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“Tsukimi”: The Japanese Tradition of Autumn Moon Viewing

Tsukimi means nothing more than “looking at the moon.” But the Japanese custom of holding special moon-viewing parties, in autumn in particular, dates back over a thousand years.

Daily Life at a Sumō Stable

The sumō heya, or training stable, is where keiko (daily practice) takes place and wrestlers live communally. We visited the Takadagawa stable in Tokyo’s Kiyosumi-Shirakawa district and observed the daily routine, including both brutal practice sessions and a more laid-back pace during the rest of the day.

Helping Beginners Say Yes to Nō Theater

Kawamura Junko has been leading a nō workshop for students, foreign tourists, and other visitors to Kyoto for over two decades, giving the more than 400,000 participants a renewed appreciation for Japan’s traditional stage art, often considered difficult to understand.

Body and Soul: An Interview with Master Swordsmith Miyairi Norihiro

Japanese swords are admired throughout the world for their legendary quality and long tradition of craftsmanship. For centuries the symbol of samurai honor and authority, their appeal is as powerful as ever. We visit one of Japan’s leading swordsmiths to learn more about the timeless magic of the Japanese sword.

The Artistry of the Blade: The World of Master Swordsmith Miyairi Norihiro (Photos)Kimura Naoto

Miyairi Norihiro is a master swordsmith who creates katana characterized by their remarkable elegance and austere aura of nobility.

How the Media Shaped Sumō’s Modern TraditionsJames Singleton

Sumō boasts an impressive history that by some accounts stretches back 2,000 years. Nearly every aspect of the sport—from the dress and customs of wrestlers to the elaborate rituals performed at tournaments—appears to date from antiquity. However, many facets of sumō familiar to fans today emerged in modern times. Waseda University Professor Lee Thompson, during a recent talk at the Internation…

Cold, Hard Cash: Worshippers Look to Giant Tuna for a Prosperous New Year (Japan in Photos)

Visitors to Nishinomiya Shrine in Nishinomiya, Hyōgo Prefecture, place small money offerings on a 2.3-meter long, 230-kilogram frozen tuna on January 8, 2018, as part of an annual New Year event. The shrine is dedicated to Ebisu, one of the Seven Gods of Fortune, who is closely associated with business success. Worshippers put coins on the large fish, enough for around 1,200 portions of sashim…

Ball-Juggling Ritual Marks New Year at Kyoto Shrine (Japan in Photos)

Members of the Kemari Preservation Society play the ancient ball game at Kamo Shrine in Kyoto on January 4, 2018. Kemari (kickball), a game where players cooperate to keep a ball in the air for as long as possible, was popular with aristocrats in the Heian period (794–1185). The society holds a ritual game at the start of each year with members showing off their nifty footwork while wearing co…

Shaking Off the Dust: End-of-Year Cleaning at a Kyoto Temple (Japan in Photos)

Buddhist priests and adherents take part in ritual cleaning at Nishihonganji in Kyoto on December 20, 2017. Susuharai, literally “sweeping away the soot,” is a traditional activity at the end of each year. At the headquarters of the Jōdo Shinshū school, 700 people beat tatami mats with sticks to shake up a year of dust before fanning it away. (© Jiji)

A Homecoming of the Heart: Shakuhachi Player Bruce Huebner

California native Bruce Huebner fell in love with the shakuhachi flute as a young man, and in the subsequent decades he has become an accomplished composer, performer, and teacher of the traditional Japanese woodwind instrument. A long-time resident of Japan, he spent many years in Fukushima, where he developed a deep affinity for the prefecture’s people and natural surroundings. Following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, he has used his music to aid in recovery efforts and connect with people affected by the disaster.

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