The land of the rising sun is located across the Sea of Japan from Korea. It is an archipelago with a population of just under 127 million spread over its 4 main islands of Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku.
Aside from being geographically blessed with mountains, beaches, and stunning scenery, Japanese people have a special relationship with beauty, zen philosophy, as well as technology and manga.
In Japan, everything is an excuse to take up new challenges - both technical and aesthetic - and to promote the language of Mishima.
When we talk about Japan, we inevitably think of:
- The beauty of its landscapes: Mount Fuji, cherry blossom.
- The export of its literature via mangas,
- Its gastronomy: sushi,
- Japanese history: the emperor, Buddhism, temples etc
- Its love for technology ...
Japanese cultural exports are exploding. From anime to sushi bars, karaoke to manga, bonsai to origami, Japanese culture has become international in all aspects.
A knowledge of the language will give you direct access to Japanese film, animations, and comic books, give you insight into the special terminology used in your favorite martial art, help you understand the cultural basis for kamikaze training and the origin of the samurai warrior, and develop your ability to order sashimi like a native at your favorite Japanese restaurant!
But what's also important to remember is that knowing Japanese will set you apart from the crowd.
The majority of people who learn a foreign language choose a European language like Spanish, French, German, or Italian. Choosing a less commonly learned language will pop out on your resume and differentiate you from the crowd.
In Western countries, Japanese culture is omnipresent.
- Who hasn't eaten sushi before?
- Who hasn't read mangas?
Therefore, you can use elements of Japanese culture to help you learn Japanese. Whilst living in Japan is an incredible experience, you don't need to go to Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka to learn this ancient language. You can go down to your local shop to buy a manga comic, to your local Japanese restaurant to order sushi and sake, or to your local library to find a book on the Edo period, Meiji restoration, or Shinto religion.
In this article, we will discover the cultural influences of the Japanese language...
Japanese Culture Facts: Japanese Gastronomy and its Famous Sushi
According to an American study, "there are as many sushi restaurants in New York as there are hamburger establishments."
In fact, since the 1970s, the global appetite for sushi has been growing rapidly.
As you know, sushi is the star of Japanese cuisine, and it has made its way into our plates. Thanks to sushi and other things to come from Japan, Japanese culture continues to be exported worldwide for consumption in different regions of the world.
Sushi is composed of rice and raw fish, which can be accompanied by seaweed called "nori."
However, there are different types of sushi.
Indeed, sushi nigiri is the most famous type of sushi.
It looks like a vinegar-impregnated rice ball with a slice of raw fish, which can either be:
- or sea bream.
Nori seaweed can also be added as a final touch. In this case it is wrapped around rice and fish as to perfect a knot. Some even add wasabi between the fish and rice.
Another Japanese recipe is sushi called maki, which consists of wrapping nori seaweed around a quantity of rice enclosing a mixture of vegetables and raw fish.
There are also california rolls. These were not born in Japan, but in the United States.
They are composed of rice on the outside and contain a heart of nori seaweed and vegetables as well as raw fish.
Is your mouth watering yet? Eating sushi is a way to learn words in Japanese!
Yoshihiro Murata, a well-known chef in Japan says:
"The whole world is interested in our cuisine, so it's important to preserve our culture."
Sushi has a long heritage within Japanese society. It has a centuries old history which probably dates back to the 9th century when it was introduced to Japan and became popular as a Buddhist food.
The Haiku or the Art of the Concise Poem
What is a Haiku?
A Haiku is a poetic form of the Japanese language. Is is another way he inhabitants of the land of the rising sun export Japanese culture and language around the world. Just like the history of the Japanese language, haikus have an interesting past dating back hundreds of years.
Here are some rules to become a Haiku writing pro:
- It is written in 3 lines: short - long - short (classically 5-7-5 syllables),
- It has a word that links it to reality and, in general, to nature,
- It has line breaks: which move the text from one image to another,
- Brief, the haiku captures very small things, almost invisible moments.
Here is an example of a Haiku:
Old pond (word of season)
a frog jumps (hyphenation)
the sound of water (3 lines, short long short)
As a foreigner in Japan, or anyone who is overseas, looking at a haiku for the first time might be overwhelming. This is because the Japanese language doesn't use the Latin alphabet and therefore looks completely different.
Learning to master Haikus helps to learn to write, read, and understand the Japanese language, but also the values advocated by the Japanese civilization.
Learning Japanese Haikus requires attention, simplicity, humor, and modesty.
Like the Japanese language, haiku is full of poetry, emotion, but also synonymous with long-term learning.
Japanese Art: Calligraphy and the Art of Writing
With Japanese, language learning is special and very important to its inhabitants. Japanese calligraphy is also a great way to export the Japanese language.
Learning Japanese is about:
- Learning self-control,
- Respecting the Japanese writing system, the form of the characters, the weight of the words, the phonetics,
- To understand notions of Zen philosophy,
- Reach a high spirituality.
Learning Japanese allows access to all of these points. Of course it's a good idea to do a language exchange program in Japan in order to continue to perfect your Japanese.
Japanese calligraphy is so important to the Japanese that it bears a name: Shodo, which means "the way of writing."
It is the art of forming the writing characters (kanji or kana) with a calligraphic brush and black ink.
The writing must be flexible, thoughtful, and full of spirituality.
The calligrapher traces his or her work in one go, and can not make any alterations to the final product.
Nowadays, calligraphy is still very popular in Japan, and people start it from an early age.
But it is also indispensable for students who wish to learn Japanese.
The Art of Manga Around the World
Who has not read a manga?
Who has not dreamed of writing one?
This black-and-white comic strip is already an integral part of the history of the Japanese language, but it is also a hit with young Westerners!
The manga reads from right to left like a novel. In mangas, a story is told over several volumes (an average of ten volumes).
In Japan, everyone reads manga! The young people are trying to write them now. You can even find Japanese classes London to Japan to learn to write this type of Japanese literature.
The mangas are an integral part of Japanese culture, and are read by children, teens, adults, and even the elderly...
The topics are very varied (police stories, love stories, fantasy stories, sports, cooking, etc...).
Manga arrived in the western world in the 70s thanks to television. Around 1990, they appeared as comic books.
The mangas in their original version allowed people:
- To discover Japanese culture,
- To try to understand the language, and to try to write in Japanese,
- To want to go to Japan and want to live there,
- To practice the pronunciation of Japanese words,
- To be able to understand characters and writing.
When reading the original version, mangas are a very good way to learn Japanese online or offline. It may at first seem difficult, but reading can teach you the language.
Marc Bernaby, a writer, has even released a series of mangas specially designed for learning Japanese. Inside there are dozens of exercises that allow readers to immerse themselves in Japanese grammar and syntax, as well as writing, conjugation, and vocabulary.
With the original version mangas, you can, of course, learn the Japanese language.
How can you do this?
First, it is better to choose a manga which is not too complex, and does not have specialized vocabulary. A good idea is to get a bilingual edition.
Foreign versions will usually be designed to allow the reader to understand the general meaning if he or she gets really lost.
Today, these books are read and loved worldwide.
And I am going to say something that could shock you a little: learning Japanese is not as hard as you think!
It's true that Japanese has a much different system of writing than English or any other European language. However, foreigners can get by if they learn the 44 or so hiragana or katakana characters that represent sounds in much the same way as the English alphabet does.
In addition, the grammar of Japanese is in many ways simpler than that of European languages. Japanese nouns have no genders, plural forms, or accompanying articles to learn. The language also has only two verb tenses, past and present, and includes very few irregular verbs. Spoken Japanese has only 5 vowel sounds and spelling is phonetically consistent, making the language relatively easy to pronounce.
For thirty years, mangamania has kept growing.
Here's the proof: Japan remains the second largest exporter of cultural goods in the world, after the United States. And that is mainly thanks to mangas, as well as the animations and films that drawn from them.
Manga and cartoons are indeed a real passion, especially in America, but also in Asia. One out of three comics sold in America is a manga.
In these figures, we see how attractive Japan has become but also its language.
Video Games: Learning Japanese While Having Fun!
With nearly 100 games in 30 years, Mario is obviously the game that has brought gamers closer to the Japanese language.
While keeping their playful aspect, these video games have pushed young Westerners to become familiar with Japanese words, as well as the Japanese Writing System and its constituent parts:
- hiragana katakana,
The Japanese games market in 2014 amounted to 6.38 billion euros.
According to the estimate of the American analyst App Annie, the gaming market in Japan has experienced about 50% of annual growth since 2015.
The video game was nearly born in Japan, when it took advantage of American failures in early gaming in the early 1980s.
In Japan, the video game industry has benefited from the impetus of MITI, the powerful Japanese Ministry of Industry, which exonerates the high-tech industries.
This model generates the Mitsubishi/Nintendo tandem.
The Japanese giant Nintendo and the NES console has flooded the world with video games and allow thousands of children to:
- Discover the Japanese culture, with its symbols, its values and its decorations,
- To have fun with characters in traditional Japanese costumes,
- Repeat Japanese expressions tirelessly via their favorite characters.
Japanese Culture Where You Are
We have shown you how Japanese culture has spread throughout the world, and how you can use the culture to help you learn the language.
If you want to find a more hands on cultural experience, keep your eyes peeled for the next matsuri in your town or city. A matsuri is any type of ceremony or festival in Japan, often sponsored by a local shrine or temple. Abroad, however, they are festivals which celebrate Japanese culture, such as the annual version held in London each year.
And why not learn about Japanese culture from your Japanese teacher. Check out the Superprof website to find a Japanese tutor close-by who could answer all of your burning questions regarding Japanese culture and tradition.
Want to know more about the language itself? Search your browser for 'japanese lessons near me'.