Japan’s cultural mystery of humanness

A country where ancient and modern meet. Where you can find a beautiful centuries-old Shinto-shrine next to a glass skyscraper showcasing the finest technology. Old traditions and rituals are living side by side with globalization and the high tech fast life. This makes Japan such an intriguing country to me.

Japan continues to push the boundaries of technological development, and a lot of the Japanese incorporate technology into their everyday lives. But they’re embracing their history and traditions. Some of these traditions date back thousands of years, and many of them are still intact today. 

With my illustrations, I’m portraying some of these traditions.



Sentō

Sentō are public bathhouses that customers pay to use. Japan has a rich culture of bathing, both Sentō and Onsen (hot springs) are very common. The history of bathing in Japan dates back to the Edo period (1603–1868) Mixed bathing with men and women sharing the same bath was commonplace in Edo period bathhouses and considered completely natural at the time. From the outset, the custom was believed to not only wash the body but also cleanse the soul and improve one’s health. That understanding continues in present-day Japan.
Japan is home to many volcanoes, which is why there are more than 20,000 onsen facilities located across the country. In Tokyo alone there are about 750 sentō. These sentō have changing rooms with high latticed ceilings, small courtyard gardens, and large murals painted above the baths. The murals often depict Mount Fuji. Bathers soaking under the paintings are made to feel like they are in the waters around the mountain, purifying their bodies as in some ancient ritual.

The number of sentō in Japan is declining because more homes are equipped with baths. However, enhanced versions of bathhouses, known as “super sentō,” have been growing in popularity. Super Sento offers spa baths, onsens, different kinds of bathtubs, as well as saunas. Ordinary sentō are considered public facilities and so can benefit from local government subsidies.

Tea Ceremony 


A ceremonial and choreographic ritual of preparing and serving Japanese green tea, called Matcha. The ceremony is to form a bond between host and guest that demonstrates the spirit of generosity and respect. Preparing tea in this ceremony means pouring all one's attention into the predefined movements. The whole process is not about drinking tea, but is about aesthetics, preparing a bowl of tea from one's heart. The host of the ceremony always considers the guests with every movement and gesture. Even the placement of the tea utensils is considered from the guest's viewpoint. The Japanese tea ceremony is a long-standing tradition. Its initial use was for religious rituals in Buddhist monasteries going on to become a status symbol for the well-off and military officials. Over the years, tea drinking has been extended to different levels.








Eggmachine


Japan has the highest per capita rate of vending machines in the world. There is approximately 1 vending machine per every 23 people, according to the Japan Vending Machine Manufacturers Association.You can buy just about anything from vending machines, from umbrella’s to underwear, camera’s, pornographic magazines, flowers and eggs. Obligation and ritual still play a big role in social encounters in Japan. At work, at home, at the store. For generations, small neighborhood shops thrived because they provided a sense of intimacy and trust. Vending machines let you avoid social requirements.

But why are there so many in Japan?
High population density in the cities and high real-estate prices make companies put more vending machines on the streets instead of opening up a retail store. Also, there’s an exceptionally low crime rate. According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, vending machines are “seldom broken or stolen,” despite having tens of thousands yen inside and being frequently housed in dark alleyways or uncrowded streets. Another reason for this abundance is the heavy reliance on cash and their love for technology. Some latest Japanese vending machines also feature large screens that can also tell you about the weather or current events. Sometimes, the machines are wrapped so they don't stand out and distract from the setting. These exist in case you need a drink and not necessarily to sell you something to drink. There's a difference. Vending machines, thus, are symbols of not only how safe Japan is, but also how convenient it is. >


Egg of the sun


Japan has a culture of gift-giving. Gifts are presented not only on special occasions but as part of the tradition to show appreciation, extend courtesy and build relationships. Fruit is considered a luxury item and plays an important part in Japan's extensive gift-giving practices

Whereas in many Western cultures fruit is prized for their nutritional value, the Japanese see fruit in almost spiritual terms. For this reason, high-end fruit has come to be viewed as an important symbol of respect. Even the fruit you see every day in convenience stores is far from cheap, and misshapen produce is kept off the shelves. But these gift fruits are in an entirely different league. There are entire luxury grocer's dedicated to gift fruit, the most famous of which is Senbikiya. From heart-shaped or square watermelons to "Ruby Roman" grapes, which are the size of a ping pong ball. Expensive, carefully-cultivated fruit, however, is not unique to these stores. Across Japan, such products regularly sell for tens of thousands of dollars at auction. In 2016, a pair of premium Hokkaido cantaloupe sold for a record $27,240 (3 million yen).

Mangoes sold under the Taiyo no Tamago (Egg of the Sun) label are selected under strict criteria including weight and sugar content. Although not all Japanese consumers buy expensive fruit to gift, many appreciate its rarefied taste.