Deeply enriched with ancient traditions and glorious past, Japan has managed to preserve its traditional culture embedded in the fabric of everyday life. The clash of new and old can be seen everywhere, from breathtaking skyscrapers rising to the clouds to charming side streets packed with restaurants. As a country that endured many events, Japan offers travelers a great variety of attractions full of historical significance. It is common to be astonished to find yourself transported to the upper levels of a castle by freshly constructed elevator. In Japan, culture and history goes alongside the modern facilities on a cutting edge of urban technology.
Author: St Stev
Welcome to Edo Period
One of the most interesting and authentic time of Japanese history is Edo period. Lasted over 250 years from the establishment of Tokugawa Shogunate in 1603, it has been known as a time of great contradictions and contrasts. The founder of the shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, consolidated his power over the entire country through a series of different changes. The most important way to balance his power was introduction of a strict class system and elimination of individual rights. Despite the tight control over the masses, international seclusion and isolation, the Japanese culture flourished entering the golden age of economic prosperity. It was a time of internal peace and political stability achieved by the ruling of military dictatorship.
Many historians consider Edo period the liveliest for the development of mass culture. The wealthy middle class had the opportunity and budget to pursue cultural prospects such as theater, literature and martial arts. Just imagine the busy streets crowded with hurrying geishas, local vendors hawking their products and vibrant performances after the sunset! If I had a time machine, I would gladly take a journey to Japan during the Edo period. Therefore, let us have a glimpse to the ancient past of Japan by introducing the major symbols of that period – geishas, samurais and ninjas!
The Beauty of Geishas
After watching the famous movie ‘The memoirs of geisha’, I was deeply mesmerized about their culture, traditions and lifestyle. In Japan, geishas are seen as symbols of eternal grace and puzzling mystery. Despite the common mistakes regarding their duties, geishas are highly trained professional entertainers who can be hired for performing tea ceremony, dancing, singing and hosting the events.
How to become a geisha?
In order to deserve the title of ‘intelligent beauty’, geisha has to work really hard. The apprentice geisha is called maiko that roughly translates as ‘dancing child’. Since the early childhood, maiko has to endure a lengthy training in traditional arts such as dancing, music, playing musical instruments and chatting over the high-society topics. Only then, she obtains the right to become a true geisha and start entertaining guests.
Author: Vintage Lulu
Where to find geisha?
Modern geishas continue to reside in traditional households most of which are located in the ancient imperial town of Kyoto, home to these beautiful ladies. If you want to catch a glimpse of geisha, you should pay a visit to it! They are often seen teetering along the tiny Gion district streets wearing their traditional high wooden sandals. It is hardly to believe, but the allure of geishas’ lifestyle has not changed over the years.
Author: Kate Nevens
There is no person on the globe who has not heard about the legendary and brave Japanese warriors called samurais. The term for noble fighters, ready to lose their life in fierce fighting, is originated from the ancient times. Declaring a solemn oath of loyalty to their lords, samurais aimed to follow a strict moral code ‘bushido’ calling to self-discipline and self-sacrifice.
What weapon samurai used?
Without a shadow of doubt, most legendary weapon used by samurais is the sword called katana. A sharp instrument spreading death and putting fear into the hearts of opponents. Made of high-carbon steel, a sword with an average blade of 70cm length was often used for open combats in order to slice the enemy’s limbs.
The shorter sword called wakizashi has a blade of 10 to 30cm. According to the records, it was used for stabbing and decapitating defeated enemy.
Author: Lorianne DiSabato
What is seppuku?
Yeah, seppuku is a horrible-looking ritual of suicide often committed by ancient samurais. Once part of moral code, it was considered an honorable way for warrior to die without losing his pride. If wished to commit suicide, the samurai had to shove a razor blade into his stomach while another fighter engaged in lopping off his head. The cruel practice of self-killings died out only after the 20th century.
Shrouded in mystery, ninjas are often portrayed wearing face-covered outfits and carrying dangerous nunchaku chain sticks. According to the historians, ninja practices came from the need of self-defense and espionage for the highest bidder. If required, ninja could throw sand in the opponent eyes and shove the dagger into his back. Over the years, ninjas’ skills were used for spying and carrying on secret assassinations.
Author: Team Dalog
Ninjas: noble warriors or crafty spies?
It is now difficult to tell what kind of people ninjas were. Much of what we know about ninjas is actually a legend. Hundreds of years ago, they conducted their tasks demonstrating a high-skilled techniques and fantastic ability to survive. Stealthy assassins that followed not a noble nature but a thick wallet. They had a plenty of skeletons in their cupboards for sure!
What could ninjas do?
It is easier to say what ninjas could not do. High-trained experts in martial arts and masking techniques, they are often described as swarming over walls like black-clad spiders and silencing the bodyguards with a simple hand movement. What should you expect from a human being who has believed to descend from a half-crow demon?
Theme Parks to Make You Travel Back to Edo Period
Many tourists traveling to Japan are keen to experience the country’s rich traditional heritage and get a glimpse of ancient times. If you are one of these enthusiasts, I highly recommend you to visit some theme parks that can provide you a journey to the Japan’s Edo period. You will be able to witness the architecture of ancient Japan and feel yourself a star of a drama putting on the uniform of a samurai, geisha or ninja for a day. Here are some suggestions for your trip to four hundred years back.
Toei Studios Kyoto Park
Toei Studios Kyoto Park is a popular destination for diehard fans of Japanese history. Those who have watched some Japanese historical dramas will be surprised to find many of the scenes captured here. Visitors will enjoy themselves walking along the tiny streets of Edo neighborhood, red-light district Yoshiwara and ancient fire brigade station called ‘megumi’. If you wish to experience the feudal lifestyle, try on the warlord costume or have a fun at ninja attractions.
Location: Uzumasahigashihachioka-cho 10, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
Author: Chie Gondo
Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura
Edo Wonderland is the most famous Edo-period theme park around Japan popular among the movie production crews. It offers a stunning experience for those who secretly wished to become ninja someday, gaze at the awesome sword exhibit and try throwing a shuriken weapon in the game booth. Do not hesitate to take your children with you as they can try being an ancient okkapiki (police officer) and pride themselves in getting official certificate of completion afterwards.
Location: Karakura 470-2, Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture
Author: Hidetsugu Tonomura
Ise Azuchi-Momoyama Bunkamura
If you want to experience being a citizen of Azuchi-Momoyama and Edo period, it is definitely worth to pay a visit to the theme park in Mie prefecture. The area features the well-made copy of stunning Azuchi castle once used as a residence for legendary Oda Nobunaga, Edo-style Theater and traditional game booths. Guests are welcome to walk around the golden interiors and take awesome pictures from the viewpoint overlooking the bay.