The culture of Japan has evolved greatly over millennia, from the country's prehistoric Jomon culture to its contemporary hybrid culture, which combines influences from Asia, Europe and North America. After several waves of immigration from the continent and nearby Pacific islands (see History of Japan), the inhabitants of Japan experienced a long period of relative isolation from theoutside world under the Tokugawa shogunate until the arrival of "The Black Ships" and the Meiji era.
The Japanese language has always played a significant role in Japanese culture. The language is spoken mainly in Japan but also in some Japanese emigrant communities around the world, it is an agglutinative language and the sound inventory of Japanese is relatively small but hasa lexically distinct pitch-accent system. Early Japanese is known largely on the basis of its state in the 8th century, when the three major works of old Japanese were compiled. The earliest attestation of the Japanese language is in a Chinese document from 252 A.D. It is regarded as "quite difficult for native English speakers" to learn as adults.
Japanese is written with a combination of threescripts: hiragana which were derived from the Chinese cursive script, katakana, which were derived as a shorthand from Chinese characters, and kanji, imported from China. The Latin alphabet, rōmaji, is also often used in modern Japanese, especially for company names and logos, advertising, and when inputting Japanese into a computer. The Hindu-Arabic numerals are generally used for numbers, buttraditional Sino-Japanese numerals are also commonplace.
Painting has been an art in Japan for a very long time: the brush is a traditional writing tool, and the extension of that to its use as an artist's tool was probably natural. Brush was imported by Damjing from Goguryeo around 7th century. Native Japanese painting techniques are still in use today, as well as techniquesadopted from continental Asia and from the West.
The flowing, brush-drawn Japanese language lends itself to complicated calligraphy. Calligraphic art is often too esoteric for Western audiences and therefore general exposure is very limited. However in East Asian countries, the rendering of text itself is seen as a traditional artform as well as a means of conveying writteninformation. The written work can consist of phrases, poems, stories, or even single characters. The style and format of the writing can mimic the subject matter, even to the point of texture and stroke speed. In some cases it can take over one hundred attempts to produce the desired effect of a single character but the process of creating the work is considered as much an art as the end productitself.
This art form is known as ‘Shodo’ (書道) which literally means ‘the way of writing or calligraphy’ or more commonly known as ‘Shuji’ (習字) ‘learning how to write characters’.
Commonly confused with Calligraphy is the art form known as ‘Sumi-e’ (墨絵) literally means ‘ink painting’ which is the art of painting a scene or object
Traditional Japanese sculptures mainly consisted ofBuddhist images, such as Tathagata, Bodhisattva and Myō-ō. The oldest sculpture in Japan is a wooden statue of Amitabha at the Zenkō-ji temple. In the Nara period, Buddhist statues were made by the national government to boost its prestige. These examples are seen in present-day Nara and Kyoto, most notably a colossal bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana in the Tōdai-ji temple.
Wood hastraditionally been used as the chief material in Japan, along with the traditional Japanese architectures. Statues are often lacquered, gilded, or brightly painted, although there are little traces on the surfaces. Bronze and other metals are also used. Other materials, such as stone and pottery, have had extremely important roles in the plebeian beliefs.
Ukiyo-e, literally "pictures of the...