Traditional Japanese culture dates back millennia, and its refinement and complex rites often fascinate the rest of the world. Traditional Japan is a patriarchy characterized by a rigid hierarchy that tends to estrange women while demanding deference to superiors. The origins of this pattern probably stem from Confucianism, a philosophy that originated in China, and which puts a strong emphasis on personal behavior and the rank individuals hold within society. This interpersonal rigidity is balanced by a more relaxed approach in the private sphere, where sexuality, for example, is an unrestricted and private matter. The two principle religions are Shinto, which is an indigenous cult, and Buddhism, which originated in China. These two doctrines often blend together, and many Japanese consider themselves both Shinto and Buddhist. Japanese tradition is characterized by ceremony. Among the most celebrated is chanoyu, a ceremony that ritualizes many aspects of the preparation and drinking of tea.

Rites connected to putting on the kimono, traditional Japanese clothing worn mostly by women, are equally important. Donning a kimono requires adhering to strict rules that culminate in tying of a sash called the obi. The geisha, who play musical instruments and are usually present during banquets, are inextricably linked to this tradition.Traditional art is stylized in form and content, as is evident in Japanese painting. Traditional theater is also highly stylized. The most common, noh and kabuki, regiment movement and keep dialogue to a minimum. Similar minimalism can also be found in written expression. Haiku, a form of poem, specifically calls for 31 syllables divided into three verses. Other classical disciplines include ikebana, the art of flower arrangement, and origami, the art of paper-folding. Martial arts also play a vital role in traditional culture. Learning to use them properly helps individuals reign in natural aggression and emphasize values such as honor and loyalty. Respect for these values is incarnated in the samurai, a warrior of noble origin. Another key figure is the shogun, a military chief and supreme leader.
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