Japan Project


Geography of Japan

About 4,00 islands make up Japan. Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu are the four largest islands the country consists of. Japan's geography has both advantages and disadvantages. Southern Japan has mild climates with plenty of rainfall. However the country is so mountainous that most of the land is unsuitable for farming. Japan is also running low on natural resources such as coal, oil, and iron. During the late summer and early fall, strong tropical storms called typhoons occur. Earthquakes and tidal waves are also threats.

History of Japan

Before 400 A.D Japan at this time was not a united country. Instead, hundreds of clans controlled their own territories. By 400 A.D. the Yamato clan had established itself as the leading clan. The Yamato chiefs called themselves the emperors of Japan even though they did not control the entire country, or much of the it. The Japanese gradually accepted the idea of emperor and the dynasty was never overthrown. When rival clans fought for power, the winning clan claimed control of the emperor and then ruled in the emperor's name. This dual structure became an enduring characteristic of Japanese government.

Shintoism (神道 Shintō)

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In early Japan the country was split into clans. Each clan worshipped their own nature gods and goddesses. Their different customs and beliefs eventually combined to form Japan's earliest religion. This religion was called Shinto meaning "way of the gods." Shinto was based on respect for the forces of nature and on the worship of ancestors. Shinto worshipers believed in kami, divined spirits that dwelled in nature. Any unusual especially beautiful tree, rock, waterfall, or mountain was considered the home of a kami.

Japanese Feudalism

During the Heian period, Japan's government was relatively strong. This strength was soon challenged by great landowners and clan chiefs who acted more and more as independent local rulers. For most of the Heian period, the rich Fujiwara family held the real power in Japan. But by about the middle of the 11th century their power began to slip. Large landowners living away from the capital set up private armies. The armed soldiers on horseback preyed on farmers and travelers, and pirates took control of the seas. For safety, farmers and small landowners traded parts of their land to strong warlords in exchange for protection. Thus the beginning of feudalism in Japan.
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