Lovers of art, history and animals are celebrating the release of an exclusive set of ukiyoe woodblock prints from 1857 that are now free to download and share online.
One of the great pleasures of visiting Japan is the chance to sleep in a futon, traditional Japanese bedding that’s freshly laid out on the floor every evening. When you’ve got a nice thick mattress pad, a fluffy, quilted duvet cover and a compact buckwheat pillow, a night sleeping on tatami straw floors is a night few foreigners forget.
Now you can share the traditional Japanese bedtime experience with your feline friends, with a gorgeous new range of futons created especially for the discerning four-legged customer. From the gorgeous Japanese prints to the matching pillow and the ergonomic, tail-friendly design, this is the best chance yet for obliging humans to finally reclaim their beds!
Japan has a fascinating art history. From early cord designs on clay vessels in the Jomon period (c. 11000–c. 300 BC) through to picture scrolls, ukiyo-e woodblock prints, and the distinctive style of animation that exists today, people in Japan have always found unique ways to capture the world around them for the rest of the world to see.
One little-known art technique from the 1800s is now making a comeback, and while its roots are firmly planted in Japan’s traditional history, it’s a method of printing that people all around the world can enjoy. All you need is paper, some paint and a nice-looking fish.
We all know marriage and live-in-partnerships have a lot going for them. From constant companionship to support when you’re stressed with work or family problems, the idea of cohabiting with that special someone is powerful enough to sweep even the most jaded singleton off their feet.
In Japan, where pre-marriage cohabitation is still considered somewhat taboo, married life is a serious commitment with traditional roles that involve self-sacrifice and obligation, not only to one’s partner but to their extended family. So what do the single men of Japan think about marriage versus the bachelor life? A recent survey reveals the moments men are glad they’ve never put a ring on it and the interesting reasons why.
With Japan consistently appearing in the lowest ranks for gender equality in industrialised nations, the adoption of Prime Minister Abe’s recent bill to promote the role of women in the workplace has been a welcome development in what remains a traditionally patriarchal society.
What the headlines fail to mention, however, are the archaic laws entrenched in the country’s Civil Code that continue to hold women back, including same surname requirements upon marriage, and differences in the minimum marriageable age and re-marriage prohibition period for both sexes.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women has again called for a revision of Japan’s current laws, slamming the country for being one of the few industrialised nations where it remains illegal for married couples to have different surnames.
Kennin-ji is one of Japan’s most historic landmarks. Founded in 1202, it’s the oldest Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto and its founding monk, Eisai, is credited with introducing the philosophy of zen to Japan. To celebrate the temple’s 800th anniversary in 2002, a pair of dragons were painted inside the Dharma Hall, with instructions from the Abbott that they be “rampaging across the ceiling”.
The beauty and power of these dragons has inspired an experienced collector to commission a timepiece featuring the very same artwork, calling on the expertise of four of the very best master craftsmen in the business to come together in what’s being called the “Kennin-ji Master’s Project”. Helmed by acclaimed English watchmaker Peter Speake-Marin, experts are saying this is one of the most exquisite and ornate watches ever made in the history of the craft.
The traditional art of Japanese paper making has a history that dates back well over 1,000 years. Kurotani in Kyoto is one of the oldest paper-making villages where the tradition continues in earnest, with artisans continuing the ancient practice of paper skimming, classed as an intangible cultural asset by Kyoto Prefecture.
Like all Japanese arts, the process of creating washi has a precise and meditative quality about it. From collecting and preparing the raw materials to filtering and pressing the paper, the movements of these craftspeople and the life they lead is truly a sight to behold.
Japanese filmmaker Takashi Kuroyanagi has captured these moments in a beautiful five-minute film that takes us through the process from beginning to end and the result is breathtaking in its meditative beauty. If you’re looking for a way to take five minutes to relax in a busy day, this video is the calming tonic you need.
Like in many countries, people in Japan sometimes turn to anonymous Internet forums for advice. A lot of their problems are the usualt sort of things one might imagine. What’s the best way to lose weight? Should I change jobs, or stay with the position I’ve got now?
And then, there was this young lady’s plight:
“I was told the worst thing by my grandmother and great-aunt. I come from a very old-fashioned family that has a long-standing tradition. They told me that on the night of my marriage, my relatives will open the door a crack and watch me and my husband’s first night as a married couple.” From Fretting Freshman
Here they come again. Worming their way into the black matter of my brain. I told myself…they cannot touch me. They’re long dead…
That’s right folks! It’s Obon time again. This is when the spirits of our deceased ancestors are said to visit the realm of the living. And so Japanese people have several traditions to make that visit a comfortable one for their loved ones.
One such custom is the shoryo uma which traditionally are little horses made from cucumber or eggplant and designed to symbolically transport the dead across these planes of existence.
In recent years these horses have evolved into a variety of things from tanks to Gundam vehicles., but now it seems shoryo uma makers have been inspired by the hit movie Mad Max: Fury Road and created vehicles in its image to transport loved ones across that great apocalyptic divide.
If you’re tired of receiving vacant smiles and flippant customer service at your local grocery store, you may want to make a trip to Japan, where the customer always comes first and every transaction is concluded with a graceful bow.
This remarkable attention to customer service even extends to the handling of cash transactions in shops around the country. Akin to an art form, a simple payment to a store clerk in Japan will inevitably set off a series of steps and precise movements to satisfy the needs of both parties and respectively complete the exchange. Come with us as we take you through the steps of a simple transaction in Japan. The attention to detail and the clever reasons for it will surprise you.
As if you need more reasons to love Japan, 100 Tokyo, an online “curated cultural guide,” recently supported a beautiful video that highlights the perfect blend of traditional culture and modern technology of Tokyo, which makes it one of the most unique and charming big cities out there.
Hina Matsuri, aka Girls’ Day or Doll’s Day, is a festival celebrated every March 3 in Japan. Families with girl children get together to eat special food, and elaborately dressed dolls are displayed on a special tiered platform known as a hina-dan.
But it’s not only kids and collectors who love dolls – cats can’t get enough of them, either! Even though the cats have only just had their own special day (Cats’ Day, or Nyan Nyan Nyan day, was on February 22), those fancy felines were muscling in on some of the Girls’ Day action by inserting themselves into the hina-dan displays.
A few weeks ago we introduced you to the world of traditional Japanese woodwork, a technique that uses no nails or hardware, just precise joints, to keep furniture and even buildings together. This technique is also used to create intricate, wooden, functional artwork, known as kumiko, which is used within Japanese style-rooms to create a stunning atmosphere.
The traditional handicraft has been passed down for centuries, however, the trade is sadly dying out. In response, artisans are taking the age-old concept and applying the designs to more modern-day household items, such as chairs and lampshades. The results are nothing short of exquisite!
New Year’s in Japan is a quiet affair. While the holiday period is usually spent with family, enjoying traditional food and activities, there’s one particular pastime that brings the family together in a special way every winter. To indulge in this very Japanese affair, you’ll need two of the items pictured in the image above. Can you guess what they are?
Nengajo, or New Year’s greeting cards, are a ubiquitous part of the end-of-year season in Japan. Much like Christmas cards in the west, nengajo are sent to family and friends to update them on what you’ve been up to that year. In fact, there are so many nengajo sent at the end of the year that post offices in Japan have to employ students as temporary staff to make sure they meet the delivery deadline of January 1. While there are plenty of preprinted cards available from stationery shops, many people opt to make their own, personalised cards. A nice touch, but results may vary depending on the artistic skills (and sense of humour) of the postcard sender! To show you what we mean, we’ve put together a little list of the best of this year’s nengajo. Some of them are genuinely impressive, while others would make us cringe if the neighbours saw ’em!
New Year’s in Japan is usually celebrated with family huddled under the kotatsu while munching on mikans, and sharing a dinner of traditional food, called osechi. Each component of the meal retains an auspicious meaning, granting the eater with good fortune, health, or fertility, among other things, during the coming year.
However, in recent years, an increasingly large population of Japan’s youth have chosen to forgo eating osechi. There are many reasons osechi has been disappearing from Japanese homes during New Year’s, but these changing tastes have given rise to a smorgasbord of strange, unique, and, frankly, comparatively tastier pre-made osechi meals. From cooked isopods to a box full of meat, let’s take a closer look at six modern day osechi.
There’s something deeply satisfying about watching someone do their job incredibly well. Whether it’s a master chef putting together a mouth-watering meal, a talented musician making an instrument come to life, or a pro athlete performing at the highest level of the sport, you find yourself unable to look away, both because of how soothing watching things go perfectly is, and also for fear of missing whatever amazing feat they’re going to pull off next.
So if you’re craving that special mixture of relaxation and inspiration, take a few minutes to watch this video of a master craftsman transforming two hunks of wood into a beautiful kokeshi doll with a literally unique twist.
There are several traditional crafts that Japan is known for, such as urushi lacquerware or Nishijin weaving. Perhaps not as widely known, but just as impressive, is the craft of yosegi, which uses woods of different color and texture to create exquisite patterns. In fact, the precision and skill involved is such that yosegi is not surprisingly, one of the crafts that has been featured in a series of videos uploaded by luxury fashion brand Gucci Japan on their YouTube channel dedicated to introducing the work of talented Japanese craftsmen, and the video has apparently been noticed around the world. Let’s take a look at a master artisan at work!
Hassaku Matsuri is a festival in Japan reserved for asking the gods for a bountiful harvest and happy life. It occurs every year during the first day of the eighth lunar month, usually falling during the beginning of September. Just as dialects and traditional foods vary depending on the region, Hassaku Matsuri is celebrated in vastly contrasting ways, especially in Kumamoto, Fukui, and Ibaraki prefectures. From intricate structures made of natural materials to an extremely inappropriate goblin, join us as we explore a few of the many Hassaku traditions in Japan.
The cleaning crews who maintain Japan’s high-speed bullet trains have a mere seven minutes to make the interior of the train spotlessly clean for its next journey. Those seven minutes are carefully divided into different tasks to make sure everything gets done in the allotted time.
Another curious detail people often notice about these cleaners is the way they bow as trains are entering and exiting the station. While this act is generally thought to be a respectful gesture, the intended recipient of the bowing seems to be a matter of great debate, with plenty of conflicting opinions out there, even among the Japanese!