The land of the rising sun has forever been a romantic destination for people all around the world. Guarding the far east of the globe, Japan has been influenced by many cultures and people throughout history. It adopted some of the customs as they were, and some it adopted after remodeling to make them Japanese.
Over the years, Japan has been losing its culture to the wave of modernization and industrialization. It is often said that Japan is becoming westernized. That is true to some extent. Change, however, is inevitable, and with time, every culture grows and changes. The change in the Japanese culture came to light perhaps because it is only recently that japan emerged from its isolated state and became part of the global shenanigans.
Some of the more striking changes that came over Japan are a result of westernization.
The wave of westernization can be traced back to the American victory over Japan at the end of World War 2. In the aftermath of the war, the USA had a startling influence to bring Japan under the influence of Western culture. The form of government was changed, massive reconstruction was needed to recover from the damages, and US influences was the first thing that steered the reconstructing and remodeling process of japan.
Change in The Social Attitude
Slowly, the custom of providing mats to be seated on the floor gave way to plastic chairs. Just as the world adopted more and more plastic, so did Japan. With the introduction of modernity, Japan slowly lost some of its core values that were considered quite essential about Japan.
Bowing is regarded as a polite way to greet anyone with respect. With the advent of social media and more casual relations with everyone around, these values are getting obsolete.
Drinking tea was a custom that prevailed to greet guests and strengthen their bond with them. With the advent of urbanization and changes in living practices, such traditions are slowly being forgotten.
The traditional food places are being replaced by the fast-food chains that have sprung up in the USA and around the world. They have become a necessity, and any place in the world without a branch from the chain of a fast-food restaurant is now seen as too old, too outdated. Amidst the classic architecture of Japan, one now finds the logos of international fast-food chains on completely western-style buildings.
Change in The Social Set-Up
The western influence conquered Japan and even engulfed the family life. Japan was largely dominated by the Asian style of living, distinct from the Western one. The women were seen as housekeepers, mostly while the men worked for a living. But post-war, things began to change. The percentage of working women shot up, and women assumed equal roles in work and the country’s economy. After the World War, Japan assumed a largely industrial role, and women worked alongside men to increase production and help Japan assume the industrial role.
Alongside the whole world, Japan, too, progressed in the arena of industries. New industries were set up, and Japan quickly adopted modern ways of production and became a competitor in the world of economic giants. Adopting these led to a decrease in the following traditions and customs. As life paced up, the Japanese had to walk with it. They had to give up, for example wearing the Kimono, which was once considered essential.
However, it was too time-consuming to put on and very complex for the outside world. Working at a fast pace in factories and competing with the world meant sacrificing most of these customs and becoming one of the people of the modern world.
Western Influence on Construction
When one thinks of Japan, exotic wooden houses with curved roofs might come to mind, which is a symbol of the mystique associated with the Japanese culture. But with westernization came concrete. The Japanese became obsessed with construction, pouring concrete down every empty place. Not only did the exteriors become influenced by the Western-style architecture, but also the interior designing of houses and the style of living.
Pop culture developed in the aftermath of World War 2. It was an attempt to bring Japan to light and make it recognized for its specialties in the world. The Japanese popular culture has been a source of recognition for Japan. From Manga to Pokémon, and anime that we all cherished throughout our childhood and even now, have origins in Japan. However, this was also not safe from modernization and change.
These things formed a significant factor in distinguishing Japan from the world. Previously, Japan’s cinema produced movies that praised the efforts of soldiers and warriors. After the war, Japan was bent at improving its image in the eyes of the world through showcasing their unique culture. The pop culture was one of the results of the day.
Arts and Literature
Over time, the Japanese style of arts and performing arts flourished but refused to accept the Chinese influence, which was considered too grandiose. The Western influence, however, did come over. The older theatrical forms of dance and performances which represented different eras of the past were gradually replaced by more Western and modern forms.
The folk songs and poetry of Japan is slowly losing color as well. The songs have retained the Japanese sentimental lyrics but are largely accompanied by western-style music and instruments.
With modernization, came the use of standard Japanese language. This resulted in the loss of the different dialects of the language that are directly associated with the local culture. Hence, there has been a gradual loss of folk songs and traditions.
Having emerged from being an ancient monarchy, Japan had, over time, acquired festivals that continued to be cherished even presently. In the wake of urbanization, Japan is losing these festivals in the mists of time. The mud festival in Japan struggles to survive as the rural population of the country declines. With the calendar spanned with such events, and the fast pace of life calling to work on the other end, these festivals struggle to live.
Japanese culture has always been a fusion of many different cultures and traditions from all across the world. The Japanese people quickly adopt customs from all around the world, but after Japanifying them. This includes the modern forms of entertainment that japan has adopted and even the social and cultural rituals that came from all around the world but have been colored in Japanese styles.
Looking at the facts, one can say that a change or growth in culture is inevitable for any community. Japan has journeyed from isolation to globalization and adopted many customs that were prevalent in the world previously – only introduced to Japan later. Still, Japan has managed to protect and preserved many traditional and folk forms of arts and festivals that every tourist will be lucky to witness.