Monday, January 14, 2008

Japanese Art and Language

Pictured a Kyoto temple, courtesy of Fuji Film staff

Japanese Art and Language by Misa Takahiro

A technological leader located on over three thousand islands in East Asia, Japan has a truly fascinating history, the second largest economy in the world, a challenging language, prolific arts, a diverse population.

Japan has a rich history of art spanning over centuries. Painting is the traditional form of art. Native painting techniques are mixed with techniques from continental Asia and the West to create a hybrid style of modern Japanese art. Calligraphy, also known as Sumi-e, is also a highly valued form of art. Calligraphers make ink by grinding a solid ink stick on stone and mixing it with water and compose phrases, poems, stories, and single characters in unique handwritten fonts.

Visitors to Japan will know that sculptures of Buddhist images is a common art form The most common images are of Tathagata, Bodhisattva and My0-0. Another unique are form is ikebana, the art of flower arrangement. It focuses on the use of harmony, color, rhythm, and design to express the season and symbolize greater things than the flower itself. Ukiyo-e means "pictures of the floating world" and is the Japanese form of woodblock printing. The most famous print is The Great Wave at Kanagawa by Hokusai. Traditional Japanese architecture is exemplified by temples, Shinto shrines, and castles in Kyoto and Nara. Famous modern architects include Yoshio Taniguchi and Tadao Ando, whose styles are a fusion of Japanese and Western influences.

The Japanese language consists of three scripts--Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana. There are many more dialects than scripts. In central Japan the Western-type dialects are most prevalent. The Tokyo-type dominates in Western Japan and Kyushu-type is the least common dialect. In modern Japanese the Latin alphabet romaji is sometimes used. Japanese is one of the most difficult languages to learn. Choosing the right program is paramount in learning the language.

About the Author

Misa Takahiro is an editor at She loves the Japanese language and enjoys sharing what she has learned with others.

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