The Japanese Way of Life
Perhaps the most significant fact about the present-day way of life in Japan is change. Many traditional Japanese customs have been replaced by Western ways. In general, the most extensive changes have taken place in the big cities and have had the greatest effect on the younger generation, but the impact is strong everywhere and affects all groups.
The change has been spurred on in large part by the economic prosperity since the early 1950's. The Japanese enjoy one of the highest standards of living in Asia. In addition to television sets and radios, other electrical appliances, such as air conditioners and refrigerators, are now common in Japanese homes. The Japanese are well clothed, well fed, and well housed. They have money for travel and for educational and cultural pursuits.
The rapid pace of change is also due to Japan's defeat in World War II, the Allied occupation, and the postwar reforms. Since they had been defeated, the Japanese were more willing to give up their old ways and values and accept new ones brought in by the occupation forces. As a postwar reform, women were put on equal footing with men and were given increased opportunities for education and for employment outside the home.
Most Japanese, especially the younger ones, now wear Western clothes, but they may wear the traditional kimono on special occasions. The Japanese diet, which formerly consisted mainly of rice and fish, now includes wheat, beef, and dairy products.
Ancient Japanese wrestling, called sumo, is a leading sport. Baseball also is popular. Two professional baseball leagues draw more than 8 million admissions annually. Skiing has become a highly popular sport.
The Japanese are especially fond of the theater. Their traditional dramas are the classical and formalized noh plays and the more popular kabuki, which literally means "song-dance skill." In addition, Japan is one of the world's leaders in the number of motion pictures produced.
Some of the old customs have retained their attraction for the Japanese people. There are modern apartments and houses, but the average Japanese still prefers the small, low, one-room or two-room Japanese house made of wood. The rooms can be separated by shoji, or sliding partitions. The furnishings are few and simple. Family members sit on reed mats on the floor rather than on chairs. At night, comforters or quilts are put out on the floor for beds.
The Japanese observe rigid rules of etiquette and social behavior. Skill in artistic flower arranging and the rituals of the tea ceremony are basic to the proper upbringing of Japanese girls.