Traditional Entertainment


In this section I will describe traditional forms of entertainment. From dog fights in Kochi (Shikoku Prefecture) to the tea ceremony.

Naturally many forms of entertainment are similar to those found in the West. If you have ever watched the movie "Mr. Baseball", then you can understand that the Japanese often add there "own flavor" to enjoy themselves. Nowadays, recreation is becoming more important, especially to the younger generation of Japanese, who do

not believe in the same work ethics as their parents. Indeed many middle aged salary men have found themselves on the "trash heap", being fired from their companies because of restructuring measures taken, due to the economic downturn. Life time employment promises made by their employers no longer "holds much water" in Japan, to many young and older Japanese employees.

Tea ceremony

History in brief:

The Japanese tea ceremony has its origins in China and was brought to Japan during the Nara period (710-794). It faded and was not revived until the Kamakura period (1185-1333)and gained further popularity during the Muromachi period

(1333-1576). This was largely due to the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa and his tea master Murata Junko who started the Wabicha style using a 4 and half Tatami mat room and he also developed the Sado discipline, (the way of the tea) which heightened the artistic and spiritual aspects of the ceremony. The tea ceremony was further developed by Sen no Rikyu in the Momoyama period(1576-1600). He was later ordered to commit ritual suicide by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, his patron, after a

dispute. His teachings were carried on, and three of his followers founded the Senke schools: Ura Senke, Omote Senke and Mushakoji Senke. Other important schools are: Yabunouchhi, Enshu, and Sohen. Ura Senke started to be taught abroad after

the second World War and has played an important part in internationalizing the tea ceremony. 


The way of the tea ceremony:

I first experienced a tea ceremony over twenty years ago, and it still remains an important event in my life. To an uninitiated youth it was a complete mystery, and pushed me into studying Japan in greater detail which I am still doing today.


The basis of the tea ceremony is as follows:

It is held in a small room (4 1/2 Tatami mat) away from any other buildings and it can be held outside. The host puts powdered green tea (Matcha) into a ceramic tea bowl and adds hot water from a kettle. The mixture is then whisked rapidly. The guest should then take the tea bowl with his right hand and steady it with the palm of his left hand. He should turn it one or two times, appreciating the design and beauty of the bowl.

After drinking the guest should wipe the rim of the bowl with his finger and his finger on a napkin. Sometimes small Japanese sweets may also be served.

The guest should show appreciation of the room and his surroundings.


Sen no Rikyu established four rules for rapport between the host and guest and seven guidelines for the hosts attitude. A brief explanation of this ceremony is not enough to fully appreciate the tranquility of the occasion. To learn more you should enroll in a tea ceremony class. This ceremony is for men and women. Generally men seem to reach higher ranks than women.

In Japan today, it is still quite a popular class to attend. Many young single women attend tea ceremony classes before getting married. The classes are not easy and it can take many years to reach a satisfactory level. The utensils needed, range in prices from 10.000 Yen upwards.

This is not a hobby for those who are impatient, but for people who wish to find serenity in their lives.

Flower arranging

History in brief:

Like the tea ceremony Ikebana also known as Kado the way of the flower arose in the Muromachi period (1333-1576) under the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa. Over a number of years, Ikebana has developed many styles and around 3.000 different

schools, the largest of which is Ikenobo.



Rikka was developed by Senkei in the Muromachi period. A Tokonoma (alcove) is decorated with this flower arrangement. Using bamboo, pine, willow, peach, maple and so on, to make a vertical arrangement, to try to create a natural looking

landscape with the materials.

Seika uses a vase to represent the earth and tries to portray the power of flowers growing wild and not their beauty. This style was developed in the mid Edo period(1600-1867) to decorate a Tokonoma. One feature of this style is its natural flow and


Nageire arrangements are displayed in a tall vase and can be hung from a ceiling or a pillar and of course, displayed in a Tokonoma.

Moribana style uses water trays and baskets, the name comes from the fact that flowers are piled up for show. It was developed in the late Meiji period (1868-1912) as a reaction against the traditional forms of flower arranging. Using western flowers and displayed outside of the Tokonoma.

New forms of Ikebana have come into being, with the advent of more Western style housing. Some avant-garde styles use artificial flowers. The new styles are popular with people, with little interest in the old traditions. As in the tea ceremony classes

many young women join before marriage and may study for several years. If you have some artistic flair and patience then you should try an Ikebana class.

Cherry Blossoms

 Cherry Blossom Viewing (Hana-mi: 花見)


The Hana-mi tradition started in the Heian period, when Hana-mi tradition didn't spread to the commoners until the Edo period, these parties are shown in the set of wood block prints by Katsushika Hokusai (36 Views of Mount Fuji). Some of the best Hana-mi sites are, Mount Yoshino in Nara prefecture, known as the mountain with 1.000 cherry trees, Kyoto's Arashiyama and in Ibaraki prefecture Sakuragawa.


Today, Hana-mi parties are celebrated by the high society and working classes in Japan. In Tokyo, one of the most popular places to have a Hana-mi party is in Ueno Park. At the height of the blossoming, it is literally impossible to walk along the paths in the park. Every square centimeter of grass is covered with groundsheets and people holding parties, singing, dancing, loud debates, speeches, the Japanese time "to let their hair down".

I did join a Hana-mi party many years ago in Ueno Park, it was a wonderful experience, only the next day my head was not in good shape, from over indulgence with the Sake (: rice wine).

People often stake their claim a day before the party, by laying their groundsheets on the desired spot, usually the group will guard the position, in turn, during the day and night before.

Family Hana-mi parties are usually a little more civilized, at least until the men folk get drunk, then the party will liven up. I have attended quite many Hana-mi parties, it's always fascinating to watch the transformation of the most reserved and staid Japanese gentleman, into a part animal. Another unique Japanese experiences, that I would completely recommend.

Autumn Scene



In contrast to cherry blossom viewing, there are no loud parties, this is a time of quite contemplation. Japan has a long Autumn season and there are a variety of colors to be seen. Maple leaves such as the kaede and momiji cover the mountains in beautiful shades of red. The Autumn landscapes in Japan are said to be the most beautiful in the world, perhaps that's true. Some of the most popular places to view the maple leaves, are congested to the point of insanity. The roads around Nikko (popular area for momiji-gari) come to a standstill, along some of the mountain roads. It would be wise to choose a weekday, if you want to see the maples peacefully.

A Hot Spring

Hot Springs


A visit to a hot spring is a very popular leisure activity in Japan. There are many hot springs hotels and traditional Japanese inns clustered around the hot springs areas.


It is a popular destination for company outings, whereby the employees can relax and communicate freely with their superiors, or at least that is the theory. The hotels vary in size, price and amenities. All of them usually serve dinner, with many of the larger

hotels holding a cabaret or other entertainment in the evenings. Many of the women hotel employees are clad in a kimono, which gives the hotels a unique Japanese atmosphere.

Many of the baths are open air and often afford splendid views of the surrounding countryside, especially if they are located higher up on a mountainside. These hotels are very popular, especially during the autumn season, where the surrounding countryside, bejeweled in a variety of autumn colors can be viewed from the comfort of a hot spring bath, maybe sipping a small cup of warm sake. A very pleasant experience, if you don't go to heavy on the sake!

During the ski season many young people will often stay at a hot spring or take a hot spring bath while on a skiing trip. one of the popular dating itineraries for couples who have serious feelings for each other.

The hot spring water is not drunk, the many minerals contained in the water are said to be good for a variety of disorders, but in any case the water is hot and very relaxing.

A popular resort area is Atami, on the Izu peninsula, not far from Tokyo. It has many fine views of the Pacific and the verdant hills, with some geisha thrown in for good measure, make it a a very good place to visit, for anyone, but especially the novice to


There are so many hot spring inns, over 2,000 at the present time, that it is only a matter of personal choice, about which one is better, or not. Japanese is usually the only kind of food served, if you don't mind eating sashimi (raw fish) and other Japanese delicacies then you should try a hot spring inn, and sample a bit of traditional Japan.

Upon entering the Japanese inn, you must remove your shoes and leave them in a shoe rack. The front desk staff, usually line up politely and bow you into the hotel. You should return the bow, but do not stop, keep walking, one bow is enough. Once in your room, you will find a light Japanese gown. many of the guests can be seen walking around the streets in them and inside the hotel, especially at dinner time. It can be a little intimidating, on entering  the dining room, finding that all the guests are dressed in the gowns and you are the only one wearing western clothes ( maybe the gown is too short ?) and a foreigner as well!

I would recommend a visit to a hot spring inn, its a good learning experience and you will enjoy yourself.



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