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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Related Questions

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    How did Japan change under the Meiji?

    A:

    During the Meiji Restoration, Japan radically altered its political structure and embarked on a plan of industrialization to help it compete with Western nations. Though the reforms caused some violent opposition, the government had reached its objectives by the early 20th century.

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  • Q:

    When did Japan become a nation?

    A:

    Japan's birth as a nation, depending on the definition of nation used, could be as dated 10,000 years ago, when a hunter-gatherer society called the Jamon developed. Its birth date also could be identified as 710 A.D., when the first strong central government developed in Nara.

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    What is the significance of the Meiji Restoration?

    A:

    The Meiji Restoration, which occurred in Japan in 1868, was significant because it shifted political power from the shogun to the emperor, a shift which helped Japan modernize swiftly. This swift modernization allowed Japan to become an economic and military rival of the Western colonial powers.

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    What enabled Japan to become an imperial power?

    A:

    Japan's transformation into an imperial power was the result of its victory as a member of the Allied Powers in World War I, its growth as a westernized industrial nation and the gain of territory achieved during its wars with Russia and China between 1894 and 1905. Japan was also granted control of the Shandong Peninsula in China in exchange for helping the British during World War I. Prior to the outbreak of World War II, Japan invaded and occupied Manchuria, an act which further established Japanese territorial expansion and gained the country control of a Chinese province rich in resources.

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