From the sophisticated to the whimsical, Japanese culture captures it all. With centuries of iconic architecture, elegant kimonos, and sophisticated designs, Japan is a source of excellence and beauty. In stark contrast, unique and fun-loving subcultures unlike anything else in the world have developed in recent years, making Japan a diverse and complex country. If you have Japanese heritage, learning more about this incredible country can help you learn more about your ancestors!
Life in Japan
What’s it really like living in Japan? As an island country with over 126 million people, it’s often known for its bustling cities. Japanese cities are famous for their expansive transportation systems (including the well-known bullet train), convenience stores, and use of small spaces. But there’s more to Japan than just big cities!
Honor and respect are deeply rooted in Japan, with centuries-old traditions at the forefront of its culture. As part of a culture centered around honor, work ethic and diligence are both highly valued characteristics, as are fiscal and civic responsibility. More about Japanese culture.
Japan is renowned for its food, which is both delicious and healthy. Rice, miso soup, seafood, and vegetables are the foundations for many diets. Japanese cooking can be incredibly rewarding, since it focuses on enhancing the natural flavors of the food and utilizing a variety of ingredients. More about Japanese food.
Japan is home to a range of fashions, from the traditional kimono to an edgy take on modern Western styles to bright and colorful alternative trends. Each style serves a different purpose. Western clothing dominates the workplace while traditional clothing is often reserved at events or ceremonies. In casual settings, you might see other styles that emphasize bold colors or even child-like features. More about Japanese fashion.
What’s the Weather Like in Japan?
You’ll see all 4 seasons on display in Japan at different times of year. Spring, from March to May, is a pleasant time of year with moderate temperatures (21° to 26° C or 70° to 80° F). Early spring is also the best time to see Japan’s famous cherry blossoms.
Summer in Japan (June to August) is generally hot and humid, with temperatures reaching as high as 35° C (95° F). It’s also typhoon season, meaning heavy rainstorms are common. The heat makes it the perfect time to visit Japan’s gorgeous turquoise beaches.
The brilliant colors and cooler temperatures of fall make it an idyllic setting. While typhoon season continues through October, the autumn months make for an unforgettable experience.
Japan’s mountain ranges transform in winter with a blanket of snow, making it an ideal place to ski from December to February. Temperatures can drop as low as -4° C or 25° F.
The Japanese Language
Japanese syllables typically start with a consonant and end with a vowel and tend to be timed with a short pause between syllables, known as mora-timing. This, combined with short vowels, gives the Japanese language an enchanting and almost staccato feel to it.
The spoken language largely developed isolated on the island, but it has Chinese influences as well. Japanese writing is another matter altogether. Three separate alphabets are used in Japanese writing—kanji, hiragana, and katakana. Kanji is a set of over 8,000 characters based on Chinese characters. Hiragana and Katakana in contrast each offer 47 syllable-based characters.
The People of Japan
What is a country if not a sum of its people and their history? Japan is no exception.
What Is the Population of Japan?
As of 2021, Japan has a population of over 126 million people. Despite having the largest percentage of elderly citizens in the world, Japan’s population is decreasing year after year due to a shrinking birth rate. 50 years ago, the average woman in Japan had 2.1 children. Today, that number has dropped to 1.4. The result? Japan’s population drops by as much as 400,000 in a single year.
Immigration to and emigration from Japan have been limited until recent years. Historically, Japan has worked to maintain its borders, something made easier by the fact that the country is an island. Over 98% of Japanese citizens are ethnically Japanese, and there are roughly 3 million people with Japanese ancestry around the world. The Philippines, Asia, Brazil, Hawaii, and the western United States are the most common destinations for Japanese emigrants. Read more about Japanese immigration and emigration.
Japanese names traditionally follow the East Asian tradition of using the family name before a given name. Family names originated from the differing family clans. Given names are typically reserved for close friends and family. Acquaintances and professional relationships may instead use honorifics, or titles based on the relationship you share with the person. More about Japanese names.
Do you have Japanese heritage? Japan has a culture of excellence, and it’s a heritage you can be proud to share. Learning more about your cultural heritage opens the doors to understanding your family and feeling part of something more.
If you have Japanese ancestry and want to learn more about your family, FamilySearch provides access to free records that can allow you to learn about your family members and the lives they led. If you’re uncertain if you have Japanese ancestors and you want to find out, this is also a great place to start. More about Japanese records.
One way to fully appreciate a culture is to experience it for yourself. Visiting a place immerses you in the landscapes, the food, the people, and the culture. If you have Japanese heritage, traveling to Japan can give you a taste of the lives your ancestors led. Whether or not you have Japanese ancestors, it’s worth the trip with everything that Japan has to offer.