Ancient Traditions and Modern Customs

July 29th, 2013By Category: Culture

Just as you will find anywhere in the world, Japan is a country full of original traditions. Many of these activities started because people were bored and the iPhone hadn’t been invented yet. And some of them were so much fun that the tradition lives on even today.

These ancient traditions may die someday to give way to new ones. So what common activities of today will be considered ancient traditions in 500 years? If history repeats itself, the activities of today should become the traditions of the future. Let’s take a look at the current ancient traditions and compare them to what we have today.

Sado (tea ceremony)

I’m sure you’ve heard of the tea ceremony. I knew someone interested in tea ceremony so I asked her what a tea ceremony entails. She said that she drinks a cup of tea and eats a snack.

Then I asked her how long it takes.

She said 2-3 hours.

Not to brag, but I could down a cup of tea and eat a snack in about 10 seconds…and I’ve never “practiced” tea ceremony in my life. I figured there had to be more to it. We decided to have a tea ceremony. We drank the tea and ate the snack.

If that was a “ceremony”, I have 3 ceremonies a day.

Enough picking on the poor tea ceremony. The thing most similar to the tea ceremony nowadays would be the nomihodai, or the all-you-can-drink specials.

I’m guessing tea ceremonies were held a long time ago so people had an excuse to get together and talk. However, nowadays I’m not going to ask my buddy to put on his best kimono so we can have some tea. The excuse to get together and talk now is booze. And a great excuse it is. Especially if it’s nomihodai booze.

Budo (martial arts)

Budo is the way of the warrior. But unlike today, the warriors of the past needed to learn Budo to stay alive. Now it’s learned more for exercise and spiritual reasons. The true warriors of today are not tested by strength, flexibility, speed, or mental power. Instead, the choice of battle now is cards… Pokemon cards to be exact. On the future playgrounds, the kids will be whispering “Don’t mess with that guy. I heard he beat an army of Lugia EXs with just one Kamonegi.”

Shodo (calligraphy)

Shodo is the art of writing kanji on scrolls. They say shodo improves your concentration and attention to detail. I’m sure you’ve seen some illegible kanji on a scroll hanging on some wall somewhere. It could be the kanji for the number 1 (一) and it would somehow be written in a way that foreigners couldn’t make it out but every Japanese person could read it. I honestly think it’s a joke they play on foreigners.

Anyway, in the future people will be studying the ancient art of computer programming. Future computers will be so advanced, programming will be obsolete. Kind of how like writing is now. I never write anything by hand. Ever. In the future, we’ll just tell the computer what program we want it to perform and it will do it for us.

However, in 500 years some people will still study the lost art of computer programming so they can make their own programs from scratch. And hanging on a wall somewhere will be a computer screen on which an Oregon Trail program made by one of these people is running.

And I don’t know how, but the Japanese will somehow make this illegible for foreigners too.

Ikebana (flower arrangement)

In ikebana, the arrangement between the flowers and space create a work of art. You can’t just plop a bunch of flowers into a vase and call it day. The ikebana of the 26th century might be manga, or comic books. Nowadays, every popular manga becomes a cartoon or even worse, a real life TV show or movie.

In manga, you can’t just plop a bunch of stuff together and be done with it. The timing of that whole page scene with the main character holding his fist in the air has to be spaced out perfectly. No earlier than page 53 and no later than page 178. It’s an art.

Every country has their own traditions. I thought it might be interesting for those of us living in Japan to take a look at what we are experiencing now may be considered a tradition in the future.

Author of this article

Albert Weiland

I live up in Hokkaido with my wife and 2 kids. Family life can get busy so I don't have much time for hobbies. But, I loved watching TV and listening to music in the states and the same goes for Japan. There is a lot of interesting entertainment out there if you know where to find it.

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  • Telmo Silva says:

    I’m very interested in Japanese culture and along with that I’ve been looking into some customs and I’ve always wondered, “what’s the purpose of Sado?”. Well my question has been answered.

    BTW…got to love a good sense of humor “I honestly think it’s a joke they play on foreigners.”.