Japan

By Charlotte Maskus

Background Information

Japan is a collection of 6,852 islands extending along the Pacific coast of East Asia. It is home to 126 million people and has the world's tenth largest population.

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Cities

The ten major cities of Japan are Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Kobe, Kyoto, Fukuoka, Kawasaki, Hiroshima. Tokyo is Japan's capital.

Climate

Japan is in the Northern Temperate area of the world and has a humid monsoon climate, due to winds from the Pacific Ocean in the summer. The far north and south areas of Japan have very different climates, with the north being cooler in the month of March for example, and the south being warmer.

Religion

Shinto, meaning "the way of the gods", is Japan's indigenous religion and is practiced by about 83% of the population. Shinto originated in ancient times and respect for nature was central to its beliefs. Sacred sites may have originally been used to worship the sun, rock formations, trees, and even sounds.

Customs and belifes

Tea Ceremony

The ceremony consists of many rituals that have to be learned by heart. Almost each hand movement has to be perfectly executed. The tea is first prepared by the host, and then drunk by the guests. The tea is powdered green tea leaves.

Gardens

Many Japanese gardens do not contain plants and are meant to represent water; the rocks are there to remind us of mountains sitting before the calm mind.

Kimonos

There are three types of kimonos that women wear.

Tomesode: This is the kimono of a married women and can be told apart from other styles by the fact that its patterns do not exeed above the waistline.
Furisode: This is the kimono belonging to unmarried women and is distinguished by its extremely long sleeves.
Uchikake: This kimono is the equivilant of an European wedding dress. It is made of silk and is much longer than the regular kimono.


History

Here is a brief timeline of some important events in Japan's history:

0 AD: Shintoism becomes the national religion and the "emperor" is merely an official in charge of performing Shinto rituals and symbolic ceremonies.

200 AD: Sushi is invented.

838 AD: Nimmyo (833-850) bans all contact with China.
1181 AD: The great famine kills hundreds of thousands of people.

1614 AD: Leyasu bans Christianity from Japan.

1870 AD: The first newspaper was released.

1889 AD: Aritomo Yamagata becomes the prime minister of Japan.
1928 AD: Japan's population is 65 million.

1945 AD: Hiroshima and Nagasaki are bombed by the United States in World War II.

1955 AD: Japan has 89 million people.

1965 AD: Japan has 98 million people.

Sakura - Japanese Folk Music

Economy

The currency in Japan is the Yen. The Japanese economy is ranked the 2nd largest developed economy in the world and 4th in the world for the amount they purchase from other countries. Japan is dependent on other countries because they are a large manufactering country with few natural resources of their own.

Education

In Japan, education is compulsory at the elementary and lower secondary levels. Japan uses the following school system: six years of primary, three years of junior high school, three years of high school, two or four years of university, depending on the subjects studied.

There are also a lot of special schools for disabled children, ones that compete at an elite level in sport or for the gifted and talented.

Health

One of the biggest public health issues in Japan is smoking, which according to Tadao Kakizoe (honorary president of the National Cancer Center) kills more than 100,000 people per year and is responsible for one in ten deaths. The Japanese visit a doctor nearly 14 times a year and it is said by John Creighton Campbell, professor at the University of Michigan and Tokyo University, that the Japanese people are the healthiest on the planet. Japanese generally have good health and have the greatest life expectancy in the world.

Living Conditions

Housing is a major problem in Japan's crowded cities. While Japanese prefer single-family houses, the enormous cost of land prevents them from having a real yard; as many as forty houses may be built on one acre! Small apartments are very common. Traditionally, houses were furnished with wall-to-wall straw mats. Recent fashions are moving towards carpet or wooden floors and Western-style furniture.