Japanese Cultural Free Essay

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Many religions are popular within the Japanese culture. Two of the most influential religions, Shinto and Buddhism that help shaped a lot of Japanese values are Shinto and Buddhism, played a large role in shaping Japanese values. Numerous similarities and differences run between these two religions; nonetheless, the Japanese often believe in more than one religion at the same time. This is possible due to the polytheistic nature of most popular religions in Japan. It is not hard to say that religion is a big part of Japanese culture because a lot of religious beliefs can still be seen in their everyday lives.

Shinto is a polytheistic native Japanese religion. Followers believe that much of nature is sacred; spirits animates everything in the nature. For example, Japanese still believe that Mount. Fuji is sacred. They believe something that big and great exists only because “Kami,” or spirit, resides within the mountain. In this fashion, they give great respect to nature. These Shinto beliefs have great influence on the ways Japanese today do things and their values. Japanese garden designs also reflect Shinto beliefs. Careful arrangements of rocks and plants are attempts to create a miniature universe or attempts to move a piece of nature into their house. Similarly, the principles of floral design show their interest in nature. They focus on the importance of light and shadow, and the fullness versus the void, instead of focusing on the symmetry. The reason? Flowers and plants do not grow symmetrically in nature. They lean towards the sun creating a void in the shadow. Japanese respect and seek to bring the beauty of nature closer to them, therefore, a lot of Japanese arts are imitations or miniatures of nature. These traces of Shinto belief clearly still exist in Japan today.

Later on, the Japanese adapted another religion, Buddhism. Like Shinto, Buddhism is also a polytheistic religion. Moreover, because Shinto does not explain the afterlife while Buddhism does, these two religions co-existed in Japanese culture. Many people adapt to both religions’ belief system at the same time. Zen Buddhism became widely adapted by the samurais later on during the Warrior Period. Zen Buddhism focuses on the discipline of individuals, one of the many reasons why samurais are seen as very refined warriors. They are often portrayed as being able to sense an enemy’s attacks before they actually happen. This is an exaggeration of a samurai’s ability to concentrate and focus on a goal. The samurais often use a Zen Buddhism technique called "Za Zen" to help clear their mind. A practical religion, Zen Buddhism helps to enhance self-discipline and improve one’s self-concentration. One of the teachings of Zen Buddhism is "Bushin," meaning the clarification of the mind. A cleared mind allows the samurais to concentrate better on the task at hand and respond faster to enemies’ attacks, make Zen Buddhism a very attractive religion to these warriors. Martial arts in Japan today also stress the importance of concentration. However, Bushin no longer applies to solely concentration in combat, but to all forms of concentration. For example, practicing martial arts is said to effective for improving one’s performance at work due to better concentration skills. This type of application of the Zen Buddhism is very popular in modern Japan.

Religions obviously play a large role in modern Japanese culture. Eighty-six percent of the Japanese population believes they are being watched over by spirits. Ironically, however, seventy percent of the population also said that they do not believe in any religions. I believe that there are several reasons for this irrational response of the Japanese people. First of all, many religious beliefs are already integrated as parts of the Japanese culture. This means that even though Japanese have the same beliefs as some religion, they do not necessarily believe in it. For example, non-Shinto followers also believe in the greatness of Mt. Fuji due to the “Kami” within it. Similarly, they do not have to believe in Zen Buddhism to value self-discipline or practice Za Zen and any other techniques for improving concentration. Moreover, because the Japanese, often practices syncretism, or the attempts to reconcile two different belief systems, they might not consider themselves as belonging to any religion at all. Religions are definitely present within the modern Japanese culture, even though they might not be considered as “religions” any longer. It is truly a phenomenon to see religion being integrated into a society so well that it became a part of the culture.

Word Count: 748

Japan is known for its very good and very beautiful entertainers called geisha. Geisha in Japanese means “artist. The history of geisha began during the 11th century when two women created a new kind of dance to entertain warriors. They wore white dresses to represent the court dresses of warriors. They also wore hats, long white gown and sword. The dance attracted many people and the dress was change to black hat and red skirt. The sword disappeared. From then on, many people have a belief that the two women are the early predecessors of geisha.

But there are hearsays that geisha were previously men who entertained in a place called “water world”. But eventually the male entertainers were replaced with female ones. Geisha are professional and their main work is to entertain guests through many different performing arts in an O-chaya. They basically took hard trainings in ancient dancing, singing, playing instruments, wearing kimono, tea ceremonial, serving alcoholic drinks, conversing, writing calligraphy and many other things needed to become a real geisha. These trainings last for many years until they perfected those crafts and skills.

A geisha is said to be successful if she already shown her endless beauty and charm, grace, creative talents, good manners and refinement. Guests who have long time affiliation with the tea house are permitted to take a geisha and mainly tea houses do not allow any new clients without prior notice and formal introduction. Geisha’s business is generally an expensive business and in fact a single geisha party costs thousands of US dollars. During the 1920’s, there were about 80,000 geishas all over Japan however, this big number dropped to 10000 because of the western influence to Japanese culture.

One good thing about Geisha is that it serves as a mirror of how wonderful Japanese culture is. They show how hospitable Japanese are and from the intensive trainings of geisha, we can see the dedication from them which prove that Japanese are really disciplined people. They play an important role in the Japanese society. Geisha women are good role models and they usually went on international tours to strengthen affairs with other nation. With their charming moves and pretty face, they can bring happiness and fulfillment to anyone. They exhibit a strong relationship with men.

For some they are called prostitutes but actually they are not. They just entertain. Geisha have the will to have a patron, also known as Danna in which they may affect emotionally, economically and sexually. To stay beautiful and attractive they wear their hair in a bun styled with a comb and two pins. One of their main training is to dress with elegant kimonos and apply white make-up. Every time they got an entertainment show in banquets and parties, considerable money was given to them. After any party, the things discuss in the occasion was kept secret confidential.

It is nice that morality has been patronized by geisha. It is fact that geisha never perform indecent actions such as one night stand. Moreover, they do not prepare or even serve food. Before anything else, to become a certified geisha, you should be a daughter of former geisha or if not; an O-chaya can give you the consent of being one. Usually girls from an orphan or poor families were sold to an O-chaya to become one of the thousand geisha. The O-chaya would invest a big bunch of money to train the recruited girls. They would be dressed with colorful kimonos and taught them the appropriate skills.

Doing various chores while watching other geisha were also their job. When they reached the age of 15-20 years old, they now become the so called “Maikos” which are labeled apprentice. The apprentice assisted the geisha to all her appointments for the purpose of learning to become a true geisha. Also at age 20, a Maiko made decisions whether she will pursue to become a geisha. A rule governs the geisha system. She must quit if she decided to get married. There is an initiation ceremony called “erigae” in which the collar of the Maiko was change from red to white.

Also this is the time in which the girl underwent a mizu-age, a ceremony in which the highest bidder takes the virginity of the Maiko but this does not occur. One thing I observe from the recruitment process is that it involves poor children sold by her relatives. It is really unfair for the children to work as a slave especially if it’s not the will of the involved children. We should not deprive the children’s right to choose her own life and we should not permit that poverty overpowered this little right. Geisha recruitment seems to be a business wherein the indigenous people were the victims.

Unfortunately this is the reality of life; one suffers while the other prospers. Another important contribution of Geisha is the preservation and performance of many Japanese dances. Dances like Mivako Odori and cherry dances which are based on Japan’s cultural value were the most common dances performed by Geisha. The red costume of the Geisha had a great significance in the Japanese culture and society. The use of red in their dress and makeup signifies beauty and happiness. The red underclothing was believed to ease the menstrual pain and maintain the good and healthy functioning of female reproductive system.

Red is an erotic symbol for men. In fact they wear red lining under their own kimonos and apply red lipsticks made from petals of red flowers. In early times, the costumes of Geisha girls have warrior motifs which include hats and swords. But as time passes by and culture progresses, Geisha’s dress became feminine. Geisha is a culture which permits Japanese women to become independent and economically stable. It is believed that this is the only profession in which they are above men. It is one of the most important role of Geisha in society; keeping women at the height of men. Being intimate with men are part of the being a Geisha.

Nearly all marriages in Japan were arranged by families of both parties. These marriages main goal is to preserve the present rank in the society rather than to seek peace and happiness. In this kind of situation, the man would normally have two women in his entire life. It was a common practice that wealthy and powerful men have a relationship with geisha. On other culture and religion this set up do not conform to morality. The Christianity sector would surely say that this is immoral. Unfaithfulness to your wife is considered a sin but still other may see it as something normal.

Geisha is mysterious but beautiful creatures that represent the very old traditions of the Japanese. Now, modern geisha still reside in what they call okiya in flower towns especially during mentoring era. Most old and experienced geisha decide to live independently. They are often hired in parties or exclusive events at the tea houses and also to high-class restaurants in Japan. An incense stick serves as their clock for determining the spent time of each geisha in entertaining guest and visitors. Confusion still remains on what is really the nature geisha profession.

An awful view about Geisha is that they serve as prostitutes. In western perspective, Geisha are known as expensive prostitutes. Geisha are entertainers and they are expected to entertain their customers in many ways such as reciting verse, playing musical instruments or simply by giving a good conversation but not to serve as sexual workers. Geisha’s arrangement also includes flirting with the customers and to do some playful and fancy innuendos but nothing more can be expected. Geisha strongly do not engage with sex with the customers even with money offerings.

What they believed is that geisha are entertainer particularly sexual entertainers. This common notion about geisha made this decent and simple tradition to be a tradition full of immorality and sins. To attract costumers, prostitutes dressed and posed as a true geisha. Actually, a true geisha do not engaged with sexual relationship with her costumers. What they usually do is just entertainment. In fact, they were first and foremost entertainers. Geisha were invited to gatherings to keep thing in harmony and lively. They dance together with the guest, sing with them and played drinking games.

Clearly, geisha are there for mere entertainment. The success of parties and celebrations are determined by the presence of geisha. Having several geisha in a party meant that the party host was wealthy and powerful. Geisha and the traditional high-class courtesans also know as oiran have similarities which lead to confusion. Like geisha, oiran also have their elaborate hairstyles and wear white make-up. Geisha are truly different with orian in a simple manner. Oiran tie their obi in the front and serve as prostitutes while Geisha in contrast usually tie their obi in the back.

Prostitution was legalized during the Edo period. Prostitutes like orian were given license by the government. On the other hand, geisha were strictly prohibited to hold such kind of license and eventually forbidden to have sexual engagement with their customers. Any geisha holding the prostitution license is referred to be promiscuous. During the Japanese occupation, several Japanese prostitutes sold themselves to American to become sexual slaves. These prostitutes are termed geisha girls which lead to the conception of geisha as prostitutes.

Also, those geisha working in onsen towns give a bad reputation to geisha because of the prevalence of prostitution. They used the name and character of a geisha in order to have a good market. Geisha indeed are not prostitutes. They are just victims of wrong conception. But sadly, although the nature of geisha is really good many are still doubt the nature of geisha’s profession. We can now infer that being a geisha is tough job. A geisha needs to be beautiful all the time and must undergo hard trainings to perfect the geisha’s required talents skills. We can see the good and bad accounts of being a geisha. It is a good tradition of Japan.

It reflects all the prosperous cultures and traditions of Japan; from dancing, singing, conversing to the various arts. Also geisha’s dedication to work really manifest that Japanese are disciplined person. Generally, geisha plays an important role in Japanese culture. Geisha are entertainers not prostitutes. Although most people considered them as sexual workers, we cannot take away the fact that they bring happiness and pleasure to people. Although the nature of geisha’s work is closely similar to prostitutes we must not immediately pre-judge it. Geisha is a wonderful culture which is full of creative stuffs.

From the dress, hairstyles, and other attributes of geisha we can see how diverse the Japanese culture is. Those bad accounts to geisha will be polished by its amazing structure. Eventually and hopefully people would fully accept the truth that geisha are made for merely entertainment. Instead of looking at it that way, looks at it other perspective or maybe people can even look deeper to the inner core of it in order to see its real purpose. References: History of Geisha. Retrived November 14, 2007, from http://marian. creighton. edu/~marian-w/academics/english/japan/geisha/history. html.

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