• Japan is a country of contradictions and this is in part what makes it such a fascinating country. If you are looking for something different you are sure to find it in Japan! It had both traditions dating back thousands of years, as well as the very latest fashions and technology. Here are some of Japan's traditions:

    geishaGeisha (person of the arts) are traditional Japanese artist-entertainers. Geisha were very commonin the 18th and 19th centuries, and are still in existence today, although there are nowhere near as many. Geisha were traditionally trained from young childhood. Geisha houses often bought young girls from poor families, and took responsibility for raising and training them. During their childhood, apprentice geisha worked first as maids, then as assistants to the house's senior geisha as part of their training and to contribute to the costs of their upkeep and education. Education includes a wide variety of arts, such as Japanese musical instruments (particularly the shamisen), traditional forms of singing, traditional dance, tea ceremony, flower arranging (ikebana), poetry, literature, the art of conversation and also in dealing with clients. Once a woman became an apprentice geisha (a maiko) shgeishaphotoe would begin to accompany a senior geisha to the tea houses, parties and banquets that constitute a geisha's work environment. Geisha are not prostitutes, they are professional entertainers. A Geisha's role is not only to play music and dance, but also to make the customers feel at ease with witty conversation and even join in drinking games as the night progresses. As an amateur, the Maiko is not expected to be as charming and amusing, and instead relies on ornate jewellery, rich kimono and young looks to speak for her. Nowadays if you long to experience geisha culture, you must head to the cultural capital of Kyoto. The modern Geiko (Kyoto term for Geisha) starts her life in the Kyoto Okiya (houses), these days around the age of 15, although traditionally it was much younger. After learning skills in hospitality and traditional arts, she will go on to become a Maiko an apprentice Geiko. The young Maiko will follow her mentor to appointments. Geiko and Maiko may have many appointments per night, starting around 4pm and working long into the early hours, scuttling from from bar to bar on their wooden geta. Typically, they will take Sundays off, changing into jeans, wearing their hair down and going shopping like any other young woman. If you're walking around Kyoto on a Sunday, you may be passing by Geisha without even realising it.

  • Japanese tea ceremonyThe Japanese Tea Ceremony (cha-no-yu, chado, or sado) is a traditional ritual influenced by Zen Buddhism in which powdered green tea (matcha) is prepared by a skilled practitioner and served to a group of guests in a tranquil setting. The Japanese green tea is ceremonially prepared together with traditional Japanese sweets to balance with the bitter taste of the tea. The whole process is not about drinking tea, but is about aesthetics. Predefined movements are used and the host of the ceremony must always considers the guests with every movement and gesture. Even the placement of the tea utensils is considered from the guests view point (angle), especially the main guests (Shokyaku). The study of tea ceremony takes many years and often lasts a lifetime. Even to participate as a guest in a formal tea ceremony requires knowledge of sado, including the prescribed gestures and phrases expected of guests, the proper way to take tea and sweets, and general deportment in the tea room.

  • nageire

    Ikebana is the Japanese art of arranging flowers. In Japanese "ike" means to arrange and "bana" ori-gens from the word "hana" meaning flower. Although it emphasizes creative expression, it has general guidelines. Minimalism is a central theme in ikebana, empty space in an arrangement is an important key factor.  This is often seen by arrangements that only have a few flowers interspersed with interesting leaves and stalks. The arrangement is usually structured around the shape of a scalene triangle. The key element of the entire composition is the container of the flower arrangement. There are two basic styles: the basic upright (Moribana) and the basic slanting (Nageire). There are several variations from these basic styles which include the flat, floating, hanging and cascade arrangements.The art of ikebana is very unique to Japanese culture and is very popular to this day. If you would like to know more about Ikebana, please click here.