Japan: a technological country with an authentic culture

Japan: a technological country with an authentic culture

Japan is a country situated on islands in East Asia. The islands of Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and Honshu have the largest land area and account for 97% of the total land area of the country. Japan is one of the five strongest economies in the world. It is a country with a strongly progressive development, quality and standard of living and is a member of the world’s most respected communities. The archipelago, located in the seismic zone of the Pacific Ocean, due to which Japan experiences frequent tremors and fluctuations of the surface, which is mostly mountainous, although there are plains and plateaus. Because of this structure is still possible to locate settlements, although a large part of them stretches along the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Due to the geographical location of the state – in six climate zones, the Japanese have an amazing opportunity to observe various natural phenomena.

Japan is multiethnic country, although its population is of course strongly diluted by those from the south, as well as Western countries.

Japan is a country of contrasts in terms of style, architecture, and industry. It mixes the most fashionable preferences and worship of ancient traditions, mastery of floral art and the art of the tea ceremony. Their culture is very revered by the Japanese, but in many respects difficult to comprehend and incomprehensible to the inhabitants of other countries. In spite of the influence of the West, the Japanese have managed to combine harmoniously in their country and Asian traditions, and at the same time to be able to stand out among the countries of this geographical location with something of their own, absolutely special. Much attention in Japanese culture is given to the ancestors, the memory of which is sacred. Public relations are also on a very high level, with piety and respect for all the ethical norms and rules. Hence an interesting feature of Japanese society, related to the division of members of this society into “uti” and “soto”, with “uti” being people of great power, who have the right to judge, comment, and speak out. “Soto” are those with whom the interests of a single citizen of this country do not overlap, be it work, kinship, or other close relationships. Nor is there complete equality between men and women. It is as if the influence of the past is still present. This is even evident in the workplace, where women are offered lower wages than men. Because of this, a feminist sentiment is spreading in the country, which, for certain reasons, is starting to have a bad effect on the demographic situation.

But for all their love of European things, the Japanese still go to Shinto and Buddhist temples, worship ancient traditions, read their fairy tales and legends, and keep temples and nature corners in the middle of megacities, and animals and traditions. And that’s great!

Yes, with such dynamics prevailing in the megacities of Japan, with a certain commitment to everything European, yet it has not had a negative impact on the ideals of the Japanese and they still treat the faith, visit temples, cherish literary tales and do much to preserve natural and architectural sights.

Famous places of Japan can be described as well as any other country, even if not the most famous. So it will be enough to list only the main ones, especially since everyone has his own preferences and someone will be interested in climbing Mount Fuji (about 3.8 km) and be in the minimum proximity to the volcano, and someone will visit the island of Miyajima and an underwater monastery on stilts with wooden gates incredible magnitude, touching the antiquities of the XIX century.

In the capital of Japan is quite a large part of various attractions such as the delightful parks Kitanomaru, Higami-Gyoen, Nijubashi Bridge, which leads to the Kokyo Imperial Palace, the more industrial ones such as the television tower, Disneyland.

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Rich in temples and parks is the city of Kyoto, which was officially the capital of Japan until 1868. Still, Japan is a very interesting and attractive, and not counting, seismic features, country both to live and to visit.

Japan

Hymn of Japan

Japan is one of the most developed countries in the world with thousands of years of history, original culture and traditions. It is a country of contrasts: rice-cultivating countryside and multimillion Tokyo, Buddhist monks and teenagers obsessed with fashion, solemn religious rituals and noise of patinko gambling halls, exquisite temple architecture and multistory concrete boxes. Japan is located in East Asia, on 6,852 islands. The largest are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku, which make up 97% of the territory. The Japanese archipelago starts from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north and extends as far south as the East China Sea and the island of Taiwan. Despite its relatively small area of 377,944 km², the country is densely populated. As of 2018, there are 126,225,000 people living here. In terms of this figure, little Japan is second to huge Russia by only 17.2 million people.

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Video: Japan

General Information

The unofficial name of Japan, often found in the press, is Land of the Rising Sun. The Japanese themselves commonly use the name “Nihon,” which translates to “home of the sun. The daytime star dimmed only once, in far 1945, over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two cities targeted by US atomic bombs that took thousands of lives. Thus, Japan today is the only state on the planet against which nuclear weapons have been used. Having survived this terrible tragedy, it has nevertheless been able to recover by building a strong economy over the years. According to the Human Development Index (HDI), Japan ranks 10th in terms of living standards, ahead of Canada, the Republic of Korea and Hong Kong and behind Switzerland, Sweden and Ireland.

Japan is reverent about historical continuity, as evidenced by the institution of the monarchy as a symbol of the unity of the people. Only in this country and nowhere else is the monarch called emperor, and this position appeared a long time ago, back in 660 B.C. Despite the outward conservatism and adherence to tradition, the Japanese are modern and make great progress in the field of high technology, robotics and biomedicine. The government spends a whopping $130 billion a year on science. More than 700,000 scientists are involved in a variety of research. Among them are 13 Nobel Prize winners, three Fields Prize winners and one recipient of the Gauss Prize.

Tokyo Bamboo Forest Lights of Tokyo at night Mount Fujiyama is the most recognizable of Japan’s landmarks Itsukushima Shrine is one of Japan’s most popular tourist destinations

Amazingly, with such scientific and technological progress and high level of urbanization, the Japanese manage to preserve their natural environment. Not to mention the rich heritage of ancient times: castles, palaces, monuments, temples have survived almost unchanged. Millions of tourists every year set foot on this ancient land, never ceasing to be interested in the history of Japan, at times tragic, and admire the local sights.

What is the secret of success of the island state located in the earthquake zone? Each foreigner has a different answer to this question. Some see the basis of prosperity in the peculiarities of the local mentality, others in the effective system of governance, and still others in the virtual absence of spending on military purposes. I wonder what you’ll discover when you visit Japan and become better acquainted with that peculiar country.

Cities of Japan

History of Japan

During the Paleolithic Age Japanese islands were connected to the mainland by isthmuses. The primitive population was engaged in gathering and hunting and took the first steps toward progress by making stone tools. Local pottery, which appeared about 10 thousand years ago, is considered the oldest in the world. And in the annals of the Chinese Han Empire (I century A.D.) there are the first mentions of ancient Japan, inhabited by the Wajin people who had “100 small countries”. Already in the fourth century there was a noticeable tendency to unite around one of the states, the Yamato, which later became a federation. At the end of the sixth century its ruler, Prince Shotoku, embarked on a course toward centralization. In 604 the monarch issued the legendary “Constitution of 17 Articles,” which proclaimed the monarchy as the supreme authority.

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Yamato Iron Armor

At the same time there was a strengthening of the samurai, who were recruited to key positions in the imperial court. They positioned themselves as a separate class and often revolted against the government. Rebellions of some samurai were suppressed by the forces of others, since the country did not yet have an army as such. In the 14th century, the military-feudal system of government, known as the shogunate, fell into disrepair, and the Hojo dynasty took the path of even greater centralization. This did not please the samurai in the regions. Revolts began, ending in the complete elimination of the shogunate and the entire dynasty. Subsequently, from 1338 to 1573, Japan established a new shogunate, known as the Muromachi period, as well as its course of decentralization.

Reconstruction of the Yoshinogori site

In the 16th century, European navigators began to visit East Asia. In 1543, they set foot on the Japanese island of Tanegashima and gave the local population the secret of firearms, which were soon produced throughout the country. The Japanese were introduced to Christianity in 1549, when the missionary Francis Xavier arrived here. At the same time, trade with Europe developed: the Japanese paid for purchased goods with silver. In the early 19th century, the country was struck by famine caused by years of crop failures. But the government did not even think to save the population, and bought rice only for themselves, which provoked mass riots of peasants and samurai. The 500-year domination of the latter in politics and public life ended in 1868, when the opposition to the Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu formed a new government and removed him from power.

Shogun’s guards (16th century) Carriages in Kyoto (17th century) Shimonoseki War (1864) Battle of Sekigahara (18th century) Armed samurai in armor, photo 1860.

At this time the Cabinet formed the Privy Council, drafted a new constitution, and assembled parliament. Thus began a period of political, military, and socio-economic transformation in Japan, called the Meiji Restoration after the 16-year-old emperor. The reforms ensured the country’s industrial dominance in the world and led to military victories over China and Russia in 1894-1895 and 1904-1905, respectively. Having annexed South Sakhalin, Taiwan and Korea, the mighty island empire became the rightful mistress of the surrounding seas.

The flag of the Imperial Army of Japan

The beginning of the 20th century was marked by the growth of militaristic and expansionist sentiments in the country. Japan joined the First World War, becoming an ally of the Entente. As a consequence, its influence increased and its territorial gains multiplied. In captured Manchuria in early 30’s Japan formed a quasi-state of Manchukuo, and in the second half of them Japan entered into alliance with the Third Reich, by signing the Anti-Comintern Pact. During the same period it put its signature under the Mutual Neutrality Pact with the USSR. The document provided for Tokyo’s respect for the sovereignty and integrity of Manchukuo-Go and the Mongolian People’s Republic. This, however, did not prevent Japan from launching a second war with China. In December 1941, after attacking Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, it declared war on the United States and Great Britain. This was followed by the conquest of Hong Kong, Malacca and the Philippines.

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Nagasaki after the atomic bombing in 1945 Nagasaki today

On August 9, 1945, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan. This was already after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by U.S. aircraft. The Kwantung Army was defeated and the once mighty empire signed the Act of Unconditional Surrender on September 2. In 1947 a new pacifist Constitution was adopted in the Land of the Rising Sun. On September 8, 1951 the San Francisco Peace Treaty was signed, which officially put an end to World War II and deprived the Far Eastern aggressor of all territorial gains. The USSR regained control of southern Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands. However, Japan did not recognize the annexation of the Southern Kurils (the islands of Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai), calling it “the northern territories problem,” so despite the existence of diplomatic relations, the peace treaty between our countries has not been signed yet.

Nature

The local natural landscape is characterized by considerable diversity. Japan’s location on a large archipelago with many stratovolcanoes influenced its formation. 10% of the world’s volcanic activity and up to 1,500 earthquakes per year of magnitude 4-6 are local realities. And ground shaking with lesser magnitude in different regions is an everyday occurrence: the population does not even react to periodic shaking of the buildings.

A road in a coniferous forest in northern Hokkaido

The flora of the Japanese islands is no less variegated. In the north, there are coniferous trees. In the center and south, there are mixed and subtropical forests, respectively. In all, there are over 2,700 species of different plants, of which 168 are trees alone. Japan’s most famous tree is, of course, the sakura. Two-thirds of the territory of the archipelago is occupied by forests, as well as shrublands and mountain peaks. Landslides and typhoons are frequent here, not to mention earthquakes, which have made these areas unsuitable for habitation and agricultural and industrial activities.

Waterfall in Yoshino-Kumano National Park

The fauna of Japan is represented by brown bear, ermine, sable, and weasel – they are found on the island of Hokkaido. On Honshu, the fox, wolf, hare, raccoon dog, badger, and otter are at ease. The black bear, antelope, Japanese macaque, and even the giant salamander live here and on the southern islands. Among birds, we can single out woodpecker and tit, swallow and stork, grouse and hawk, eagle and owl, thrush and crane: the list is as if we are talking about Russia.

Japanese Antelope Black Bear Japanese Giant Salamander Hakone Temple on Lake Ashi

Japan’s largest lakes and rivers where catfish, carp, lamprey and eel are found are located on large islands. Because of the peculiarities of the local landscape the river beds are not very long, barely over 200 km. The longest river in the country is the Shinano, which flows on Honshu Island. The second longest is the Tonegawa, actively used for shipping and fishing. Here are also held championships in rafting – sport rafting on mountain rivers. Hokkaido’s waterway is the Ishikari, which originates in the mountains. Of the lakes in Japan, the largest is Biva, 640 square kilometers. Many freshwater reservoirs – Ashi, Shinano, etc. – were formed in the craters of dormant volcanoes. There are salt lakes in the coastal zone. For example, Kasumigaura is the second largest in the country.

Climate and Weather

Although Japan is a small country, it has as many as six climate zones. Temperatures range from fairly cool in the north (Hokkaido Island) to subtropical in the southern regions (Ryukyu Islands, Bonin Islands). Climatic indicators directly depend on the seasonal movements of atmospheric air. For example, in winter a northeasterly wind blows from the Sea of Japan, which brings clouds with all the ensuing consequences – heavy snowfalls.

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Summer in Aso-Kuzu Nature Reserve Winter in Japan Spring – time for sakura blossoms

Seasonal winds also influence the weather in the Pacific Ocean area. Snowfall is rare in this area, but winters are cold. Summers are usually humid and hot due to the influence of the seasonal southeasterly winds. In the far southwest, as noted above, the subtropical climate prevails. Winters are warm and summers are hot. There is a high level of precipitation, and even has its own rainy season. Typhoons are not uncommon.

The weather is a very popular, endless topic of conversation throughout the year, especially the rain, which in most cases is unpredictable. For this reason, a sturdy folding umbrella is a must-have item for any enlightened traveler in Japan. If you don’t have an umbrella and it rains heavily, take shelter in the nearest store.

Sightseeing

Let’s start with the Imperial Palace in Tokyo in the special district of Chiyoda. It functions as the official residence of the head of state Emperor Akihito and as a museum where tourists can learn about Japanese history, culture and art. The palace was built on the ruins of the old Edo Castle, which was destroyed by fire. The residence has many halls for receptions and is surrounded by gardens in the traditional Japanese style.

Imperial Palace in Tokyo

One of Japan’s symbols and the country’s highest mountain is Mount Fuji (or Fuji). The mountain is located on Honshu Island, 90 km southwest of the capital, and its height is 3,776 meters. Fujiyama is well recognized because of its symmetrical cone. This volcano is fondly photographed and is often depicted on souvenirs or paintings. Over 200 thousand people conquer Fujiyama every year, taking 5-8 hours to climb (the descent usually takes less time).

Fujiyama Television Tower of Tokyo

The Tokyo Television Tower is considered the main symbol of the capital, its height is 332.6 meters. The structure was designed with reference to the Eiffel Tower in Paris: its structure is the same lattice. It appeared 69 years later than its French “sister. The TV Tower in Tokyo is the embodiment of the most modern technology. With its observation decks offer stunning views not only of the city, but also the surrounding area. There are stores and restaurants where you can shop and eat delicious food.

Let’s move to Kyoto, the capital of Japan from 794 to 1869. Located in the central part of the largest island of Honshu, it is famous for one of the country’s most popular attractions, the Buddhist Temple of the Golden Pavilion or Kinkaku-ji. It was erected in the late 14th century, but in 1950 it was burned down by a monk who apparently suffered from mental illness. In 1955, the temple was restored and is an exact copy of the original. Kinkaku-ji was covered with gold leaf, which gives a beautiful reflection in the surrounding pond.

There is also the “Silver Pavilion” or Ginkaku-ji in Kyoto, built in 1483. The only thing is that it is not actually coated with silver – the noble metal was prevented by the war that broke out at the time. The temple was intended as a resting place for the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa. The area where it is located is very quiet and the surrounding nature is the epitome of harmony and beauty. For tourists’ information: in Japanese temples (there are about 1600 in Kyoto alone) you should take off your shoes before entering and carefully read the explanatory signs. It is usually allowed to take pictures, but it doesn’t hurt to ask the attendants about it.

In addition to the local sanctuaries, tourists can also visit ancient castles, of which about fifty have survived in the Land of the Rising Sun. Many have survived to this day almost intact, while others were destroyed during World War II. So among the oldest of them is Inuyama Castle (15th century). It is only an hour’s drive from the port city of Nagoya, the administrative center of Aichi Prefecture. The castle is well preserved and has distinctive architecture. The site has been given the high status of a National Treasure, which not all monuments are awarded.

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One of the most beautiful in Japan is Matsumoto Castle. It is located in the city of the same name (Nagano Prefecture), built in the “hirajiro” style. The black color of its outer walls and side towers resembling outstretched wings gave rise to its unofficial name: The Castle of the Crow. Another black “raven castle” is Kumamoto, located in the city of Kumamoto, the center of the eponymous prefecture. It is also called the Gingko Castle. Kumamoto Castle was built in 1601-1607 years. Today it serves as a museum. Among the exhibits are the armor of samurai, weapons, national dress.

Among the most beautiful castle complexes is Nijo Castle in Kyoto – UNESCO World Heritage Site and the National Treasure of Japan. In the early 17th century it was built by Ieyasu, the first Shogun of the Tokugawa dynasty. In addition to the central structure, Ninomaru Palace, it has many buildings and several gardens. In the Seiryu-en garden, the municipal government holds official receptions for visitors to the city, and tea ceremonies for the Kyoto people themselves.

Nijo Castle in Kyoto The restored Suzakumon (“Red Phoenix Gate”) in Heijo

It is impossible to ignore the Japanese monuments. They don’t look like the usual sculptures and busts that adorn squares and parks in Russian cities. Many of them are thousands of years old. The ancient representatives of Buddhism, for example, left a statue in the Horyu-ji district of Nara prefecture as a legacy to their descendants. Even today, not only the faithful, but also tourists come to pray to them, which have survived the centuries. In the city of Nara itself you can also see many magnificent monuments. Some of them are concentrated in the palace of Heijo, which in the VIII century was the residence of Japanese emperors.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial

Many monuments in Japan embody wartime, of which there were many in the country’s history. In Hiroshima, for example, two are dedicated to the atomic bombings of 1945. The first one has the form of a stone house wiped out by an explosion, the second one depicts the atomic bomb itself. Even the amusing and quite “peaceful” monument to the pumpkin and yams in the town of Urawa has a war-related meaning. It is intended to remind the inhabitants of the country that these plants saved them from hunger during the war. There are also “military” monuments in Tokyo, two of them: to a kabuki actor, who embodied on stage the images of the great samurai, and to a dog of the popular breed Akita-inu, known to us from the movie “Hachiko: The Most Faithful Friend”.

Aso-Kuju National Park Hateruma Beach National Park Nikko National Park Shiretoko Tropical Forest Yakushima Island

The national parks of Japan should be mentioned in particular, because the local way of life is predominantly urban and the environmental issues are very important here. One of the most famous parks is located in the central part of Honshu Island: Fuji Q Highland. Its dominant feature is the legendary Fujiyama. Both the Japanese and tourists love to rest at the foot of this most beautiful conical volcano in the world, which is called the Five Lakes Region. There are many ancient temples, waterfalls, and thermal springs concentrated in the park.

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