Things to Do
Arts and Crafts
Traditional cultural pursuits such as sado (Japanese tea ceremony) and ikebana (flower arrangement) are much more than simple pursuits in skills. They embody spiritual ways seeking the traditional values of wabi (elegant stillness) and sabi (antiquated elegance with calm).
Facilities abound which offer you the hands-on experience of the Japanese tea ceremony, flower arrangement and other cultural pursuits. There are even possibilities for you to learn dressing in a kimono all by yourself.
Sado, the ceremony celebrating the Way of Tea, has been much favored by Japanese high society as an artistic ceremony. Today, it is popular as a means of training concentration of spirit and of learning manners. There are a number of schools in Japan, each presenting their own style of tea ceremony. Many hotels have a tea ceremony room on the grounds for the customers to enjoy a real tea ceremony.
Ikebana originated as a means to display wild flowers in the tea ceremony room. There are more than 20 schools of ikebana, all differing in their stylistic rules and methods of presentation, and most have their own instruction center. You can enjoy the beauty of ikebana in a variety of places such as hotels, department stores and the lobbies of public buildings.
Soul stirring, graceful, gorgeous - every region in Japan celebrates its own festivals and events in response to the transition of the four seasons. Called matsuri, festivals can be found almost everyday somewhere in Japan. Many festivals have their origin in Shinto and Buddhism, while other events, such as snow festivals and fireworks displays, are wonderfully staged for the local populace and visitors alike.
Since ancient times, the Japanese have found sacred and spiritual powers centered in the many aspects of nature and worshiped them as kami (deities). This is believed to be the origin of Shinto. Shinto-based matsuri are celebrated to worship and communicate with the kami, praying for a rich harvest, for business prosperity as well as for a happy and prosperous community and quality for its inhabitants.
Japan is a treasure-trove of traditional performing arts.
You can purchase tickets or obtain details of the theater schedule at the theater box office. Reservations must be made in advance for popular performances. Tickets can be purchased at the “Play guide” ticket sales desks located in large department stores or shopping malls in the main cities.
We recommend that you also check at your hotel, for they may have a ticket sales desk. For more advice on the purchase of tickets or more detailed information, please access the English site of individual theaters or consult with a TIC (Tourist Information Center).
The best known and most loved by people around the world, the traditional performing art of Kabuki is a more popular form of theater than Noh. Rhythmical lines spoken by actors, colorful make-up and a stage full of mechanical devices for special effects are essential characteristics of Kabuki, but the most important is that all the roles, including those of women, are played by male actors.
An explanation in English is available at the Kabuki-za Theater (in Tokyo), the representative theater designed exclusively for Kabuki.
The highly stylized theater of Noh exudes the world of yugen, a deeply aesthetic value based on a profound and refined beauty that goes beyond words and concrete shapes. Its origin is in religious ritual and it has a long history of 700 years. Though the actor, dressed in traditional Japanese costume, either wears a mask to hide the expression on his face or performs without expression, his dance is lyrical and graceful.
A Bunraku puppet play is a wonderful and heartfelt description of conflicts between established ethical ideas and the reality of love and life and turmoil in the emotions of the common people. It is performed along with jouri (ballad chanting) to the accompaniment of shamisen (a 3-stringed musical instrument).
Bunraku is Puppet Theater performed by three puppeteers. The movement of the lead puppet is operated by the three puppeteers working in precise cooperation. The Bunraku puppets almost become alive in the eyes of the audience, accompanied by shamisen music, the narration of dialogue and gorgeous costumes, and one can only marvel at the quality of the performance.
The Osaka Bunraku Gekijo Theater was designed exclusively for Bunraku. This popular performing art attracts large audiences in Osaka, and the National Bunraku Theater puts on regular performances every other month.
Whether soccer or baseball, sports are very popular in Japan. But if you are coming to Japan, why not take a look at some of the traditional Japanese sports as well?
Sumo is a traditional combative Japanese sport that is well known throughout the world. Most rikishi (Sumo wrestlers) are professional competitors weighing 100 to 200 kg.
Rules are simple compared to western-style wrestling: two competitors wearing mawashi (silk belts) fight in a ring 4.5m in diameter and placed on a square mound. When any part of a competitor’s body, except the sole of the feet, touches the ground or goes out of the ring, he loses the bout.
The professional sumo tournaments take place six times a year for 15 days each in January, May and September at Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, March in Osaka, July in Nagoya and December in Fukuoka.
Kendo is Japanese-style fencing, which originated from kenjutsu, the most important martial art of the samurai. In the match, the competitor wears special protective gear and strikes at the opponent’s head, chest or hand with a bamboo sword.
Judo is well known throughout the world as a Japanese combative sport. The basic principle of Judo is a self-defense technique that makes use of the opponent's force. The player wears a coloured obi (belt), to show his or her level of ability, with white being for beginners and black for advanced.
Karate is a combative sport that came from China through Ryukyu Kingdom (present day Okinawa). The competitors of the match do not wear any kind of protection and use only their hands and fists. Compared to other combative sports, karate is a more practical martial art.
The basic principle of Aikido is “Do not fight force with force”.
It is a sport that only practice forms for the sake of forms and is therefore not so rough as Judo or Karate. Aikido is excellent as mental training or as a fitness sport, and has become especially popular with women and senior citizens.