Land of antique temples and ultramodern cities, Japan has a seamless blend of old and new. It 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.
Because of its location in the Far East, 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 countries 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 in 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 post-war 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 6,852 islands but Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Hokkaido make up most of the land mass.
Much of Japan's terrain consists of mountains and forests, and its 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, its 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 8.9 on the Richter scale 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.
History of Japan
The first known habitation of Japan dates back to approximately 30,000 BC. Around 500 BC, began the Yayoi period. During this period practices such as metallurgy, wet-rice farming, a new style of pottery, were introduced. The Asuka period, which lasted from 592 to 710 AD, witnessed the widespread acceptance of Buddhism.
From 710 to 784 AD, the Nara period flourished. This period witnessed the development of Buddhist inspired architecture as well as art and the appearance of a nascent literature. However, this period is also marked by the small pox epidemic which occurred from 735 to 737 AD. It is estimated that the epidemic claimed the lives of around one-third of the population of the country. 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 until 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 with China, from 1894 to 1895, and then Russia, from 1904 to 1905. A second war between China and Japan broke out in 1937. The monarchy lasted in Japan until 1945, when Japan was defeated in World War II. Post-world war, Japan flourished economically, primarily due to the industrious and resilient nature of the Japanese people.
The Tokyo Stock Exchange, Tosho, is the fourth largest stock exchange in the world and recorded a market capitalization of US$4.09 trillion as of April 2015. It comes as no surprise that a number of Japanese companies have a significant global presence. Companies such as Nikon, Nissan, Sony, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Hitachi, Honda, and Canon, are well known across the world. Computers, electronic goods, and cars are among the country's major exports, and food grains and oil are high among the imports. According to the 2016 estimate, GDP of the country was around $4.932 trillion.
Travel and Tourism
Tourists from all over the world get attracted to Japan due to its mystic beauty and rich culture. 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 only 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 much more to offer by way of a culinary tour.
Located near Nagano is the Jigokudani Monkey Park. The park is famous for its wild snow monkeys. Located in Eastern Kyoto is the Kiyomizu-dera Buddhist temple. The temple dates back to 798 AD. Himeji Castle, which was featured in the James Bond movie ‘You Only Live Twice,’ is a great piece of work and the best example of the castle architecture of Japan. Todaiji Temple in Nara is worth a visit. Home to the largest bronze statue of Buddha, the temple is also the largest wooden building in the world. Climb atop the Tokyo Tower, which is the second tallest man-made structure in the country, and get a spectacular view of Tokyo.
The Tokyo Imperial Palace, is not only an administration center, but is also a great tourist attraction. Here is also located a museum, which showcases the art and history of Japan. Mount Fuji is one of the most popular attractions of Japan. Every year, around 200,000 people climb the mountain, which has a height of 12,389 feet (3,776 meters).
Interesting Facts About Japan
What is the origin of Japan’s name?
The name for Japan in Japanese is Nippon (sometimes Nihon) which means ‘Land of the Rising Sun.’ This name was given because of Japan’s location to the east of China, the direction in which the sun rises.
How many islands make up Japan?
The Japanese archipelago, or chain of islands, consists of 6,852 islands, though only about 430 are inhabited.
What does Japan’s flag represent?
Japan’s flag is all white with a red circle, representing the sun, in its center. Japan’s ties to the symbol of the sun probably originated for the same reasons as Japan’s name: it’s relation to the east of its nearest neighbors on the Asian continent.
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Last Updated on: February 20, 2019