Pop Culture and Japan

Ghost Of Tsushima Review: The Samurai Game The World Has Been Waiting For

In popular culture, samurai are often portrayed with a mixture of romanticism and chivalric honour. They are presented with a strict code of honour that’s thought of as heroic, but in reality, the life of a samurai was far more complex. The absolute devotion they had to their code could make them ruthless and cruel to the people they considered to be beneath them.

In many ways, a samurai was a walking contradiction. A warrior who was expected to draw their sword at a moment’s notice, but was also meant to compose haikus, arrange flowers and be the living embodiment of Japanese virtues. This complexity is on full display in Ghost of Tsushima, a game I’ve been waiting to play for a long time and that allowed my inner history geek to run free.

Continue reading “Ghost Of Tsushima Review: The Samurai Game The World Has Been Waiting For”

Guest Posts

Guest Post: Fighting Viruses And Ignorance

The Coronavirus has caused xenophobia towards people of Asian descent.

Kung flu, Chinese coronavirus, Chinese virus, and Wuhan virus. Those are just some of the derogatory nicknames people have applied to the COVID-19 virus. Even worse, this derision and bullying goes far beyond names for the virus.

People have physically and verbally attacked Asian people. The perpetrators thought that their victims had COVID-19, helped it spread, or came from places they associated with it. People have also insulted Asian countries. Such attacks during times of international crisis are not new, but there are ways to combat them. Continue reading “Guest Post: Fighting Viruses And Ignorance”

Pop Culture and Japan

Appreciating The Beauty And Craftsmanship Of Jizai Okimono

Japan is known for having some of the most unique art in the world. Building on centuries of feudal culture, Japanese art has its own style. A famous example of Japanese art is jizai okimono, which translates to ‘move freely decorative object.’ Jizai okimono involves the crafting of articulated sculptures. Beginning in 17th century Japan, the art form is highly specialised and fascinating.

But what are the origins of this beautiful artform and how has it evolved in modern times? Continue reading “Appreciating The Beauty And Craftsmanship Of Jizai Okimono”

Japanese Cuisine · Pop Culture and Japan

The Dos And Don’ts Of A Japanese Tea Ceremony (According To A Legendary Samurai)

A traditional Japanese tea ceremony is one of the most important aspects of Japanese culture. A celebration of harmony and the transience of life, the tea ceremony can be a transformative experience, and like many traditions, the ceremony was a crucial part of the samurai lifestyle.

In addition to being fierce warriors, samurai were meant to be cultured and poetic. They placed great value on the Zen nature of the tea ceremony and believed it needed to be carried out in a certain way. The famous samurai Umawatari Bogyu was one of many warriors who adhered to strict tradition, and in his opinion, the tea ceremony could only be enjoyed under a set of specific rules. Continue reading “The Dos And Don’ts Of A Japanese Tea Ceremony (According To A Legendary Samurai)”

Women Warriors

Women Warriors: Tomoe Gozen

Women Warriors is a series that puts the spotlight on Japanese women who have left their mark on history. Many formidable Japanese women could be found among the onna bugeisha, female fighters who became a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield. One of the most badass onna bugeisha happened to be a 12th century woman called Tomoe Gozen.

The wife of Minamoto no Yoshinaka, Gozen earned a reputation as a legendary warrior during the Genpei War. Gozen’s story took place at a time of great social upheaval, making it an even more inspiring tale. Continue reading “Women Warriors: Tomoe Gozen”

Pop Culture and Japan

Remembering The Bravery Of Chiune Sugihara

The Second World War was one of the most tumultuous times in all of human history, and there are still people alive today who remember living in fear and uncertainty. Much has been done to bring reparations to groups who were persecuted during WW2, but it can be easy to forget that there were those alive during the period who didn’t agree with the harsh treatment of Jews and other marginalised people. One man who believed in fighting against persecution was Japanese government official Chiune Sugihara. Continue reading “Remembering The Bravery Of Chiune Sugihara”

Japanese Mythology · Women Warriors

Women Warriors: Empress Jingū

Japanese history is filled with stories of legendary figures like Minamoto no Yoshitsune and Sengo Muramasa who helped to shape the time periods they lived in. For every tale of a man who dictated the future of Japan, there are just as many inspirational stories about Japanese women shocking the system. Women Warriors examines the life of these brave souls who went against tradition.

One of the most interesting stories of a woman changing the status quo involves the legendary Empress Jingū, A semi-mythological figure, Empress Jingū’s life is a topic of much debate. Continue reading “Women Warriors: Empress Jingū”

Japanese Fashion · Japanese Mythology

Dissecting The Parts Of Traditional Samurai Armour

The legend of the samurai is woven into the culture of Japan. Dutiful, stoic and formidable, samurai were bound to the code of bushido, protecting their lords and masters at any cost. In order to carry out their duty, samurai relied on a variety of equipment, and one of their most important assets was armour.

Traditional samurai armour is striking for how intimidating it looks. This was deliberate on the part of the warriors, as they wanted to terrify their opponents in battle. A great amount of detail went into the forging of the armour, with each piece being intricate and durable. Let’s take a closer look at  samurai armour and see how it was made. Continue reading “Dissecting The Parts Of Traditional Samurai Armour”

Women Warriors

Women Warriors: Nakano Takeko

In every culture around the world, you’ll find stories of women who stood out for their bravery and courage. They are the women who went against tradition and did what they believed to be right. Women Warriors is a series that investigates the lives of Japanese women who forged their own destinies.

During the heyday of the samurai, women were assigned traditional roles of house keeping and cooking. The idea of them being fighters was frowned upon, with men being responsible for going off to war. But Nakano Takeko defied societal norms by taking up the role of a samurai and fighting during the Boshin War In the 19th century. Her story is one of bravery, defiance and tragedy. Continue reading “Women Warriors: Nakano Takeko”