Online dictionary of history and traditions in Japan: Japanese calligraphy,Japanese dart,Japanese doll,Japanese kite,Japanese pagoda,Japanese paper,Japanese sword,Japanese tattoo,Japanese top,Jindai moji

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Japanese calligraphy

shyodou shyo
alternative words: Shodo, Shodou, Sho
keywords: art
related topics: Heian period , Kakemono
related web sites:
explanation: Originated from China, the calligraphy had been considered an art that every intellectual of east Asian countries should master. Until the beginning of Heian period, in the 9th century, Japanese style had been virtually same as Chinese because of frequent diplomatic and cultural missions. Since then Japan has developed her own style (Wa-yo), in particular after works of a genius Japanese calligrapher, "Ono no Tofu". The appearance of Japanese own characters, "kana" had also strengthened this difference.

Japanese dart

alternative words: Shuriken, Shuri ken, dart, dark
keywords: ninja, weapon
related topics: Ninja
explanation: Favorite weapon of Ninja because it allows to surprisingly attack an adversary without making any sound which might attract more enemies. There existed different forms of dart but the most famous one is "Juji shuriken" i.e. "cross form dart" or "star form dart" which rotates during flying course. It allows to aim more precisely the adversary thanks to its symmetry.

Japanese doll

alternative words: Ningyo, Nihon ningyo, Nihon-ningyo, Ningyou, Nihon ningyou, Doll
keywords: art, craft, thing
related topics: Edo period , Momo no sekku , Tango no sekku , Kokeshi
related web sites:
explanation: Contrary to western dolls, Japanese dolls are not merely toys for children but real arts of decoration and collection. This development had occurred during Edo period when festivity like "Momo no sekku" and "Tango no sekku" had become very popular among ordinary citizens thanks to a hike of their living standard and an advance of craftsmanship.

Japanese kite

alternative words: Tako, kite
keywords: art, china, craft, game, thing
related topics: Heian period , Samurai , Edo period , Japanese paper , New year
related web sites: , , , ,
explanation: Invented 3000 years ago, it arrived in Japan from China at the beginning of Heian period. During Kamakura period, the kites spread among samurai clans, not only because of their military interests but also they symbolized a bravery, but it is since Edo period that kites have become a popular entertainment for everybody. Contrary to western kites which give an importance to technical aspect, Japanese kites are appreciated by their beautiful pictures drawn on the surface.

Japanese pagoda

alternative words: Gojunoto, Gojuunotou, Goju-no-to, Goju no to, Gojuu no tou, 5 storied pagoda, Five storied pagoda, Five story pagoda
keywords: architecture
related topics: Asuka period
related web sites: ,
explanation: 5 storied wooden tower in Buddhist architecture. Introduced from China with Buddhism during Asuka period, its main function is enshrining Buddha's relic (but it is purely fictive in Japanese architecture). The oldest tower still remaining is at Horyuji Temple dated from the early Nara period (initial tower of Asuka period had been burned out), while the tallest is at Toji Temple (55m high). Some temples have erected 2 towers to keep a symmetry plan like Yakushiji Temple and Todaiji Temple.

Japanese paper

washi nihonnshi
alternative words: Washi, Wa-shi, Wa shi, Nihonshi, Nihon-shi, Nihon shi
keywords: china, craft, korea
related topics: Heian period , Kamakura period , Edo period , Shoji
related web sites:
explanation: Invented in China, its fabrication technique was brought to Japan in 610 by a Korean priest, Doncho. During Heian period, fancy papers that the nobility used to write down their poems were created from the official factories. In the following Kamakura period, the samurai clan needed utility paper while the factories were decentralized and Japanese paper reached its apogee during Edo period with more that 100 varieties but declined with an arrival of western papers.

Japanese sword

nihonntou katana
alternative words: Nihonto, Nihon-to, Nihon to, Nihontou, Nihon-tou, Nihon tou, Sword, Katana, Swords
keywords: art, craft, thing, weapon
related topics: Heian period , Kamakura period , Muromachi period , Samurai , Masamune , Muramasa , Tsuba
related web sites: ,
explanation: Japanese swords had been made first in the official factories. After a collapse of the central government at the end of Heian period, then samurai clans took powers in Kamakura period, the sword smiths of each region had competed to make their best. They are highly appreciated because of their artistic aspect and called "Ko-to" (old sword). After Muromachi period, the technique of fabrication had greatly improved and become industrial. The swords of this period are called "Shin-to" (new sword).

Japanese tattoo

irezumi irezumi shisei
alternative words: Irezumi, Shisei, Tattoo, Tattoos
keywords: art
related topics: Edo period
related web sites: ,
explanation: As old Chinese book Gishiwajinden stated the tattooing had been widely practiced among Japanese people in former times. This custom had gradually disappeared by Chinese influence because for them it was a kind of punishment applied to criminals. Modern tattooing as an art appeared during Edo period, first among criminals then hard labor workers to show their courage. In spite of its ban by Meiji government, it has subsisted and is still popular among yakuza.

Japanese top

koma koma
alternative words: Top, Tops
keywords: china, game, korea
related topics: Nara period , Edo period , New year
related web sites: ,
explanation: In Japanese, "top" is called "koma" because it arrived to Japan through Korea (koma is its old name) from China during Nara period. First, it had become popular among aristocrats with "unarigoma" (humming top) then spread among all the classes with quite different materials (wood, bamboo, metal etc.) during middle ages. During Edo period a top acrobat was popular. Combat of metallic tops ("begoma") is also well known. Top was greatly played during a new year festival until recently.

Jindai moji

alternative words: Jindaimoji, Holly script, Shinto script
keywords: korea, mystery, shintoism
related topics: Invasion of Korea , Shintoism , Nara period
related web sites: ,
explanation: There exist many shinto documents written with holly scripts (jaindai moji) such as "Uetsu fumi" or "Hotsuma zutae", being pretended by the nationalists that Japan should have had her own scripts before the introduction of kanji characters. They are all phonetic scripts based on 5 vowels so they should be invented after Nara period when Japanese language had 8 vowels. They may have originated from Korean alphabet, hangul, that Japanese brought during Hideyoshi's Korean campaign.

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