Japan Ethnography Part II

According to HEALTHVV.COM, the average age of marriage is 20-27 for men, 16-20 for women. The custom has it that it is organized and conducted by a mediator (nak ō do), usually a friend and trustworthy person, to whom the head of the family commits the task of finding a suitable wife for his child. The wedding ceremony is simple and consists in the passage of the woman to the house of the bridegroom, of whose family she becomes part, and in a banquet that awaits her there. No religious function takes place, although now, certainly under the influence of Western ideas, the custom of getting married in Shinto temples is spreading. Parents who have only one daughter can adopt their son-in-law, who, by joining the family of the in-laws,

Confucian ethics, centered on the perpetuation of family descent so that the cult of ancestors is maintained, has led to the use of adoption, which, highly developed as it is, constitutes another characteristic feature of Japanese society. A famous artist easily adopts his best pupil, so that his art can be perpetuated. An old institution, derived from Buddhism and tending to fall into disuse, is the inkyo (literally: “staying in the shadows”) for which, on the threshold of old age, the father retires with his wife, giving up the care and rights of head of the family and all or part of his possessions to the eldest son, to pass the last years in peace.

Power supply. – Quite different from ours, the traditional Japanese diet does not satisfy the European taste: it is based on rice, replaced in the soup kitchen by barley or other low-priced cereals, legumes, fish, eggs. Meat, under the influence of Buddhism, is not very widespread. Foods are often seasoned in a spicy way, eg. with the inevitable sh ō yu, a kind of sauce prepared with soy. There is extensive use of sweets, such as focaccia, jams. The main drinks are sake, obtained by fermentation from rice and drunk hot before eating, and green tea, taken without milk and without sugar. It is generally eaten three times a day; the traditional hashi, short sticks held and maneuvered by the first three fingers of the right hand, are losing more and more vogue.

Typical utensilstools and occupations. – The peasants still use, to a large extent, the traditional tools: the plow, slightly different from that of the Egyptians of the Pharaonic era, the spade, the sickle and the harrow. But naturally the westernization of the country has made a lot of progress in this area as well.

Fishing includes original methods and tools. In rivers it is customary to fix baskets (ajiro) of bamboo on the edge of the falls so that the fish that cross them fall into them; sometimes the waterfall is produced artificially, by spreading a bamboo mat in the middle of the river that raises the water level. Characteristic is fishing with the cormorant, a very skilled aquatic bird. The operation is done at night. The fishermen secure the cormorants to a rope, one end of which they hold in their hands. Attracted to the surface by the light of the torches, the fish come from the cormorants grabbed with their beak, from which the fisherman then removes them as soon as he realizes that the bird has prey. The trout is caught in the waters of the Kitayama-kawa by skilled fishermen who dive armed with a net. Net fishing is also widely practiced.

Carpenters use a saber saw which is operated with both hands and which has its teeth facing the handle. The plane is small and, having the blade facing in the opposite direction to ours, cuts when the operator pulls it towards him.

Distractions and parties. – Among those characteristics we will mention the tea ceremony (cha – no – yu) which consists in preparing and sipping the drink following the meticulous modalities of a ritual dating back to the century. XIII; the song and dance performed by the geishas (v.), to the sound of the shamisen ; indigenous theater, including classical drama, or n ō, and popular drama, or habuki (see below: Literature); the numerous games, including the game of perfumes (kikik ō), consisting in guessing the order of combustion of some kinds of incense, and various card games (utagaruta, or poetic cards, hana – karuta, or cards of clubs, etc.), in addition to go, a kind of game of checkers with 360 pieces, and chess (sh ō gi), quite different from ours; the wrestling shows; the yose, rooms where skilled declaimers tell stories, legends, adventures, etc., sometimes with music. Opera, singing, music, European games, cinema, radio, etc., have acquired much favor and diffusion, but have not lost the taste for indigenous distractions, which remains very lively.

The Japanese year has numerous feast days that can be distinguished into: a) official national holidays, which are: Shih ō hai (1st January) a new year’s feast; Kigensetsu (11 February), anniversary of the foundation of the empire by Jimmu Tennō (see below: History) and of the promulgation of the constitution; Tench ō setsu, birthday of the emperor. These feasts constitute “the three great feasts” (Sandaisetsu); b) traditional festivals: New Year (1-3 January); Doll festival (March 3); Feast of Iris (May 5); Feast of the stars (July 7); Lantern Festival (13-15 July); Chrysanthemum Festival (9 September); Feast of 7-5-3 [years] (November 15). Besides these, there are others of local importance. Many are of religious origin.

Japan Ethnography 2