Actually, Japan has long developed the ability to absorb, imitate and assimilate the elements of foreign cultures that complemented their aesthetic values. Foreign and new ideas have invaded Japan since the 7th and 8th centuries AD with the appearance of the first complicated Japanese art, connected with Buddhism and during this continuous period, the Japanese have learned how to use foreign concepts so that they would better express their own ideas and values. As a result, the Japanese art has formed the following aesthetic ideas.
Over the centuries the Japanese have developed and refined a vast variety of artistic motifs, carrying much of symbolic significance. Through the years these motifs have acquired many layers and shades of meaning. We can observe these symbolic meanings in any Japanese art, whether it is ikebana or aikido, as a representative of famous Japanese martial arts. Japanese aesthetics of learning and understanding of artistic works is entirely different from Western traditions. We mainly see content and forms; the Japanese see both and, at the same time, they see many symbolic meanings.
Japan has much learned from China, though the Japanese art has developed its own style. Particularly, a rational and symmetrical approach of the Chinese art has found its reflection in the Japanese garden pruning, bonsai art and ikebana with their miniature forms and symmetrical symbolism.
The Japanese substitute a direct statement with a hint or suggestion, this device is reflected in oblique poetic structures, unfinished melodies and thoughts in Japanese music, literature and painting. Hence, a Westerner, much unfamiliar with the Japanese art, will find it rather ambiguous and frustrating.
Nevertheless, along with an artistic assimilation, the Japanese have also preserved their ancient art right in the forms it has existed centuries ago. Imperial household musicians, temple and shrine troupes still perform ancient court music and dance forms, deriving them from continental sources. Some of the oldest musical instruments in the world have been in a continuous use in Japan from the Jomon period that is shown by finds of stone and clay flutes and zithers, having between two and four strings. The seventh-century continentally derived ceremonial court music (gagaku) and the accompanying bugaku, a type of court dance, is the most ancient of Japanese arts and are still performed at the Imperial court, ancient temples and shrines.
After World War II, Japanese artists started working on the art forms, taken from the mainstream of the world art, but again the Japanese and world conceptions have interwoven developing original and peculiar ideas. Taking the world arts as the basis, the Japanese have continued using their own traditions in music and dance, modular space in architecture, certain color combinations in painting, and Japanese characteristic forms in literature.
Hence, the modern Japanese art shares much with international cultures and arts, though enveloping them in the Japanese traditional forms and inheriting additional meanings creates unique art genres, appreciated in the whole world.