JAPANESE CULTURE BLOG

Washi (和紙)

CRAFTS

Washi (和紙)

From origami and ikebana to ukiyō-e woodblock prints and shodō calligraphy, washi (“Japanese paper”) is used in many renowned arts and crafts from Japan.  But it was also a practical material back in the day, providing clothes and useful household goods such as tableware.  Recognised by UNESCO for its cultural heritage, traditional washi differs from ordinary paper as it’s often handcrafted in a highly intricate process involving fibres from the bark of paper mulberry bushes (or the gampi and mitsumata tree).  This makes it tougher and more like cloth.  Washi remains a stylish and much sought-after material in Japan, used...

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Niwaki (庭木)

GARDEN

Niwaki (庭木)

In 2020, both new and seasoned gardeners amongst us discovered an appreciation for ‘lockdown gardening’.  If you’re looking to take on a new challenge or continue a newfound hobby this year, consider the practice of niwaki.  Originating in Japan, it refers to the way in which trees are grown and pruned (the literal translation means “garden tree”, but it’s also another word for “sculptural trees”).    Rather than focusing on the tree itself, the principle aim of niwaki is to find balance in asymmetry and nature.  Not to be confused with bonsai (the small, potted trees that are cultivated to artfully...

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Veganuary (ヴィガニュアリィ)

FOOD

Veganuary (ヴィガニュアリィ)

Japan might be well-known for its sushi, tempura and yakiniku, but did you know that you'll also find many vegan-friendly dishes?  Whether you’ve gone meat-free for the month or are committed to a long-term change, we thought we’d share this simple, family recipe from our friends at Sway Gallery Stockholm.  Nasu-don (“aubergine bowl”)  Ingredients: Aubergines Cornstarch Vegetable oil Soy sauce Mirin Sake Rice Cut an aubergine into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Lightly pat down both sides with cornstarch and shallow-fry both sides in vegetable oil. When cooked, remove the eggplant slices from the frying pan and place them to one side. Then, add...

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Seijin no Hi(成人の日)

Seijin no Hi(成人の日)

We’ve already talked about Shichi-Go-San and celebrating children in November, but in the New Year it’s time to congratulate those becoming young adults. Seijin no Hi (or “Coming of Age Day”) is a Japanese holiday held annually on the second Monday in January, with various festivities for all those who turned or will turn 20 over the past year, until 1 April. This year, it’s today!  To celebrate, local or prefectural offices in Japan organise seijin-shiki (“coming of age ceremonies”) in the morning, and friends and family also mark the occasion by holding parties.  Young women wear intricate furisode, a type of kimono with longer, hanging sleeves, while these days young men...

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A Culture of Clean

A Culture of Clean

Japan is often synonymous with ideas of not only politeness but also  cleanliness, with the global pandemic bringing greater attention to its culture of wearing facemasks. Since most Japanese were accustomed to wearing them before the outbreak of coronavirus, it’s also been credited with helping to reduce the country’s spread of infection. So, why are masks are a common sight in Japan? And what other hygiene  customs are widely practiced there? Before the Spanish flu (1918-20) hit Japan and prompted the widespread popularity of wearing masks, they were mainly used to prevent miners from inhaling dust at coal sites. Today, masks are mainly worn...

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