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Sensitivity to Nature

       Japan is located at the northern extreme of the evergreen broad-leaved forest zone stretching out from the Himalayas and has four distinct seasons with wide differences in temperature. The colors and natural scenery are as beautiful as they are varied.

      The Japanese are extremely sensitive to changes in climate, and phrases about the climate such as "it's quite hot today, it is a bit cool, don't you think," and "it's been raining a lot, hasn't it" are regularly exchanged as greetings.

      In Japan, nature abounds in rain and water, with fine variations in light and shade. This feature is reflected in the Japanese language. According to Kindaichi Haruhiko, a linguist, there are more than forty different expressions for rain in Japanese: harusame (drizzles of early springtime), shigure (light showers in late autumn or early winter), yudachi (a shower in the late afternoon to early evening, often in the summer), raiu (thunderstorms), samidare (a long spell of passing showers in May by the lunar calendar), tsuyu (the rainy season in early summer), and akisame (long autumn rains) to name but a few. There also are many, often onomatopoeic, phrases expressing wetness or conditions of water, like shittori (moist), bisho-bisho (dripping wet), shito-shito (the sound of gently falling rain), and zah-zah (the sound of pouring rain). Also characteristic of Japanese is the state of wind being precisely conveyed by such phrases as soyo-soyo (for breeze) and byu-byu (for gale).

      Japanese culture tends to respect simplicity, silence, and subtlety. The delicate arrangement of Japanese food, the faint colors of traditional Japanese painting, the detailed descriptions of nature—these all express the sensitivities of many Japanese. The brevity of haiku and waka, the delicate gestures of noh, kabuki, the tea ceremony, and flower arrangement—these symbolize a unique and profound world and are also characteristic of Japanese culture.

      The Japanese have internalized the rich blessings of nature and approach it with respect, gratefulness, and harmony. The traditional faith of Japan is animism and nature worship, and there was no great resistance to Buddhism.

      Other characteristic techniques of the Japanese include meticulously fine finishing touches seen in crafts and drawings, maku-no-uchi-bento (box lunches containing many different small portions of food), garden miniatures, and bonsai.