Japanese Culture

Hi everyone, I will be collaborating with Cynthia this year to write articles about different countries and their culture. This week, I have focused on Japan as I thought it will be a great opportunity for you to understand my home country more effectively.

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “Japan”? Do you think of a land of rising sun, an urbanized megacity, a homeland of nature, a treasury of food, home of cartoons and comic books, traditional culture, and historic villages? Well, these are probably the main ones but I hope to share more with you through this article.

Japan is a country that consists of over 6800 islands, making it a very earthquake-prone country, with over 1000 earthquakes every year. If you’ve ever been to Japan or seen pictures of the country, you would probably have only seen a reflection of urbanized areas within the country. However, over two-thirds of Japan is covered by mountains and hills. In my opinion, the enchanting part of the nature of Japan is how the scenery differs so greatly depending on the seasons. The view of light pink cherry blossoms during spring, the deep green color of trees during summer, the red, orange, and yellow leaves during autumn, and the contrast of snow and the blue sky in winter. The best part is that you can enjoy these views almost anywhere in Japan, literally anywhere you walk by.

If you’ve ever wondered why Japanese food is very diverse and original in comparison to other foods, this is why. It’s because of all the seasonings that are used to create the tastes. Most of the flavoring of Japanese foods are created through fermented ingredients which provide a unique sensation. They are generally based on sweet rice wine and soy sauce, which are used in most of the Japanese cooked dishes. For instance, sushi contains rice vinegar to give flavor to the rice, and you dip it into soy sauce, which is another seasoning that includes fermented ingredients. Other examples of foods include miso soup, ramen, tofu, natto, etc. If you think about it now, I am quite certain that most, or even all the Japanese foods you have tried before have seasonings, sauces, and toppings that include fermented ingredients.

The behaviors and attitudes of Japanese people are worldwide famous, for being respectful. One of the examples of respect, in my opinion, would be when you see situations of people bowing at each other. In fact, there is a deeper meaning to why Japanese people begin with a bow and end with a bow, which you may not know just yet. We bow at occasions where we greet people, thank people, apologize to people, and much more. Although you may not have known, the action as well symbolizes trust for the person you are bowing to. This is because when you bow, you lower your head and you have both of your hands down, signifying that you are unprotected and defenseless. Therefore, if you ever see Japanese people bowing at each other in future, you now have an explanation that it not only represents honor and respect but also trust.  

Undoubtedly, you will also be surprised to know the school culture of Japan. At public schools in Japan, having lunch that they organize by themselves is very common. Everyone has to alternate, being on lunch duty and they have to arrange and serve food for everyone in their class collaboratively. Not only that, but the people on lunch duty have to collect the dishes and clean them up for everyone, once they are done eating. Interestingly, students take the initiative and clean the school after lunch. This means that students who eat messily have to handle the mess by themselves. There is a decided time for it every day, as well as the places they have to clean. Some students are in charge of cleaning their classroom, while others have to clean the shared facilities at their school. These systems were made to make students in Japan accountable and responsible for their own environment.

After reading this article, I hope that you want to expand your knowledge and learn more about Japan. There are still a lot of sides of Japan that I haven’t been made aware of, even though I am from the country. I personally recommend you to visit the country to know more about it.



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