Japanese culture has evolved greatly from its origins. Contemporary culture combines influences from Asia, Europe and North America. Traditional Japanese arts include crafts such as ceramics, textiles, lacquerware, swords and dolls; performances of bunraku, kabuki, noh, dance, and rakugo; and other practices, the tea ceremony, ikebana, martial arts, calligraphy, origami, onsen, Geisha and games. Japan has a developed system for the protection and promotion of both tangible and intangible Cultural Properties and National Treasures. Twenty-two sites have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, eighteen of which are of cultural significance.Japanese architecture is a combination between local and other influences. It has traditionally been typified by wooden structures, elevated slightly off the ground, with tiled or thatched roofs. Sliding doors (fusuma) were used in place of walls, allowing the internal configuration of a space to be customized for different occasions. People usually sat on cushions or otherwise on the floor, traditionally; chairs and high tables were not widely used until the 20th century. Since the 19th century, however, Japan has incorporated much of Western, modern, and post-modern architecture into construction and design, and is today a leader in cutting-edge architectural design and technology.
The introduction of Buddhism during the sixth century was a catalyst for large-scale temple building using complicated techniques in wood. Influence from the Chinese Tang and Sui dynasties led to the foundation of the first permanent capital in Nara. Its checkerboard street layout used the Chinese capital of Chang’an as a template for its design. A gradual increase in the size of buildings led to standard units of measurement as well as refinements in layout and garden design. The introduction of the tea ceremony emphasised simplicity and modest design as a counterpoint to the excesses of the aristocracy.
During the Meiji Restoration of 1868 the history of Japanese architecture was radically changed by two important events. The first was the Kami and Buddhas Separation Act of 1868, which formally separated Buddhism from Shinto and Buddhist temples from Shinto shrines, breaking an association between the two which had lasted well over a thousand years.
Second, it was then that Japan underwent a period of intense Westernization in order to compete with other developed countries. Initially architects and styles from abroad were imported to Japan but gradually the country taught its own architects and began to express its own style. Architects returning from study with western architects introduced the International Style of modernism into Japan. However, it was not until after the Second World War that Japanese architects made an impression on the international scene, firstly with the work of architects like Kenzō Tange and then with theoretical movements like Metabolism.The Shrines of Ise have been celebrated as the prototype of Japanese architecture. Largely of wood, traditional housing and many temple buildings see the use of tatami mats and sliding doors that break down the distinction between rooms and indoor and outdoor space. Japanese sculpture, largely of wood, and Japanese painting are among the oldest of the Japanese arts, with early figurative paintings dating back to at least 300 BC. The history of Japanese painting exhibits synthesis and competition between native Japanese aesthetics and adaptation of imported ideas.
Hirado ware porcelain censers in the form of tiger and figurine with fan, brown and blue glazes
A bishōjo game store in Akihabara, Tokyo
The interaction between Japanese and European art has been significant: for example ukiyo-e prints, which began to be exported in the 19th century in the movement known as Japonism, had a significant influence on the development of modern art in the West, most notably on post-Impressionism. Famous ukiyo-e artists include Hokusai and Hiroshige.
Japanese comics, known as manga, developed in the 20th century and have become popular worldwide. Rakuten Kitazawa was first to use the word “manga” in the modern sense. Japanese-made video game consoles have been popular since the 1980s.
Main article: Anime
See also: Manga
Japanese animated films and television series, known as anime for short, were largely influenced by Japanese manga comic books and have been extensively popular in the West. Japan is a world-renowned powerhouse of animation. Famous anime directors include Hayao Miyazaki, Osamu Tezuka and Isao Takahata.
Main article: Cinema of Japan
Japan has one of the oldest and largest film industries in the world; movies have been produced in Japan since 1897. Three Japanese films (Rashomon, Seven Samurai and Tokyo Story) made the Sight & Sound’s 2002 Critics and Directors Poll for the best films of all time. Ishirō Honda’s Godzilla became an international icon of Japan and spawned an entire subgenre of kaiju films, as well as the longest-running film franchise in history. The most acclaimed Japanese film directors include Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi, Yasujiro Ozu and Shohei Imamura. Japan has won the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film four times, more than any other Asian country.