this section I will describe traditional forms of entertainment.
From dog fights in Kochi (Shikoku Prefecture) to the tea ceremony.
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
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.
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
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
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
second World War and has played an important part in internationalizing
the tea ceremony.
way of the tea ceremony:
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.
basis of the tea ceremony is as follows:
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.
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.
guest should show appreciation of the room and his surroundings.
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.
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.
is not a hobby for those who are impatient, but for people who wish to
find serenity in their lives.
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
the largest of which is Ikenobo.
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
with the materials.
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
arrangements are displayed in a tall vase and can be hung from a ceiling
or a pillar and of course, displayed in a Tokonoma.
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.
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
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.
Blossom Viewing (Hana-mi: 花見）
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
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".
did join a Hana-mi party many years ago in Ueno Park, it was a
only the next day my head was not in good shape,
from over indulgence with the Sake (酒:
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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
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!
would recommend a visit to a hot spring inn, its a good learning
experience and you will enjoy yourself.