For those of you who love Japanese art and culture, this Friday is Japan’s ” Culture Day”! This is a special public holiday in Japan where people can visit art galleries and museums for free to experience Japanese culture and art.
The Culture Day has evolved from the Meiji Festival, the birthday of Emperor Meiji on 3 November, which was then known as the “Tenchō-setsu“. After the end of World War II, Japan announced a new constitution on 3 November 1946, which advocated peace and culture, and the Japanese government designated 3 November as the “Culture Day”.
The most notable feature of the Culture Day is the awarding of the Order of Culture by the Emperor to scientists and artists who have made remarkable achievements in the development of science, technology, art and culture. We are familiar with such recipients as the artist Yayoi Kusama, the architect Tadao Ando, and the writer Yasunari Kawabata.
The sophistication of Japanese art has always been astonishing. The dedication and perseverance of the Japanese are also admirable. Just look at the Japanese culinary culture, the pursuit of perfection and the art-like cuisine has fascinated people all over the world, and many have made Japanese food their favourite.
You and I are not the only ones who want to learn more about the Japanese people and their culture. The Chrysanthemum and The Sword, a study of the Japanese people, provides an insightful analysis of the character and traditions of the Japanese people. The book originated at the end of World War II, when anthropologist Ruth Benedict was commissioned by the U.S. government to use cultural anthropology to study the impending defeat of Japan and produce a comprehensive report that would help the U.S. government understand the country. The book has become a classic for Westerners who are curious about Japanese culture.
As the name of the book suggests, the Japanese are a mixture of soft chrysanthemums and sharp blades, a paradoxical duality of character: the pursuit of softness and beauty, yet the admiration of force; polite, yet very aggressive; obedient, yet difficult to tame; gentle and courteous, yet arrogant in their hearts. The book points out that the duality of the hierarchy and customs in Japanese society stems from the great divide between early childhood education and adult upbringing in Japan, which seriously affects the dual character of the Japanese people as adults.
When we talk about Japan, we have to mention the Japanese sakura. The sakura, which blooms in March and April, is also a symbol of Japanese culture. The blossoming of the sakura, which only lasts for a short time, is the reason why it touches the hearts of Japanese people, as the beauty of the sakura is felt at its peak during its short life, and then fades away at the brightest moment.
As an island nation, Japan’s culture is constantly absorbing foreign cultures, while at the same time maintaining its own characteristics. During the Meiji Restoration period, large-scale industrialisation and urbanisation took place throughout the country, resulting in a blossoming of Japanese cultural ecology and the birth of a large number of outstanding literary writers and artists. Japan, along with the United Kingdom and the United States, is one of the world’s great cultural powers. The Culture Day has also witnessed the emergence of Japanese talents and the transmission and breakthrough of Japanese culture.
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◢ Elva Lai enjoys creating art, reading, travelling, hiking and making a cup of coffee in the morning. She received her education in Singapore, the United States, Germany and Hong Kong.
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