The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Culture of Japan


Japanese culture and language

Japan's isolation until the arrival of the "Black Ships" and the Meiji era produced a culture distinctively different from any other, and echoes of this uniqueness persist today. For example, as Ruth Benedict pointed out in her classic study "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword", Japan has a shame culture (external reference standard) rather than the guilt culture (internal reference standard) that is more familiar in the West. Again in Japan, inter-relationships between people are heavily influenced by "obligation" and "duty" in a way that is no longer true in the more individualistic and free-wheeling West. Finally, generalised conceptions of morality and desirable behaviour are relatively under-developed in Japan, where particular obligations to family, school, and friends tend to guide behaviour.

Because of strong correlation between Japanese culture and language, the Japanese language has always played a significant role in Japanese culture. Nemawashi, for example, indicates consensus achieved through careful preparation. It reflects the harmony that is desired and respected within Japanese culture.

While Japanese are better known for their physical comedy outside of Japan, they have intricate and complex humor and jokes. Because this humor relies so heavily on Japanese language, centuries of cultures, Buddhism-Shinto religion, and ethics, however, they are generally impossible to translate.


Main article: Japanese clothing (kimono, hakama, etc...)

Creative Arts

Art and Architecture

Main article: Japanese Art


Main article: Cinema_of_Japan


Main article: Japanese traditional dance


Main article: Japanese literature

The books, comic books, magazines and newspapers are also a part of the Japanese culture. Even though TV and other entertainment have led to a decline in the time spent reading, book stores are everywhere and public libraries offer a huge store of books. Local municipalities offer reading sessions of writings like 'Genji monogatari' (The Tale of Genji) and 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 over 80 years.


Main article: Music of Japan

For many outsiders, Japanese music is associated entirely with cheap, disposable bubblegum pop, of which there is plenty. 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.



Main article: Japanese cuisine (Sushi, Agedashi Tofu, Dashi, Soy sauce, etc.)

Through virtue of a long culinary past Japanese cuisine has developed a complex and sensually pleasing palate. 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 now available. One can easily find Chinese, Korean and Thai dishes as well as non-regional German, 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.


Main article: Japanese language (Hiragana, Katakana, Kana, Romaji)

Japanese have used their own language for millennia. Understanding it is essential to understanding Japanese culture. Both traditional Japanese culture as well as the modern popular culture are based on spoken and written Japanese language.

The Japanese writing systems were developed in Japan from their contact with the Chinese. However, the languages stayed entirely different, the Japanese maintaining control at all times (unlike English under the Normans). The habit of modifying Chinese symbols to suit themselves, resulting in what they called wasei kanji, continues today as they modify English (or European) words, which they call wasei eigo.


See Japanese cell phone culture


Main article: Japanese Television and Radio

Japan has about 100 million television sets in use, and television is the main source of home entertainment and information for most of the population. The Japanese have a wide variety of programs to choose from, including the various dramas (police, crime, home, and jidaigeki — "samurai" dramas), anime, news, game, quiz, and sports shows provide by the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (Nippon Hoso Kyokai--NHK) general station, the NHK educational station , and numerous commercial and independent stations. The violence of the samurai and police dramas and the satirical humor of the cartoons draw criticism from mothers and commentators.

Popular culture

Japanese popular culture not only reflects the attitudes and concerns of the present but also provides a link to the past. Popular films, television programs, comics, and music all developed from older artistic and literary traditions, and many of their themes and styles of presentation can be traced to traditional art forms. Contemporary forms of popular culture, like the traditional forms, provide not only entertainment but also an escape for the contemporary Japanese from the problems of an industrial world. When asked how they spent their leisure time, 80 percent of a sample of men and women surveyed by the government in 1986 said they averaged about two and one-half hours per weekday watching television, listening to the radio, and reading newspapers or magazines. Some 16 percent spent an average of two and one-quarter hours a day engaged in hobbies or amusements. Others spent leisure time participating in sports, socializing, and personal study. Teenagers and retired people reported more time spent on all of these activities than did other groups.

In the late 1980s, the family was the focus of leisure activities, such as excursions to parks or shopping districts. Although Japan is often thought of as a hard-working society with little time for pleasure, the Japanese seek entertainment wherever they can. It is common to see Japanese commuters riding the train to work, enjoying their favorite manga or listening through earphones to the latest in popular music on portable music players.

A wide variety of types of popular entertainment are available. There is a large selection of music, films, and the products of a huge comic book industry, among other forms of entertainment, from which to choose. Game centers, bowling alleys, and karaoke are popular hangout places for teens while older people may play shogi and go in a parlor.


The Geinōkai (芸能界) is the world of Japanese entertainment, encompassing everything from movies and television (including talk shows, music shows , variety shows, etc.) to radio and now the internet. Geinojin (芸能人) is a term, often interchangeable with tarento, to refer to members of the Geinōkai.


Main article: Anime


Main article: Manga


Main article: Pornography in Japan

Video game

Main article: Video game



Main article: Japanese sports


Main article: Tourism in Japan, Japanese festivals

Work and Jobs

  • Ama kudari Government bureaucrats retire by "descending from heaven".
  • Go-nin Gumi Japanese quality and creativity circle.

See also

To be covered

  • May sick -- absenteeism indicative of new students or workers who have become tired of their new schoolwork or jobs.


External links

Last updated: 08-24-2005 09:14:12
Last updated: 09-03-2005 18:37:12