Japan has a rich cultural heritage with many ancient arts and traditions. Almost two hundred years self-imposed isolation helped shape many of the unique practices and strong sense of national identity woven into the fabric of this island nation. HYPER JAPAN has been visited by many diverse artisans and practitioners who have helped us to give visitors a glimpse of long-established traditions kept alive in modern Japan. At our most recent event, HYPER JAPAN 2012 Christmas, we introduced craftsmen from Kyoto Nantan City, a place renowned for producing some of the most refined handicrafts in Japan for over 1000 years, preserving the elegance of Japan’s old capital. Visitors were able to experience distinctive local techniques used to create beautiful goods firsthand, and even have a go at carving their own chopsticks in the traditional Kyoto Nantan style.
One of the most widely practiced Japanese traditions is that of martial arts, ancient physical techniques used for either self-defence or combat. There are many different variants, both unarmed and those that utilize weaponry such as staffs and swords. The most famous of these are judo, aikido, karate, jujitsu, and sumo. Martial arts require many years of rigorous training and strict discipline to master, and are as much a development of the mind and spirit as the body.
A more gentle tradition is that of kimono, long flowing layered garments tied with a belt which are sometimes elaborately decorated. In the past almost everyone in Japan wore kimonos, but with the introduction of more wearer friendly Western day wear, most people now reserve them for festivals and other celebrations. There are different kinds of kimonos for men, women and children, and the kinds of materials used vary according to season and occasion. Many wearers will also wear their hair in complementary styles with matching accessories, bringing the traditional garment up to date.
Japanese music is another area where tradition meets contemporary taste. Modern performers in Japan often use traditional instruments such as taiko drums to play contemporary musical compositions, helping to keep ancient musical techniques alive. Originally a court instrument, taiko drums can be as large as a van, and take a lot of stamina to play. Other softer forms of music use flutes and string instruments which take as long to master as martial arts, and players are judged not only on the music they play, but the composure with which it is performed.
Japan also has a long history of painting, woodcutting and carving which has inspired artists all over the world. Traditional Japanese pottery and porcelain date back even further, and are considered as some of Japan's earliest art forms. Another famous visual art is calligraphy, which is painted with a brush in precise strokes to create symbolic works of art.