Japan Anthropology

According to beautypically, the traditional Japanese house, due to earthquakes, is almost entirely made of wood. In the cities it has as a rule two floors, in the countryside one. Only one or two sides of the external walls are in masonry, the rest consists of verandas or half-height windows that give light to the rooms. These, often numerous, are separated by movable walls (fusuma) which allow to vary their number and width. With the exception of the vestibule, the kitchen and the bathroom, the various rooms are not intended for particular uses and, typical fact, are equipped with very little furniture, which appears only when needed. At mealtime, each diner is brought a pillow, on which he kneels, and a small table, about 20 cm high, on which he finds or places what he needs. After the meal, everything disappears in the todana (closets). In the evening, thin mattresses are removed from these, which serve as a bed, and spread out on the floor, always covered with mats (tatami mats). The men’s pillow is long and narrow, the women’s one is made of wood and has a padding on the top on which the cheek rests so as not to ruin the hairstyle. Characteristic of the Japanese house is the tokonoma, a kind of niche on the mezzanine floor, in which objects of art are placed. On the bottom, the tokonoma has a kakemono, silk painting, which changes from time to time to harmonize everything with the season or with particular moments of family life. It also serves as a home shrine: the tablets with the name of the ancestors are placed there and guests are received in front of it. European civilization has introduced Western houses and furniture, and all cities now have entire neighborhoods built in the European style.

  • Traditional clothing for men consists of a shirt (juban) of cotton or silk, over which, in winter, a slip (dügi) is worn, over which is the actual dress (kimono), replaced, in winter, by two padded dresses, held in place by a belt (obi). The women tie two small aprons (koshimaki) at the hips, on which they wear one or two kimonos, tightened by a strip of cloth (shita-jime), and, above, by the obi, a wide band of damask silk, held tightly to the kidneys by a fold (obiage) and supported by a cord (obidome). The female hair style is well-finished and very complicated and changes with age and condition. European customs have now spread everywhere and in all classes, giving rise to a Japanese-European hybridism.
  • The diet is based on rice, replaced at the poor man’s table by barley or other cheaper cereals; then come the legumes, the fish, the eggs; meat, under the influence of Buddhism and due to a lack of pastures, is not very widespread. Shüyu, a national sauce made with soy, goes into almost every food. The main drinks are sake, a brandy obtained by fermenting rice and drunk hot before meals, beer and green tea taken without milk or sugar. There are usually three meals and European cutlery is increasingly replacing the old hashi, short chopsticks operated with the right hand and used to bring food to the mouth.
  • Confucian ethics have influenced and still influence family morality today. Men marry at 25-27, women at 20-22. Marriage is usually organized and conducted by the nakodo (mediator), a friend or trusted person, to whom the father (absolute head of the family until the last war) assigns the task of finding a suitable bride for his son. The ceremony is simple and consists in the passage of the woman in the house of the groom, of which she becomes part; however, the religious rite celebrated in Shinto temples is also quite frequent. Sometimes, when the parents have an only daughter, it is the man who enters the bride’s house, whose surname in this case he takes. Confucian ethics, centered on the perpetuation of family descent so that the cult of ancestors is kept alive, it has given characteristic developments to adoption, which has become a very important social institution. Whoever has no children adopts one, whoever has too many gives one or two to a friend who does not have any. A famous artist almost always adopts his best pupil so that the character of his art can be perpetuated. Mourning is also heavily influenced by Chinese morality. Its duration varies from 3 to 50 days and would also involve abstention from work, but this, due to the inconveniences it would give rise to in practice, is usually limited to private occupations. An old institution, which tends to disappear, is the inkyo (literally “staying in the shadows”), whereby, on the threshold of old age, the father retires with his wife, giving up care, head of the family rights and all his possessions or part of them to the eldest son,

Japan Anthropology