For many people, the mention of Japanese culture conjours up images of weird masks and extravagantly made-up actors twirling red umbrellas on a stage and elegant, kimono-clad ladies demurely pouring cups of tea in tranquil cherry-blossomed temples. Well, even today you can still experience all that kind of stuff, if you know where to look.
The traditional arts of Japan offer an opportunity to experience something truly exotic or find inner calm. For the serious practitioner, solemn awareness of the history and intimate knowledge of the past-masters of your chosen form of expression are essential if you wish to practice at the highest level. These ancient 'ways' are not for the faint of heart, but many foreigners come to Japan each year to enlighten themselves through their study. For the rest of us, just a nibble at this great banquet of culture will be more than enough.
The Japanese do know how to kick back and have fun, too. You might be surprised by just how wild a Japanese festival can get! Snow festivals, fire festivals, fertility festivals - you name it, they have it. When it comes to food, the Japanese are as enthusiastic as anybody on earth - the changing seasons bring new delicacies and an excuse to travel the length of the country to sample local dishes. Spring also brings the cherry blossoms - symbol of life's all-too-brief span and a good excuse to get drunk and dance around in a cemetery! The beauty of summer fireworks and autumn's spectacular changing leaves can also take the breath away.
The Japanese performing arts have made some unique contributions to world culture
The quieter and more contemplative arts have developed followings world-wide
Japanese royalty has a history dating back many centuries
Many cultural events fill out the annual calendar, with something in every season
Japanese costume is unique, differing greatly even from those of other Asian cultures
Japanese food, sushi in particular, is popular arould the world and renowned for its health benefits
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