(What do you know?)
Eastern Asia, island chain between the North
Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan, east of
the Korean Peninsula
total: 377,835 sq km
land: 374,744 sq km
water: 3,091 sq km
note: Includes Bonin Islands
(Ogasawara-gunto), Daito-shoto, Minami-jima,
Okino-tori-shima, Ryukyu Islands
(Nansei-shoto), and Volcano Islands
Area - comparative:
Slightly smaller than California
Varies from tropical in south to cool temperate
Mostly rugged and mountainous
lowest point: Hachiro-gata -4 m
highest point: Mount Fuji 3,776 m
Negligible mineral resources, fish
Many dormant and some active volcanoes;
about 1,500 seismic occurrences (mostly
tremors) every year; tsunamis; typhoons
Environment - current issues:
Air pollution from power plant emissions
results in acid rain; acidification of lakes and
reservoirs degrading water quality and
threatening aquatic life; Japan is one of the
largest consumers of fish and tropical timber,
contributing to the depletion of these
resources in Asia and elsewhere
|People of Japan
127,417,244 (July 2005 est.)
Shinto and Buddhist 84%, other (including
Christian 0.7%) 16%
White with a large red disk (representing the
sun without rays) in the center
There is a great variety of uniquely-Japanese
food. There are foods that are national dishes
and there are regional specialties. The staple
of a Japanese diet is rice, which is eaten at
almost every meal. The other food that would
be used in place of rice is noodles. In Japan, a
lot of fish is also eaten. Fish is served both
cooked and raw. It is both the use of food and
the way it is combined that makes Japanese
food unique. Here we will look at a few of the
better-known foods in order to understand
what the Japanese diet is like and recognise
the differences between this and our own
Rice is often served in a bowl as a side dish at
lunch and dinner. A bowl of rice is also often
eaten for breakfast. This bowl of plain rice can
be mixed with soy sauce, raw egg and various
other foods and sauces.
Another Japanese food that uses rice is sushi.
Sushi combines rice and, generally, seafood.
This can be wrapped in seaweed, which holds
it together. Because the rice is sticky, it can
just be shaped into a ball with other foods
positioned on top.
Rice is also served in a bowl with other foods
on top of it, like chicken or tempura. The
Japanese also make fried rice, which was
introduced to Japan from China. Soft, watery
rice and rice with green tea is also eaten in
Noodles have a dominant place in Japanese
cuisine. Many noodle dishes are traditional
Japanese foods, and some of them are dishes
that have been made Japanese.
Soba noodles are thick noodles that are like
spaghetti. These are served both hot and
cold. The native udon noodles are very thick
noodles that are also served either hot or
cold. Both these types of noodles are served
with various things on top. A
Chinese-influenced meal is made with ramen
noodles. These noodles are served in a soup.
Noodles are also fried and deep-fried
The Japanese find a lot of their food from the
water. Seafood in Japan is prepared in a great
many ways. A lot of seafood is eaten raw. It is
also cooked by grilling, deep-frying, steaming
Sashimi is raw seafood. A lot of seafood can
safely be eaten raw if it is fresh and prepared
in the correct way.
There are many other traditional Japanese
foods, including skewers. Different foods,
whether it be vegetables, meat or seafood are
cooked on a skewer, which is called yakatori.
A lot of dishes in Japan incorporate soya
beans. These are used in miso soup, which is
often served at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Soya beans make tofu, which is used in a lot
of traditional Japanese dishes. Tempura is
when different food is battered and then
deep-fried. These are just a few of the foods
that you would be likely to find in Japan.
The Japanese drink a lot of tea. Green tea is
very popular and is consumed nationally.
There are different varieties of green tea, and
different qualities. Green tea is taken at all
times of the day. The Japanese drink tea from
a cup that does not have a handle. Milk and
sugar are never put into tea. Other herbal
teas, like jasmine tea, are drunk in Japan.
Japanese rice wine, which is called sake or
nihonshu, is a traditional Japanese drink
made from rice and water. This can be taken
either hot or cold.
The Japanese do not use a knife and fork to
eat their food. In Japan, people use
chopsticks. Chopsticks are two thin sticks of
equal length that taper at one end. In Japan
they are called hashi. Hashi are not only used
for eating, they are also used in cooking.
Japanese chopsticks are usually made from
wood that is then lacquered. They can also be
made from a variety of other materials.
When they are not being used, the pointed
ends of chopsticks should be placed on a
chopstick rest. Another important rule in
Japan, to be polite, is to never transfer food
from your plate to other people's with your
chopsticks. This is a cultural rudeness.
General etiquette requires that you do not
wave your chopsticks around when you are
talking. It is also impolite to leave your
chopsticks in the food in your bowl while you
are not using them.
Spoons are sometimes used in a Japanese
meal. This is mostly a ceramic spoon that has
been adopted from the Chinese.
The standard of living in Japan is much higher
than it used to be. The average wage is better
and therefore life at home is better. While
houses are still small, due to a lack of room,
they are comfortable. Many things in a
Japanese home are traditional. A family of
four will live in a two- or three-room home, with
a bathroom and a kitchen. In this instance the
two rooms double as living and sleeping areas.
Beds called futons are pulled out of
cupboards at night and laid on the floor and
then they are put back the next morning. The
floors are typically covered in a springy mat
called tatami. People do not wear shoes
inside. They are removed at the front door
and replaced with slippers. Today's home in
Japan is also generally full of modern
appliances, like televisions and stereos.
In Japan, only around 60% of people own their
own home. In Tokyo only approximately half
the population lives in rented accommodation.
A lot of the time, the nearest place available to
rent, or the nearest place that is affordable, is
an hour from the city. Accommodation an hour
from the centre of Tokyo is often still far more
expensive than a place in the middle of
another city. Very few young people today buy
their own houses.
It is common in Japan for three generations to
live under one roof. This is becoming less
common today, but still exists, certainly in the
countryside. The norm in Japan is for the
husband to go to work and the wife to take
care of all things domestic. This, also, is
changing with more women going to work.
Mothers play an enormous role in the lives of
their children and the bond is very strong.
Babysitters are rarely used and mothers often
sleep with their babies. A mother will also
spend hours with children doing school work.
Few Japanese men help with housework.
There is more pressure today for this to
change. The finances of a family, though, are
the responsibility of the women who handle
most of the household expenses. There are
exceptions in instances when something of
value, like a car, is being bought. Husbands in
Japan give their salaries to their wives. They
are returned a sum of money as pocket
money, otherwise how to use the rest is the
Constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary
47 prefectures; Aichi, Akita, Aomori, Chiba, Ehime,
Fukui, Fukuoka, Fukushima, Gifu, Gumma,
Hiroshima, Hokkaido, Hyogo, Ibaraki, Ishikawa, Iwate,
Kagawa, Kagoshima, Kanagawa, Kochi, Kumamoto,
Kyoto, Mie, Miyagi, Miyazaki, Nagano, Nagasaki,
Nara, Niigata, Oita, Okayama, Okinawa, Osaka,
Saga, Saitama, Shiga, Shimane, Shizuoka, Tochigi,
Tokushima, Tokyo, Tottori, Toyama, Wakayama,
Yamagata, Yamaguchi, Yamanashi
660 BC (traditional founding by Emperor JIMMU)
Birthday of Emperor AKIHITO, 23 December (1933)
3 May 1947
Modeled after European civil law system with
English-American influence; judicial review of
legislative acts in the Supreme Court; accepts
compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations
20 years of age; universal
chief of state: Emperor AKIHITO (since 7 January
1989); note -
head of government: Prime Minister Junichiro
KOIZUMI (since 26 April 2001)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the prime minister
elections: Diet designates prime minister;
constitution requires that prime minister commands
parliamentary majority; following legislative elections,
leader of majority party or leader of majority coalition
in House of Representatives usually becomes prime
minister; KOIZUMI's term as leader of the LDP is
scheduled to end in September 2006; a new prime
minister may be chosen at that time; monarch is
election results: NA
Bicameral Diet or Kokkai consists of the House of
Councillors or Sangi-in (242 seats - members
elected for six-year terms; half reelected every three
years; 144 members in multi-seat constituencies and
98 by proportional representation) and the House of
Representatives or Shugi-in (480 seats - members
elected for four-year terms; 300 in single-seat
constituencies; 180 members by proportional
representation in 11 regional blocs)
elections: House of Councillors - last held 11 July
2004 (next to be held in July 2007); House of
Representatives - last held 11 September 2005
(next election by September 2009)
election results: House of Councillors - percent of
vote by party - NA; seats by party - LDP 115, DPJ
82, Komeito 24, JCP 9, SDP 5, others 7; distribution
of seats as of October 2004 - LDP 114, DPJ 84,
Komeito 24, JCP 9, SDP 5, others 6 : House of
Representatives - percent of vote by party - LDP
47.8%, DPJ 36.4%, others 15.8%; seats by party -
LDP 296, DPJ 113, Komeito 31, JCP 9, SDP 7,
others 24 (2005)
Supreme Court (chief justice is appointed by the
monarch after designation by the cabinet; all other
justices are appointed by the cabinet) Political
parties and leaders:
Democratic Party of Japan or DPJ [Seiji MAEHARA,
leader; Yukio HATOYAMA, secretary general]; Japan
Communist Party or JCP [Kazuo SHII, chairman;
Tadayoshi ICHIDA, secretary general]; Komeito
[Takenori KANZAKI, president; Tetsuzo FUYUSHIBA,
secretary general]; Liberal Democratic Party or LDP
[Junichiro KOIZUMI, president; Tsutomu TAKEBE,
secretary general]; Social Democratic Party or SDP
[Mizuho FUKUSHIMA, chairperson; Seiji MATAICHI,
|Industry in Japan
Government-industry cooperation, a
strong work ethic, mastery of high
technology, and a comparatively small
defense allocation (1% of GDP) helped
Japan advance with extraordinary rapidity
to the rank of second most
technologically-powerful economy in the
world after the US and third-largest
economy after the US and China,
measured on a purchasing power parity
(PPP) basis. (Using market exhange rates
rather than PPP rates, Japan's economy is
larger than China's.) One notable
characteristic of the economy is the
working together of manufacturers,
suppliers, and distributors in closely-knit
groups called keiretsu. A second basic
feature has been the guarantee of lifetime
employment for a substantial portion of the
urban labor force. Both features are now
eroding. Industry, the most important
sector of the economy, is heavily
dependent on imported raw materials and
fuels. The tiny agricultural sector is highly
subsidized and protected, with crop yields
among the highest in the world. Usually
self sufficient in rice, Japan must import
about 50% of its requirements of other
grain and fodder crops. Japan maintains
one of the world's largest fishing fleets and
accounts for nearly 15% of the global
catch. For three decades overall real
economic growth had been spectacular: a
10% average in the 1960s, a 5% average
in the 1970s, and a 4% average in the
1980s. Growth slowed markedly in the
1990s, averaging just 1.7%, largely
because of the after effects of
overinvestment during the late 1980s and
contractionary domestic policies intended
to wring speculative excesses from the
stock and real estate markets. From 2000
to 2003, government efforts to revive
economic growth met with little success
and were further hampered by the slowing
of the US, European, and Asian
economies. In 2004, growth improved and
the lingering fears of deflation in prices
and economic activity lessened. Japan's
huge government debt, which totals more
than 160% of GDP, and the aging of the
population are two major long-run
problems. A rise in taxes could be viewed
as endangering the revival of growth.
Robotics constitutes a key long-term
economic strength with Japan possessing
410,000 of the world's 720,000 "working
robots." Internal conflict over the proper
way to reform the ailing banking system
The Japanese have traditional clothes that they still
wear today. These clothes, however, are reserved
for special occasions, like visiting a Shinto shrine or
a festival that requires they are worn. This chapter
looks at what is being worn in Japan today.
Uniforms are an important aspect of Japanese
clothing. There are many situations in which it is
part of a day-to-day role that a Japanese person
may have to wear a uniform. There are the more
obvious situations, like school. There are also the
less common examples, like some large businesses.
Many places that have uniforms do so to encourage
employees to work as a team.
Putting on a uniform is not restricted to these areas,
however. The Japanese have a deeply-ingrained
notion of loyalty and unity. This means that many
groups of Japanese people insist on wearing the
same clothes in a casual situation.
If a business does not require that a uniform is
worn, then it is up to the person to choose their own
clothes. In Japan, for men this means that a
business suit would be worn. This would be the
same for any women who may be working in a
business, they would also wear formal business
clothing. Women are becoming more of a presence
in the working environment in Japan, which did not
used to be the case.
The young people in Japan today have a lot more
money to spend on things like clothes than their
parents had. Furthermore, there is more of a desire
to do so than there was in their parents' generation.
This is because for teenagers in Japan today, it has
become very important to keep up to date with the
trends in fashion. This is also the same for music,
entertainment, food and sport. In Japan, when
someone adopts a fashion, then everyone does.
The trends change as fast as the teenagers pick
In their school uniforms, teenagers look very
formally dressed, usually wearing dark colours, like
navy and black. When these same teenagers are
out at night, on the other hand, they transform
completely. They have interesting hair designs and
People in Japanese cities are more fashion
conscious than the Japanese living in the country.
At home, Japanese people dress in casual
Western-influenced clothes. Much like Australians,
Japanese people wear jeans, tracksuits, shorts,
T-shirts and jumpers.
Harajuku girls are named after the area of Tokyo
that is known as Harajuku. Harajuku girls are
famous for the wild outfits they wear. They pull
together anything to make an outrageous outfit.
Since the 1990s, Harajuku girls have become
Japanese cultural icons.
|Transportation in Japan
The people of Japan love to travel, both
internationally and nationally. On the
weekends and when they have holidays
they enjoy taking trips to different
Japanese locations. These include places
like the hot springs, onsen, or historic
Japanese sites. The problem for the
Japanese people is that they live in a
country that is made up of four main
islands and many smaller ones. Most of
Japan is covered in mountains. We will look
at the main ways the Japanese travel within
Japan. We will also look at inner-city travel
and travel between cities.
Many people in Japan own cars. People
living in a city very rarely use them during
the week. This is because there are very
few carparks and the traffic is very
congested. Traffic is so heavy that the
pollution levels are quite high in cities.
People wear face masks when walking
around. Also, the public transport system is
so good that there is no need to take a car
Motorways run through the city to help
ease the traffic problems. These are often
raised above the ground. Because the
cities are so crammed there is no room to
build motorways on the ground. Motorways
also provide a link between the main cities.
Motorways include the Tomei and Meishin
The mountains in Japan are an obstacle
when planning a motorway between some
cities. One way to get around this problem
is to put the motorway through the
mountain. Part of the motorway from Tokyo
to Niigata is a tunnel through the
mountains. This tunnel is nearly 11
Trains provide a great deal of Japan's
transportation. For the reasons that people
will not use cars in the city, people use
trains. Trains travel not only within a city
and between cities, there are also several
trains that travel between the islands of
Trains are in heavy demand in Japan,
especially to provide transport form outer
city suburbs into the city and within the city.
Due to the cost of living within some of the
major cities, and the lack of available
space, many people live in the suburbs.
Some of these people have to commute up
to two hours a day to get to work. The
demand for public transport can easily be
seen in a Japanese railway station. Here,
there are people who are specifically
employed to be pushers. This means that
their job is to push as many people on to a
train as possible.
There are three kinds of train that may run
in a city. Some cities have a combination of
the three. There are land trains that run on
tracks at ground level. Some cities now
have trains that run on tracks above
ground, which are called monorails. Then,
there are the underground train systems,
which, as their name suggests, run below
the buildings and streets. What trains a city
has depends on how much space there is
and how many people need this type of
transport regularly. There is often so little
space that some trains actually pass
through the sides of buildings.
Japan is the home of one of the fastest
methods of land travel. This is the Bullet
Train, or Shinkansen in Japanese.
Developed in the 1960s, this train reaches
speeds of up to 270 kilometres an hour.
The 550 kilometre distance from Tokyo to
Osaka takes only two and a half hours.
There are 150 of these trains and all of
them are controlled by a computer in
Island travel has also been made easier
through the use of trains, tunnels and
bridges. There are even tunnels that run
under the sea from island to island. The
Seikan rail tunnel runs from Honshu to
Hokkaido. This is the world's longest tunnel
at approximately 54 kilometres long. The
island of Kyushu is also linked by an
Ferries are still used in Japan, although
this form of transport is used mainly
between the smaller islands. The more
usual mode of travel is by train and car.
The other method of travel, which is also
heavily used by the Japanese, is air travel.
This is the quickest and easiest way to
travel in Japan. The main cities of Japan
are linked by regular flights. In fact, Japan
is the only country in the world to use
jumbo jets for domestic flights. This is due
to the enormous demand.
After the Japanese attacked the United States, a
three- year war ensued in the Pacific. America
made the decision to use the atomic bomb on the
Japanese. This was a weapon that had only been
tested once before - and only two weeks before
the first one was dropped. The reason behind the
decision to use this weapon against the Japanese
was to prevent further deaths of American soldiers
and to hasten the surrender of Japan.
On 6 August, 1945 the United States of America
dropped the first of two atomic bombs on
Hiroshima, a city in the south of Honshu.
Then, on 9 August, 1945 the United States of
America dropped the second atomic bomb on the
city of Nagasaki on the Japanese island Kyushu.
The dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan had
the effect the Americans had hoped for. Japan was
sufficiently devastated that surrender came soon
after. Five days after the second bomb was
dropped, on 14 August, 1945, the emperor of
Japan surrendered to the United States. Japan was
conquered for the first time in history.
On 6 August, 1945 an American plane dropped an
atomic bomb called 'Little Boy' on the city of
Hiroshima. The bomb generated huge amounts of
air pressure and heat. The bomb also released
atomic radiation, the effects of which still cause
problems for some Japanese people. The heat that
was released from the explosion burned
everything, including people, in its path.
Approximately 10 square kilometres of the city
were destroyed, which was about 60% of the city.
In just a moment, 70 000 buildings were
incinerated and 80 000 people had been killed. 60
000 more people would die before the end of the
year from the effects of this bomb, either through
burns, wounds or radiation sickness.
The bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki on 9
August, 1945 was a more explosive bomb than the
one that was dropped three days before on
Hiroshima. This bomb killed 70 000 people
immediately and, like the first bomb, killed many
more through the fatal side-effects that were
inflicted. In Nagasaki, 70 000 people died of
related illness during the decade that followed the
dropping of the bomb.
The devastation of the bombs both physically and
mentally will be forever remembered in Japan.
There are many monuments that have been
erected or left in place after the explosion. These
remind the Japanese of the horror of nuclear
weapons. The building that was directly beneath
the point of explosion of the first bomb in Hiroshima
is one such memorial and it has been left as a
|Traditions, Holidays, Celebrations in Japan
Festivals and celebration play an important role in Japanese life. Festivals are a way in which religion can be kept alive and celebrated.
Japan has 15 official public holidays. There is a public holiday that celebrates all people who turn 20 years of age during that year, which is the
Coming-of-Age Day. There is a day set aside to reflect on the establishment of the nation. Twice a year the day and night are exactly the same length of
time, the spring and autumn equinox, these are also national holidays. Because two national holidays fall a day apart, the day between two national
holidays is also a national holiday by law. This day is called the between day. There is a day for children and a day to respect the aged. National holidays
are also for culture, health and sports, thanking labourers and the birthday of the emperor.
Coming-of-Age Day, Seijin Shiki, includes festivities that celebrate the age of majority in Japan, which is 20. Festivities on this day involve celebrations at
local prefecture offices. Families will hold parties to celebrate a child at this age. When the official celebrations have ended, the young people will often
join together and continue to celebrate. Young women will often wear a kimono on this day.
The Doll Festival in Japan takes place on 3 March, which is Girls' Day. In Japan, this is known as Hinamatsuri. Dolls wearing kimonos are displayed for
people to see and admire. The original belief behind this festival was that dolls could hold bad spirits inside their bodies, which meant that they were
protecting their owner.
Tanabata is the Star Festival. It is believed that the Milky Way, which looks like a river of stars in the sky, separates two lovers called Orihime and
Hikoboshi. The lovers are allowed to come together one day of the year, 7 July. On this day the Japanese hold the Star Festival in celebration of these
Schichi-Go-San translated means 7-5-3. This is a festival held for all seven-year-old girls, all five- year-old boys and all three-year-olds. The day
celebrates a rite of passage for children and is commonly a day to take photographs of your children dressed in traditional Japanese clothes.
Bon is a Buddhist festival that honours deceased relatives. This is the most important festival of the summer and it lasts for four days from 13 to 16
August. Traditionally, people will light lanterns and place them outside their houses. The lights are there to guide the spirits on their journey home.
These are just a few Japanese festivals, there are many more. These include Omisoka, which is an important celebration as it is New Year's Eve. This is
even more important because it is the night before the most important celebration in Japan, which is New Year's Day. There is also the Sapporo Ice
Festival, where artists make things from the snow. On Children's Day people fly flags shaped as a fish called a carp. At the Aoi festival in Kyoto, people
dress in the original clothes of the Imperial court. The Hakada festival is held in Osaka during winter. Hakada means naked. The point of this festival is for
men to show how brave they are.
The tea ceremony
The Japanese tea ceremony was developed in the sixteenth century by a Buddhist Zen master. The tea ceremony in Japanese is called 'Chanoyu'. This
ceremony, along with the martial arts, was studied by the samurai warriors. The rituals of this ceremony draw on both the Shinto and Buddhist religions.
The aim of the tea ceremony is to achieve inner peace and harmony. It also aims to open the mind in preparation for meditation.
The tea that is served is green tea, 'Cha' in Japanese. This is a bitter tea that is served to guests in little cups. When the tea is finished the guest will
regard and admire the cup. This is because every instrument that is used in this ceremony has been carefully selected for its beauty. Once the cup has
been admired, the guests eat a sweet cake. The tea ceremony traditionally takes place in a beautiful tea garden. Ceremonies can last up to four hours.
Guests at the tea ceremony sit on the floor with their knees bent and their legs beneath them.
Tea masters train for years to perfect the art of a tea ceremony. The ceremony is structured down to the last detail, which has to be followed precisely
and in time when put into practice. Even the preparation of the tea itself has a ritual with rules that need to be followed. The women performing the
ceremony traditionally wear black wigs with intricate white makeup. They also wear a traditional kimono.