Hosted by Peter Barakan, this program explores many aspects of Japan, both traditional and contemporary: arts, sports, entertainment, food, technology, nature, etc.
Cast: Peter Barakan, Stuart Varnam-Atkins
Genre: Documentary TV Series
More than 200,000 ancient burial mounds are known to exist in Japan, and they are located all over the country. They were built for kings and powerful nobles.
Along with the bodies of the dead, Japan's barrows contain many artifacts. By studying them, much can be learned about the ancient Japanese way of life.
Surveys of burial mounds have employed many state-of-the-art technologies. There are constant advances in techniques to study artifacts without damaging them, and to restore excavated objects to their original condition.
But archaeologists and historians are not the only people fascinated by barrows. Many members of the public visit burial mounds to appreciate their historical mystique. There is at least one "burial mound club," whose members enthusiastically visit sites around Japan.
Of the world's many household appliances, one stands out as a Japanese original: the electric rice cooker.
Before electric appliances came along, rice was cooked in wood-fired clay stoves, but in the late 1950s and early '60s, rice cookers became explosively popular in Japan. These days, virtually every Japanese household has one, and Japan also exports about 400,000 rice cookers each year.
The Japanese just love freshly steamed rice. That craving drove the evolution of the rice cooker into a high-tech appliance with a host of functions.
Rice cookers can do more than just cook rice. Homemakers have begun using them to put together amazing dishes. The latest rice cookers are even being used to bake cakes.
Japanese stationery goods are popular all over the world. Most stationery goods used today are originally Western in origin, but Japanese companies have continued to churn out new and improved versions.
The ballpoint pen, for example, first came to Japan along with post-WWII US occupation forces, but in the decades that followed the Japanese pioneered water-based ink, erasable ink, gel ballpoints, and ballpoints that can write even when facing upwards.
One stationery fad sweeping Japan right now is "girls' stationery": cute, stylish products, like decorative masking tape, that appeal to female consumers.
Some Japanese people use pens in a way that has nothing to do with writing: they spin them! A man known as the "father of pen spinning" gave a previously informal pastime a formal public identity.
The Japanese love uniforms.
Uniforms are first worn in preschool. Most Japanese teenagers wear one at school, and uniforms are also required in various professions. They're even worn away from work. Uniforms are ubiquitous in Japan.
School uniforms were originally introduced as a tool to manage students, but they have evolved into a trendy fashion item popular even outside Japan. The sailor suit with skirt that is the typical style of Japanese schoolgirl uniform first appeared in Japan in the early 20th century, introduced by an American school principal.
Uniforms increase group consciousness and preserve a sense of responsibility on the job. Some companies have used the power of uniforms to improve job performance. One example involves the cleaning crews of Japan's bullet trains.
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