Japanese culture is simply unmistakable. Developing on this small island chain in relative isolation from the rest of the world, the Japanese have crafted a cultural aesthetic and way of life that no other culture on earth can imitate. At one end of this culture is the gaudy commercial palace of central Tokyo, where the senses are overwhelmed by bright lights, colorful advertisements, and the powerful smell of the local fish market. This is modern Japan – fast paced, high-performance, clean, and orderly. It is the Japan of bullet trains and corporate boardrooms, of anime and flashing billboards.
But there is another side of Japanese culture, a quiet, timeless thread that weaves through history to connect the modern Japanese people with their ancestors. This is the culture one sees in traditional Japanese art and architecture. It is the meticulous craftsmanship and attention to detail that the Japanese bring to every task, from conducting business deals to cooking food. Even the intricacies of everyday greeting – which involve a complex ritual of bowing and honorifics – are extremely precise and difficult for outsiders to understand. This elegance and refinement of culture is seen in the placid gardens and exquisite architecture of medieval castles, and in the concentration of the itame as he cuts fish for sushi.
And, even below this fundamental layer of Japanese culture is the layer of the earth itself – the natural wonders and breathtaking scenery that can be found all over the Japanese archipelago. The soaring slopes of Mount Fuji, the blue-grey waters of the Pacific Ocean, and the deep green forests of Hokkaido: such sights have inspired generations of artists and poets, and are deeply connected with the cultural life of this unique island nation.