Japan for the Uninvited

Japanese culture from a bemused foreign perspective

Kendo

Kendo ("the way of the sword") is the art of Japanese fencing. Its concept is "to discipline the human character through the application of the principles of the katana". In feudal Japan, the country was ripped apart by conflict between its most powerful provinces. Demand for warriors increased, and many schools ...

Karate

Karate is the world's most famous martial art, but it's actually a relatively new one. It's a hybrid of traditional Okinawan martial art and Chinese techniques introduced by visiting sailors and merchants. It focuses on clean striking techniques. When karate came to Japan from Okinawa in 1922, the exotic sport faced ...

Go

The board game Go was invented in China, supposedly by an Emperor who wished to train his son in discipline, concentration, and balance. These qualities of the game have made it extremely popular in Japan, where its concepts and strategies have also been applied to business and daily life. The game ...

Hidetoshi Nakata

Along with David Beckham, Hidetoshi Nakata can take the credit for making soccer a serious challenger to baseball in Japan. An impressive performance in the 1998 World Cup earned him a move to Italy's Serie A, and he's been club-hopping around Europe ever since. He's had a stormy relationship with the mass ...

Purikura (Print club)

Print club (or purikura) is a special covered booth which takes novelty pictures. Once the picture has been taken, cartoons, mangled English and "cute" stuff can be electronically added before they are printed out. Surprisingly low-tech by Japanese standards, it's massively popular among young people. Print club machines can be seen all ...

Karaoke

In only 20 years, karaoke ("empty orchesta") has become synonymous with modern Japan. As the legend goes, it was born in Kobe, when a canny restauranteur encouraged customers to sing over a backing tape when his act didn't show up. This is probably rubbish though. Japan's karaoke culture's way ahead of the ...

Sumo

Sumo's symbolism and tradition have made it a foundation of traditional Japanese culture, while sumo wrestlers have become icons of popular culture. Professional sumo started in the Edo period (1603 -1867), when struggling samurai would tussle for public entertainment in order to raise money. In the Meiji Restoration (1868), it was ...

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