diluted due to the influx of tourists into the country. Everyone that goes to Japan will try their onsen (public bath) and it does not make it special and exclusive to Japan anymore. Also because the government is trying to use their unique traditions and culture to "sell" their country, this results in Japan's culture being spread too widely across the globe. Tourism may also cause Japan to lose their own identity in the long run, to the point where nothing is distinctive to Japan anymore.