Culture

Japan's "genderless" men

Harajuku has become a catwalk for jendaresu-kei (or "genderless style"). Although women who dress in a more stereotypically masculine way may also identify as "genderless," in Japan, the term jendaresu-kei refers to males who are not interested in the typical male dress code of dark suits and dress shoes.

Matching colorfully patterned fabrics and fingernails with "kawaii" (cute) hats and purses, they signal a vibrant new masculine style. But they may also represent wider changes in the way male roles are perceived in Japanese society. 

The trend of young men eschewing Japan's navy blue suits is outlasting the fast cycles of the fashion industry. As a lifestyle, signs of genderlessness are also evident among men far removed from the Harajuku scene.

Ikigai: the secret to longevity

What if you could live longer just by doing more of what you love to do most?

It's an attractive theory that finds its evidence in Ogimi, a community on the island of Okinawa that's nicknamed the Village of Longevity because its residents have the highest life expectancy in the world. They also largely share a devotion to a Japanese philosophy known as ikigai, a concept that is, at times, used synonymously with purpose, passion, meaning, mission, vocation and drive.

To help define your own ikigai, ask yourself: "Why do I get up in the morning?" "What motivates me?" "What do I love doing most?" Or, "What would I regret not having done with my life when it's over?"

Japan—2018 Destination of the Year

Think about what you look for when you’re deciding on the perfect travel destination. Is it rich history? Cultural experiences? Lots of delicious food or shopping opportunities? Comfortable and unique places to stay? Or, perhaps, you just want to go somewhere with truly breathtaking views that you can’t get anywhere else in the world.

Guess what? You can find all of this and more in Japan.

Travelers across the globe love to visit the country for its fabulous natural spas, or even its quirkier relaxation offerings like baths of beer, red wine, or even ramen, for a one-of-a-kind experience.

Tokyo garden loses a fortune

An attendant at a popular garden in the heart of Tokyo has cost the facility millions of yen because he was “too frightened” to ask foreign visitors to pay the admission fee.

The attendant, who is in his early 70s, admitted failing to collect the fees for Shinjuku Gyoen national garden after an investigation was launched following a tip-off by another employee. The unnamed man said he had stopped collecting admission fees of 200 yen (US$1.80) for adults and 50 yen (US45¢) for children in April 2014, and had continued to allow foreign visitors in free of charge for about two and a half years. As a result an estimated 160,000 people entered the garden without paying. The environment ministry said that it had lost at least 25 million yen ($220,000).

When you can't stop buying books

Do you have a habit of picking up books that you never quite get around to reading? If this sounds like you, you might be unwittingly engaging in tsundoku—a Japanese term used to describe a person who owns a lot of unread literature.

The Japanese word doku can be used as a verb to mean "reading", and the tsun in tsundoku originates in tsumu—a word meaning "to pile up". So when put together, tsundoku has the meaning of buying reading material and piling it up.

On the other hand, Bibliomania is the title of a 19th century novel by Thomas Frognall Dibdin which claimed to explore "book madness"—the act of being unable to stop collecting literature.

The world tidies with Marie Kondo

In 2016, two years after the English translation of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” became a best-seller, Marie Kondo moved to Los Angeles to establish her home organization consultancy in America. Amidst her culture shock, the Japanese native soon realized her new country also provided something that her homeland did not: unprecedented levels of clutter on which to practice her art.

First woman fighter pilot in Japan

On Friday, August 24, Misa Matsushima realised her lifelong dream and struck a blow for Japan’s women when she started duty as the country’s first female fighter pilot. Matsushima, who holds the rank of first lieutenant in the air self-defence force, completed her training in August 2018, just three years after Japan lifted its ban on women becoming fighter pilots.

“I have admired fighter jet pilots ever since I saw Top Gun when I was in primary school,” she told reporters on the eve of starting her new role. “I want to continue to work hard to carry out my duties, not just for myself but also for women who want to follow this path in the future.” Three other women are currently training to join Japan’s elite group of fighter pilots.

Princess Ayako marries a commoner

Princess Ayako, the third daughter of Princess Hisako and the late Prince Takamado, Emperor Akihito’s cousin, married a 32-year-old worker at shipping firm NYK Line in October 2018. The husband of the 27-year-old princess is Kei Moriya, a commoner and graduate of Keio University in Tokyo. Their wedding ceremony was planned for Oct. 29 at Meiji Jingu Shrine in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo.

Under the Imperial House Law, a princess will lose her Imperial status if she marries a commoner. Princess Mako, 26, the eldest granddaughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, is set to become engaged with Kei Komuro, 26, also a commoner, who courted her while she attended university. Their formal wedding will take place in 2020.

New Year 2018

With the end of the year drawing closer, the pressure is on to figure out how to greet the Year of the Boar. If the dwindling number of viewers staying in to watch NHK’s annual music showcase “Kohaku Uta Gassen” is any indication, more and more people in the Kanto region are choosing to head out for less traditional celebrations. 

A good soundtrack can be key to a proper New Year’s celebration and there are more than enough options in and around Tokyo to satisfy a variety of musical tastes. Countdown Japan is a music festival that will take place at the sprawling Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba Prefecture, kicking things off on Dec. 28 and continuing until the early hours of the new year. Around 180 acts will play over the course of four days.

New Japanese World Heritage Sites

UNESCO has decided to add 12 sites to the World Heritage list that are linked to the history of the country’s persecuted Christians.

The sites include the Oura Cathedral in Nagasaki, the oldest surviving church in the country which is already designated as a national treasure; and the remains of Hara Castle, a site of the Shimabara-Amakusa Rebellion that led to establishment of a national policy of seclusion and the beginning of the hidden Christians’ unique system to transmit their faith and beliefs by themselves.

The newly added sites “bear unique testimony to a cultural tradition nurtured by hidden Christians in the Nagasaki region who secretly transmitted their faith during the period of prohibition from the 17th to the 19th century,” the committee said on its website.