The Japanese have a strong sense of being separate and different from the rest of the world and the culture and traditions of Japan are unique and rich. Since World War II, old traditions have mixed with new ideas so that Japanese culture has undergone many changes. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the importance placed on manners.
New apartments and condos are replacing more traditional homes in Japan. The new residences are small and contain multi-purpose rooms. Almost all homes contain a tatami room, which features many of the traditional elements of Japanese homes. A tatami is a springy straw mat that covers the floor. Sliding screens (fusuma) made of wood and paper divide the house into separate rooms and can be opened to create one large room. The entrance of the house, the genkan, is where shoes are removed and slippers put on, as it is bad manners to wear shoes inside a house in Japan. Most homes also have a laundry balcony where laundry is dried outside and bedding frequently aired. Kotatsu, low tables containing a heating element and a blanket covering to keep legs warm, are common for eating. Many homes now also have dining tables similar to the ones found in the West. Futons are common in Japanese homes for sleeping.
In Japan, bathing is a form of relaxation at the end of the day. The typical Japanese bathroom consists of two rooms; an entrance room to undress in and which is equipped with a sink, and the actual bathroom, which is equipped with a shower and large, deep bathtub. The toilet is usually located in a completely separate room. Prior to taking a bath, family members wash and shower outside the bathtub, to keep the bath water clean so all can use it. The bathtub is used for soaking only.
Originally, “kimono” was the Japanese word for clothing. But in more recent years, the word has been used to refer specifically to traditional Japanese clothing. Kimonos as we know them today came into being during the Heian period. Today, Japanese people still wear Kimonos for special occasions. The dress is very elaborate and takes about 20 minutes to put on. The Japanese clothing worn today is very much like the clothes found in western cultures.
Education is very important to Japanese people. Japan has one of the highest literacy rates and 98% of students complete high school. The school year starts April 1 and ends March 31. Summer holidays are in August and they also have a holiday at New Years. Japanese children spend many hours in school and many attend Juku, extra classes in the evenings and during holidays.