To your surprise, the capital of Japan isn't Kyoto! Instead, it is one of the places people most want to visit after the ban is lifted in Japan.
D.G. Wander從漫遊世界的視角出發，引領你用不同的角度、多元的觀點看世界，這次第一站來到日本，而她也是解封後許多人最想去旅遊的國家之一。D.G. Wander深入日本文化核心，並以在地的觀點來帶你逛日本。一開始就從日本的首都談起吧。
D.G. Wander starts from the perspective of roaming the world and guides you to see the world from different and diverse viewpoints. This time, Japan would be the first stop, where lots of people are willing to visit after the ban. D.G. Wander went deep into the heart of Japanese culture and now he will take you to Japan from a local perspective. Let's start from the capital city first.
日本 / Japan
2021 人均 GDP / 2021 GDP per capita : USD$ 39,340（26th in the world）
人口數 / Population：1億2570萬 / 125.7 M
語言 / Language：日本語 / Japanese
首都 / Capital：無 / none
國土面積 / Area : 377,975km²
The battle between the East and the West in the Japanese capital: Tokyo and Kyoto
PHOTO by SeanPavone from envatoelements
You may ask isn't Tokyo the capital of Japan? We know that "Tokyo Metropolis" is indeed the highest administrative region in Japan, but according to the Japanese constitution, the location of the capital is not explicitly stipulated. The location of the capital of Japan should be determined by the place of residence of the emperor (called the "Imperial Palace"), who now resides in Tokyo, but still retains the site of the former palace in Kyoto.
These two different "views of the Imperial Palace" always make people who live in Tokyo and Kyoto debate endlessly. For people who live in Tokyo, a highly modern city, there is no doubt that it should be the capital, not to mention that the emperor has lived here for a long time. But on the other hand, for Kyoto people who pay attention to traditional culture, the former palace is still there, the emperor is just temporarily moving to Tokyo, and the capital is of course Kyoto! Since the constitution is not clearly stated, the battle between the east and west can only keep continuing.
The Nationality of the Japanese: Vague and Duality
日本99%以上的人口屬於「大和民族」，是民族單一性很強的國家。關於日本的民族性，1994年諾貝爾文學獎得主大江健三郎（Oe Kenzaburo）在他的獲獎致詞〈曖昧的日本的我〉中提到，日本是個「曖昧」的民族；美國文化學者潘乃德（Ruth Benedict）在《菊與劍》（The Chrysanthemum and the Sword）中，以美麗的菊花和代表武力的刀劍，來隱喻日本民族的雙重性。
More than 99% of the population of Japan belongs to the "Yamato Nation", which means that the country has a strong ethnic unity. Regarding the nationality of the Japanese, Oe Kenzaburo, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994, mentioned in his acceptance speech of " The Vague, Japan, and Me" that the Japanese are " vague". An American cultural scholar metaphorizes the duality of the Japanese nation in "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword" with the beautiful chrysanthemum and the sword representing force.
PHOTO by leungchopan from envatoelements
There are also scholars who focus on the "subculture" perspective of animation games, emphasizing that the Japanese are a particularly "imaginative" nation, and the world constructed through their imaginations has long been integrated into their daily life. Or they regard the Japanese as a part of the circle of Confucian culture. Therefore, they particularly emphasize the "culture of shame". In another word, they act with a sense of morality. There are some words that can summarize these characteristics such as bond (bondage or fetters), bushido (the spirit of Japanese samurai), soul od Yamato, and Sakura aesthetics.
Traditional Beauty in Japanese Culture: Architecture, Art, and Cuisine
Japan not only retains a large amount of traditional culture but also introduced some Chinese culture during the Tang Dynasty in China through envoys that were sent to travel to China. For example, the "hiragana" and "katakana" were invented based on Chinese characters during this period. Moreover, after the Meiji Restoration, Japan was deeply influenced by Western cultures such as Europe and the United States. Therefore, the cultural characteristics formed the East and the West, and the ancient and modern. D.G. Wander chooses three aspects to briefly talk about Japanese culture: architecture, art, and Japanese cuisine.
1. 建築 / Architecture
PHOTO by SeanPavone from envatoelements
When it comes to Japanese culture, religious architecture is a major feature. Buddhism was introduced to Japan in the 7th century, so it has a long history and culture. Besides, Shintoism is also a deeply rooted collective belief of the Japanese. It can be seen from the numerous shrines and Buddhist temples that Shintoism and Buddhism have penetrated Japanese culture deeply (according to statistics, about 70% of the Japanese population believe in Buddhism and Shintoism, and some overlap). Moreover, the style of the Japanese Garden is also designed and constructed according to the Buddhist concept. It is unique and has aesthetics that focus on balance and harmony, which is a kind of conceptual landscape architecture.
Photo by Stephan Streuders from pexels
The two ancient cities Kyoto and Nara have preserved many shrines and Buddhist temples well, and they are both listed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. These religious buildings range from hundreds to thousands of years of history. For example, Kiyomizu Temple and Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine in Kyoto, Ise Jingu Shrine in Mie Prefecture, and Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo are among the most well-known religious buildings.
2. 藝術 / Art
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Calligraphy, ikebana, and tea ceremony are the essence of traditional Japanese art. Calligraphy was introduced in China and it integrates Buddhism and psychology from people nowadays. Today, it is seen as a way of mindfulness, relaxation, and meditation. The purpose of ikebana and Japanese gardens is the same. They both pursue the balance and harmony between different elements, hope to connect our minds with nature, and reach the realm of unity. The tea ceremony focuses on cultivating one's mind, tasting tea at a time of tranquility, and feeling the freedom and beauty of "one session, one meeting".
PHOTO by jpozzi from envotoelements
There are also traditional dramas such as geisha and kabuki. Geisha are women who apply white makeup on their faces to perform traditional arts, they entertain guests through dancing and singing. The most famous geisha distribution center is Gion in Kyoto, which is also a tourist attraction. Furthermore, Kabuki is a kind of stage performance. Traditionally, both male and female roles are played by men, and it is usually hereditary (father to son). For instance, the well-known artist "Ichikawa Eizo" is from a Kabuki family. Traditional Japanese dramas include different types of performances such as Noh, Bunraku, Kyogen, Rakugo, and Manzai, each has its own artistic beauty.
3. 日本料理（正式名稱：和食） / Japanese Cuisine (Official Name: Washoku)
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For most people, Japanese cuisine isn't unfamiliar, and "Washoku" was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2013 because of its unique feature. For example, Sashimi, Skewers (the original meaning is “yakitori”), Tenpura, Sushi, and Teppanyaki are all well-known Japanese dishes.
In Japanese cuisine, there is an fancy dish that needs customers to eat with their eyes: Kaiseki cuisine. The word means a monk holding a warm stone in his stomach to resist hunger, but now, it often refers to the dishes that the host entertains guests in the tea ceremony. The amount of food is small but very refined. It pays attention to the form of the plate, and even the utensils are very particular. Therefore, Kaiseki cuisine can be said to be a work of art that combines vision and taste.
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D.G. Wander's tour of Japan should have some highlights that caught your eye, and of course, Japanese culture is extensive and profound, and it is inevitable that there might be some regrets. But through our spirit of discerning wandering, I believe you will be able to see a whole new world. Look forward to the next time we meet in another foreign country.
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