The Similarities and Differences between Traditional and Modern Japanese Artists

What Japanese things can you imagine at first? Many people say Japanese food, J pop, and so forth. In Japan, there are tremendously great traditions, such as Kimono. Many Japanese people maintain traditions, and they create new things, such as comics. Japanese traditions reflect the times, so things are changing a lot now. Some Japanese traditions fade out, so many people have lost interest in those traditions, such as kites. Traditional Japanese artists are quite different from modern Japanese artists, such as musicians, painters, and poets.

Both traditional Japanese artists and modern Japanese artists are varied. Although there are several similarities between traditional Japanese artists and modern Japanese artists, there are more differences in each field: music, poetry, art, and movies.

In traditional Japanese musicals and modern Japanese musicals, there are differences, but they are not completely different. In the Edo period (1603-1868), one of the most popular types of musicals was Kabuki. According to The Virtual Museum of Japanese Arts website, Kabuki is a type of traditional Japanese drama that uses actors who play with voices and musicians who use traditional Japanese musical instruments, such as the Japanese flute, drums, and stringed instruments.

In general, there were men’s Kabuki and women’s Kabuki. The purpose of men’s Kabuki was entertainment. In traditional Kabuki, there were no women, so men acted as women. As a result, homosexual relationships became popular because acting like women was thought to be very sexy, so the government made many limitations. On the other hand, the purpose of female Kabuki was a little bit different.

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Women played Kabuki for prostitution. However, it also became very popular, so it was also stopped by the government. Therefore, women’s Kabuki was eliminated, but males’ Kabuki is still performed.

Compared to traditional Japanese musicals, modern Japanese musicals are a little bit similar, but they also have differences. Modern Japanese musicals are also played for entertainment. One of the most popular types of musicals is Takarazuka. Takarazuka is a famous theatrical company. Members of the Takarazuka have performed since 1933.

According to the Takarazuka Revue Company website, this type of music has only actresses and musicians. The biggest difference between Kabuki and Takarazuka is that the players are only women, so actresses play the male roles. Usually, musicians play in front of the stage, so many audiences cannot see them. Actresses play with their voices. They sing a song and act their parts. Takarazuka is very popular for every generation.

Traditional Japanese musicians and modern Japanese musicians look very different, but they play for audiences, and audiences enjoy them. Both Kabuki and Takarazuka are generally good because they are profitable. However, they both have sexual discrimination because both of them allow only one gender to act, so this is a disadvantage, but I think that they do not need to change this problem. They work now, so they should not alter their traditions.

There are also differences between traditional Japanese poets and modern Japanese poets. In the Edo period, one of the most popular traditional Japanese poems was Haiku. According to the Haiku for People website, Haiku has just 17 syllables, but it must have Kigo, a season word, such as snow or cherry blossoms. If you put Kigo in the poem, you can write about anything, usually everyday things. In general, in Haiku, people used easy and understandable words. The purpose of Haiku is to paint a mental image in the reader’s mind.

One of the most famous Haiku poets in the Edo period was Basho Matsuo. He served the local lord Todo Yoshitada. Todo Yoshitada enjoyed Basho’s poems, for example, Oku no Hosomichi, Narrow road of the interior. According to Oku no Hosomichi, “Tsukihi wa Hyakudai no Kakyaku nishite, Yukikaku Toshi mo mata Tabibito nari.” (Time is a guest of one hundred generations.) Many poets like Basho were travelers, so people who were not travelers could know many things from their poems.

Modern Japanese poetry is very different from traditional Japanese poetry. There are no rules, and people do not need to use Kigo. People can write anything that they want.

Therefore, they can describe things more easily. One of the most popular modern poets is Shuntaro Tanikawa. One of the famous poems is Ikiru (Live). In his poem, he said:

Ikiru to Iukoto.

Ima Ikiteiru to Iukoto.

Sore wa Nodo ga Kawaku to Iukoto.

Komorebi ga Mabusii to Iukoto.

Futto aru Merodi wo Omoi dasu to Iukoto.

Kusama wotwo Surukoto.

Anata to Te wo Tsunagu to Iukoto.”

Translated into English, it is:

I am living.

I am breathing.

That makes me thirty.

Sunshine is bright.

In my head, the melody is running.

I sneeze every day.

I am holding your hand.

Many modern Japanese poets write poems as their hobbies. They also appeal to their feelings easily. They do not serve someone else, so they can write freely.

Both types of poems are very good because traditional Japanese poets wrote just 17 syllables and could tell their feelings, and modern Japanese poets can write anything, so they can tell their feelings more directly. Both of them are good for society because people can understand their opinions.

Art has changed from traditional styles to modern styles. One of the most popular painting styles in the Edo period was Ukiyoe. According to the other toof A World History of Art website, Ukiyoe showed vivid fashion and the pleasurable side of life in that period, and for this reason, they are known as ukiyo-e, “pictures of the floating world.” For example, Ukiyoe shows prostitutes, actors, and the sex industry. Ukiyoe is in most cases woodblock prints. For this reason, these pictures did not use a lot of colors, so they were very simple, and we can understand them easily. Woodblock prints are inexpensive and can be reproduced in large quantities. Ukiyoe painters painted mostly for business. People enjoyed these paintings a lot.

In contrast to Ukiyoe, modern Japanese artists are more complicated. Their arts have many media, for example, Kirigami is the act of paper cutting, tattoo, and sculpture. Modern Japanese artists often use many colors and very complicated shapes, so it is difficult to understand what they want to say. However, they show many different ideas, so many pieces become delicate and very beautiful. Artists can show their feelings more freely. I think that both types of art are good, but I like traditional Japanese art more than modern Japanese art because I can understand it easier.

Finally, movie directors. In the Edo period, there were no movies, so people made Kamishibai, which is like a book. Story-tellers read the Kamishibai, such as “Momo Taro (Peach boy)” and “Urashima Taro (The Island boy), and children enjoyed them. The Kamishibai often showed fairy tales, so they were not true stories. Children could imagine more.

On the other hand, nowadays, there are many movies. Many Kamishibai stories became movies. Movies can use a lot of colors and computer graphics, so movie directors can tell the story to people more easily. One of the most popular movie directors is Hayao Miyazaki. He made many animation movies. His movies often show natural environmental issues, and he often wants children to learn about the dream world. He is extremely respected by the public. Many people in the world love his movies, for example, “Sen to Chihiro noKamikakushi (Spirited Away)” and “ Mononoke Hime (Princess Mononoke).” I think that Kamishibai tellers and movie directors do great jobs, and many people want to be like them.

Now, there are many movie schools all over the world, so many movies are evaluated at a high level. In conclusion, both traditional Japanese artists and modern Japanese artists are respected by many people, for example, musical actors, poets, mixed media artists, and movie directors. As time goes by, modern Japanese artists can create many things from traditional Japanese artists. However, many traditional Japanese arts are disappearing, so we should protect the important Japanese traditions. Of course, modern Japanese arts are very important, but I think that traditional Japanese arts are more important. If Japanese people do not know about traditional Japanese things, they lose their culture cited. People should learn about their traditional culture.

Works Citated

  1. “-First Stage- TAKARAZUKA REVUE ENGLISH.” -First Stage- TAKARAZUKA REVUE ENGLISH. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 July 2013. <>.
  2. “HAIKU for PEOPLE.” HAIKU for PEOPLE. Ed. Kei Grieg Toyomasu. Kei Grieg Toyomasu, 10 Jan. 2001. Web. 28 July 2013. <>.
  3. Sato, Mitsunobu. “History of Art: The Art of Asia.” History of Art  The Art of Asia. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 July 2013. <>.

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The Similarities and Differences between Traditional and Modern Japanese Artists. (2022, Aug 17). Retrieved from

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