Land of antique temples and ultramodern cities, Japan has seamless blend of both worlds. Japan is a nation of rich cultural heritage and many natural wonders. The characters that represent the word 'Japan' in the Japanese script also signify that it is the land where the sun originates.
It may also be due to the location of Japan in the Far East that Japan is referred to as 'The Land Of The Rising Sun'. In modern days, the term has taken on an entirely new connotation given the technological advances made by the Japanese and by Japanese companies. The upsurge in Japan's contribution to international trade and economy is a major influencer in global economic trends and in the economy of the United States.
The capital city, Tokyo, is one of the largest cities in the country and the Greater Tokyo Area is the largest metropolitan area of the world. Japan's location in the Pacific Ocean has been of great significance both in terms of the country's political history and its natural environment. While the country is a constitutional monarchy most of the legislative powers of Japan are vested in an elected parliament. The country's involvement in the two world wars and its subsequent development has made it a significant influencer in the world.
Japan is located to the east of the Asian continent and shares maritime boundaries with China, and North and South Korea. Japan is an archipelago of over 6,800 islands but Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Hokkaido make up for most of the land mass.
Much of Japan's terrain consists of mountains and forests, and Japan's coastal regions are where the majority of its people live. Climatically, Japan mainly enjoys temperate climate though regional variation is experienced from north to south. Despite its breathtaking beauty, Japan's location at the convergence of three tectonic plates makes the country prone to a number of natural disasters including earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic activity, floods, and typhoons. Add to this the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the only nuclear attack in history, and much is to be said about the resilience of the Japan. In March 2011 an earthquake measuring 9Mw hit the eastern coast of Japan causing widespread destruction and triggering tsunami waves over 133 feet high. The subsequent meltdown of nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant caused widespread panic. Thousands were evacuated from adjoining areas. But the situation is well under control and Japan has emerged the resilient victor once again.
The first known people to have inhabited Japan date back to about 30,000 BC. By the 8th century AD Japan flourished in the Nara Period developed, which is considered to be the golden age of Japan. In 710 AD, the first permanent capital of Japan was founded at Nara.
A smallpox epidemic in 735 to 737 AD, killed about a third of the population of Japan and slowed the cultural development. Following the Nara period, the Heian period lasted from 794 to 1185 when Japanese culture started to blossom once more.
The samurai warriors were the nobility of Japan during the feudal era, beginning in the eleventh century. Japan was ruled by an emperor during this period, though a series of military leaders, known as shoguns, gathered significant power between 1192 and 1867. Various shogunates held power in Japan through the nineteenth century, characterized by military rule and dynastic governments. The first shogunate was Kamakura, which was led by Minamoto no Yoritomo, and lasted till 1333 AD.
Japan's first contact with the West was in 1543, when Portuguese traders landed on a Japanese island and began trading. Dutch, English, and Spanish soon followed suit. During the Tokugawa period, Japan thrived. The economy of Japan developed, and currency and credit systems were put into use. Many Japanese were influenced by Europe during this time. Christianity, however, came to be perceived as a threat by both the leaders and the people.
Consequently, the Tokugawa shoganate started to restrict trade and travel of Europeans into Japan, effectively isolating the nation. The isolationist policies led to Japan remaining cut off from the West till the United States convinced the shogun to reopen trade in 1854. A period of imperialism began in Japan in 1868, with takeovers in Taiwan and Korea. Japan went to war first with China, from 1894 to 1895, and then Russia, from 1904 to 1905. A second war between China and Japan broke out in 1937. Monarchy lasted in Japan till around 1945, when Japan was defeated in World War II. Post world war, Japan floursished economically primarily due to the industrious and resilient nature of the Japanese people.
Economy and Challenges
The Tokyo Stock Exchange, Tosho is the third largest stock exchange of the world and recorded a market capitalization of US $3.8 trillion by the close of 2010. It then comes as no surprise that a number of Japanese companies have a significant global presence. Nikon, Nissan, Sony, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Hitachi, Honda, and Canon are now easily recognizable names across the world. The flourishing Japanese economy is the fourth largest in the world. The periodic setbacks caused by natural disasters are overcome by the industry of the people. Computers and electronic goods, and cars are among the country's major exports and food grains and oil feature high among the imports. The GDP of the country was at about US $5.5 trillion as of end 2010. Though affected by the Tsunami and Earthquake of 2011, the Japanese economy is well on its way to recovery.
Travel and Tourism
The mystic beauty of Japan and the country's rich culture has been a great attraction for tourists across the world. While Kyoto and Nara are famous for their elaborate temples and monasteries, Tokyo and Osaka are hubs of urban development. Japan is connected by an excellent network of trains. Tokyo's Shinjuku Station is the world's busiest station and most travelers are awed by the Shinkansen 'Bullet' train services. The rich culture of Japan goes way beyond the popular tea ceremonies and the Kabuki performances. Japan offers a diversity rivaled by few countries - from the skiing options in Niseko to diving in Okinawa and from the national parks in Yoshino-Kumano to the amazing beaches in Shizuoka and Chiba. Japanese sushi, ramen, and sashimi are now international favorites, though Japan has more much to offer by way of a culinary tour.
Last Updated on: August 16, 2016