Traditional culture
Update: 22 March 2016

Traditional culture

Many forms of traditional culture remain in Japan. Japan is a country with a long history, with over 400 years even just counting from the Edo period, and there was a culture which flourished during those years. That culture has remained as the traditional culture which is still flourishing in the Japan of today.


Noh is a form of masque which has been performed since the middle ages. It has a longer history and greater traditions than Kabuki, which is popular abroad. It flourished in the Heian period, becoming popular among the nobility. The Noh stage has a backdrop painted with pine trees and is performed wearing Noh masks. It was designated as an important intangible cultural asset of Japan in 1957. There are many Nogaku (Noh) schools, such as the Kanze style and Hosho style. It is said that there are 2000 to 3000 original performances of the time which continue to exist today.


Bunraku, also called Ningyo-joruri (puppet joruri), is a form of puppet theatre that represents Japan. The feature that sets it apart from other forms of puppet theatre is that each puppet is worked by 3 people. There are the chief puppeteer who works the head and right hand, the left puppeteer for the left hand, and the foot puppeteer who works both feet. Along with the puppeteers are the joruri (a form of traditional Japanese music) and the shamisen (three-stringed Japanese musical instrument) which together create a composite art. One of the favoured playwrights of bunraku was Chikamatsu Monzaemon, and several of his bunraku plays were so popular that they were also performed as kabuki afterwards.

Shodo (Japanese calligraphy)

Japanese calligraphy is a traditional art performance which forces on the artistic aspect of characters to master the beauty of handwriting. Characters are written by soaking a brush made of animal fur with liquid ink which is called Bokuju. It is written with great attention to every little detail of each character, including stroke order, the shape and thickness of each line, using intense concentration while expressing emotion and personality. The dynamically yet delicately represented characters are indeed a work of art.

Sado (Japanese tea ceremony)

Sado is about a ritual to prepare and offer tea. It originates from when the culture of drinking tea was brought over from China, which afterwards uniquely evolved to the current form in Japan. It flourished in the Sengoku (Warring States) period as a pastime of bushi (a master of martial arts). At a chakai (tea gathering) where people drink tea, much effort is put into selecting and arranging the tea bowls, confections, flower arrangements and hanging scrolls in the room to enjoy the current season.

Kodo (traditional incense ceremony)

A traditional art performance of appreciating the scent of burning fragrant woods. Kodo is said to have started about 500 years ago, but the act of burning fragrant wood to enjoy the smell is said to go all the way back to more than 1,500 years ago.

Kado (Japanese art of flower arrangement)

The art of cutting and arranging seasonal flowers, leaves and branches to admire their beauty. Contrary to flower arrangements which produce a voluminous work of plentiful flowers, in kado it is preferable to make spaces and express the season with few flowers.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.

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