10 Anime That Explore Traditional Japanese Culture

Anime is filled with all kinds of stories, but since it is a uniquely Japanese art form, there are also many anime focused on the country’s traditional culture. Notably, an anime doesn’t need to be set in an ancient era to reflect various traditional aspects of Japanese culture.

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There are many series devoted to traditional forms of Japanese art, games, music, and storytelling that still take place today. That said, a historical setting doesn’t necessarily hurt either. Sometimes even a sci-fi series can take a while to give a brief history lesson when the need arises.

ten Chihayafuru features characters who want to become the best Karuta players


In Chihayafuru, Chihaya Ayase is inspired to become one of Karuta’s top players after meeting transfer student Arata Wataya with the same dream.

Karuta are Japanese playing cards inspired by playing cards introduced by Portuguese traders. Over the years, the game has somehow split into two branches: one based directly on Portuguese cards and the other based on the “e-awase” tradition, influenced by historical painting competitions.

9 Barakamon focuses on the Goto Islands

Barakamon's Naru and Handa

In Barakamon, Sei Handa, also known as “Seishuu” or “Sensei”, is a young calligrapher who gets in trouble for attacking a critic of his work. His punishment is sent to the Goto Islands, which causes him to adjust to island life as the locals become involved in his life.

In addition to the history involving the art form of calligraphy, there is a strong emphasis on the culture of the Goto Islands. In fact, the title of the show comes from a word for “joyful” in the dialect of the Goto Islands.

8 Hanayamata talks about Yosakoi dance, which combines tradition and modernity


In Hanayamata, Naru Sekiya is a young girl obsessed with fairy tales who sees what she thinks is a fairy only to learn that she is an alien dancer. Thanks to this meeting, Naru enters the world of yosakoi dance.

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Yosakoi is a dance style that fuses traditional dance with modern music, often featuring men and women of different ages. Men and women can be on the same team and play in large groups.

seven Joshiraku Stars Five Rakugo Storytellers

In Joshiraku, the main cast consists of five rakugo comedians. The series revolves around their daily lives and their conversations with each other.

In a rakugo comedy, the storyteller sits on a stage the whole time and only uses a paper fan and a small cloth as props. Despite the limitations, a long and complicated story often ensues. Rakugo comedy has a significant influence on Japanese culture. One particular rakugo, for example, helped popularize the concept of shinigami in Japanese fiction.

6 Golden Kamuy sheds light on Ainu culture

Sugimoto and Asirpa from Golden Kamuy

Freely inspired by real events, Golden Kamuy revolves around Saichi Sugimoto, a veteran of the Russo-Japanese War. He is in search of a golden treasure from the Ainu people, an indigenous people and ethnic group in the northern region of Hokkaido.

Saichi is aided by an Ainu girl named Asirpa, and the Ainu language receives great attention throughout the series. The series creator even consulted Japanese Ainu experts to help produce the series.

5 These Snow White notes focus on the music of Shamisen

In Those notes of Snow White, Setsu Sawamura is a gifted musician who plays a shamisen inherited from his grandfather. The shamisen is a traditional Japanese three-stringed instrument that has a long history in the country.

Setsu is driven by his grandfather’s deathbed wish to improve his musical skills beyond simply imitating him, sending him on a journey that at one point causes him to drop out of school. until he finds his estranged mother.

4 Mitsuwano tells the story of three young apprentice geishas


In the Mitsuwano OVA, three young maikos, Riko, Midori, and Mai, prepare for an upcoming festival while working at an inn in Kyoto. Successfully completing a maiko apprenticeship was one of the only ways a girl could hope to become a geisha.

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A maiko is a kind of apprentice geisha known in Kyoto and in western Japan responsible for performing songs and dances, especially using traditional Japanese instruments. The word “maiko” means “dancing child”. As a result, they are generally younger than geishas and lack conversational skills.

3 Hanasaku Iroha presents a heroine working in a ryokan

Poster Hanasaku Iroha of all characters

In Hanasaku Iroha, Ohana Matsumae is a young girl left in the care of her grandmother after her mother’s boyfriend put them in debt. As she soon learns, her grandmother runs a ryokan – a traditional Japanese hot spring inn – where she soon begins working in exchange for room and board.

Having existed since the Keiun period, one of these ryokans is considered the oldest hotel in the world. In modern Japan, however, they have become much less common than conventional hotels. That said, Hanasaku Iroha boosted tourism for Yuwaku Hot Spring in Kanasawa, Ishikawa area after it was broadcast.

2 Kabukibu! Involves a high school Kabuki club


In Kabukibu!, Kurogo Kurusu is a young boy who loves kabuki and continues to form a kabuki club at his high school after being unable to play it for other clubs.

Considered to originate from the Edo period, kabuki is a classical form of dramatic dance particularly known for its use of elaborate stage make-up. Kabuki and noh are sometimes confused, but they are distinctly different art forms. Noh dramas use elaborate masks and are considered far more traditional in Japan, while kabuki is considered something even commoners can enjoy.

1 Folktales From Japan adapts traditional and familiar Japanese stories

Ash Boy Japanese Cinderella

Japanese folk tales is an anthology anime that tells many traditional Japanese tales, including well-known stories like the tragic Urashima Taro, the bowl-carrying princess Hachikatsugi, the moon princess Kaguya, and the oni fighter Momotaro, among lesser-known tales .

Some of the stories are versions of fairy tales familiar to Western children. “Ash-Covered Haitaro” features an ash-covered servant who escapes his evil stepmother and becomes the bridegroom of a nobleman’s daughter, actually a Japanese version of Cinderella with a male lead.

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