Asia in focus: Japan






The rise of the Japanese economy from the ashes of World War II is one of the most important world events since that conflict. Today, Japan ranks with the U.S. and China as one of the world’s largest economies. The United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan respectively have the world’s three-largest stock markets, and Japan ranks among world leaders in manufacturing and international trade. After more than two decades of high-speed growth and another decade of slower but still impressive economic advancement, in 1990 Japan began a period of economic malaise that would last until 2005. Although serious problems remain from the recent period of stagnation, Japan appears to be back on course. However, like the rest of the world, Japan suffered from the 2008 global financial crisis.

Even when Japan and other nations recover from recent economic difficulties, the archipelago faces its own unique economic challenges. These include the aging of its population, a shrinking workforce, too many inefficient small manufacturers and service providers, and business restructuring that threatens traditional cultural practices. In subsequent sections of this chapter, readers will gain a basic understanding of both Japan’s economy and potential barriers to economic prosperity that the Japanese must successfully overcome.


Religion and Thought

Social Classes and Ethnicity

  • Introduction: Social Classes and Ethnicity in a Non-Western Society
  • The Group and the Vertical Society
  • Group Socialization: The School
  • Workplace Groups
  • Social Class and Mobility
  • Pressures to Conform
  • Ethnic and Minority Groups

Women and Marriage

  • Introduction
  • Women in Classical, Early Modern, and Imperial Japan
  • Women in Postwar Japan
  • 21st-Century Changes and Challenges for Women
  • Conclusion: Women and Social Issues

Japan’s Educational System

  • Introduction
  • Historical and Cultural Foundations of Learning
  • The Structure of Japanese Education
  • Administrators and Teachers
  • Entrance Examinations
  • Student Life and Behavior Patterns
  • Higher Education
  • Educational Reform


The Japanese Language

  • Introduction
  • Written Japanese
  • Spoken Japanese
  • Loanwords
  • Language and Japanese Culture
  • Learning Japanese Language

Etiquette in Japan

  • Introduction
  • Cultural Beliefs and Etiquette
  • Survival Etiquette
  • Conclusion: Japanese Tolerance and a Changing Japan

Japanese Literature

  • Introduction: Understanding People and Culture
  • Japan’s Literary Tradition: Pre-20th-Century Authors
  • Giants of 20th-Century Japanese Literature
  • Conclusion: Japanese Literature and the 21st Century

Japanese Art

  • Introduction
  • The Arts: Prehistoric to Heian (11,000 BCE–794 CE)
  • Art and Heian Japan (794–1185)
  • Medieval Arts (1185–1600)
  • Tokugawa Japan (1600–1868): ‘‘Classic’’ Japanese Arts and Western Contact
  • New Directions and Global Arts (1868–Present)
  • Conclusion: Japanization and Westernization

Japanese Music

  • Introduction: World Music
  • Music in Early and Medieval Japan
  • Music in Tokugawa Japan
  • Encounters with Western Music: 1868–1945
  • Post–1945 Japan: World Music Flourishes
  • Conclusion


  • A Cultural and Social History
  • Food as Art
  • Eating in Restaurants and Homes
  • Common Japanese Dishes
  • Common Beverages

Sports and Leisure in Japan

  • Asobi
  • Traditional Sports and Leisure: Past and Present
  • Contemporary Japan: Sports
  • Major Popular Culture Pursuits: ‘‘MASK’’ and More
  • Pachinko
  • Manga
  • Anime
  • Karaoke
  • Conclusion: Cell Phones


  • Introduction: Is Japan Facing Massive Changes?
  • Japan’s Foreign Policy and China: ‘‘A Middle Power?’’
  • Japan and the Korean Peninsula
  • Japan, the United States, and Contemporary International Challenges
  • Japan and the World
  • The Views of Two Foreigners
  • Can Japan Become a Genuine Multicultural Society?
  • Glossary
  • Facts and Figures
  • Holidays
  • Organizations
  • Annotated Bibliography of Recommended Works on Japan