Japanese culture

    • October 19, 2021

    Why Do People Sit on the Floor in Japan?

    We may have overstayed on the floor It’s only 150 years since chairs were introduced in Japan, as I wrote before. When I was a kid, there was a sofa set in the living room. Most of my family members, however, often sat on the floor, leaning against the sofa. Funnily enough, my dogs slept on the sofa, instead. I’m sure it’s not a style particular only to my family. When hanging out at my friends’ houses, like playing video games together, I found they did it in the same manner. The lifestyle of living on the floor is printed in the DNA of Japanese people? We can’t stay still on the sofa Of course, I don’t think so. It’s not such a biological issue. Simply, the space of sofas is too small for us. We, at home on the floor, return to nature: lying face-up or -down, sitting with […]

    • October 12, 2021

    Do You Know How Japanese Craftsmanship Was Made?

    Japanese swordsmiths soon mastered the production of rifles In 1543, Portuguese merchants introduced rifles to Japan. They expected firearms to be one of their hot exports to Japan in the future, but soon found their plan had failed. In Japan, there were many swordsmiths highly skilled in metal working. The swordsmiths in the area that Portuguese merchants visited mastered the production of rifles within only a year or so. Making matters worse for the merchants, the manufacturing techniques soon spread to swordsmiths in other areas across Japan. The quality of Japanese rifles was superior to that of European ones. Furthermore, the total number of rifles in Japan in around 1600 (the age of Japanese civil wars) was more than 60,000. It exceeded the total number of rifles in all the European countries at that time. Samurais may have used rifles more than you can imagine. We also mastered chair making, […]

    • September 28, 2021

    Something in Common in Artisan Culture of Italy and Japan

    The general image of the Italian and Japanese people contrasts What would you do if the world ends tomorrow? An Italian would answer “I would spend the day with a lover.” A Japanese would say “I have to finish my work quickly.” This is a popular ethnic joke, and even most Japanese people would nod in agreement at the answers. The general image of Italian people is easy-going; that of Japanese people is too serious. Their general images sharply contrast like this, but they have something in common, funnily enough. Italian artisans are respected; Japanese ones not… Italy and Japan are countries of artisans (artigiani/artigiane in Italian). Italian artisans receive preferential treatment from the government, while Japanese government is driving artisans into extinction sadly, though. Only in Japan among OECD countries, Real Wage Index has been declining for more than 20 years. The government blames that on small businesses where […]

    • June 14, 2021

    Swordsmith and Furniture Craftspeople, Similarities in Their Spirit

    Something in common between swordsmith and furniture making Just before entering the furniture business, I worked in the fishery industry and often took overseas clients to the biggest fish market in Tokyo. It was now-closed Tsukiji market. Wonderful days when I could have good sushi together with the clients at the company’s expense. Besides a sushi restaurant, there was one more place many of the clients were looking forward to visiting. It’s a Japanese knife shop. In the market, there were many knife shops packed with foreign tourists. My clients innocently asked me to interpret their questions to the sales staff. To tell the truth, that always made me sweat with fear because the staff’s explanation didn’t make sense to me at first even in Japanese. Over time, I learned a lot about Japanese knife crafting, and now feel like it has something in common with our furniture making. Both […]

    • June 1, 2021

    Do You Know the Art of Ninja?

    Languages create cultures I have a 12 year younger sister. When she was very small, I asked “What is your brother like?” She lisped “You like to eat tofu.” I know she was not wrong. Indeed, I like tofu even now, but her answer was far from what I expected at that time. Feeling disappointed, I thought by myself who I was, and realized it was very difficult to define myself. For the same reason, most people can’t see their own countries and cultures, but multi-lingual speakers are better at it. It’s because language creates culture, and vice versa. Today, let me share cultural differences and Japanese uniqueness found especially by a Japanese-English speaker. Uniqueness in hearing ability When working as a translator, onomatopée was always headache. Japanese language is said to have the largest number of onomatopée in the world. Making matters worse, there’s onomatopée to express even silence, […]

    • October 12, 2020

    Peer Pressure Seen in a Japanese Furniture Factory

    Most of your actions are not done by your free will How many times did you reach for a cup/glass to drink something today? Can you believe that you did it not by your free will but by a biological reaction? It is a well-known fact that 95% of our daily actions are unconscious biological reactions. According to John-Dylan Haynes, a neuroscientist, we decide our daily actions seven seconds before we make up our minds. The good part of this theory is we can justify ourselves in making the same mistake over again. When reading about his experiment for the first time, I was so convinced but now am getting confused. Other decision making factors still look powerful to me. Peer pressure, for example, seems to be stronger especially in Japan. Let me tell you one of them, the “last-piece-of-food rule.” The situation shown in the above image is not […]

    • August 26, 2020

    What Is the Design Concept of Old Temples?

    Horyuji temple in Nara, Japan is the world’s oldest wooden building The above image is Horyuji temple. Did you know it was the world’s oldest wooden building? It was built in 607 and is registered as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. Japan is a country of earthquake. It’s a harsh environment especially for wooden buildings. Actually, the average lifetime of current residential buildings is about 30 years in Japan. That is much shorter than that of US (around 100 years) and UK (around 150 years), for example. Let’s see why Horyuji temple can exceptionally exist for such a long time. How old temples survive in Japan There are mainly two reasons for that. One is its earthquake-proof structure. The joints of the building frame were designed to be flexible to reduce the shaking force of earthquakes. Many researchers were surprised by the fact that such advanced thinking and technology already existed […]