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”

Women Warriors

Women Warriors: Mochizuki Chiyome

Women Warriors puts the focus on inspirational and legendary Japanese women who’ve left their mark on history. The original female warriors of Japanese culture were the onna-bugeisha and their more secretive cousins, the kunoichi. The latter were female ninjas who earned a fearsome reputation as spies and assassins, striking from the shadows.

All kunoichi traced their history back to the story of Mochizuki Chiyome. The founder of the order, Chiyome is a figure shrouded in mystery and legend.

Continue reading “Women Warriors: Mochizuki Chiyome”

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”

Pop Culture and Japan

Japan’s Deadly Female Ninjas: Walking The Path Of The Kunoichi

The phrase 'female ninja' has only gined popularity in the modern day. Even kunoichi was rarely used during the Edo period.

Ninjas are undoubtedly one of the most well-known tropes in Japanese pop culture. As practitioners of ninjutsu, the warriors who followed this path were referred to as shinobi. But it would be incorrect to assume that the role of black-clad assassin was reserved solely for men.

Women could be moulded into the ultimate expression of death as well and they were known as Kunoichi, a term that’s evolved to mean ‘female ninja’ in the modern day. So, what is the history of these mysterious figures and how did they function within Japanese society? Continue reading “Japan’s Deadly Female Ninjas: Walking The Path Of The Kunoichi”

Pop Culture and Japan

A Brief History Of Japanese Bodysuits

Japanese tattoos, also known as irezumi, is a distinctive art style that has developed over hundreds of years. Known for colourful mythology, monsters and nature motifs, irezumi is a beautiful expression of individualism. The ultimate expression of Japanese tattooing is the bodysuit, which covers the skin in a similar way to clothing. Continue reading “A Brief History Of Japanese Bodysuits”

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”