What is life like in Japan?

The Japanese way of life has changed significantly since World War II. After the war, many people moved from the countryside to the cities to earn their living as office workers. Cities grew in both area and population, with more and more people commuting between their apartments or houses in the suburbs and their jobs in the city centers. While the traditional Japanese household used to combine three or more generations under one roof, the average urban family today consists only of parents and children, while the grandparents live elsewhere.

Traditional Japanese houses are made of wood and rest on wooden pillars. Today's houses, however, usually have western-style rooms with parquet floors and are often constructed with the help of steel beams. More and more families in cities are also living in large apartment buildings made of reinforced concrete.

Two big differences compared to western apartments are that no shoes are worn inside the house and that at least one room is often decorated in a Japanese style with tatami (rice straw mats). The shoes are taken off when entering the apartment so as not to stain the floor. Shoes are put on or taken off and stored in the Genkan or entrance area. Japanese people commonly use slippers around the house.

Tatami is a thick floor covering made from rush mat and has been used in Japanese homes for about six hundred years. A single tatami is usually 1.91 by 0.95 meters and the size of a room is often determined by the number of tatami. A floor with tatami is cool in summer and warm in winter, and it stays fresher than carpeting during the humid months.

The Japanese word for “food” is Gohan. The word actually means "cooked rice," but rice is such an important food in Japan that the term Gohan stands for all meals. A traditional Japanese meal consists of white rice with a main course (fish or meat), a side course (often boiled vegetables), soup (often miso soup) and pickled vegetables. In 2013 the traditional Japanese cuisine "Washoku" was added to the UNESCO list of intangible cultural assets because it shows the attitude of the Japanese people and their respect for nature.

The Japanese today eat numerous dishes from all over the world, especially from Europe, North America and Asia. In addition to rice, you also eat bread and pasta and enjoy a wide range of fish, vegetables and fruits. Sushi, tempura, sukiyaki and other Japanese dishes known abroad are of course also popular in Japan itself.

In the cities in particular there are a large number of fast-food restaurants that offer hamburgers and fried chicken and are particularly popular with young people and children.

Before starting to eat, in Japan they say “itadakimasu”, a polite phrase that means “I receive this food.” This expresses gratitude to those who provided the food. After the meal one thanks again by saying: "gochiso sama deshita", literally translated "It was like a feast."

Japan's traditional clothing is the kimono. Kimonos, which are usually made of silk, have long sleeves and go from the shoulders to the ankles. They are tied with a wide belt called an obi. Nowadays, kimonos are only worn on special occasions, for example Shichi-go-san, weddings and graduation parties.

Compared to western clothing, freedom of movement is restricted with the kimono and it also takes some time to put it on correctly. In the summer, an easy-to-wear, light, and plain kimono known as a yukata is worn by children and young adults at summer parties, fireworks, and other special occasions. In everyday life, young Japanese people usually prefer clothes that are easier to move in, such as t-shirts, jeans, polo shirts and sweatshirts.