(STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION)
An island kingdom unaffected by Western influence up to modern times, one of the world’s strongest economies, which has managed to preserve ancient traditions and classical virtues. And a kitchen and courtesy level like nowhere else in the world.
So whether you’re driving at 300km/h in the Shinkansen or strolling quietly through Kyoto’s old streets, where a geisha comes bouncing past, both experiences are equally Japanese.
Japan has always had a reputation for being expensive. However, this is a truth with modifications as it is by no means as expensive as major European metropolitan cities, but not as cheap as the rest of Asia.
As a modern high-tech nation, the country is extremely well-functioning for the traveler with a level of service hardly experienced anywhere else on the globe. Generally, raising the youth’s English proficiency as well as signage in English makes it relatively easy to move around the country, offering fabulous scenery, classic architecture at temples and shrines, and then a huge selection of artisanal superior products done with pride for the ancient traditions.
Area: 378,000 km2.
Geography: An island nation dominated by mountains (about 60% of the country) centrally on the four main islands, which thus leaves very little room for the country’s population. Fuji Mountain is 3,776 m.
From Hokkaido in the north to the Kyushu Islands in the south, there are nearly 3,000 km. Japan is where four tectonic plates meet, and earthquakes are not uncommon.
Population: 127 million residents and the world’s most homogeneous population with only a few percent non-Japanese, primarily Koreans.
Capital: Tokyo, the world’s largest contiguous urban area with approx. 40 million citizens.
Climate: Large variation depending on where you are, but generally four distinctly distinct seasons with more snow in winter in the north as well as humid summers further south.
explore japan’s attractions
The charming capital
The express train
Undeniably the best in the world
japan: a brief introduction
With strong influence from China and Korea, Prince Shotoku established the first Japanese empire in the mid-500s, when Buddhism was also introduced to the country, thus functioning in parallel with the Japanese religion of Shinto.
Urban planning, administration and writing system according to Chinese pattern, and expansion of the kingdom to the north. The Japanese regularly move its capital, and both Nara and Kyoto become headquarters of the emperor, beginning trade and diplomatic relations with China. The country now has 5 million. residents and the cultural influences that still come from China are gradually “Japaneseized”.
Powerful clans around the emperor begin to fight for power while the Buddhist monasteries, which had been tax-free, had gradually drained the country’s economy.
The emperor was driven out on a siding as the ruler of the country, and a military government with a shogun at the head took power. The Samurai class had entered Japan, and for the next several centuries was to make its mark on all aspects of the country’s development.
The emperor’s role was reduced to a mere puppet figure and the shogunate moved headquarters several times over the next centuries, but could not really keep up with the country, which was now heavily decentralized and divided into countless larger and smaller provinces, each with its own warlord.
In spite of this, new classes began to emerge in the community, namely artisans and merchants, and with improved agricultural technology there was generally a recovery in the country, which was still fully militarized by then.
The first Portuguese missionaries appeared during the 16th century, though without much success in converting the population, but they were tolerated in the country.
By the end of the 16th century, three great warlords were to try to unify the land. First Oda Nobunaga, who fails to defeat his opponents. Hereafter, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who actually gets the nation together, but his ambitions to also occupy the Asian mainland were clouded when he died in 1598 en route to Korea.
Tokugawa Ieyasu built his headquarters in Edo, then-Tokyo, and in the decisive battle of Sekigahara wiped out his opponents once and for all.
Japan subsequently experienced an unprecedented degree of centralization of the country, which brought peace but also isolation. With an ingenious system of alliances and obligations, his supporters gained prominent positions on newly-built castles, and his former enemies farthest from the capital, where all warlords were to take up residence in Edo every two years, thus the greatest financial burden on the former enemy, which kept them from falling out against the shogun.
Now you could finally indulge in the classic Japanese arts and crafts, which are so typical of the knowledge we have of Japan today.
The isolation continued until the great ships of the West began to arrive during the late 1800s, and Japan had to bow to the force of power with the reinstatement of the emperor as the nation’s chief and the liquidation of the shogunate in 1868.
The emperor in the capital, now named Tokyo, sent the country’s wisest heads to the West, and, filled with modern science, Japan was elevated to European level in education, administration and, not least, military in just a few decades.
Large family firms settled on the industry and with Japan’s ancient religion Shinto in the back, a strong nationalism flourished around the emperor during the 1920s, which was characterized by militaristic forces in parliament.
Japan entered China, resigned from the League of Nations and entered into an alliance with the Axis Powers, culminating in Japan’s participation in World War II.
As a violent end, the two atomic bombs were thrown on August 6 and 9, 1945, the country was completely destroyed, but the emperor was spared and the US’s interest in having a future Japan stretched to protect the Soviet Union became the key to the economic recovery Japan experienced in the post-war years.
In recent decades, Japan has been strongly affected by the economic downturn with political unrest.
The collapse of the large family-owned companies that could secure the future of any hard-working office man has had major consequences for Japanese daily life and self-understanding, and Japan with its traditional family patterns faces an unknown future.