Japan is a fascinating and not always understandable country for Europeans. The geographical location, the peculiarities of State policy and the ancient traditions of its people have led to its isolation from other countries. Because of this, the culture of Japan and the Japanese aesthetics have pronounced features that distinguish them from what can be seen in other countries.
In the depths of centuries, the traditions of Japanese literature were formed. Such poetic genres as haiku, tanka, haiku were presented to the world by Japan. Ancient Japanese engravings still amaze connoisseurs and lovers of fine art with their expressiveness and completeness. The culture of everyday life, the integral components of which are the veneration of the elders by the younger and a specific attitude towards women, the search for beauty and harmony in all spheres of life did not come to modern Japanese society from the outside, but are a continuation of traditions that originated in the depths of centuries.
The culture of ancient Japan.
As in any other country, the basis of culture in Japan is its language and writing. The so-called Old Japanese language was formed by borrowing the system of hieroglyphs and writing of Ancient China. Gradually transforming, it nevertheless always remained extremely difficult to study.
Shintoism and Zen Buddhism, which have been the main religions in this country for many centuries, have initiated a certain attitude to life and art. Shinto is something like an ancient mythology that describes the life of the gods and spirits that the ancient Japanese unconditionally worshipped. Under the influence of religion, very strict relationships are established within social groups in the country, the cult of leaders and the cult of the dead are formed.
The arrival of Buddhism in Japan and its rapid spread still remain a mystery to scientists, but nevertheless, since the 5th-6th centuries, it has begun to have a serious impact on the minds and psychology of the country’s population.
In almost all the works of ancient Japanese painting, one of the main places is occupied by nature, which from the point of view of religion is the embodiment of the divine principle.
Japanese literature is also considered surprisingly early. While Japanese men wrote using Chinese characters, women who were forbidden to study foreign languages wrote in Japanese, creating amazingly beautiful works that realistically reflect the world and are filled with national color. The Tokyo National Museum (address: 13-9 Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo, 110-871) provides an opportunity to get acquainted with the richest collection of exhibits that allow you to trace the relationship between various facets of Japanese culture and their development over many centuries.
Flying carp during the celebration of Children’s Day.
Samurai of Japan.
The unique layer of culture of this country is associated with the traditions of the samurai. Usually samurai are called the military-feudal estate of small nobles. There was nothing similar in Europe, although it is possible to draw some analogies with medieval chivalry. Samurai was born in the 7th century, and in the 10th-13th centuries it was finally formed. By this time, the main clans were not just in the service of aristocratic families, but had acquired political weight. The basis of the ideology of the samurai was Zen Buddhism, on its basis there was a teaching of Bushido-a code of honor, which the samurai followed strictly. Education was also welcomed in this environment: influential families sought to teach their children all the arts,not just military. The samurai also differed from the rest in appearance: a special hairstyle and two swords, large and small, were mandatory. The image of a samurai — bushi-was formed in the 18th century. The history of the samurai class ended already in the 19th century, but the spirit of Bushido continues to live in the Japanese, which became quite obvious during the Second World War. To better understand the traditions, lifestyle and way of thinking of the samurai, it is worth visiting the same Tokyo National Museum. In its halls there are many unique objects that give an idea of the life of the Japanese military nobility and now have the status of a national treasure in Japan.
In particular, the collection of samurai swords, the oldest of which dates back to the 11th century, is of particular interest.
The Art of Japan.
The search for harmony between all the components of life is, perhaps, what is most characteristic of all the art trends in Japan. The desire to find those brightest touches that best emphasize the individuality of the depicted object, regardless of the method of presenting information, makes the art of this country relevant always and everywhere. I must say that many types of art came to the everyday life of the world from Japan: origami is becoming increasingly popular — the art of folding various figures out of paper.
The art of making bouquets — ikebana-has long been firmly included in the arsenal of all professional florists in the world, and the creation (namely, the creation, you can not say otherwise) of bonsai, that is, growing dwarf trees and combining them into compositions, is becoming increasingly popular among residents of modern cramped megacities. Bonsai Park is located 30 km from Tokyo, in the suburb of Omiya. His collection of dwarf trees is unique. Here you can see bonsai from 10 cm to 120 cm in height, all of them are equally elegant, despite the completely different appearance. It is in this park that it becomes clear that bonsai is, first of all, art, and only then technology.
The art of organizing a tea ceremony is also becoming popular. Today, this is no longer a strictly scheduled ritual that takes place under the guidance of a tea master in a special tea pavilion, but rather an occasion to see friends. But, as before, the meticulous observance of all stages of this action leads its participants to a peaceful, contemplative mood, and this is what modern people so often lack.
The exact balance of the finest color transitions combined with exquisite lines in the works of painting distinguishes the paintings of Japanese masters. All of them, including quite utilitarian works used in everyday life, are full of hidden meaning and make you take a new look at the surrounding reality. The art of calligraphy is also integral to painting, which consists not only of the ability to write hieroglyphs beautifully, but also to accurately select those that best convey the mood of the author. In the Gallery of Applied Art at 1-1 Kitanomaru-koen, Tokyo, you can see a lot of products of Japanese artisans. Works made of glass, paper, metal, plastic, ceramics, bamboo are presented. The most outstanding examples are kept in the collection of the National Museum of Modern Art at 8-36 Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo.
It is impossible not to mention the Japanese design. First of all, this is the design of household appliances and other industrial goods. Elegance, harmony and the highest degree of functionality distinguish almost all Japanese products, we are talking about fountain pens or cars. Many outstanding works of Japanese designers of the present and last centuries are presented in the halls of the National Museum of Modern Art (website in English), and ordinary samples can be found in stores that have Japanese goods in their assortment.
Despite the fact that the world cinema art is clearly influenced by American cinema, Japanese cinema has given the world many magnificent pictures that have been awarded at the most prestigious festivals and have triumphantly passed on the screens of the whole world. Such directors as Akira Kurosawa (who, by the way, was born in the family of a hereditary samurai), Kaneto Shindo, are on a par with the most prominent figures of world cinema.
It is surprising that the Oscar-winner Akira Kurosawa, who so subtly showed the world Japan, was never fully understood in his native country, and one of his best films “Rasemon” (which does not leave the list of the best films in the world) was not recognized as a masterpiece in Japan.
Theater in Japan.
The theatrical art of Japan is multifaceted and multifaceted. Perhaps the most famous is the Kabuki Theater, which was formed in the 17th century. All the roles in this theater are performed by men, and outstanding Japanese playwrights write plays for it. Kabuki Theater tours in Europe and America cause a constant full house and enthusiastic responses from the audience. In Tokyo, the performance can be seen at Kabuki-za, 4-12-5 Ginza, Chou-ku. Order tickets by phone 81-3-5565-6000, their cost ranges from 4000 to 20,000 JPY. The performance lasts from 16: 30 to 21: 00, but for an inexperienced viewer, it will be quite tedious to watch it in its entirety, this genre is too specific. Many tourists rent headphones (500 JPY rent and 1000 JPY deposit), in which there is a broadcast of detailed explanations to the play (in English). The prices on the page are as of November 2018.
Globalism manifests itself in everything, and the modern culture of Japan has not resisted the onslaught of cultural trends in Asia, Europe and North America. In the modern art of this country, there are trends formed outside of it, but nevertheless, any work of Japanese artists, poets, writers, cinematographers carries those bright features that the Land of the Rising Sun has been preserving for many centuries as one of its treasures.