Despite centuries of misinformation, Japan is not a monoculture. Its identity as a unified nation is a relatively recent phenomenon. Regional differences in taste, extreme juxtaposition between rural and urban ways of life, continued evolution of the national identity against contemporary lifestyles, and the ever-present conflict between the universal urge to be part of a community, yet retain some distinct identity, mean that huge variety in everything from food to art is possible.
The average Tokyo-ite's palate has had at least as much exposure to both domestic and international cuisine as even the most cosmopolitan denizen of Europe. When shopping in a department store, eating in a restaurant here, or visiting an art gallery, you can see the influence of Europe, the Americas, and the rest of Asia.
The exposure to the rest of the world has created opportunities for expansion of what is familiar and expected. Although it's not universal, enough Japanese value getting things right that you can expect a level of obession with detail for doing something as deceptively simple as making a perfect bowl of soba or omelet as you can for making elaborate multi-course kaiseki meals or French pastries.
In rural Japan, you might find populations as dense as some sprawling cities of the United States, but you'll also encounter a different pace and an appreciation for simplicity. In Tokyo you can expect the next train to arrive in 5 minutes. In a rural town, you might have an hour until the next bus arrives.
The most impressive things coming out of Japan are able to fluidly dance between the rustic experience of the farming or craft village and the urban needs of the metropolis. You won't find Japan in items that religiously adhere to tradition, and you won't find it in factories.
A ceramic artist takes what he knows in terms of the traditions of techniques, but, fully aware of contemporary lifestyles, he produces something completely new and memorable. A woman who travels to the US and sees a small shop dedicated to selling gourmet baked pet foods, and then returns home and opens a small tea shop and pet accessory store in an old building in a classic machida building in the historic heart of Kyoto. A maker of Japanese sweets in Kyoto packages it in an elegant box, and has it shuttled to Tokyo a 3 hour shinkansen train ride away, so that a jaded office worker can enjoy the same quality as someone right next door. Japan is here, in these collisions of the traditional and the modern.
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"Cafe au Lait" bowl by Akutsu
"Gosu" Blue & white combined clay mugs by Senda
"Gosu" combined clay mugs by Senda
"Ippuku" Matcha Latte mix
(Discontinued by Iwachu) Kuro Seiho Arare (partial hobnail) tetsubin (600 ml/22 oz)
Aka/Chairo Kaede Tetsubin (600 ml/22 oz)
Brown soup bowl
Cast iron "ochoko" sake cup
Cast-iron Cha-Kiiro Ichiyo Yunomi (teacup) discontinued-call for alternatives
Cha/Kiiro Ichiyo Tetsubin (650ml/23.5 oz)
Chasen 120-Tate (Matcha whisk, 120 bristles)
Chasen, 80-Tate (Matcha Whisk, 80 bristle)
Chashaku Shiro (for Matcha)
Chrysanthemum, Asakusa, Tokyo
Deep green glaze mug (small) by Akutsu
Deisai (clay-colored) mug cup, small
Deisei Vertical Guinomi
Discontinued by MFG: Kuro-Ryoku Donabe
Electric Ao Senbiki Tetsubin (600 ml/22 oz)
Futamigaura Dawn, Futamigaura, Mie-ken
Great Buddha, Kamakura, Kanagawa-ken
Guinomi with Niji-Yuu effect
Iron glazed "Kaki" vase
Iron-glazed small coffee cup
Kabin with Niji-Yuu by Minowa (Tall vase with rainbow iron glaze)
Kasuga Shrine Wisteria, Nara
Kataguchi with Green Glaze
Kibune Shrine, Kibune, Kyoto
Kichu glaze Guinomi
Kichu glaze sakazuki by Akutsu
Kichu glaze yunomi by Akutsu