The City That Never Sleeps
Tourism Culture & Society

posted : Thursday, December 9, 2010
title : Japan
Japan  beautiful scenery

Overview of Japan 

According to (Japan:Welcome to the Japan cultural profile, 2008)Japan, Japan  is located at the eastern coast of Asian continent . The four main islands are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyush. Honshu accounts for about 60 per cent of the total area of approximately 378,000 square kilometres, of which around 66 per cent is forest, 14 per cent is given over to agricultural usage, and 20 per cent is used for other purposes. 

The largest population in Japan as at 1st October 2004 is in Tokyo (8,397,000) and Japan is one of the world's most ethnically homogeneous nations, with 99.4 per cent of the population made up of ethnic Japanese and just 0.6 per cent belonging to other ethnic groups.

Culture of Japan 
In Japan, the way of greeting each other is by bowing -90 degree bend at the waist and handshake is uncommon among them. Moreover, When meeting people with higher status, they will  bow longer and deeper. 

Kimono is traditional garments of Japan.  It is a loose, wide-sleeved robe, fastened at the waist with a wide sash. It used to be a everyday costumes in the old times, however it is less commonly seen in Japan nowadays. 

According to (Mishima), there are 9 kinds of Kimono. 


Tomesode is a formal dress for married woman and there are  kuro-tomesoda (black ones) and iro-tomesode (colored ones). 


Formal kimono with long sleeves for unmarried women. Young women wear Furisode at wedding receptions, graduations, and so on. Furthermore, by wearing Furisode, it is very obvious that they are single and are available for marriage. 

Houmongi is the most popular kimono in Japan and it is a semi-formal kimono for married and unmarried women. Wedding receptions and tea ceremonies are some of the occastions.

Tsukesage is less formal than Houmongi and it is semi-formal kimono for married and unmarried woman. 


Iromuji is a causal wear that is a colored kimono with no color patterns.

Komon is a casual dress which has patterns all over the dress.
Yukata is a Japanese summer cotton kimono. Yukata can be a nightwear and people wear Yukata in Traditional Japanese Inn.

Shiromuku is a white kimono for brides. 

Uchikake- silk brocade kimono for brides 
From (Mishima),Geisha also known as person of the arts are traditional Japanese artist entertainers. Geisha used to be very common in the 18th and 19th century however the numbers are dwindling now. 

The course of study traditionally starts from a young age and encompasses a wide variety of arts, including Japanese musical instruments (particularly the shamisen) and traditional forms of singing, traditional dance, tea ceremony, flower arranging (ikebana), poetry and literature.
 Photograph of a Geisha 

Take a look at this video to find out more about Geisha
Samurai is a common term for a warrior in pre-industrial Japan and Samurai were expected to be cultured and literate, and over time, samurai during the Tokugawa era gradually lost their military function. 

Japanese castle 
Japanese castle  were fortresses composed primarily of wood and stone. They evolved from the wooden stockades of earlier centuries, and came into their most well-known form in the 16th century. 

The famous castles are Gifu Castle, Hamamatsu Castle, Himeji Castle, Hiroshima Castle, Kanazawa Castle, Kumamoto Castle, Matsumoto Castle, Nagoya Castle, Nijo Castle, Okayama Castle, Osaka Castle Shuri Castle.  

 Hiroshima castle

 Traditions of Japan 
What to do when visiting a Japanese house?  
In Japanese tradition and customs, giving gifts to host or on special occasion is something that is considered as an act of kindness and generosity. If we are visited to Japanese’s house, it is polite for us to give the host a small gift to show them that we are appreciative of their invitation. However, we need to keep in mind that if we receive a gift from them, we are not allowed to open the gift at once, unless the giver urges us to open the gift. After we enter the house, the host will give me a house slipper to wear however, we should not mistake it as wearing a bathroom slipper around their house.
Traditional Music   
In the Asuka and Nara periods, the most important forms of music were Gagaku and Shomyo, both forms imported from the continent along with Buddhism and the Chinese system of bureaucracy. It was performed mainly in the imperial court, but also played an important part in ceremonies at important Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. 
According to (Traditional Japanese Music, 2002), Gagaku is the oldest type of Japanese traditional music. Biwagaku are music played with Biwa which is a kind of Guitar with 4 strings. Nohgaku are music played during Noh performances and the instrument usually consist of the Hayashi flute, the Tsuzumi drum. Soyuku are Music played with the Koto, a type of zither with 13 strings. Later also accompanied by Shamisen and Shakuhachi.While the instrument  that is use to for Shakuhachi is a bamboo flute that is 55cm long. Shamisenongaku are music played with the Shamisen, a kind of guitar with only three strings. Kabuki and Bunraku performances are accompanied by the shamisen. Last but not least, Minyo is Japanese folk songs.

 Instrument- Biwa

Let's enjoy the oldest of the Japanese traditional performing arts.

Traditional Performing Arts  
According to (Japanese National Tourism Organization), there are 3 traditional performing arts.

Kabuki is the most popular and well known by people around the world. The rhythmical lines, colorful make up and stage that is full of mechanical devices for special effects gain the popularity among people. However, the unique selling point is that all the roles (include roles of women) are played by male actor.

 Noh performer

Noh a deeply aesthetic value based on a profound and refined beauty that goes beyond words and concrete shapes. Its origin is in religious ritual and it has a long history of 700 years. Though the actor, dressed in traditional Japanese costume, either wears a mask to hide the expression on his face or performs without expression, his dance is lyrical and graceful.

Bunraku is puppet Theater performed by three puppeteers. The movement of the lead puppet is operated by the three puppeteers working in precise cooperation. The Bunraku puppets almost become alive in the eyes of the audience, accompanied by shamisen music, the narration of dialogue and gorgeous costumes, and one can only marvel at the quality of the performance.

 This is a very short clip of the puppet show

Japanese Traditional Dance 
According to (Bon Odori-JapaneseTraditional Dance, 2005), although there are several traditional dances in Japan, but the one of the most famous and common dance is Bon dance, which is called "Bon Odori" in Japanese. People dance Bon Dance in the Bon Festival. The Bon Festival is held every summer, in every district in every city. 

Japanese gathered around in the open space and  welcome the ancestor's souls  

Japanese Indigenous group  
    According to (The Japanese Ainu People | e Language School), The Ainu is the name given to the ethnic group of people indigenous to Hokkaido, Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands. Today, many Ainu are unaware of the fact that they are Ainu, although lately, museums and other organizations have formed to protect and spread what is left of the Ainu culture.


Origin of Ainu
   Many believe that  Ainu people migrated to Hokkaido during the Jomon period; however, their true origins have yet to be solidly determined. In fact, according to an Ainu legend, they inhabited Hokkaido a hundred thousand years before the mainland Japanese came, although few truly believe this legend. Most believe the Ainu are Jomon who were pushed out of mainland Japan by immigrants from Korea.

Ainu culture 
Ainu culture is different from Japanese as Ainu men stopped shaving when they reach adulthood and therefore leaving them with full facial hair. Both gender from Ainu indigenous people will cut their hair to shoulder length and tattoos are popular and women often have inked lips and arms. Women were fond of wearing beaded necklaces known as tamasay.  

The Ainu clothing was traditionally made out of bark from the interior of the elm tree and traditional Ainu food consisted of fosh,fowl,bear, wolf, ox and even badger and horse.

Ainu language
The Ainu language was quite different from Japanese in all ways—the vocabulary, syntax, morphology, and phonology were all unique. In fact, most language scholars have decided that the two languages are not even related, nor in Ainu related to any other language. There are numbers of Ainu dialects however it is not understood by other Ainu outside of the spoken area. 

Ainu Government
Before the Meiji Restoration, they have their own system of laws. Three hereditary chiefs held administrative power in each village, although they did not perform the role of judge. If a member of the community committed a crime, citizens were called upon to serve as judges, much like the jury system that many countries use today. Imprisonment and the death penalty were non-existent; generally, criminals were beaten and then let go. Murderers, however, were punished by having their nose and ears cut off or the tendons in their feet cut. 

Ainu Religion 
The traditional Ainu religion was animist, and Ainu believed that everything had a kamuy, or spirit, inside it. Each spirit fit into a rigid hierarchy, with grandmother earth at the top, followed by the mountain, then the sea, followed by the rest of nature. The Ainu prayed before each meal and asked the spirit of fire for help when ill and when they died, the Ainu believed their spirits would ascend to the land of the gods.

Japanese Languages 

we can learn how to introduce ourself in Japanese :D

From (Japanese Language, 1996-2010), Japanese is believed to be linked to the Altaic language family, which includes Turkish, Mongolian and other languages, but also shows similarities to Austronesian languages like Polynesian. 

There are 3 different character sets Kanji (several thousands of Chinese characters) and Hiragana and Katakana (two syllabaries of 46 characters each; together called Kana).

This is example of Kanji,it is used for writing nouns, adjectives, adverbs and verbs. But unlike the Chinese language, Japanese cannot be written entirely in Kanji.

This is Hiragana, it is usually used only for grammatical endings of verbs, nouns, and adjectives, as well as for particles, and several other original Japanese words (in contrast to loan words that are written in katakana) which are not written in kanji.Moreover, Hiragana is the first out of all writing system taught to Japanese children.

Do not be mistaken, it look like the same as the previous one which is Hiragana but the differences is that Hiragana is more cursive than Katakana. Katakana is mainly used for writing loan words and the names of persons and geographical places that can't be written in Kanji. 

Their mode of education
The compulsory education (Gimukyoiku) time period is 9 years, 6 in shougakkou (elementary school) and 3 in chuugakkou (junior high school) from (The Japanese Education system, 2010). 

Japan its actually a country with 100% enrollment in compulsory grades and zero illiteracy. There is a great difference between Japanese school system and American School system is, the American respects independence and the Japanese control individual responsibility by observing the group rules.

Types of leisure programmes 

Here are some of the festival, events and other recreational programmes in Japan. 

According to (Festivals of Japan)
Hounen Matsuri  is held on March 15th every year in the small town of Komaki, which is just outside of Nagoya. 

Tenjin Matsuri is one of the world greatest boat festival and it is also counted as one of the best 3 greatest festival of Japan.

Hanazumo festival is a festival that brings in children of all ages and sizes from all around the prefecture to compete in the "sport of the gods", sumo. 

Danjiri Matsuri is Osaka's rowdiest festival, large expensive mikoshi are run through the city streets sometimes colliding with hapless spectators!

short clip

Hina Matsuri is also known as the doll festival, takes place on March 3 and celebrates "Girls' Day". This is the day families pray for the happiness and prosperity of their girls and to help ensure that they grow up healthy and beautiful. The celebration takes place both inside the home and at the seashore. Both parts are meant to ward off evil spirits from girls.

O-shiro Matsuri  means "Castle Festival". It is held once a year outside of Wakayama castle along Wakayama's largest street. 

Hanami is the cherry blossom viewing and it is one of the most popular events in spring. 

Omizutori is the ceremony of water and fire takes place at the Nigatsu-do hall of the Todaiji temple, Nara. It is held from March 1st to 14th every year.

Other Recreational programmes

According to (Hays,2009), a survey on recreation in Japan, 76 percent of the people interviewed said they liked to spend their free time traveling around Japan. Other activities that ranked high were driving, followed by overseas trips, picnics, hiking, and cultural activities such as movies and concerts. 

Here are a list of sports which are popular among the Japanese. The sports are Sumo,baseball, soccer, golf,ski and snowboard, martial arts ,Fuji speedway, Suzuka Circuit and Tokyo Marathon.

Source from (1996-2010). Retrieved December 9, 2010, from Sports in Japan:

What is Japan known for?  
Personally, i feel that Japan is known for Sushi. Usually when people mention about Sushi, we will tend to think or link it to Japan. Japan is also known for the cheery blossom which is one of the reason that attract people to travel to Japan. Furthermore, anime, shrine, Fuji Mountain and kimono is also well known to foreigners. 

cherry blossom

My favorite character in  Naruto (Anime)

Spot the 'Disney' in modern society
Disneyization refers to the contemporary world that increasingly displaying characteristic of the Disney theme parks. There are 4 dimensions of disneyization and they are theming, hybrid consumption, merchandising and performative labour.

Gundam Cafe in Tokyo's Akihabara district is one of the example which i chosen. According to (pkaaihue, 2010), Gundam cafe is a newly opened cafe in first half of this year. Gundam is one of the longest running anime (cartoon) series in Japan and it was stated that from children to politicians, Gundam has been a part of Japan's cultural boom, so much so, that they decided to build a life size version of the mech in the Odaiba area of Tokyo. The drinks, gifts, dishes, snacks are all Gundam themed and it shows that Japan actually have been greatly affected or influence by 'Disney'.

Furthermore, Gundam cafe also fit into another point of performative labour because it is female staff member dressed in the uniform of a female character from the series will also act as a model in the cafe, posing for photographs with visitors. This shows that the female staff member is begin viewed as performances.

 life size version 
Gandum biscuit

Since Disneyization is portrayed as a globalizing force.I realized there are several similarities of certain things/object in Japan that is similar to another countries. Such as Universal Studio which can also found in Orlando and Singapore. Such theme parks, restaurant and shops shows that there is a growing trend that have directly affected the ways of consumption. 

Another example is Tokyo Disney Resort as there are Disney Sea and Disney Land and it fit into the concept as the restaurant, hotels there are themed and merchandising can be easily seen from any aspect of the park.

Changes brought about by the growth of tourism 
Due to the growth of tourism, more tourism receipts generated and it helps to create employment and improve country currency. More jobs will be created and it benefits the locals and also decreases the unemployment rate. The standard of living will increase and new facilities will be built. In order to be a country that can sustain in the long run, they need to have basic facilities and better transportation in order to increase accessibility.  

It encourages civic involvement and pride as it actually raises local awareness of the financial value of natural and cultural sites. The new generation may have started to lose their culture and hopefully they will understand the uniqueness of their cultural sites and try to understand more about their own culture. 

Another positive point is act as a force for peace. Tourism brings people into contact with each other. Tourism also created opportunities for people from different culture to get together and exchange culture. This is will turn helps to reduce prejudice and increase tolerance level towards each other. 

Due to the growth of tourism, negative impact may also occur. There will be a tendency of locals adopt culture from visitors from other countries. Therefore it resulted in a change or loss of ingenious identity and values. Japan might face the problem with the conflicts with traditional land-uses. Government may one day made a choice between development of land for tourists' facilities or structure and local traditional land-use. 

Tourism a culprit in commodifying cultures & traditions? 
I agree to a certain extend. Indeed, tourism is part of the reason in commodifying cultures and traditions. According to (Japanese Antique Fuji, Torii, Japanese know little about Japan, 2006-2007), the reason why most Japanese people do not know a lot about Japanese artwork, culture or traditions, because Japan has been ignoring them, instead choosing to focus on globalization. Therefore, i feel that globalization is the main cause of commodifying cultures and traditions. When the newer generation of Japanese didn't know much about their own culture. It make is easier for them to be affected by visitors and then adopt their culture. 

In conclusion, Japan is a country rich of culture and if the government put more effort in educating the newer generation of their own culture, it might be a different story after all. 


(n.d.). Retrieved december 9, 2010, from Japanese National Tourism Organization:
(n.d.). Retrieved december 9, 2010, from The Japanese Ainu People | e Language School:
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(2006-2007, November ). Retrieved December 9, 2010, from Japanese Antique Fuji, Torii, Japanese know little about Japan:
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