Japan Project

Marie Spektor, Global per. 5

Japan Geography

Japan consists of many islands of which Honshu, Hokkaido , Kyushu and Shikoku are the four largest. Japan's closest neighbors are Korea, Russia and China. The Sea of Japan separates the Asian continent from the Japanese archipelago. On March 11, 2011, Japan was struck by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake that was centered in the ocean 80 miles (130 km) east of the city of Sendai. The earthquake was so large that it caused a massive tsunami that devastated much of Japan. The earthquake also caused smaller tsunamis to hit areas across much of the Pacific Ocean, including Hawaii and the west coast of the United States. In addition, the earthquake and tsunami caused damaged Japan's Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant. Thousands were killed in Japan in the disasters, thousands were displaced and entire towns were leveled by the earthquake and/or tsunami. Additionally the earthquake was so powerful that early reports are saying that it caused the main island of Japan to move eight feet (2.4 m) and that it shifted the Earth's axis. The earthquake is also considered to have been one of the five strongest to have struck since 1900.
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History

Legend attributes the creation of Japan to the sun goddess, from whom the emperors were descended. The first of them was Jimmu, supposed to have ascended the throne in 660 B.C. a tradition that constituted official doctrine until 1945. Recorded Japanese history begins in approximately A.D. 400, when the Yamato clan, eventually based in Kyoto, managed to gain control of other family groups in central and western Japan. Contact with Korea introduced Buddhism to Japan at about this time. Through the 700s Japan was much influenced by China, and the Yamato clan set up an imperial court similar to that of China. In the ensuing centuries, the authority of the imperial court was undermined as powerful gentry families vied for control. At the same time, warrior clans were rising to prominence as a distinct class known as samurai. In 1192, the Minamoto clan set up a military government under their leader, Yoritomo. He was designated shogun (military dictator). For the following 700 years, shoguns from a succession of clans ruled in Japan, while the imperial court existed in relative obscurity. First contact with the West came in about 1542, when a Portuguese ship off course arrived in Japanese waters. Portuguese traders, Jesuit missionaries, and Spanish, Dutch, and English traders followed. Suspicious of Christianity and of Portuguese support of a local Japanese revolt, the shoguns of the Tokugawa period (1603–1867) prohibited all trade with foreign countries; only a Dutch trading post at Nagasaki was permitted. Western attempts to renew trading relations failed until 1853, when Commodore Matthew Perry sailed an American fleet into Tokyo Bay. Trade with the West was forced upon Japan under terms less than favorable to the Japanese. Strife caused by these actions brought down the feudal world of the shoguns. In 1868, the emperor Meiji came to the throne, and the shogun system was abolished.

Feudalism

Japan developed a feudal system which had similarities to the European system.
  • The shogun (like the king) ruled the country through the daimyo (like the nobles), who were the heads of the samurai (like the knights).
  • Peasants farmed the land in exchange for protection by the samurai, who operated under a code of conduct known as bushido (like chivalry).
The era of feudalism in Japan took place from the 12th through 19th centuries. During that period local rulers, either powerful families or military warlords, dominated the land, while the emperor was merely a figurehead and not a significant political presence. Japanese feudalism was organized around a four-tiered social structure, with the samurai warrior class at the top. Below them ranked farmers (including fisherman), and then artisans, with merchants and shopkeepers at the bottom. This hierarchy was due to Confucian ideals, which emphasized the importance of individuals who produced things. Japanese feudalism is notably different from European feudalism, which placed agricultural workers at the bottom of the social strata.
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Shintoism

Shinto ("the way of the gods") is the indigenous faith of the Japanese people and as old as Japan itself. It remains Japan's major religion alongside Buddhism.

Shinto does not have a founder nor does it have sacred scriptures like the sutras or the bible. Propaganda and preaching are not common either, because Shinto is deeply rooted in the Japanese people and traditions. "Shinto gods" are called kami. They are sacred spirits which take the form of things and concepts important to life, such as wind, rain, mountains, trees, rivers and fertility. Humans become kami after they die and are revered by their families as ancestral kami. The kami of extraordinary people are even enshrined at some shrines. The Sun Goddess Amaterasu is considered Shinto's most important kami.

Japan, Kami: The Gods of Shinto

Current Events in Japan

Japan's top stories usually have to do with tsunamis, wars, their leaders, technology, etc. They have multiple news channels/papers that tell them what is going on in their community and homeland.
Japan Daily News

Here you can find everything going on in Japan's daily life