While most anime is focused on modern-day Japanese life, or life in fantastical worlds, there's actually a lot of anime with roots in traditional Japanese culture. These shows not only have great stories with compelling characters, but they're also a wonderful way to learn about real, traditional Japanese culture (without having to crack open a textbook).
Do you want to learn about rakugo, a form of Japanese storytelling? Try Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju. How about shogi, a form of Japanese chess? Try March Comes in Like a Lion. There's anime about traditional Japanese culture of every kind, so choose the one that best suits you.
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu centers around rakugo, a traditional form of Japanese storytelling where every character is played by a single performer. Kind of like a one-person show, but actually cool. It was invented by 9th and 10th century Buddhist monks, and is still practiced today.
Chihayafuru centers around an high school club with an unusual focus, karuta. Karuta is a physically and intellectually challenging card game based on Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, a Japanese anthology of 100 poets.
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Go, the game at the center of Hikaru no Go, is an abstract strategy board game. The goal is to surround more territory than one's opponent. Invented in China more than 2,500 years ago, Go has strong roots in Japanese culture as well, and it is the oldest board game still played today.
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Rurouni Kenshin is far from the only anime that focuses on samurai, but it's one of the most well-known. Samurai were members of the warrior caste in medieval and early-modern Japan. They generally belonged to clans, and were expected to serve a daimyō, or a feudal lord. They followed Confucian teachings, and their behavior was often used as a model for other castes and classes.
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