Furniture Created by Cultural Adaptation

If asked to say the best word to express the Japanese culture, I would say it should be “adaptation.” We may be very good at cream skimming in culture. Let me give you an interesting example. Do you know the percentage of the Christian population in Japan? It’s only 1 percent, but even in such Japan, Christmas is a huge event of which economic effect amounts to about 6.5 billion USD! That of Halloween is also hiking up to more than 1 billion USD these days, as some of you may have seen news videos of Japanese young people dressing up in disguise and going crazy in Tokyo.

Sometimes foreign cultures absorbed into ours evolve independently. A good example is “Wagyu,” Japanese marbled beef. In Japan, eating meat had been officially prohibited for about 1200 years since 675. People started eating meat since the opening of Japan in 1854, and Japanese people’s tastes seemed to evolve differently. We seem to like fatty meat. The average fat percentage of beef sold in Japan was about 23% in 1988; about 69% in 2009 – tripled only for 20 years!

Believe it or not, it was later than starting eating meat that we started using chairs. A long, long time ago (about 2000 years ago), chairs were already introduced from China, together with Kanji letters, but they didn’t seem to be embedded into the Japanese culture for some reason. Even Shogun (top samurai commanders) sat on the floor as in the above image.

It’s only about these 150 years, a much shorter history, but Japan has a long history of woodworking, and the high skills can be seen in many old wooden temples more than 1000 years old. The Japanese chairs have evolved independently with the high-skill woodworking developed over many years, and I’m sure you will like them, the same as Wagyu meat.

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.

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