Everything Traditional in Japan

Every country in the world has its own culture and traditions. These have stemmed from the way the people in that nation lived since the beginning of their history.  The important thing about culture and traditions is how they uphold the values and principles of one’s ancestors. While countries in the West have their own sets of tradition, it is seen by many that Asian countries are the ones that have more of these and still uphold most of them today. Among the many countries in Asia that still have their own traditions, including clothing, food, and art, incorporated in the modernized world is Japan.

Despite Japan being among the top countries in Asia that has the most advanced technology and most modern people because of it, traditions still remain important for the Japanese people. While these traditions were shaped by many factors such as the environment at the time, politics, and religion, they still hold meaning and importance to the people of Japan today. This is because they still find value and significance in practicing or incorporating these traditions into their daily lives. In the Land of the Sun, tradition is not just an action and actually comes in many forms as well such as through art and music. Tradition can be seen in almost any place or even person in Japan.

Japanese Traditional Art in the Form of Music, Instruments, and Dance

Traditional Japanese music is known as Japanese folk music, traditional Japanese music comes in three types, namely, instrumental, court music known as gagaku in Japanese, and theatrical. Instrument music is, as the name implies, a type of traditional music in Japan that incorporates the uses of Japanese traditional instruments. On the other hand, court music is the oldest type of traditional Japanese music. It is composed of not just songs but also dance with a combination of music from other parts of Asia.

Furthermore, gagaku is also composed of two styles, namely, the instrumental music kigaku and the vocal music seigaku. There are two forms under the instrumental music kigaku known as the kangen and the bugaku. On the other hand, there are five forms of vocal music seigaku known as the kumeuta, azumaasobi, roei, kagurauta, and saibara. A form of music under the gagaku category is also joruri, which is basically just narrative music. There are four main styles categorized under joruri, namely, gidayubushi, tokiwazubushi, kiyomotobushi, and shinnaibushi. Four other previous styles of joruri that is no longer present are katobushi, icchuubushi or itchubushi, miyazonobushi or sonohachibushi, and tomimotobushi.

As for theatrical music, it is the type of music that play a big role in many forms of theatrical drama. A type of theatrical music is known as Noh or Nogaku. Music in Noh theatre is typically played by an ensemble known as hayashi-kata. Another Japanese theatre that has a significant musical background is kabuki theatre. Kabuki music has three categories, namely, geza, shosa-ongaku, and ku and tsuke. Almost all of the music performed in this category are traditional Japanese instruments. 

Speaking of traditional Japanese musical instruments, these are the musical equipment used to create the traditional Japanese music or folk music. It has a wide range of percussion, string, and wind instruments. There are many examples of traditional Japanese percussion instruments. This may include hyoshigi, which are clappers made of wood or bamboo; shoko, which as a small bronze struck by two pieces of hornbeaters; kagura suzu, which is a bell tree held by the hand and accompanied by three tiers of pellet bells; and kane, which is just a small flat gong.

There are also drums under the percussion instruments, known as taoko in the Japanese. Literally translating to “great drum,” there are many instruments under taiko. This includes den-den daiko, which is a pellet drum that is considered a toy for children; otsuzumi, which is a hand drum; shime-daiko, which is a small drum accompanied by sticks; san-no-tsuzumi, which is a double-headed drum with the shape of an hourglass and stuck only on one side; and tsuri-daiko, which is a drum held by a stand and played with a padded stick.

As for string instruments, they are also used quite a lot in traditional Japanese music. Examples of this include biwa, which is a lute in the shape of a pear; ichigenkin, which is a monochord; junanagen, which is a 17-stringed koto; koto, which is just a simple long zither; taishogoto, which is a zither accompanied with metal strings and keys; and tonkori, which is a plucked instrument that is mainly utilized by the Ainu people of Hokkaido. On the other hand, probably the most well-known traditional Japanese string instrument is the shamisen, which is a lute with three strings that is similar to a banjo.

On the other hand, Japanese wind instruments can range from flutes and reed instruments to free reed mouth organs and horns. Also known as fue in Japanese, flutes in Japan is comprised of eight traditional instruments. They are the hocchiku, which is a vertical bamboo flute; ryuteki, which is a transverse flute utilized specifically for gagaku; nohkan, which is also a transverse flute utilized specifically for music in Noh theatre; komabue, which is a transverse flute similar to ryuteki but utilized for komagaku; shinobue, which is a transverse folk flute made of bamboo; kagurabue, which is a transverse bamboo flute utilized specifically for playing Shinto ritual music known as mi-kagura; shakuhachi, which is a vertical bamboo flute utilized specifically for Zen meditation; and tsuchibue, which is a globular clay flute.

As for the other wind instruments, a traditional Japanese reed instrument is the hichiriki, which is a double-reeded flute that can be utilized in different types of music. Furthermore, there are two instruments under the traditional Japanese free reed mouth organs, namely, the sho and U. Sho is a 17-pipe mouth organ whose music is specifically used for gagaku while U is an organ with a large mouth.

Using the body to portray the beauty and culture of Japan is also another form of art. Traditional Japanese dances have a long history behind them, which makes them more appealing and meaningful to those who perform the dances. There are many different types of traditional Japanese traditional dances that one can look into and watch in theaters or festivals, namely, kabuki, noh mai, Bon Odori, and Nihon Buyo.

Traditional Japanese Clothing: Dresses, Material, and Sleeves

Just like almost any other country, Japan also has its own traditional clothing that best represents their culture and tradition. There are several types of traditional Japanese clothing, but probably the most famous one is the kimono. Called the “national costume of Japan,” the kimono is considered the most formal form of Japanese clothing. It has been worn by the Japanese through many centuries. The kimono used to be the symbol of social class back in the day but this meaning developed after the four-class system was demolished during the Tokugawa period from the year 1603 to the year 1867.

Today the kimono is a reflection of the person’s taste and individuality. The kimono is composed of many layers of clothing with the final piece being a robe made from silk and with long, baggy sleeves. The process of wearing the kimono can be rather meticulous, hence it is important to have the proper knowledge about kimonos before trying to put them on. There are even schools in Japan that specialize in kimonos. For a lighter and informal alternative, one can opt to wear a yukata, which is also less expensive compared to a kimono. 

Food for Thought: The Traditional Japanese Cuisine

One should also not forget about the traditional food of Japan, as a lot of tourists travel to the country just to get a taste of their traditional dishes that some believe to be the freshest and the best foods in the world. Of course, the number one most well-known dish from Japan is none other than sushi. While there are now various restaurants all over the world that offer sushi, the traditional style in Japan is still a whole lot different with their incorporation of vinegar rice.

Next to sushi is the sashimi. Only the best and the freshest can be found in most restaurants in Japan. Many Japanese chefs consider sashimi as the finest formal dish. Typically eaten as a first course, many people who try it for the first time fall in love with the dish at first bite. One can also opt for noodles if they are looking for something more filling. The two options are either udon or soba. These two traditional Japanese noodles are a quick fix for those who are in a hurry and just want a quick bite.

As for those who like soup, definitely try the miso soup of Japan. There is just something about the way their soup tastes that warms the heart right after that first sip. It is usually a dish included in traditional Japanese breakfast as it is packed with proteins. If one is looking for a heartwarming dish, then the miso soup of Japan would certainly be a must-try. Just in Tokyo, there are several restaurants that offer all of these scrumptious dishes.

The Main Elements of A Traditional Japanese House

Japanese culture can further be seen right in the homes of traditional Japanese people. Traditional Japanese home, although not as prevalent in the modern times, is still considered among the most functional structures in the country. There are several features that are quite common in traditional Japanese houses. The first feature is the shoji, which is a sliding panel of a wooden frame and translucent paper that enable natural light to enter the room. The second feature is the fusuma, which are also sliding panels but used as doors and walls in the house. The third feature is the wagoya, which is the post-and-lintel design of a number of traditional Japanese homes. Other features on the list are the engawa, ranma, tokonoma, amado, genkan, tatami floors, and chabudai.

If a person is looking for all thing traditional, the country of Japan would definitely be a must-visit as it incorporates culture and tradition in almost everything. There are various articles and guide about the traditions of Japan and how they keep these alive despite the advancement of technology and modernity. It can definitely be attributed to the respect and love that they have for their ancestors, hence they see value in these traditions that were passed down to them from generation to generation.