10 Japanese traditions to know

10 traditions japonaises à connaître

The Japanese traditions can seem confusing. They come from a very ancient culture that has drawn from different sources. To travel to Japan, or to understand Japanese society, there are a number of traditions you need to know. Here are a few.

Japanese traditions

1.      The tea ceremony

Teaoccupies a central place in Japanese culture. Originally from China, he is now the subject of a special ceremony in Japan.

There are more than two hundred kinds of tea. Black tea is made from the older leaves of the tea tree, the shrub that produces tea. It is fermented for a long time, which gives it a stronger taste. Green tea, on the other hand, is not fermented. This clear tea is a bit bitter. It is often consumed for therapeutic purposes. The mixture of green tea and black tea produces Oolong tea. It combines the properties of both teas.

There is also white tea, which is particularly rare. China is the sole producer. It is obtained using a selection of young shoots. The color of the infusion is reminiscent of the color of gold.

The tea ceremony takes place in the presence of various Chinese objects, which testifies to its origin. Various influences led to the ceremony as it is performed today. It is inspired in part by Buddhism. This is usually tea served in a quiet environment to a small group of guests following a particular code. We are talking about chanoyu when it comes to the practice itself.

To indulge in chanoyu, the host presiding over the ceremony must have a great deal of knowledge about the objects and the environment. He must, among other things, know kimonos, calligraphy and floral arrangements. As for the guests, they must have a basic knowledge of sadô, or the doctrine relating to the ceremony. They must indeed make the appropriate gestures and know how to behave.

A very large number of objects are associated with the ceremony. The main element is the tea bowl. Different types of bowls are used depending on whether it is strong tea or mild tea. The bowl is also different depending on the season.

The host must wear the kimono. You have to sit on the tatami in order of prestige. Sometimes tea is accompanied by a simple meal. Each of the utensils is symbolically cleaned in the presence of the guests. The ceremony is not about discussion. The group relaxes and just enjoys the peaceful atmosphere. When everyone has had the tea, the host cleans the utensils. The guests then examine them before leaving the premises.

2.      Politeness

The tradition of politeness is very important in Japan. To facilitate contact, it is important to handle courtesies. It is good to know, for example, to address a person by their last name. Indeed, the last name precedes the first name. The first name is only used when speaking to children or close friends. At the end of the name, it is possible to add a word which indicates the rank of the person or his function.

In addition, unlike in Western traditions, it is not allowed to look your interlocutor in the eye. This is a lack of respect and a provocation. Kissing and affection in public are also frowned upon. We don't shake hands when we meet. Rather, you have to bow. When two friends meet, however, they just nod their heads.

3.      The giri

The girican be defined as social duty in Japan. It is about the duty that everyone owes to their relatives, parents, colleagues. The giriis based on what to bring and what to receive in return. So when someone receives a gift, they must give it back. The gift should be chosen in relation to the person with whom you have a relationship. You must also take into account its rank.

Obeying these principles implies that you should always bring a gift to the person inviting you to their home. To arrive empty-handed would be an offense. Exchanges of gifts are very frequent.

4.      Shôgatsu

The celebration of the Japanese New Year, Shôgatsu, is one of the most important traditions. Originally, the term referred to the first month of the year, during which celebrations took place. It now refers mostly to the first week of the year. On New Year's Eve, the houses are decorated, especially the entrance. Special care is taken in the decoration of the little one shinto altar fitted out in the main room.

For the occasion, it is advisable to wear traditional clothes. There is also a traditional New Year's food. It is also an opportunity to visit a Shinto shrine or a temple. Buddhist. This is called the first visit of the year. Many Japanese get up at dawn to witness the first sunrise of the year.

Children and adolescents are particularly blessed on the New Year. They receive gifts, often in cash. They also play traditional games such as kite flying, flying game and backgammon. On January 2, children draw auspicious ideograms to make the coming year a good one.

For the first three days of the year, several businesses remain closed. On January 7, it is a tradition that we take a seven herb oatmeal meal, which ensures good health for the coming year. Japan is one of the countries with the most public holidays.

5.      Take off your shoes before entering accommodation

japan tatami tradition

Tradition dictates that we take off your shoes before entering a home or in a house. This is also the custom in many hotels and restaurants. Shelves are often installed to allow guests to store their shoes. Many hosts lend slippers to their guests once they are off their shoes. However, they must be removed before walking on the tatami mats so as not to offend the guests.

6.      Eat with chopsticks

It is often difficult for Westerners to eat with chopsticks, as is the tradition in Japan. There is also a proper way to use it. For example, avoid planting chopsticks in the bowl of rice. This gesture is reminiscent of the incense sticks used at funerals.

It is also important to avoid pointing at anyone with the chopsticks you use to eat. It is a rude gesture that can even be perceived as an assault. You should not stick the chopsticks in the food by making a hole either. It would be seen as disrespecting the food you eat. The end of the chopsticks should also not touch the table.

7.     Seijin shiki

Among the many public holidays in Japan, one of the most important is the second Monday in January. It celebrates the coming of age (seijin shiki). It is at the age of twenty that the Japanese are considered to enter the adult world. The town hall then organizes celebrations for them.

New adults often wear traditional clothing for the occasion. The girls wear the long-sleeved kimono in bright colors while the boys don the hakama, loose pants with wide pleats.

8.      Karaoke

This Japanese tradition has been adopted all over the world. Large Japanese cities all have several dedicated halls where everyone can sing in front of an audience accompanied by an instrumental version of a song while the lyrics scroll across a screen.

In Japan, it is possible to book your own karaoke room to indulge in this activity without disturbing others. The Japanese prefer to sing with a group of friends rather than in the presence of the public in bars and restaurants. Friends like to meet in these rooms when evening falls. They can stay there all night.

9.      Entrance exams

The period of entrance exams for different grade levels is a very busy time in Japan. The events take place in mid-January and the media cover them extensively. Even though the number of young people is declining in Japan, the competition for access to institutions remains fierce and produces a high degree of stress among young people for whom the future is at stake very early on.

Since success often belongs to children who come from the best schools, the competition for it begins at a very young age.

10.  The celebration of the dead

The celebration of the dead (O-Good) takes place in mid-July. This is an opportunity to pay homage to the spirit of the deceased. This festival of Buddhist origin lasts three days and allows you to remember the deceased parents and ancestors. On July 13, the spirits return home, guided by lamps placed on the road from the cemetery to the house.


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