Bowing, or ojigi, is a very visible part of Japanese culture totally foreign to Westerners. It might seem simple from the outside, but it is actually a very complicated practice with deep social implications.
In recent years, there has been a huge drive by the Japanese government to bring in increased numbers of international students. This is partly due to the country’s ageing population – recruiting international students is an opportunity to bring young and vibrant students into Japan, who may then consider staying on longer. The government set a goal of attracting 300,000 international students by 2020 – this target was exceeded in 2019, when 320,000 international students made the exciting journey to the Land of the Rising Sun.
I guess it’s just because Japan is so packed with fascinating wildlife that many of the locals grow used to being surrounded by amazing nature. However, that doesn’t mean the Japanese are complacent when it comes to wildlife conservation. A lot of government and charity money is put into helping Japan’s 90,000 or so species of animal thrive. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be itching to discover some of these fascinating creatures for yourself.
The word “kimono” has been thrown around as casually and as often a word can be, but do people actually know what it is? It’s quite obvious to everyone that this form of clothing belongs to the Japanese but it’s not just a fashion style — the kimono has quite a culturally rich history with significance to the wearer. It’s also a huge category with not only one type of kimono but numerous types for various occasions. With the untrained, naked eyes, you can’t imagine how a single bolt of cloth can differ from one another.
Weddings are a big deal in Japan, and like so much else in the Land of the Rising Sun there are customs that wedding celebrations are expected to adhere to. If you’ve been invited to a Japanese wedding, you might be nervous about what to expect – read on for our guide on what you’re likely to experience as a guest at a Japanese wedding.
Onsen bathing has been a staple of Japanese culture for centuries, and it has been referenced in their earliest historical records. The act of bathing in an onsen is so important to Japanese people that many people even view it as a religious experience. Perhaps the idea of being *gulp* naked in front of lots of strangers is enough to put you off trying an authentic onsen experience, but practically everyone who tries it agrees it’s one of the best things you can do in Japan. Why are onsen so popular in Japan? And what should you know before trying it yourself?
Here’s the thing: if you’re not born in Japan or have lived long enough in the country, you wouldn’t necessarily know the ins and outs of it. The Japanese etiquette is one that’s profound and sometimes confusing. The unique customs, social norms and rules that regulate the society and relations can be pretty far off compared to what some of us are used to, including the tons of “don’ts” that we are obliged to follow. Even if foreigners tend to get a “free pass” in most situations, it’s best to not take advantage of that.
Technically, the term “onsen” refers to a Japanese hot spring. Colloquially, onsen can refer to the types of heated bathing and relaxation facilities one finds at many traditional Japanese inns. Whether it’s an official onsen or not, if you’re using a bathing facility in Japan you’ll want to do a bit of research beforehand.
If you go in with a plan, the culture shock of a new country is actually a great opportunity. After all, being an outsider just means you have a lot to learn. Getting used to Japanese culture is an adventure, and if you do it right, it’s something that will enrich and improve your life, not just in Japan but forever. You’ll meet new people, have new experiences and gain new insights into the world and society around you.
In a country known for overworked salarymen (a term for white-collar employees) passing out on the sidewalks from utter exhaustion, a day off is an oasis in the seemingly endless dessert of deadlines. Now imagine having a long break from all that and you have yourself a golden week. Indeed, there is no name more appropriate for this cluster of Japanese holidays.