Bunka (Culture)

This page will be a miscellany of items related to Japanese culture, old and new. We hope to add to it as we have time and resources. If you have any suggestions for inclusions please contact the Society via the reponse form and we will do our best to include them.

In case you've wondered about the image on our home page here's some more details about that cat . . . maneki neko

Anime (cartoons) Traditional Crafts Geisha
Homes & Gardens Literature Art
Famous People Theatre Tea Ceremony
Ikebana Kimono Martial Arts
Music Dance Sumo
Ukiyo-e    Links to Other Culture sites

Anime (cartoons)

A modern expression of Japanese culture is the widespread interest in vivid cartoons called anime - this link is to the UK based London Anime Club. Or try welcome to j-pop.

Traditional Crafts

Japanese Fans are works of art, while Japanese Swords and Japanese Pottery are world famous. Have a look at other traditional craftsmanship on the dentokogei.com pages.  And for a more unusual traditional craft, see Graeme's pages on Japanese bookbindingCharles Eicher's pages have information about Japanese Lacquerware and Kites.  You will also find information on kites in general, with references to Japanese kites, on Malcolm Goodman's web site.  Japanese craftsmen have developed hundreds of artistic and practical uses for bamboo - find out about this useful material (or learn to grow your own) from the European Bamboo Society.  And if you want to buy some bamboo to work with yourself contact Bamboo Supplies Ltd. A whole range of crafts are covered in Handmade Japan. At Temarikai you can find out about traditional wound silk balls, and here is another beautifully illustrated site on Japanese Temari, with details of a new book on the subject . Very nice examples of calligraphy are available through the Japan Shop.  And if you want to become a Samurai you can get your armour and swords from Barringtons Swords!

Geisha

There is a wealth of information at Immortal Geisha or at Geisha of Japan.  Another Japanese page with good pictures is from the Sakura Chaya - just click all the links for other pictures. 

Homes & Gardens

Japanese gardens are havens of tranquillity, as you will see from the pictures at Tokyo Gardens - find out more from the Japanese Garden Society or have a look at the Japanese Garden Database.   If you want your own Japanese garden and are looking for authentic stone lanterns etc in the UK try The Oriental Stone CompanyHerons Bonsai , Japanese Garden Supplies  or  JapanGarden.co.uk for a wide range of authentic features.  Inspired Follies can create an authentic Japanese summer house for you and Jade Pavilions offer a range from teahouses to bridges.  Rhino Rock Landscapes specialise in designing, building and supplying materials for Japanese gardens and offer everything from rocks and bamboo to ready-made teahouses.  You can also get bamboo poles, fencing panels, arches, benches, tables and even complete gazebos from Bamboo Supplies Ltd.

But if you suffer from lack of space try creating a Japanese Doll's House.   To get a Japanese touch for your home try The Japanese Shop or Europes Largest Selection Of Antique Japanese Furniture.  Get inspiration from the photos of  Japanese Daily Living or this Japan Picture Gallery.    To do the job properly, you need shoji screens.  You can get inspiration and information from the Shoji styles website although sadly for us Brits, the sales links for the attractive bargains are mainly to the US.  While relaxing in your Japanese-style home you should try playing the game of Go - look at the British Go Association's website.  You can also try the Japanese equivalent to Chess - Shogi - via Phil Holland's Shogi page.  And finally retire to rest under the elegant kimono style bedding from Kimono Export.

 

 

We recently replaced boring curtains with home-made Japanese-style sliding shutters.  For the perfect finishing touch we needed authentic hikite (finger pulls) and found them via CTT Furniture (who also provide tailor-made screens).

(If you want an impression of the finished job click on the picture of the hikite above.)

Literature

Japanese haiku are minimalist poems. In very few words they produce effects which can be witty, surprising or very moving.  Check out the World Haiku Club web site. You'll also find haiku and many other literary forms on the Japanese Literature WebRing - just click your way from site to site. 

Art

If you're into art have a look at Gerry M Kaye's Sakura Art Arcade. For a general site on art and Buddhism try Arts of Asia. or if you want to create your own try Atelier Shoji  Have a look at the Etsuko & Joe Price collection of Japanese art objects.

Famous People

Learn about Famous Japanese people here.

Theatre

KABUKI for EVERYONE gives information and illustrations on traditional popular Japanese theatre or try The Kabuki Story.  One of the most famous tales in Japanese theatre and puppet theatre is that of the 47 Ronin - you'll find the complete text of Chushingura here.

Tea Ceremony

To learn more about chanoyu - the tea ceremony - try this link to TeaHyakka.  It contains marvellous descriptions of chashitsu - tea rooms - and explains all the traditional features, such as the different kinds of tokonoma (alcove), and fabrics used, as well as how to hold a tea ceremony, all with excellent illustrations.  There is also a history of the tea ceremony and a glossary in English and Japanese.  Try also the link to the famous Urasenke Foundation.

Ikebana

No tea ceremony room - or traditional Japanese home - is complete without a beautiful flower arrangement.  To find out about the art of Ikebana try Ikebana World or Ikebana in the UK.

Kimono

If you're interested in traditional clothing you will find a History of the Kimono presented in hypertext with great illustrations. And if you would like to buy traditional Japanese clothing (including kimono, fans, happi and yukata, even samurai armour and swords, as well as prints) - or just enjoy looking at the excellent illustrations - head for  Kimonoexport (more details below) or Ichiroya, which has pictures, information and instructions on how to wear the garments you buy. 

You will also find a good explanation of the kimono and its accessories at KimonoExport, together with beautiful illustrations of items which you can buy at very reasonable prices, and lots of very good links to kimono-related websites.  (This company used to call itself Kimonoebc and the EBC in the firm's title stood for Eastbourne Club, showing the owner's link with Sussex, and explaining his excellent command of English.) Here's a picture of Higashisan with some of the treasures from his warehouse which we visited on our recent trip to Nagoya - click  for a larger version. Tip: when you contact Higashisan be sure to ask about the splendid bags which he makes with  material from damaged kimono and the elegant kimono-style waistcoats and bedding which you can see here.

If you want to make your own kimono you can find bolts of authentic silks and handmade cottons at Helen Smith's website clothaholics.com For those who are into needlework crafts, or just like handling such beautiful material, this site offers a cost-effective way to indulge yourself.  Helen also has some vintage kimono for sale.  But do have a look at the site just for the pleasure of seeing close-ups of the different materials - it's like a miniature art gallery!

See also our History page for a historical perspective on Japanese costume.

Martial Arts

To find out about Kyudo (Japanese archery) contact the London Kyudo Society or try Heijoshin Kyudojo which trains in Baldock, Herts (these web sites also explain Kyudo and have some excellent illustrations).  For Kendo try the Mumeishi Kendo Club site. Karate will be found on  Tarring Shotokan Karate International's web site - they meet in Worthing, Sussex, UK and have given impressive demonstrations to the Sussex Japan Society.  Also have a look at Shindo-Ryu and Kodo Butoku Renmei.

Music

Japanese Flutes gives you almost everything you want to know about this very special instrument, but look here if you want to specialise in the Nohkan flute. Norihiro san is a fan of the koto - check out his home page for illustrations and music samples.  He also has some nice photographs taken around Tokyo.  Still on the music theme, try the Taiko Resource page  to find out about Japanese drumming.  See the Mugenkyo or Kagemusha pages for taiko in the UK - the latter now sells an instructional video if you want to try some DIY taiko!  Also check out Mark Alcock's taikosite.com and Rhythmworks.  And the Sweet Melody site has lots of midi files so you can hear the tune to many traditional songs. 
For the best selection of  hard to get Japanese CD's (especially the superb Okinawan music), and lots of other world music too, try Paul Fisher's Farside Music.  Paul is a consultant on  world music for the BBC and several record companies, and compiled the superb Rough Guide CD's, one on Okinawan music and one on Japanese music.  They are both excellent tasters and can be obtained from Farside Music.

Dance

The links to pages on traditional Japanese dance seem to have faded but if you've had enough of ancient traditions look at Ballroom Dancing in Japan.

Sumo

Start with Sumo Information or Sumo FAQ - Reference. Once you're addicted go to Sumo World magazine and take out a subscription to keep up to date with the news. The Nihon Sumo Kyokai  has a website for official information and news, tournament dates etc.

In the UK Sumo used to be broadcast on Channel 4, who did a good job of introducing it to a wider audience - then abandoned that audience just when they had become interested! They occasionally feature a snippet on their Saturday World Sports programme but there's no consistent coverage. Although it's very expensive we can receive JSTV - Japanese Satellite Television - which gives daily coverage of the 15 days of each of the 6 major annual basho (tournaments). They offer a bi-lingual broadcast with an English (American?) commentary - it's worth it just to hear the colourful descriptions by Dave Wiggins, one of the regular commentators. (Holy Toledo - that was smash-mouth Sumo!)

Ukiyo-e

 . . . means "Pictures of the Floating World".  Originally a Buddhist concept, conveying the tragic impermanence of life, the name was taken up by the hedonists of the Edo period to describe the world of the Yoshiwara, the notorious Pleasure Quarters.  The pictures refer to Japanese woodblock prints which developed very refined techniques and although they were the equivalent of tabloid photos of celebrities in their day they are now recognised as works of art in their own right.  The original subject matter tended to be the famous actors, courtesans and sumo wrestlers of the day but they extended to include the equivalent of tourist postcards - scenes of famous landscapes in Japan, historical illustrations, nature etc.  If you want to learn about ukiyo-e (or even buy some), look at artelino

Links

Here are some general links to other Culture Pages


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