Going to visit another country is always a great cultural experience, especially one with a culture as rich as Japan. The history, the cuisine, the fashion, whatever it is that you like, there is something to love for everyone in Japan. But to make a trip even more special there are a few very cultural experiences you can have in Japan that are really memorable. By seeing certain aspects of a culture you can learn more about the history and traditions of that place. Here are two things you can try in Japan for a real cultural experience.
Sumo is a traditional style of wrestling which originated in Japan. The basic idea is that one wrestler attempts to force the other outside of the circular ring they stand within. A wrestler can also win by forcing the other to touch the ground with anything by the soles of their feet. Sumo has been going for many centuries in Japan so it is a true aspect of Japanese culture and history. Ancient traditions have been preserved within sumo, such as using salt to purify the ring before a match. This tradition comes from Shinto practices of purification. Being a sumo wrestler is not an easy feat, many people train from a very young age. Sumo wrestlers often live in communal ‘stables’ where they follow a regimented training schedule of eating, sleeping and training. Wrestling played a part in the life of the Imperial court, where wrestlers would travel from all around to fight for the lords and emperor. As a form of entertainment, Sumo was founded as far back as the Edo period, with tournaments beginning in 1684. Sumo tournaments bring big crowds and are heavily followed in the Japanese media. Six Grand tournaments are held each year, three in Tokyo and three in Osaka. As there are no weight classes like in Western wrestling any wrestler can be matched. This means gaining weight is central to being successful. If you want to see a big sumo match it is really an engaging experience. The atmosphere is brilliant and the experience is truly one of a kind. You can purchase tickets through official vendors online or at convenience stores.
Noh is a very traditional form of theater that originated in the 14th century. Noh, and it’s partner play kyogen, are listen as Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. The popularity of Noh plays is often said to be due to Zeami, who was eventually banished to Sado Island. However in his wake four bands of Noh performers were established. These groups or troupes were sponsored by shrines or temples and they still survive to this day. Noh was named as the official ceremonial art of the Shogun during the Tokugawa period. This caused Noh performances to become standardised where tradition was important. A Noh play involves song, dance and music. The performers wear intricate costumes from periods of the past. Plays can sound rather monotonous and the movements of the performers are slow. The orchestra sits behind the Noh stage and can be seen performing along with the actors. The stories portrayed in Noh plays are usually drawn from Japanese legends, history and literature. Originally Noh stages were built outdoors, so the stage always had a roof over the performers.
Noh is performed by men only. One of the most recognisable aspects of Noh are the masks worn by the performers. Masks are used to portray certain characters, such as demons, women or spirits. They can also be used to change the age of the character. Noh masks are often carved from a single piece, so a lot of skill is used in producing them. Watching a Noh performance is an incredibly cultural experience and can show a lot about Japan’s history. If you want to witness a play there are big venues in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka.
By witnessing a sumo match or Noh play you can learn a lot more about Japan, its history and people. Don’t be worried about the language barrier if you do not speak Japanese, you can still be entertained and enjoy your time.