Japan Culture Lab

I explain questions of Japanese culture easily.


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What Does Sanzu as in Sanzu River Mean? Why Do We Need Rokumonsen? What is Ishizumi (Stone Piling)?

  It is said that, after we die, we cross the Sanzunokawa (the Sanzu River, the Buddhist equivalent of the River Styx) to go to the other world. They say that we need rokumonsen, six coins of one-mon (a unit …


What is komainu (lion-dog)? What is the word origin “A n (un) no kokyuu (Well-synchronized motion or behavior like breathing together)”?

  There are many people who saw komainu (lion- dog, 狛犬) at the entrance of Shinto Shrine in Japan. Do you know what it is? Also, there is a Japanese idiom, “A n (un) no kokyuu (阿吽の呼吸)”. This idiom describes …


What is the meaning and origin of shishi-mai? Why does the shishi-mai bite your head?

  Shishi-mai (獅子舞) or lion dance is performed on various occasions such as New Year celebrations, festivals, and other celebrations, but probably not many of you know what is the meaning and origin of shishi-mai. Shishi-mai lions bite heads of …


How many torii gates are there in Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine, and what are the history and meaning of torii? How much is one torii?

There are many torii (鳥居) gates in Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社) shrine in Kyoto. The highlight of Fushimi Inari Taisha is its famous “senbon torii (千本鳥居)”, the row of countless torii, and it is a big tourist attraction. But do …


What is the origin of Japanese rising sun flag? When did it become a national flag of Japan?

  When we think about “hinomaru”, literally meaning is “rising sun”, it is the Japanese national flag. The Japanese flag, the red in white, is very simply design compared with other nations’ flag. However, each element such as color and …


What would Ojizo-san (Jizo statues) do? Why do they wear a red bib and/or a red cap?

    You see Jizo statues called “Ojizo-san” all over Japan. Although you can see them at various places including along streets or near waterfalls, why do they stand there? Let’s look into the derivation and meaning of Jizo this …


History and Origin of “Kotatsu” When Do We Get “Kotatsu” Out?

  When it gets cold, we miss kotatsu, don’t we?  (A kotatsu is a traditional Japanese table with an electric heater attached to the underside.) Many of you may have an experience of eating mandarin oranges in kotatsu and, there …


What is the difference between Ise Jingu and Izumo Taisha? What is “Sengu”?

  Although there is a lot of shrines in Japan, the ones which represent Japanese shrine the most are Ise Jingu and Izumo Taisha. What is the difference between these two shrines? I will tell you the origin and the …


What is the history and meaning of Kokeshi? Is it true that Kokeshi was derived from ko (child) and keshi (erase)?

  Kokeshi dolls are one of traditional wooden crafts that have been made since ancient times in Japan. They are especially popular among young women. Many people from abroad display these dolls as a home ornament. Therefore, it is said …


When did origami (paper folding) start? How has origami been developed? What do 1,000 folded cranes named “Senbazuru” represent?

  Have you ever made 1,000 cranes with origami paper before? I think some made them together with their classmates for their friend who were in hospital and other did with their team members to achieve good results. In the …