Japan is an island country in East Asia. Located in Pacific Ocean, it is situated east of the Sea of Japan, and East China Sea, China, Korea and Russia, starting from Sea of Okhotsk in the north. to East China Sea to Taiwan in the south. The kanji, which makes up the name Japan, means “the origin of the sun” and is often referred to as the “land of the rising sun”.
Japan is a stratovolcanic archipelago with 6,852 islands. Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku are considered the four largest, occupying about 97% percent of the Japanese land area. Japan is subdivided into 47 prefectures that are divided into 8 regions. With a population of 126 million, it is the 10th most populous country in the world. The Japanese make up 98.5% of the total population of Japan. About 9.1 million people live in downtown Tokyo, the capital of Japan, the sixth largest city in the OECD and the fourth largest city in the world. The Tokyo Metropolitan Region, which includes Tokyo and several surrounding prefectures, is the world’s largest metropolitan region and the world’s largest metropolitan area with over 35 million inhabitants.
Archaeological investigations show that Japan was already inhabited in the Paleolithic Age. One of the first written mentions in the history of Japan appears in Chinese historical documents dating back to the 1st century AD. The influence of other regions, mainly China, followed by periods of isolation, especially Western Europe, shaped the history of Japan. Between the 12th century and 1868, the country was under the rule of successive feudal military shoguns who reigned on behalf of the emperor.
In the early 17th century Japan stepped into a long period of isolation which ended in 1853 when a U.S. Army fleet forced Japan to open itself to the Western world. After nearly two decades of internal fighting and uprisings, the Imperial Court restored their political power in 1868 with the support of various Chōshū and Satsuma clans, and the Japanese Empire was established. During the late 19th and beginning of the 20th century, triumphs in the First Chinese-Japanese War, in the Russian-Japanese War and WWI allowed Japan to expand an empire in a period of increased militarism.
The Second Sino-Japanese War of 1937 covered part of World War II in 1941, which ended in 1945 after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Following the approval of Japan’s revised constitution in 1947, Japan has maintained a unified constitutional monarchy comprised of an emperor and elected legislature named National Diet.
As a member of the United Nations, then the G7, G8 and G20, Japan is recognized as a world superpower. The country has the third largest economy in the world in terms of nominal GDP and the fourth largest in the world in terms of purchasing power parity. The country is also the 4th world’ s largest exporter as well as the 4th largest importer. The country benefits from a highly skilled workforce and is one of the best educated countries in the world, with one of the highest percentages of citizens with a university degree.
Although Japan has officially relinquished its right to declare war, it maintains a modern army with the eighth largest military budget in the world, which is used for self-defense and peacekeeping functions. Japan is an industrialized country with a very high standard of living and a human development index, whose population has the longest life expectancy and the third lowest infant mortality rate in the world.
Tourism in Japan
Japan attracted 19.73 million international tourists in 2015. Japan has 19 world heritage sites, including Himeji Castle, historical monuments of ancient Kyoto and Nara. Popular overseas attractions include Tokyo and Hiroshima, Fuji, ski resorts such as Niseko in Hokkaido, Okinawa, Shinkansen and the Japanese network of hotels and hot springs.
In inbound tourism, Japan ranked 28th in the world in 2007. A modern listing of the most famous attractions in Japan has been published by Yomiuri Shimbun in 2009 under the name Heisei Hyakkei (the hundred views of the Heisei period). The 2015 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report ranked Japan 9th in the world out of 141 countries. This was the best in Asia. In almost all aspects, Japan performed relatively well, particularly in the fields of health and hygiene, safety, as well as cultural resources and business travel.
Domestic tourism remains an essential part of the Japanese economy and culture. Highlighting their school years for many high school students are a visit to Tokyo Disneyland or maybe Tokyo Tower, at the same time for many high school students Okinawa or Hokkaido is a common place to visit. The extensive railroad network and domestic flights, sometimes in airplanes with modifications to accommodate the relatively short distances for travel to Japan, allow for efficient and fast transportation.
In 2015, 19,737,409 foreign tourists visited Japan.
Neighboring South Korea is Japan’s main source of foreign tourists. In 2010, the 2.4 million arrivals accounted for 27% of the tourists visiting Japan. Chinese travelers are the top moneymakers in Japan by country. In 2011, Chinese tourists spent an estimated 196.4 billion yen (US$2.4 billion).
The Japanese government expects to welcome 40 million foreign tourists annually by 2020.
People in Japan
Japan is very homogeneous as an island state that was cut off from the rest of the world for a long time (with mild exceptions from China and Korea). Almost 99% of the population is of Japanese descent. Japan’s population has recently begun to decline due to a low birth rate and lack of immigration. The largest minority is Korean, about 1 million people, many in the 3rd or 4th generation. There are also significant populations of Chinese, Filipinos and Brazilians, although many are of Japanese descent. Although largely assimilated, the resident Chinese population is still present in the three Japanese Chinatowns in Kobe, Nagasaki and Yokohama. Indigenous ethnic minorities include the Ainu in Hokkaido, who have been gradually driven north over the centuries and now number about 50,000 (although the number varies greatly depending on the precise definition), and the Ryukyu people of Okinawa.
The Japanese are known for their courtesy. Many Japanese enjoy visitors to their country and are incredibly helpful to lost and confused-looking foreigners. Younger Japanese are often very interested in meeting and making friends with foreigners. Don’t be surprised if a Japanese person (usually of the opposite sex) approaches you in a public place and tries to start a conversation with you in some coherent English. On the other hand, many are not used to dealing with foreigners (外人 gaijin or the more politically correct ik gaikokujin) and are more reluctant and reluctant to communicate.
Visibly foreign visitors remain a rarity in many parts of Japan outside of the big cities, and you are likely to encounter moments when entering a store makes the staff seem to panic and fade into the background. Don’t take this as racism or other xenophobia: they are only afraid that you will try to address them in English, and they will be ashamed because they cannot understand or respond. A smile and a konnichiwa (“hello”) often helps.
Culture of Japan
Japan has gone through phases of openness and isolation in its history, so its culture is rather unique. Having spent much of their history in the Chinese cultural sphere, there are significant Chinese influences in Japanese culture, which seamlessly integrate with native Japanese customs to produce a culture that is distinctly Japanese.
Japanese culture had been strongly influenced by Confucianism during the Edo period. The Tokugawa shogunate introduced a rigid class system, with the shogun at the top, his followers below him and the other samurai below, followed by a large number of citizens at the bottom. The citizens were expected to show respect to the samurai (at the risk of being killed if they did not), and the women were expected to be submissive to the men. Samurai were expected to adopt a “death before dishonor” attitude and usually commit suicide by self-debasement (切腹 seppuku) rather than live in shame. Although the Edo period ended with the Meiji Restoration in 1868, their heritage lives on in Japanese society. In Japanese society, the concept of honor is still important, employees are expected to show unconditional obedience to their bosses, while women are still fighting to gain an equal treatment.
The Japanese are very proud of their heritage and culture and hold on to many old traditions that go back hundreds of years. At the same time, they also seem obsessed with the latest technology, and consumer technology in Japan is often several years ahead of the rest of the world. This paradox of being traditional yet ultramodern often serves to fascinate visitors, and many return to Japan again and again after their first visit to experience this.
Geography of Japan
Japan has a total of 6,852 islands along the Pacific coast of East Asia. The country, including all islands under its control, lies between 24° and 46° north latitude and 122° and 146° east longitude.Its main islands from north to south are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. The Ryukyu Islands, to which Okinawa belongs, are a chain south of Kyushu. Together they are often called the Japanese archipelago.
About 73% of the country is forested, mountainous and unsuitable for agricultural, industrial or residential use. As a result, the inhabitable areas, which are mainly located in the coastal areas, have an extremely high population density. Japan is one of the world’s most densely populated nations.
The Japanese islands are located in a volcanic area on the Pacific ring of fire. They are primarily the result of large oceanic movements that took place over hundreds of millions of years from the Middle Silurian to the Pleistocene. Originally Japan was connected to the eastern coast of the Eurasian continent. The subduction plates dragged Japan eastward and eventually created the Sea of Japan approximately 15 million years ago.
Japan has 108 active volcanoes. In the 20th century, a number of new volcanoes were created, which include Shōwa-shinzan on Hokkaido and Myōjin-shō off the Bayonnais Rocks on the Pacific Ocean. Destructive earthquakes, which often lead to tsunamis, occur several times a century. The 1923 earthquake in Tokyo killed more than 140,000 people. The most recent major earthquakes are the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995 and the Tōhoku earthquake of 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Japan on March 11, 2011 and caused a major tsunami. Japan is very vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes due to its location on the Pacific ring of fire. It has the 15th highest natural catastrophe risk measured by the World Risk Index 2013.
Demographics of Japan
Japan’s population is estimated at about 127 million, with 80% of the population living at Honshū. The Japanese nation is linguistically and culturally homogeneous, consisting of 98.5% ethnic Japanese with only a small number of foreign workers. Zainichi Koreans, Chinese, Filipinos, Brazilians of predominantly Japanese descent, Peruvians of predominantly Japanese descent and Americans are among the small minorities in Japan. There were approximately 134,700 non-Latin American Westerners in 2003 ( excluding more than 33,000 US military personnel and their families who are stationed throughout the country) and 345,500 Latin American expatriates, 274,700 of whom were Brazilians (allegedly mainly Japanese descendants or Nikkeijin). together with their spouses) the largest community of Westerners.
The most dominant indigenous ethnic group is the Yamato; primary minorities include the Ainu and Ryukyuan indigenous peoples and social minorities such as the Burakumin. Among the Yamato there are people of mixed descent, such as those from the Ogasawara archipelago. In 2014, non-native-born workers born abroad made up only 1.5% of the total population. Japan is generally considered ethnically homogeneous and does not compile ethnicity or race statistics for Japanese citizens. However, at least one analysis describes Japan as a multi-ethnic society. The majority of Japanese still consider Japan a monocultural society. The former Japanese prime minister and current finance minister Tarō Asō described Japan as a nation of “one race, one civilization, one language and one culture”, which was criticized by representatives of ethnic minorities such as the Ainu.
Japan has the second longest life expectancy at birth of any country in the world: 83.5 years for people born in the period 2010-2015. The Japanese population is aging rapidly due to a baby boom after World War II, followed by a decline in birth rates. In 2012, about 24.1 percent of the population was over 65 years old, and this figure is expected to rise to almost 40 percent by 2050.
Religion in Japan
Japan has two dominant religious traditions: Shinto (神道) is the old animistic religion of traditional Japan. With just over twelve hundred years in Japan, Buddhism is the newer imported faith. Christianity, which was introduced by European missionaries, was widely persecuted during the feudal period, but is accepted today, and a small percentage of Japanese are Christians.
In general, people in Japan are not particularly religious. Although they regularly visit shrines and temples to sacrifice coins and say silent prayers, their religious beliefs and beliefs play a minor role (if any at all) in the life of a typical Japonese. It would therefore be impossible to attempt to represent what percentage of the population is Shintoist, Buddhist or even Christian. According to a famous survey, Japan consists of 80% Shintoists and 80% Buddhists, and another often quoted statement is that Japanese are Shintoists when they live because weddings and celebrations are typically Shintoist, but Buddhists are Shintoists when they die because funerals usually use Buddhist rites. Most Japanese accept a little bit of each religion. Christianity is almost exclusively obvious in a commercial sense. During the season, variations of Santa Claus, Christmas trees and other non-religious Christmas symbols are displayed in malls and shopping centers in all urban areas.
Shintoism and Buddhism also have an enormous influence on the history and cultural life of the country. Shintoist religion focuses on the spirit of the country and is reflected in the exquisite gardens and peaceful shrines deep in the ancient forests of the country. If you visit a shrine (jinja 神社) with its simple torii gate (鳥 居), you will see Shintoist customs and styles. If you see an empty lot with white paper on a square, it is a Shintoist ceremony to inaugurate the land for a new building. Over the centuries, Buddhism has spread in many directions in Japan. Nichiren (日 蓮) is currently the largest branch of the Buddhist faith. Westerners probably know Zen (禅) Buddhism, which was introduced in Japan in the 14th and 15th centuries, best. Zen corresponded to the aesthetic and moral sensibilities of medieval Japan and influenced arts such as flower arrangement (生 け ke ikebana), tea ceremony (茶道 sadō), ceramics, painting, calligraphy, poetry and martial arts. Over the years, Shintoism and Buddhism have become considerably intertwined. You can find them side by side in the cities and in the lives of the people. It is by no means unusual to find a sparse Shintoist tori in front of an elaborate Buddhist temple (o-tera お 寺).
Economy of Japan
Japan is the world’s third largest economy after the US and China in terms of nominal GDP and the world’s fourth largest economy after the US, China and India in terms of purchasing power parity. Starting in 2014, Japan’s national debt was estimated to be more than 200 percent of annual gross domestic product, the largest of any country in the world. In August 2011, Moody’s lowered Japan’s long-term sovereign credit rating by one grade from Aa3 to Aa2 in accordance with the country’s deficit and debt levels. The large budget deficits and level of government debt incurred since the 2009 global recession, then the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, triggered the rating downgrade. The service sector accounts for three quarters of gross domestic product.
With a large industrial capacity, Japan has some of the largest as well as most technologically advanced producers of automobiles, electronics, machine tools, steel and non-ferrous metals, ships, chemicals, textiles, and processed foods. Agricultural enterprises in Japan manage 13 percent of the Japanese land, and Japan accounts for almost 15 percent of the world’s fishing after China. In 2010, about 65.9 million people were employed in Japan. Japan has a low unemployment rate of about four percent. About 20 million people, about 17 percent of the population, were below the poverty line in 2007. Housing construction in Japan is characterized by limited land supply in urban areas.
Japan’s exports amounted to USD 4,210 per capita in 2005. As of 2012, the main Japanese export markets have been China (18.1 percent), the USA (17.8 percent), South Korea (7.7 percent), Thailand (5.5 percent) and Hong Kong ( 5.1 percent). The main export goods are means of transport, motor vehicles, iron and steel products, semiconductors and car parts. Japan’s most important import markets in 2012 were China (21.3 percent), the United States (8.8 percent), Australia (6.4 percent), Saudi Arabia (6.2 percent), the United Arab Emirates (5.0 percent), South Korea (4.6 percent) and Qatar (4.0 percent).
Japan’s main imports are machinery and equipment, fossil fuels, food (especially beef), chemicals, textiles and raw materials for its industry. In terms of market share, the domestic markets are the least open of all OECD countries. The government of Junichirō Koizumi has introduced some pro-competitive reforms and foreign investment in Japan has increased.
Japan ranks 27th out of 189 countries in the Ease of Doing Business Index 2014 and has one of the lowest tax revenues of any developed country. The Japanese version of capitalism has many special features: Keiretsu companies are influential, and lifelong employment and seniority are relatively common in the Japanese work environment. Japanese corporations are famous for their management methods such as “The Toyota Way” while shareholder activity is a rarity.
Science and technology
Japan is a leading nation in scientific research, especially in the natural sciences and engineering. The country is among the most innovative countries in the Bloomberg Innovation Index. Almost 700,000 researchers share a research and development budget of 130 billion US dollars. The amount for research and development in relation to gross domestic product is the third highest in the world. The country is a world leader in basic scientific research and has produced 22 Nobel Prize winners in physics, chemistry or medicine and three Fields medal winners.
Scientists and engineers from Japan has contributed to the development of the agricultural sector, electronics, industrial robotics, optics, chemistry, semiconductors, biosciences and to variety of technological fields. Japan is the world leader in the manufacture and use of robots and had more than 20% (300,000 out of 1.3 million) of the world’s industrial robots in 2013 – although its share has historically been even higher, accounting for half of all industrial robots worldwide in 2000. Japan has the third highest number of scientists, technicians and engineers per 10,000 employees in the world, with 83 scientists, technicians and engineers per 10,000 employees.