Japan has many symbols that represent it. The Japanese tea ceremony – a traditional ritual – is not mentioned, but I feel it is symbolic of Japan. The reason I have chosen this is because I like matcha (shown below, with equipment), the principal tea in the ceremony, and am curious to inquire further.
Symbols embody stories, thereby aiding our understanding of the world. They are capable of representing nations and humanity effectively because they are distinct, clear, reproducible and ambiguous. While the ceremony may not be as ambiguous to the Japanese, it stands as a symbol because it is easily recognised as of Japanese origin. Additionally, it is iconic, as the ritual physically embodies a certain Japanese essence.
Japanese tea ceremony history
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The video below shows the tea ceremony happening:
As the ceremony has been preserved through history, it is neither contentious nor hiding ‘darker’ meanings. It has not been exploited for commercial branding or tourism and political purposes; however, with the contemporary advent of globalisation and tourism, the ceremony is entering the tourism industry to attract tourists and increasing revenue. Tours and experiences are available.
Overall, travelling smarter means being aware that symbols do not essentialise the experience of a country. Rather, an open mind is required to interpret these symbols and understanding if they represent any dark histories. Symbols might show one representation of a country, but the most authentic experience is travelling there while preparing oneself for cultural confusion
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