Why not learn Japanese traditional culture during your time living in Japan?
It takes a long time to master all Japanese traditions, but it is not difficult to start learning them. Every part of Japanese culture has a long history behind it, so you can learn Japanese history by learning about the culture.
Here are some Japanese traditional culture that you can start learning easily. You can join the lessons that are held regularly or the one-day lessons.
1. Japanese tea ceremony
The Japanese tea ceremony is called “Sado” or “Chanoyu” which has a history lasting more than 1000 years. The elegance of the Japanese tea ceremony is not only from the taste of the Matcha, but also from the architecture of the tea room, the house with a luxurious Japanese garden. Typically Japanese tea ceremonies are carried out with either Matcha (powder made from gyokuro green tea) or sencha green tea (tea leaf).
There are two styles of the Japanese tea ceremony. One is called Omote senke, and the other is called Ura senke. There are some differences in the manners of the two styles, but the most significant difference is how to hold the teacup (chawan in Japanese) and how to drink the tea
A soft & sweet Japanese cake, which is called wagashi, will be served with tea at Japanese tea ceremonies. The sweets are chosen depending on the season or the preference of the host.
Japanese tea ceremony used to be one of the bridal training practices taught to young women, who had to learn it before getting married.
2. Japanese Material Arts
Judo is one of the Japanese martial arts and is one of the official Olympic sports. Japan has won many gold medals in Judo at the Olympics. Judo is a sport not only, for men but also women. You might have heard about a popular anime called “Yawara” – a story about a girl who started learning Judo
Judo has strict rules, and you might get injured if you don’t follow them, plus you need to train hard in case you want to reach a high level. In short-term learning, it is still fun to learn many techniques (called “waza” in Japanese). Interesting experience!
Kendo (Japanese Traditional Fencing) is a competitive fighting sport, which descended from swordsmanship (kenjutsu) and uses bamboo swords (shinai) and protective armour (bōgu). Today, it is widely practised within Japan and many other nations across the world. There are three strike zones: the head, trunk, and forearm (men, do, and kote, respectively, in Japanese). Just like Western fencing, traditional Japanese swordsmanship has become a modern sport as well as a great pride of Japanese. If you have free time and prefer to learn one of the Japanese traditional martial arts, Kendo is not going to let you down!
3. Japanese calligraphy
Japanese calligraphy is also called ‘Shodo” or “Shuuji” and is famous and popular all over the world. There are a few types of handwriting, and the famous ones are Kaisho (regular script style), and Gyousho (semi-cursive style). If you are a beginner, you usually will start with Kaisho.
The following tools are used when you do Japanese calligraphy.
1) A brush (fude)
2) An ink stick (sumi)
3) Mulberry paper (washi)
4) An inkstone (suzuri)
5) A paperweight (bunchin)
6) A cloth (shitajiki)
If you attend the one-day lesson or workshop, you don’t have to prepare these tools, but if you are planning to participate in the experience regularly, it would be better to prepare them when you start. You can find all of them in a 100 yen shop.
4. Japanese flower arrangement
Japanese flower arrangement, which is called ikebana or kado in Japanese, is one of the popular and famous Japanese traditional cultures to learn. It is said that its history started in the 7th century and has grown ever since then, and it has more than 1,000 schools all over the world.
One of the differences from Western-style flower arrangement is that the Japanese school has tons of strict rules about shapes, colour, lines, forms and so on.
The flowers are arranged in a vase, and sometimes a flat one is used. When you arrange flowers in a flat vase, you need to pierce them on “kenzan”, which is a sort of pin holder.
Japanese flower arrangement also used to be one of the bridal training skills that women had to learn before getting married.
Kimono, sometimes called wafuku, is a traditional Japanese garment which the Japanese used to wear every day. After the Meiji era, they started to wear western-style clothes. Kimono is only for special occasions nowadays. Therefore most of us cannot put on a kimono by ourselves and need to ask someone who knows how to wear it, and learning how to wear kimono is a big lesson to learn, even among Japanese as well.
When you learn how to wear a kimono, you do not have to buy your own kimono. Typically you can borrow them from your school or teacher.
Kimono is always wrapped around your body with the left side over the right side if you are a woman and the opposite to man. You need to use a sash, which is called obi to secure the kimono and wear white socks (tabi)
Women usually wear kimono on Coming of age day, which is the day for celebrating your becoming 20 years old.
Did you find something you would like to try from the list above?
All of them are the lessons that you could try whether you are a woman or a man.
Also, if you want to know more about Japanese traditional culture, enjoying Japanese traditional performances such as Kabuki, or Nou will be an unforgettable experience.