Japan is world-famous for its deep-rooted culture, developed over centuries and influenced by Shinto religion, Buddhism and Confucianism. Today, Japan holds social harmony and hard work at the forefront of its culture so let’s take a look at some of the fascinating traditions in Japan. 

Take a bow 

Nara deer park
Photo by missmary_n on Instagram

Whether you are entering a restaurant, shop or temple, you will often see the Japanese bow. This is to show modesty, humility and respect. The lower you bow, the deeper the respect shown. 

Festivals a-plenty 

Obon festival
Photo by randomrob_ on Instagram

The Japanese sure know how to celebrate! Much of Shinto religion is dedicated to observing seasonal changes. While most take place in summer, festivals are dotted throughout the calendar year. Some of the biggest include Gion Matsuri in Kyoto, the largest parade in the country, historically put on to appease the gods during an epidemic; and Obon, where locals return to their hometown to pay their respects to the spirits of those who have passed on.  

Eating etiquette 

Japanese ramen
Photo by the.nbamm on Instagram

Japan has some strict eating etiquette that you should know about before you visit. For example, it’s customary to slurp your noodles to show appreciation for the meal (as well as cool them down). You should also take note that it is frowned upon to eat while walking on the street or on a train.  

Gold repairs 

Photo by holliealexanderceramics on Instagram

Known as kintsugi, or golden joinery, the Japanese have developed a special way of repairing broken pottery. Taught as a way to appreciate one’s scars and failures, kintsugi involves mixing a lacquer with powdered gold to create beautiful golden joinery. Why throw something out when it is still perfectly usable?  

Soak away in an onsen 

Photo by visitkinosa on Instagram

Visiting an onsen is a beloved tradition in Japan, and a must-do during your travels! This practice has strong community roots. It began to not only preserve hot water but also as a way for people to come together to relax and feel rejuvenated. Onsen are often split into female and male sides, and you must wash yourself before enjoying a hot soak.  

Tea ceremony rituals 

Tea ceremony in Japan
Photo by dinojinglebell on Instagram

The preparation and drinking of matcha tea was first developed into a tea ceremony by elite monks. It was practiced by noble warlords and is now a common tradition amongst the Japanese. With its zen roots, tea ceremonies are a way to practice silence, respect, mindfulness, symbolic purification and gain inner peace. It’s also a simplistic, yet special, way to create a bond between the host and guest, so do partake in this special tradition if you have the chance.  

Getting in the ring 

Sumo competition
Photo by the_wild_twins on Instagram

The sport of sumo was begun as a Shinto ceremony to entertain the gods. It is said that if the gods weren’t entertained, the harvest season wouldn’t be good. There are some neat traditions to note around this sport. The sumo stage is a sacred space, and a replica of a Shinto shrine roof is typically hung above the ring. Sumo wrestlers throw salt into the ring as an act to purify it and do irregular warmups to scare spirits away. They also eat up to 20,000 calories of food per day, including chanko nabe (a calorie-dense beef and vegetable stew).   

Self-defense tactics 

Martial arts
Photo by budojapan on Instagram

Martial arts are an interesting tradition in Japan. There are many different forms (like jujitsu and kendo), and they are taught as self-defense practices. The aim is to build a strong character, not to fight your enemy. It is common for Japanese policemen to practice akido to catch criminals.  

Strike a pose 

Geisha performance
Photo by mr_japanization on Instagram

Geisha are held in high respect by the Japanese, having gone through rigorous training to become a person of art. Once completed, geisha are regarded as masters of major cultural art forms – from ikebana flower arrangements and buyou dance, to calligraphy and tea ceremonies.  

The art of furoshiki  

Furoshiki wrapping
Photo by bentoandco on Instagram

One of Japan’s core values is reducing, or not having, any waste. The art of furoshiki uses old fabrics to wrap items such as your lunch or gifts. While there is a simple wrap, some can resemble baskets or bags. Furoshiki is now seen as a great eco-friendly tip by the rest of the world. 

These are just some of the fascinating traditions in Japan, a wondrous country that attracts millions of visitors each year. Experience some of these traditions for yourself on a Globus or Cosmos tour. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *