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19 Japanese Hobbies That Will Improve Your Life 

Person drawing characters in black ink as japanese calligraphy

19 Japanese Hobbies That Will Improve Your Life 

Japan has had the opportunity to develop a quite distinct, unique, and rich culture. As an island nation, Japan, in its early history was able to control and limit the influences of outside cultures. 

Today, the Land of the Rising Sun has become famous for its highly refined, distinctive traditions, including many art forms, games, and other pastimes the modern person can still take part in.  

The beautiful Japanese culture contains a huge number of interesting artistic practices, entertainment media, meditative forms, and fitness-related activities that can be enjoyed as hobbies by many, even those who are not Japanese or are not well-informed about the traditional meanings and origins behind these fascinating pastimes.

Here is a list of Japanese hobbies that will change your life for the better, whether your interests are in the arts, fitness, or more contemporary activities.

Artistic Japanese Hobbies 

1. Dorodango

Dorodango is a traditional Japanese art form in which soil and water are used to create a shiny, billiard ball-like sphere. The word comes from “doro,” the Japanese word for mud, and “dango,” a type of round dumpling made from glutinous rice flour.

Dorodango is simple: you just need some wet soil and patience, carefully forming the soil into a ball shape and polishing it until it becomes smooth and shiny.

2. Kintsugi

Translating to “golden joinery,” kintsugi, also sometimes referred to as kintsukuroi, is an ancient Japanese art of repairing damaged pottery or other ceramic works by applying gold, silver, or platinum powder on top of a special lacquer made of tree sap.

The philosophy underlying the practice of kintsugi is to embrace and celebrate flaws and cracks in damaged pottery, rather than obscuring or camouflaging repair work with adhesives that match the color of the original work.

It is said that kintsugi often makes artworks more beautiful than they were prior to being broken, as the visual history made evident by the metallic powder finish transforms the object into an artifact with a unique story.

3. Calligraphy

Calligraphy, also known in Japanese as “shodo,” is one of the most well-known and recognizable forms of Japanese art. Put simply, it is the art of writing beautifully. To take up calligraphy, all you need to begin is a writing instrument and a piece of paper

4. Origami 

Origami, from the Japanese word parts “ori,” meaning folding, and “kami,” referring to paper, is the art of folding paper or cloth into decorative shapes. Because of the concentration, fine motor skills, and hand-eye coordination it requires, origami is a good hobby for engaging the brain. 

Traditional Japanese Hobbies 

5. Ikebana

Ikebana, which translates roughly to “making flowers alive,” is the art of arranging flowers, stems, or other plants, especially with reference to three core elements: color, mass, and line. It is one of the three traditional Japanese arts of refinement and was once used to create pleasing arrangements to leave on altars.

Modern-day ikebana practitioners emphasize the importance of silence and visual minimalism for proper appreciation of the beauty of the flowers used.

6. Kodo

Translating roughly to “the way of fragrance,” kodo is a traditional Japanese hobby dealing with incense appreciation. Kodo is one of the three traditional Japanese arts of refinement, meaning it was once expected that upper-class women would learn and practice the craft.

To practice kodo, a mica plate is placed on top of hot coals, in order to release fragrance from incense placed on the plate without actually burning the fragrant materials.

7. Chado (also known as sado)

Chado, meaning “the way of tea,” is a traditional, choreographed ritual for preparing and serving Japanese tea. The practice is meant to center more on aesthetics, using the appropriate etiquette, and displaying good hospitality, and less around the tea itself.

A thousand plus year old tradition, practicing chado was once reserved for priests and other religious figures but has since somewhat broken away from this strictly religious context.

Modern Japanese Hobbies 

8. Go

Go, also known as baduk, is a two-player board game in which players compete to surround a larger territory than their opponent. It is believed to be one of the oldest board games in existence. Players strategically place game pieces, which are either black or white stones, on a board with a grid pattern to claim territory. 

9. Manga 

Manga is an umbrella term for a vast array of Japanese works, including comic books and graphic novels. Within this broad category, there are many different genres. These include shonen and shojo, which are intended primarily for tweens and young adults. Manga genres for older adults include seinen and josei. 

10. Karaoke

A common activity at bars and clubs even outside of Japan, karaoke is a form of entertainment for all ages involving singing along to music that has had the vocal track removed. The word is made up of the Japanese word “kara,” meaning empty, and “ookesutora” or the shortened form “oke,” which means orchestra. 

11. Anime

An abbreviation of the English word “animation,” anime refers to any animated media, hand-drawn or computer animated, that is created in a Japanese animation studio. Since this definition is so broad, the category of anime includes a vast array of animated entertainment, ranging from children’s cartoons to darker shows intended for a mature audience.

Some of the most popular anime shows are One Piece, Cowboy Bebop, Dragon Ball, and the widely loved, critically acclaimed Studio Ghibli films.

Japanese Hobbies for Clearing Your Mind  

12. Shinshin toitsu do 

Shinshin toitsu do, commonly referred to as Japanese yoga, translates loosely to “the way of mind and body unification.” It was developed by Nakamura Tempa as a variation on its core Indian influences, karma yoga and raja yoga.

Shinshin toitsu do focuses on the use of meditation and many forms of low-impact stretching to clear the mind, bring balance between mind and body, and realign one with one’s true capabilities in order to access one’s full potential.  

13. Karesansui  

Karesansui, translating to “dry garden,” is an artistic style of Japanese gardening. It primarily makes use of rocks and sands. Sand is commonly raked into a smooth, water-like ripple pattern known as samon. This Japanese hobby is heavily influenced by zen Buddhist principles.

14. Sudoku

Sudoku is a puzzle game involving a nine-by-nine grid of boxes, into which the numbers 1 through 9 must be placed. To successfully complete the puzzle, there must be no repeating numbers in each row, column, and box. Although sudoku did not actually originate in Japan, it became a very popular Japanese hobby in the late 1980s.

Japanese Hobbies for Fitness

15. Martial arts 

There are a number of different martial arts that originated in Japan, such as the popular styles of judo, kendo, aikido, sumo, and jujitsu. Lesser-known Japanese martial arts styles include iaido, a sword fighting style that emphasizes the importance of reacting quickly to surprise attacks, and hojutsu, a martial art style focused on firearm usage.

16. Kyudo

Kyudo, or “the way of the bow,” is the Japanese art of archery. Kyudo is sometimes considered to be a martial art, but it is also a practice that can be used for hunting, as a form of meditation, and as a sport.

Kyudo has its roots in feudal Japan and distinguishes itself from the relatively stationary Western archery techniques or styles with its use of lighter equipment and more accurate arrows to allow for extreme mobility. 

Cute Japanese Hobbies

17. Furoshiki 

Furoshiki is the Japanese art of wrapping gifts using large, cloth squares tied in knots. It is both an aesthetically pleasing and environmentally friendly practice since the pretty fabric can be reused over and over.

The practice of furoshiki is thousands of years old but it is still used today by many people for many purposes, including gift giving and wrapping up lunchboxes or “bentos.”

18. Mizuhiki 

Mizuhiki is the Japanese art of tying colored cord into decorative shapes to beautify gifts or envelopes. The cord is usually made by twisting thin strips of washi, a traditional type of Japanese paper made from special plant fibers, and hardening the strips with a glue solution.

There is symbolic significance behind the color and number of washi strands used, so the practice allows gift givers to attach a message and intention to their present. 

19. Growing Bonsai

Bonsai, literally translated as “planted in a container,” are trees that grow to maturity in a container that limits their size, resulting in a miniature tree specimen that fits into a pot. Bonsai trees do not need to be any particular species of tree to begin with, as any tree can become a bonsai with the right care, but popular choices are the Brazilian rosewood, bristlecone pine, Japanese red pine, and Japanese black pine.

The hobby requires a bit of research and a lot of patience, but it allows you to appreciate the beauty of the tiny natural object you can grow in a very limited space.

A Japanese Hobby for Everybody

The elegance of Japanese culture filters through to its hobbies. Whether for fitness or relaxation, Japanese hobbies tick all the boxes of beauty, health, and relaxation. Exploring new cultures can involve many aspects, and in Japan, there are hobbies for everybody that will give a peek into the uniqueness of the beautiful island.  

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