Japanology.org

Japanology.org: The Meiji Restoration

Although Japan had been absorbing external cultural influences since the 7th century, especially from Korea and China, it spent many hundreds of years purposely cut off from the rest of the world. It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that Japan began opening up to the outside world. While western history records this as the “opening”…

Japanology.org: The geisha

As any visitor to Kyoto will soon notice, geisha are not just historical figures. With some luck, a visitor wandering in the city’s ancient Gion neighborhood may well catch a glimpse of one of these exotic, mysterious women as she moves quickly through the area’s narrow streets, on her way to work. But who are the geisha? What do they do? And in the 21st century, what is their role in society?

Japanology.org: The Samurai class

Warriors, nobles, scholars and ultimately outcasts, the samurai, or as the Japanese are more apt to call them, bushi, were crucial figures in Japanese history for nearly a thousand years. For a third of that time, they ruled much of the country, but about 150 years ago, they all but disappeared. To understand why, we must know where they came from.

Japanology.org: Shrines and temples

Unless you are going to spend all your time in Japan shopping, eating and drinking – and we could hardly blame you – Japan is one of the great cultures of the world when it comes to religious, or spiritual, expression. Much Japanese art and architecture is devoted to spiritual matters, and the country is loaded with artifacts from grand temples to tiny shrines, sometimes in the unlikeliest places.

Japanology.org: 5 types of noodles

Whether in the form of udon, soba, yakisoba, somen, the universally-popular ramen or others, Japan’s love affair with noodles is rich and varied. Given the many uses of the form, in a broth as soup, in hot dishes, or in cold salads with a variety of dipping sauces, the Japanese prove every day that they can do nearly anything with noodles.

Japanology.org: The Onsen

Japan’s position on top of a volcanic archipelago has clear disadvantages, so it’s important to remember one of its great benefits: Japan is home to literally thousands of hot springs, or onsen. The Japanese have a long and beautiful tradition of deep enjoyment of this natural advantage.

Japanology.org: The Tea Ceremony

Its name in Japanese is simple – chakai (tea gathering) – but to the rest of the world it is regarded as one of Japan’s greatest mysteries, and is known distinctively as the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
But the chakai (or more formal chaji) is not just about tea, nor is it simply a ceremony, something to be learned, performed and added to one’s list of accomplishments. Chakai is more than that. It is a way of life itself.

Japanology.org: Buddhism and Shinto

Japan is home to not one, but two religions, Shinto and Buddhism. Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples often stand side by side, and the Japanese see no inconsistency worshiping the Buddha and the many Shinto kami with virtually the same breath. After nearly 1500 years, they are deeply, culturally interconnected – though that was the result of a long, complex process known as shin-butsu shugo (Shinto-Buddhism coalescence).

Japanology.org: A Guide to Kaiseki

While many gourmands around the food world laud the current trend of “farm-to-fork” cuisine – with its focus on fresh, local, seasonal ingredients and simple-but-elegant presentation – the Japanese have been raising the same approach to a high art for centuries. Kaiseki, Japan’s multi-course haute cuisine, has been refined over the four hundred years since…

Japanology.org: 5 Things about sake

The word sake is actually a generic Japanese word, and refers to any alcoholic beverage. Vodka is, then, sake in Japan, as is beer, which now out-sells sake in Japan. What English speakers call sake is what the Japanese call seishu or nihonshu: “Japanese liquor.” But since English-speakers routinely call it sake, we will continue with that usage here.

Japanology.org: 10 Money-Saving Tips

Even if you have ample funds and a healthy credit card, there are good reasons to shop for bargains beyond simply saving money: Watching for bargains gets you out of your accustomed ways, puts you in the position to meet ordinary Japanese (and other travelers) and see how they live, introduces you to new habits, and gives you the opportunity to learn the value of a Yen. No one minds saving a little money.