Q:

What is Japan known for?

A:

The things for which Japan is well known include its cuisine, aesthetic tradition, bonsai trees and its role in the Second World War. According to About.com expert Setsuko Yoshizuka, Japanese cuisine emphasizes raw and cooked seafood, rice and green vegetables. Soy foods, such as miso and tofu, also play central roles in Japanese kitchens. Culinary presentation is extremely important and demonstrates the marriage of Japanese cuisine and cultural aesthetic principles.

One of the most notable aspects of Japanese aesthetics is "wabi-sabi," or the beauty of imperfection. According to this principle, designs that are perfectly symmetrical and well proportioned are not as beautiful as those that contain at least one noticeable flaw.

Two other Japanese aesthetic principles are "mono no aware" and "yugen." According to Bradley Park, a professor at St. Mary's College of Maryland, mono no aware refers to the poignant beauty of transience and change within the natural world. The concept of yugen includes shadowy darkness, mystery and the impossibility of clear discernment. Clouds are an excellent example of this principle.

Japanese aesthetics have a huge influence on the bonsai tradition. Bonsai involves the cultivation, gradual training, pruning and shaping of otherwise ordinary trees into miniature versions of their standard-size counterparts. According to Bonsai Empire, the term "bonsai" means "container," and is a reference to the pots and trays in which bonsai grow. Bonsai trees are not genetically altered or bred to be small. Their size is a function of careful bonsai cultivation techniques.


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