Japanese Culture – Term Paper

Culture refers to the beliefs, the norms, the language, the customs, the architecture etc. that are considered in defining the way of life of a given community or society. It is a hereditary concept and is passed from one generation to the other mainly through socialization (Middleton, 2002). Culture is a word derived from a Latin word “cultura” which can be traced back to the German word “kurtur”. This word in its original form refers to cultivation and is hence a word that refers to things made/cultivated by human beings. Notably, it constitutes more than just the physical components such as the mentioned architecture and fashion but also the abstract components such as the philosophical ideologies and other beliefs as already mentioned (Berglund, 2004). 

Japan Culture Essay

Japanese culture is currently a mash up of both ancient and modernized cultural practices. To begin with, there are many cultural practices still cherished in the current ‘industrialized’ Japan. Such cultural acts such as family honor, worship of the ancestors, traditional education and values still have deep roots in the nation. However, the culture has been influenced towards the negative as most of the people are born and raised within cities where the Western ways seem to stand rather than the villages where traditions tend to concentrate (Iml.jou.ufl.edu, 2016). For instance, the women in Japan were traditionally only expected to be ‘house-wives’ in that they were not expected to venture into any sort of professionalism but rather, they were expected to only cater for the family, cook for the husband and look after the children. O the other hand, the men were expected to provide for the family. This has however changed drastically as most women are into professionalism and have therefore acquired part-time and temporary jobs in a bid to contribute to the family’s provision.

Focusing on the Japanese religious beliefs, Buddhism and Shintoism are the major religions existing in Japan. Shintoism has roots in the ‘way of the gods’ as believed by the Japanese traditional community. In this religion, the ancestors and nature are the majorly worshiped ‘supreme beings’. “Kami” is the major spirit believed to be divine as he found all the creation that is in earth as well as in heaven. In other words, Kami is the father of all creation. Interestingly, this is not the only worshiped god, there are many more. For instance, “Amaterasu Omikami” is the Sun goddess for the Japanese (Shigeru and Selden, 2015). Kami is housed in shrines from which the Japanese traditionally pray and perform rituals through offerings with an aim to purify themselves and loved ones and thus protect themselves from evil spirits. The Shinto priests are responsible for performing any of the rituals therein. At the gateway (for Kami’s entry) there are special markings called Torii. Anyone else visiting the shrine, enters the shrine via the Torri entry which marks the entry into a ‘holy’ place i.e. away from the world and into the gods’ world.

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Japanese Culture Essay Topics

On the other hand, Buddhism was introduced in Japan in the course of the 6th century. In this case, Buddhism conflicted a lot with Shinto since it (Buddhism) was hinged in the belief that human life is an array of long sufferings and diseases. healing from these suffering required that the human cut off from attachments and desires of this life and achieve a state called Nirvana (MISAWA, 2011). In contrast the Shinto was hinged on the belief that life is composed of good humans only and that any evil is caused by evil spirits which can be purified through purification in the shrines. What’s more, Shinto is based on the belief that death is evil and thus there were no funeral ceremonies associated with it. For this reason, Buddhism was carried out in temples even for funerals. Shinto on the other hand, was only employed for wedding and birth ceremonies. In other words, the two religions were seen to compliment in some instances and due to the symbiotic relationship the two proved to have, they were both embraced into the Japanese culture and have since been the two major religions. Nevertheless, other religions such as Christianity from the Western countries have set in and are gaining popularity. Also, Shamanism, Taoism and Confucianism have shaped the Japanese religion which borrow from other traditions such as the Chinese. The main rituals practiced include the O-Bon and the O-Shogatsu which majorly mark the return of the spirits to their places and the confirmation of social obligations respectively (Song, 2015).

As mentioned earlier, wedding ceremonies are in Japan based on the Shinto traditions. These ceremonies occur traditionally based on arrangements between the parents. In this case, the traditional marriages are/were not based on love but rather on the consent of the parents to the bride and the groom. Conversely, modern marriages are based on love, whereby the bride and groom have to have a mutual attraction between them (basically meaning love) so that they get married. However, there are still marriages that are based on matchmakers where a person finds his/her soul mate. Importantly, typical wedding ceremonies occur in hotels and hotels where specific (limited) people are invited to witness the occasion. The ceremonies involve a number of costume changes for the couple as they go through the marriage process.

Japanese Culture and Custom

The Japanese culture is characterized by a pronounced medicine and health care system which incorporates both traditional and modern health care techniques. Traditionally, Japan is accustomed to use of acupuncture, moxibustion and herbal treatment (YAMASHITA, 2006). The traditional care is aimed at restoring harmony between the human body and his environment by enhancing the flow of “ki” (meaning spirit) between the two components. The major qualities enhanced therefore in this treatment are the “in” and the “yo”. An imbalance between the flow of the two qualities is believed to be the cause of ill health and thus a treatment of the same involves the use of proper diet, administering of rest, work and exercise to the victim of ill health. Notably, the modern health care system mainly incorporates this traditional therapy techniques and theories. Consequently, through enhanced biomedical research and incorporation of better health insurance systems and not to forget the traditional medical knowledge, Japan is able to offer a great health care system.

In terms of social cultures, Japan mainly uses Nihongo as the predominant and official language. The language is commonly called Japanese. This move was shaped after the historic Meiji Restoration so as to signify a national identity among the Japanese. The other language, which cropped up from the Tokyo’s Warrior (Samurai), is the hyojungo and is normally taught in the military and the national education system (Everyculture.com, 2016). It is aimed towards upholding the Korean culture in the changing world.

In a nut shell, the Japanese culture is broad and is built up from many traditional roots. These roots range from the religious beliefs, the norms and values in marriage and other ceremonies, all the way to the language that the Japanese speak. In the current days, modernization and industrialization have really shaped the culture. However, the culture still remains strong with many still trying to keep it pure within the nation.


Berglund, J. (2004). Japanese culture. Japa–Its people, Its language and Its culture, pp.52-108.

Everyculture.com. (2016). Culture of Japan – history, people, traditions, women, beliefs, food, family, social, marriage. [online] Available at: http://www.everyculture.com/Ja-Ma/Japan.html [Accessed 18 Sep. 2016].

Iml.jou.ufl.edu. (2016). Basics of Japanese Culture. [online] Available at: http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/Spring01/Newsome/culture.html [Accessed 18 Sep. 2016].

Middleton, J. (2002). Culture. Oxford, U.K.: Capstone Pub.

MISAWA, N. (2011). Shintoism and Islam in Interwar Japan. Orient, 46(0), pp.119-139.

Shigeru, K. and Selden, K. (2015). The Goddess of the Wind and Okikurmi. Review of Japanese Culture and Society, 27(1), pp.138-146.

Song, J. (2015). A study on traditional life rituals from the time of modern civilization to the Japanese colonial period. The East Asian Ancient Studies, 38(0), pp.187-217.

YAMASHITA, H. (2006). Present State of Acupuncture in the West and the Challenge in Japanese Acupuncture. Zen Nihon Shinkyu Gakkai zasshi (Journal of the Japan Society of Acupuncture and Moxibustion), 56(5), pp.703-712.