So who was the last samurai? That title is usually bestowed upon a man by the name of Saigō Takamori (1828 – 1877). He was one of the most important figures of Japan’s tumultuous transition into the modern era: instrumental in the restoration of power to the emperor and his new government, but also famous for taking up arms against these powers just a few years after!
Sakura is the name for the Japanese cherry blossom tree, but it’s so much more than that. The blossoms the trees produce each year in a brilliant but short-lived explosion of color are an ancient and fundamental part of Japanese culture. While their natural beauty alone is worth experiencing, the symbolism of sakura makes them truly magical. This symbolism has played a role in Japan’s history from the beginning.
Nominally, Japan has been an empire for most of its history. However, historians usually consider its imperial era to be its time of colonial expansion in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Yet this time period is a product of Japan’s historical circumstances and ambitions. Discover how Japan’s self-image as an empire and the role of its emperor have changed dramatically throughout history.
Sumo is a Japanese style of wrestling, and it’s also the country’s national sport. Matches are fought between wrestlers whose goal is to gain weight and strength, which might seem counter-intuitive when compared to the stereotypical image of a fit, lean athlete. But despite their size, sumo wrestlers, or rikishi, are models of strength, determination, and dedication to a craft, and their sport is one that dates back centuries.
We could spend a whole article discussing exactly what feudalism is. For those of us who aren’t history buffs, a very oversimplified way of explaining a feudal system is this. Nobility rule the society, and ordinary people work and fight on behalf of the nobility in exchange for protection and a place to live. This system is commonly associated with medieval Europe, but Japan was also a feudal society between 1192 and 1868.
However, if you’ve been paying any attention to international rugby union in recent years, you’ll be well aware that times are-a changing; many Japanese people have been in the grip of rugby fever for a while now, which reached new heights in 2019 when the Rugby World Cup was held here. Despite their underdog status, the national team managed to dish out devastating defeats to both Wales and Scotland, victories surpassed only by their surprise thumping of South Africa four years prior.
Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding, and this is what the name “origami” literally translates to (“ori” means folding, and “kami” means paper in Japanese). To create origami, you must use only your hands to craft a shape out of a simple piece of paper. You cannot alter the material using scissors, glue, or any other implement – you can’t even mark the paper.
The rich culture of Japan is woven into their clothing. Both the past and present of Japanese fashion tell the story of a society with deeply rooted traditions that nevertheless continues to innovate, create and lead the world. Take a look at Japanese clothing through the ages to see what has changed since the ancient beginnings of the nation—and what’s stayed the same.
Sumo wrestling in Japan is far more than just a sport – it’s a ritual which is over 1500 years old. Those who sumo wrestle are not simply people with a hobby, they are athletes who have devoted every aspect of their lives to their craft. Many foreigners don’t realise the huge personal sacrifices that sumo wrestlers must make when they commit to the lifestyle – including forgoing driving.
The exponential growth of Japan’s economy over a relatively short period of time has been a topic of study by economists worldwide. Japan has developed from a feudal system into a major world economic power with an efficiency that is typical of the Land of The Rising Sun.