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Are the Japanese Religious?

When sociological surveys are conducted of contemporary Japanese, only about 26 percent of the public and 12 percent of university students indicate they are religious. Less than a third of Japanese typically indicate they belong to a religious group. When asked to name Japanese religions, few respondents even mention Shinto. Twenty percent of Japanese in […]

Philosophy: Japan, Asia, and the West

Readers of the chapter are obviously aware that the interplay between foreign and indigenous ideas and practices is a major theme in Japanese spiritual traditions, and the same is true regarding philosophical thought. Foreign ideas and concepts that seem to work are retained and modified so as to fit into the culture while what does not […]

Christianity and the ‘‘New’’ Japanese Religions

Christianity, which was present in Japan long before the end of World War II, occupies an unusual position in Japan. Only approximately one percent of Japanese are professed Christian. Yet at specific points in Japanese history, Christian institutions and individuals have exercised considerably more intellectual, social, and cultural influence than might be supposed given today’s […]

Confucianism: The Branches and Leaves of Japanese Civilization?

Prince Shotoku, who as Yamato regent in 604 wrote the first guidelines for Japanese government in his ‘‘constitution,’’ was also alleged to have written in another document that Shinto was the root, Confucianism the branches and leaves, and Buddhism the flowers and fruit of the tree of Japanese civilization. Although the prince didn’t put this assertion […]

Buddhism

Buddhism was a world religion that had existed for 1,000 years when emissaries from the king of the more advanced Korean state of Paekche introduced this complex array of beliefs to the Japanese in 552 CE. Buddha, meaning ‘‘enlightened one,’’ was born Prince Gautama Siddhartha in the Indian Shakya nation around 563 BCE and died […]

Shinto: ‘‘The Way of the Kami’’

The bundle of spiritual rites and practices that we know today as Shinto began in Japanese antiquity and shares many characteristics of ancient early preliterate forms of Western and non-Western religions that were rooted in the earth, nature, and fertility. Like many other earth religions, Shinto has no historical founders such as Jesus, Buddha, or […]

Religion and Thought

Japanese spiritual traditions are a rich blend of ancient beliefs and rites intermingled with regional and even world influences. However, culture shapes religion as much as religion shapes culture, and contemporary Japanese religious and philosophical perspectives constitute a unique melange. Aspects of Japan’s spiritual traditions have even been exported to the West. The indigenous spiritual […]

Conclusion: Japan’s Economic Future

For almost 400 years, Japan has enjoyed a national economy that compared favorably with most of the world’s nations. However, the post–World War II years were unprecedented as the archipelago nation became the world’s second-strongest economic power. Readers of this chapter now understand that despite Japan’s continuing high level of affluence, the nation faces a […]

Trade

Economists concur that voluntary trade, whether domestic or international, promotes economic progress. The richest nations throughout history have consistently been those whose governments created legal and political environments that facilitated trade. The Japanese have engaged in domestic and foreign trade throughout their history, although there were long periods of time when past authoritarian governments severely limited […]

The Two-Tiered Economy

One of the most distinct characteristics of the Japanese economy when it is compared to the economies of most developed nations is the high productivity of large multinational corporations and a few internationally competitive retail and wholesale distributors and the relatively mediocre to poor productivity of those manufacturers that serve primarily the domestic market as […]

Business and Industry: Manufacturing

Western industrialization began with the development of capitalist institutions in Europe in the 1500s, then evolved to more complex levels with the British industrial revolution beginning in the late 18th century, and culminated a century later in the industrial capitalist system of Europe and the United States. The Japanese had a much different experience in […]

Natural Resources Overview

Although readers of the earlier section of this chapter as well as chapter 2 are familiar with the term ‘‘economic miracle,’’ which describes Japan’s high-growth years (mid-1950s–early 1970s), in some ways the real miracle is that the Japanese were able to become the second-richest major nation on earth despite the fact that they have almost […]

Response to Globalization: 1973 to the Present

The Japanese economic miracle ended in 1973 when some Arab nations embargoed oil due to their opposition to American and allied Middle Eastern policies and energy prices subsequently rose throughout the developed world. Still, Japan enjoyed the highest average annual growth rates for a developed country all through the 1970s and 1980s. By the 1980s, Japan […]

Japan Becomes a World Economic Power: 1945–1973

Despite the experience and knowledge of its people, Japan was a devastated nation at the end of World War II. Millions of Japanese were without the basic necessities of life. Approximately one-fourth of all Japanese homes, as well as a high proportion of factories and shops, had been destroyed by the war. Japan was also […]

Industrialization and State-Guided Capitalism: 1868–1945

In the early 1870s, shortly after the Meiji Restoration, Japan’s new political leadership faced the problem of Western imperialism. Japan’s oligarchs quickly decided to build both a strong economy and a strong military in order to negotiate with Western Europe and the United States on an equal footing. Meiji leaders systematically studied various economic models and […]

Economic Systems: The Roots of Success (1600–1868)

Even though Japan’s spectacular economic rise did not occur until the three decades after World War II, the foundations for the so-called economic miracle were laid during the Tokugawa era (1600–1868). Although technologically behind parts of Western Europe and the United States that were industrializing and had more advanced technology, the Tokugawa economy was certainly not […]

Conclusion: Political Challenges and Evolving Government Structures

Much change has occurred in Japan’s political system since roughly the mid-1980s. However, further progress needs to be made. Like any large nation in an increasingly interconnected and fast-changing world, Japan’s problems are complex. The economy is always a paramount issue, and Japan has made substantial progress in rebounding from the serious malaise that lasted […]

The Real World of Japanese Politics: 1985 to the Present

The 1985 Plaza Accords, discussed extensively in the following chapter of this book, where Japan signed an agreement with other major developed nations to raise the value of its artificially undervalued yen, is now looked on as having subsequent major political as well as economic ramifications for Japan. After that agreement, Japan was forced to […]

The Real World of Japanese Politics: 1945–1985

As discussed both here and in the history chapter, democracy grew relatively rapidly in Japan, and the Japanese now have a more than 60-year democratic history. However, Japan’s political history, culture, geography, economy, and changing position in the world, just as is the case with any nation, makes the nature of Japanese democracy unique in […]

Postwar Government and Politics: The Creation of Japanese Democracy and Its Structure

Japan became a democratic country with the adoption of the 1947 Constitution, which has never been amended and remains in effect today. However, since roughly 1985, domestic and international factors have resulted in new challenges and changes for Japan’s political leadership. Before contemporary government and politics can be understood, a discussion of the creation of […]

Japan’s Imperial Period: 1868–1945

Although parts of the domestic political system such as the class structure and tax collection had also become dysfunctional, the crisis caused by the unwanted incursion of American and European powers eventually was the primary reason the Tokugawa government fell. In 1868 a group of young samurai from two domains that had always grudgingly accepted […]

Government and Politics in the Tokugawa Period: 1600–1868

As depicted in the prior chapter, in 1600 Tokugawa Ieyasu, through force of arms and diplomacy, managed to unify a Japan that had been torn by civil war for most of the previous century and intermittent internal strife for much of the 14th century as well. Tokugawa and his descendents who ruled Japan as shoguns […]

Introduction: The Roots of Japan’s Contemporary Government and Politics

Most readers of this book are Americans, and they have studied U.S. government. Imagine attempting to learn about how the American government works without some knowledge of the influence of Great Britain, the motives of the founders of the United States, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the formulation of the present […]

Japan’s Path to Prosperity: 1945 to the Present

The years following World War II resulted in more change in Japan than any time since the beginning of the Meiji period. The U.S. occupation under the leadership of General Douglas MacArthur initiated this peaceful reconstitution of much of Japanese society. The general almost immediately won the respect and admiration of the Japanese people through […]

Japan and the World: 1853–1945

Few events in Japan’s history have proven as significant as Commodore Perry and his ‘‘black ships,’’ as the Japanese called them. In the years since Perry first arrived, Japan would become the first Asian nation to modernize, attain world power status, lose a disastrous war, and recover to develop a democratic government and the second-largest […]

Tokugawa Japan: An Era of Peace

European influence, particularly new technology, served as a partial catalyst for political change in Japan. Only a few years after Europeans introduced guns to Japan, three powerful leaders—Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu—used advanced firepower to achieve brilliant military successes that resulted in the political unification of Japan. In 1568, at the invitation of […]

Medieval Japan

As the influence of the Fujiwara clan and the central government declined, two powerful provincial families, the Taira and Minamoto, warred against each other in what historians refer to as the Gempei War. In 1185, Yoritomo, the leader of the Minamoto family, defeated the Taira and Fujiwara clans and obtained military control of Japan. In […]

Classical Japan

The Heian period (794–1185) is a critical period of Japanese history. Although the cultural heritage imparted by China and the early Korean states remains a part of Japan, distinct and sophisticated Japanese cultural forms emerged during this period. The new capital city was situated in a nation with an estimated population of 5 million people. Heian, […]

Japan’s Prehistory and Early Mainland Asia Influences

The first people in the archipelago probably walked there via temporary land bridges from the Asian mainland more than 30,000 years ago. There is some archeological evidence that people from Southeast Asia also reached Japan by water in prehistoric times. Archaeologists have used the art of Japan’s earliest known culture to name the first period […]

Introduction: Japan, East Asia, and the World

Many have the stereotype that until relatively recently, the archipelago’s culture developed largely in isolation from the rest of the world. Although there are critical elements of truth in this assumption, it is incorrect in many respects. Throughout history, some Japanese have interacted in a variety of ways with other East Asians and, at times, […]

Japan: History

KEY EVENTS IN JAPANESE HISTORY 11,000–300 BCE Jomon culture 300 BCE–250 CE Yayoi culture 250–552 CE Tomb period (Kofun) 552–710 Late Yamato period 552 Buddhism is transported from Korea to Japan 604 Japan’s 17-point ‘‘constitution’’ is ascribed to Prince Shotoku 645 So-called Taika Reforms are enacted 710 Japan’s first permanent capital is established at Nara […]

The Hazards of Being Japanese

Although virtually all cultures have some level of appreciation for nature, it is particularly pronounced in Japanese culture. The constant attention to the changing seasons in Japanese literature and culture, the classical Japanese garden that is deliberately constructed to celebrate nature, the mass cherry blossom viewing parties of Tokyo office workers, and the deep appreciation of […]

Japan: The Space Problem

Because much of Japan’s land does not lend itself to development, with the exception of Hokkaido, lack of space is a permanent problem. The space squeeze is most serious in cities and particularly acute in such huge metropolitan centers as Nagoya, Osaka, and Tokyo and numerous other urban areas. When one negotiates Japanese cities, example […]

The Physical and Human Geographies of Japan

With its four major islands—Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku—as well as thousands of smaller ones, Japan has a total land area of approximately 145,825 square miles. The distance from the northernmost tip of Hokkaido to extreme southern Kyushu is approximately the same as the distance from Bangor, Maine, to Mobile, Alabama, in the United States […]

Japan: Geography

As is the case with any people, geography influences contemporary Japanese, and Japan’s physical geography has helped shape culture, the economy, politics, and religions. Geography, while offering some impressive advantages for Japan’s inhabitants, has also often been an obstacle rather than an asset in the Japanese quest for economic development, safety, and security. Beginning with […]

Japan: Preface

It is my hope that Asia in Focus: Japan will be an informative and useful introduction for American readers to one of the world’s most important countries. Currently, the rise of two other important Asian countries, the People’s Republic of China and India, seem to have diverted many Americans’ attentions from Japan. Although I would […]

Ernest Wilson, Collecting in China and Japan

In April 1902 Ernest “Chinese” Wilson (1876–1930) arrived back in England from his first plant-collecting expedition. He brought with him 35 Wardian cases of plants, seeds of 305 plant species, and herbarium specimens of 906 species. Between 1899 and 1919, Wilson undertook five expeditions to China and three to other parts of the world, from […]

Weather: Japan

The hard-core seasonality of Chinese climate gets moderated on its way to the Japanese archipelago. This chain of over 4000 islands runs from the tropics to the northern mid-latitudes, so there is plenty of north-to-south contrast. However, the broad strokes are similar to China’s: wintertime cold and sweaty summer heat are interspersed with distinctly rainy […]

Japanese Empire, 1942

East Asia: Japan

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE The Japanese flag shows a red sun against a white background. The red sun symbolizes Amaterasu, the sun goddess. According to myth, the Japanese emperor and his family are descended from the goddess. The Japanese call their country Nippon, which means “source of the sun.” The name Japan may have come from […]

Japan

Area 145,843 square mi (377,835 square km) Population 127.1 million 2014 Capital Tokyo Highest Point 12,389 ft (3,776 m) Lowest Point -13 ft (-4 m) GDP $4.601 trillion 2014 Primary Natural Resources coal, copper, rice, sugar beets. JAPAN IS AN ISLAND nation occupying a long, relatively narrow mountainous archipelago of four large and about 3,000 […]