As one of the countries that can be easily distinguished by its unique culture, Japan always gives us some surprises either leaves us with a “Wow!” or “WTF?” But when we sit down and think about it, nothing can really surprise us because it is The Japan!
1. Of course sit and sleep on the floor! As a significant part of Japanese identity, 畳(tatami) was initially introduced as a luxury flooring material for nobilities during 平安時代(Heian period, 794-1185) and has then become the most commonly used item for a Japanese traditional style home for everyone. People hang out here during the day🌞 and sleep on the tatami at night🌛. Tatami is also a measurement today, roughly one tatami is 17.8 square feet.
2. Of course a red-light district! The red-light district in Kyoto was called島原(Shimabara), originally built for legal prostitution in 1640. It has turned into a tourist and 芸者(geisha) district since the Japanese government banned prostitution. The most famous red-light district in Japan was 吉原(Yoshiwara) in Edo, Tokyo today. During its peak time in late 19th century, there were estimated 9,000 women working in Yoshiwara. Today, although prostitution has been outlawed for long by the Japanese government, the then Yoshiwara’s land – 新宿４丁目(Shinjuku 4 Chome) – is still well known for “girls’ bar” and “boys’ bar” and underground prostitution.
3. Of course a 忍者屋敷 (Ninja house)! As one of the “signature products” of Japan, ninja started becoming a profession receiving restrict trainings during 戦国時代(Sengoku period, 15th century-16th century), and is still playing a core role in Japanese culture export today. Although back then, ninja was considered a degrading profession and had been despised by samurais who were deemed honorable and noble, its reputation has been totally changed in today’s pop culture. Its fans are all over the world and all share a same thought: ninja is so cool~😎
4. Of course there are soooo many temples in Kyoto! As the most famous former capital city of the country, Kyoto had been the residence city of the Japanese royalties since 平安時代(Heian period, 794-1185) and had served this role for over 1,000 years before the emperor moved to Edo(Tokyo today) in 1869. As one of the best preserved cities in Japan, Kyoto, after having its life saved by being removed from the atomic bomb target list during World War II, is renown for its numerous religious places. Among the 2,000 religious places throughout the city, there are 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines.
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5. Of course some authentic 抹茶 (Matcha)😋! Chinese 禅宗(Zen Buddhism) was the first of introducing preparation and tasting of powdered tea🍵 into a ritual during early 12th century, emphasizing purity, tranquility and self-discipline. The concept was brought to Japan around 100 years later and since then has become a highly appreciated higher class social manner. Kyoto is especially renown for its green tea production. So when you are there, you know what you need to do😉😁.
6. Of course a 地藏菩萨(Kshitigarbha: Earth Treausry)! As one of the four principal bodhisattvas in East Asian Mahayana Buddhism, Kshitigarbha is deemed as bodhisattva of hell-beings, with his vow of not to achieve Buddha-hood until all hells are empty. In Japan, he is also regarded as guardian of children, including living ones, deceased ones and aborted fetuses. Kshitigarbha is one of the most loved divinities in Japan, and he has been depicted as more baby-like both as statues and in Japanese fairy tales.
7. Of course tons of 鳥居(torii)! As a symbol dividing profane and sacred, a torii is often found at the entrance of a shrine. 稲荷神社(Inari shrine) in Kyoto is particularly well-known for its thousands of toriis, which were donated by wealthies and businessmen, since “Inari” is the name of a Japanese 神 (Okami) of fertility and industry.
1. Of course Glico! You may not be familiar with the name Glico, and you must know Pocky😋! Glico is Pocky’s mother company, a Japanese multi-national food giant based in 道頓堀(Dotonbori), Osaka. This company sign, the Glico man, has been there as a landmark for Osaka since 1935.
2. Of course the 大坂城(Osaka Castle)🏯! There is so many things to say about this castle and the history behind it. But long story short, the construction work of the original Osaka Castle started in 1583 under 豊臣秀吉(Toyotomi Hideyoshi), who took over the leading position of unifying Japan during Sengoku period after the decease of 織田信長(Oda Nobunaga), and completed the unification of Japan in 1590. The construction work of the castle took as long as 14 years and finally completed in 1597, one year before the death of Hideyoshi, and the castle was passed to his son 豊臣秀頼(Toyotomi Hideyori), who was only 5 years old then. After changing its owner from 豊臣家(Toyotomi clan) to 徳川家(Tokugawa clan) in 1615, the castle was severely damaged in 1868 at the beginning of 明治維新(Meiji Restoration) and began to serve as a arsenal during the World Wars. The Castle was restored in the 1990s under the approval of Osaka government and has become a major tourist attraction and a modern museum since then.
3. Of course some surprising hi-tech💡🔅! There was a little trick hiding in my Osaka hotel’s bathroom. One of the annoying things for girls is the blurry bathroom mirror after a hot shower. But I surprisingly found the central part of the mirror was still crystal clear in the hot and steaming bathroom right after a shower. Wow, amazing work! Good job Japan👍👏!
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