Links about Japan
Art and Culture
Ukiyo-e (Wood Block Prints)
Noh (Classical Japanese Drama)
Noh, which originated in the thirteenth century, is a classical Japanese performance form which combines elements of dance, drama, music and poetry into one highly aesthetic stage art. The themes of Noh tend to be quite serious, so between the acts shor
t Kyogen comedies are performed to provide a lighter atmosphere. Kyogen is rarely seen on its own.
- Introduction to Noh -- An excellent site with details on the history and elements of the performance.
- Kyogen -- Information and links to sites relating to Kyogen
- Noh Mask Exhibition -- Lots of wonderful photographs and information in English and Japanese!
Kabuki (Japanese Drama)
Kabuki developed during the early 17th century by the shrine maiden Okuni, and began as entertainment for the common people. It differs greatly from Noh, which was intended to be enjoyed by the Imperial Court and the samurai. Kabuki has become highly s
tylized, but is most well-known for its dramatic sets, flamboyant acting style and elaborate make-up and costumes. All the actors are male.
Sumo is perhaps another one of those misunderstood Japanese customs. Although now it may seem to be merely a sport for the enjoyment of spectators, historical records show sumo matches were performed for the Imperial Court as early as the 7th century, w
hen they were part of Shinto rituals. In some areas, the outcome of sumo matches was believed to indicate the will of the gods and foretell good harvests. Even today, sumo is much more than a sport; it is a way of life for the rikishi (wrestle
rs) steeped in history, tradition and obligation.
The food you love to hate. Contrary to popular belief, sushi is not eaten very often. It is typically eaten when celebrating a special occasion and is also the traditional meal following funerals. Real sushi is very expensive, about US$100 per person.
More common is kaiten-zushi, or revolving sushi (because the plates of sushi travel around the circular eating area on a conveyor belt), sort of the fast-food equivalent. Kaiten-zushi is cheap and of much lower quality, but popular wit
h just about everybody. My favorite kind of sushi is uni (sea urchin) but it's also one of the most expensive.
These noodles originated in China, but now can be classified as a Japanese national obsession. Thousands of ramen shops can be found in Japan, from cheap holes in the wall to gourmet shops where you might have to wait on line for an hour to get a stool a
t the counter. At least once a week you can find a show on television singing the praises of ramen shops around the country. A visit to a ramen shop is an assault on the senses: taste, smell and sound. Slurping ramen properly is an art!
- Introduction to Sake -- History of sake and sake-making from Akita, a famous sake-making district in Northern Japan
- Sake -- Includes information on different types of sake