The tea ceremony, calligraphy, ikebana (flower arrangement), and gardening, as well as architecture, painting, and sculpture, are examples of Japan's highly sophisticated traditional arts. The performing arts are defined by their fusion of music, dance, and drama from many historical eras. Modern artists have also made use of these elements, along with installation art, to create new works for exhibition.
Japan has been a leading force in the development of modern art, with many famous names emerging from this country over the years. Yukio Mishima was a popular postwar novelist and poet who is now best known for his work on patriotic themes. Takashi Murakami is a popular artist who creates distinctive cartoon-like images often featuring celebrities. Yayoi Kusama is a contemporary artist whose immersive installations have drawn crowds from around the world.
Japan's ancient culture is evident through its stunning artwork. Buddhist temples were among the first institutions to employ artists, who were responsible for creating many of the temple's decorative features including murals, sculptures, and woodwork. Shrines also employed artists, who created sacred objects such as bells and candleholders.
Over time, these artistic traditions were combined with influences from abroad, resulting in a unique culture that can be seen today in the works of Japanese artists.
Japanese music has long had a spiritual undertone, analogous to martial arts and other kinds of art such as tea ceremony and calligraphy. Because of this, music has become extremely ritualized. This spiritual self-mastery must be demonstrated by musicians in their performance and poise. In fact, failing to show proper respect can result in being punished by not being allowed to play again.
There are three main factors that make Japanese music ritualized: the role of dance in music, the function of vocalization, and the importance of instrumental display.
Dance is central to Japanese musical experience. Dance accompanies singing, which in turn inspires dancing. This circle of inspiration continues between musician, singer, and audience member alike. A performer who fails to entice or move an audience with his or her dancing risks losing them forever. This is why dancers in Japan are highly respected members of the music industry.
Vocalization is also very important in Japanese music. Without it, there would be no way to communicate ideas and feelings. There are two types of vocalization in Japanese music: song lyrics and instrument accompaniments.
Song lyrics are used when music is intended to be emotional support for words. Lyrics are often poetic and may have explicit meaning beyond just providing harmony to the song. They can also be completely meaningless (like popular songs today) and even have cultural significance like ancient poetry.
Arts and crafts from Japan
Ancient pottery, sculpture, ink painting and calligraphy on silk and paper, ukiyo-e paintings and woodblock prints, ceramics, origami, and, more recently, manga, which is modern Japanese cartoons and comics, are all examples of Japanese art.
Japanese artists developed a variety of techniques for creating paintings that reflected their interest in nature and the human form. These techniques include monochromatic painting, sumi-e (black ink) painting, gyotaku-denpa (crushed rock) painting, urabon (clouds) painting, kirigami (paper cutting) and sengokuhiki (the making of hand fans).
Monochromatic painting is done with just one color, usually black. The artist uses a dark blue-black or a purple-black ink to create the image by applying it directly onto the paper without using any other colors. Black characters for example would be written with this type of ink.
Sumi-e is an ancient Japanese technique of blackening the back of a piece of paper then rubbing it against a bright red pigment to create a picture. This process leaves a black area where the paper was not rubbed properly or where there is no paint to rub away. Sumi-e can also refer to the finished product.