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Home>> Wold City Guide >> Japan

Japan

Area: 377,835 sq km Capital: Tokyo
Big Cities: Tokyo,Yokohama,Osaka,Nagoya,Sapporo,Kobe,Kyoto, Fukuoka, Kawasaki,Hiroshima, Currency: Yen
Language: Japanese Religions: Shintoist and Buddhist 84%, other 16% (including Christian 0.7%)
Industries: motor vehicles, electronic equipment, machine tools, steel and nonferrous metals, ships, chemicals, textiles, processed foods. Leaders: Akihito
Resources: negligible mineral resources, fish. Exports: transport equipment, motor vehicles, semiconductors, electrical machinery, chemicals.
 
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History of Japan : 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.During Japan's feudal period when the country was ruled by the Tokugawa shogun. Japan was under self-imposed isolation from the rest of the world except for a small Dutch trading post in Nagasaki. In the mid-19th century, photographic technology was first introduced to Japan through the Dutch connection. The first photographs of Japanese were also taken. As Japan started to open up to the West during the final years of the Tokugawa (a period called Bakumatsu), foreigners started to settle in Japan and they included photographers who also taught photography to some Japanese.The first named civilization, the Jomon era, began in about 10,500BC and lasted till about 300BC. ‘Jomon’ refers to the distinctive rope-pattern decorations on the pottery of the era. The Jomon era itself is divided into 6 stages, the first of which originated on the Kanto plain, around present-day Tokyo. Jomon pottery predates ceramics found anywhere else in the world by 2000 years and – the people of the time being hunter-gatherers – is unique proof that making pottery was not just the preserve of peoples with agriculture. Similarities in the ceramics strongly suggest contact in late Jomon between western Japan and Korea. Contemporary Chinese accounts of Japan mentioned a fondness for alcohol, and face tattoos to indicate rank.In the latter half of the twelfth century warriors of the Taira clan (Heike) seized political power at the imperial court, virtually forming a new aristocracy. Heike mono-gatari (The Tale of the Heike),which depicts the rise and fall of the Taira with the spotlight on their wars with the Minamoto clan (Genji), was completed in the first half of the thirteenth century [before 1219]. It is a grand epic deeply rooted in Buddhist ethics and filled with sorrow for those who perished, colorful descriptions of its varied characters, and stirring battle scenes. In former times the tale was narrated to the accompaniment of a Japanese lute. The Shin kokin wakashu (New Collection of Poems from Ancient and Modern Times), an anthology of poetry commissioned by retired Emperor Go-Toba, was also completed around this time [ca 1205 ] ; it is dedicated to the pursuit of a subtle, profound beauty far removed from the mundane reality of civil strife. 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.Naturalism as advocated by Emile Zola dominated Japan's literary world for the first decade of the twentieth century. This school of literature, as represented by Shimazaki Toson, is noted for the I novel, a style of novel typical of Japan. A number of pre-World War II literary currents, such as proletarian literature and neo-sensualism, petered out during the war but later regained strength, generating a diverse range of works. In 1968 Kawabata Yasunari became the first Japanese to win the Nobel Prize for literature, and Oe Kenzaburo won it in 1994. They and other contemporary writers, such as Tanizaki Jun'ichiro, Mishima Yukio, Abe Kobo, and Inoue Yasushi, have been translated into other languages. In the last few years works by the remarkably active postwar-generation writers Murakami Ryu (who won the Akutagawa Prize), Murakami Haruki, Yoshimoto Banana, and others have also been translated into many languages and have gained tremendous popularity.

Geography of Japan : An archipelago in the Pacific, Japan is separated from the east coast of Asia by the Sea of Japan. It is approximately the size of Montana. Japan's four main islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku. The Ryukyu chain to the southwest was U.S.-occupied from 1945 to 1972, when it reverted to Japanese control, and the Kurils to the northeast are Russian-occupied.About 70% to 80% of the country is forested, mountainous, and unsuitable for agricultural, industrial, or residential use. This is due to the generally steep elevations, climate and risk of landslides caused by earthquakes, soft ground and heavy rain. This has resulted in an extremely high population density in the habitable zones that are mainly located in coastal areas. Japan is the thirtieth most densely populated country in the world.Japan consists of several thousands of 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.Japan is a rugged land of high mountains and deep valleys, with many small plains. Because of the alternating sequence of mountain and valley, and the rocky soil, only about 11 percent of the land is arable. The mountains of Japan are the most conspicuous feature of the topography. Mountain ranges extend across the islands from north to south, the main chains sending off smaller ranges that branch out laterally or run parallel to the parent range, and frequently descend to the coast, where they form bays and harbors. Many of these mountains contain dormant and active volcanos, including the famous Mount Fuji, which last erupted in 1707. Due to the mountainous nature of the terrain, most rivers are short, fast flowing and shallow. So most rivers are not navigable - and a network of ports and harbours, and key highways, serve the purpose of transportation of goods. Japan has few, if any, natural resources. It depends on much of its raw material needs on imports from other countries.Japan's area is comparable to that of Germany or California. Japan's northernmost islands are located on a similar geographical latitude as Milan or Portland, while her southernmost islands are on a similar latitude as the Bahamas. More than 50% of the country is mountainous and covered by forests. Japan is politically structured into 8 regions and 47 prefectures. The main rainy season begins in early May in Okinawa, and the stationary rain front responsible for this gradually works its way north until it dissipates in northern Japan before reaching Hokkaidō in late July. In most of Honshū, the rainy season begins before the middle of June and lasts about six weeks. In late summer and early autumn, typhoons often bring heavy rain. Japan is home to nine forest ecoregions which reflect the climate and geography of the islands. They range from subtropical moist broadleaf forests in the Ryūkyū and Bonin islands, to temperate broadleaf and mixed forests in the mild climate regions of the main islands, to temperate coniferous forests in the cold, winter portions of the northern islands.

Climate and Weather of Japan : Due to the large North South extension of the country, the climate varies strongly in different regions. The climate in most of the major cities, including Tokyo, is temperate to subtropic and consists of four seasons. The winter is mild and the summer is hot and humid. There is a rainy season in early summer, and typhoons hit parts of the country every year during late summer. The climate of the northern island of Hokkaido is colder, and snow storms occur frequently during winter. In Okinawa, on the other hand, the mean temperature of January is a warm 16 degrees Celsius. Good times to travel in Japan is early/mid-April or late-October. The temperatures are mild and there isnot too much rain at that time. You can enjoy beautiful cherry blossoms in April and colorful autumn foliage in October. See When to Go to Japan.Due to the large North South extension of the country, the climate varies strongly in different regions. The climate in most of the major cities, including Tokyo, is temperate to subtropic and consists of four seasons. The winter is mild and the summer is hot and humid (summer begins around the middle of July following a rainy season that usually lasts for a month). There is a rainy season in early summer, and typhoons hit parts of the country every year during late summer. starts with a dreary rainy season in June and turns into a steam bath in July-August, with extreme humidity and the temperature heading as high as 40°C. O-Bon (mid-August), when everybody is on the road again, is probably the worst possible time to visit. Avoid, or do as the Japanese do and head to northern Hokkaido or the mountains of Chubu and Tohoku to escape.Though dominated by the maritime Pacific air mass, Japan has a diverse climatic range from north to south and mild, sunny weather can be found somewhere in the country at almost any time of year. Broadly speaking, there are four main climatic regions in Japan:  the Pacific coastal region, which has a high summer rainfall;  the Japan Sea coastal region, with its heavy winter snows and low temperatures;  the inland region, where rainfall is generally lower;  and the subtropical to tropical climate of the Ryukyu Island chain. Despite this general pattern however, the archipelago stretches over a vast distance from north to south and has so many mountain ranges that climatic conditions vary a great deal from season to season and from place to place.As the snows and chills of winter retreat across the land, peach and plum blossoms appear. But it is the blossoming of the flowering cherry tree, or Sakura, from April into May that truly signals the arrival of spring to the Japanese. The blossoms fall quickly after a week-long flowering. Throughout Japan, wherever these delicate pale-pink blossoms grow, thousands of families and party groups gather beneath the boughs to celebrate the arrival of another spring, and a general loosening up of behaviour.

Culture of Japan : Kabuki, one of Japan's traditional entertainments, originated in the 17th century. It was developed by merchants during Edo Era as a way to express their emotions. Although many women played female roles in early times, the Tokugawa Shogun banned appearance of women in Kabuki plays in the early 17th century. As a result, all female roles are played by male actors called Onna-gata and the beauty of the Onna-gata became one of the most distinctive features in Kabuki performances.Kimono means something to wear in Japanese. Specifically, kimono refers to traditional Japanese clothes (kimono dresses). People in Japan wear kimono in various occasions even though kimono dresses aren't worn as daily clothes in modern Japan. It's important to wear appropriate kimono, depending on your ages/ marital status and the formality of occasions.The Japanese do know how to kick back and have fun, too. You might be surprised by just how wild a Japanese festival can get! Snow festivals, fire festivals, fertility festivals - you name it, they have it. When it comes to food, the Japanese are as enthusiastic as anybody on earth - the changing seasons bring new delicacies and an excuse to travel the length of the country to sample local dishes. Spring also brings the cherry blossoms - symbol of life's all-too-brief span and a good excuse to get drunk and dance around in a cemetery! The beauty of summer fireworks and autumn's spectacular changing leaves can also take the breath away.In traditional Japanese music, there are three general types of instruments - percussion instruments, stringed instruments and wind instruments, mostly flutes. There is a huge range of instruments beyond the scope of this page, ranging from bells used in Buddhist ceremonies to various kinds of drums used in gagaku (Imperial court music). While flower arrangement for many people in the West consists of symmetrically arranging flowering plants in a vase, Japanese Ikebana (literally 'flowers kept alive') is a lot more complex. There are many schools, of which the most popular are Ikenobo, Sogetsu and Ohara. There are also different styles depending on the school and the plants and vase used.Samurai is a common term for a warrior in pre-industrial Japan. A more appropriate term is bushi  (lit. war-man )which came into use during the Edo period. However, the term samurai now usually refers to warrior nobility, not, for example, ashigaru or foot soldiers. The samurai with no attachment to a clan or daimyo was called a ronin (lit. wave-man). There are many weddings held during the spring and fall in Japan. Some of you might be attending a Japanese wedding, so I'll explain some of the traditions and give you some etiquette tips to attend a Japanese wedding.A Japanese wedding ceremony can be Christian, Buddhist, or Shinto style. Since most Japanese aren't religious, the style doesn't necessarily match with their religion. For example, it's common for non-Christian couples to have their wedding ceremonies at a church.Japanese people use knives and forks for western food such as spaghetti and steak. Also, spoons are used for eating certain dishes, such as stew, curry rice, and desserts.However, chopsticks are the most frequently used utensils in Japan. Restaurants in Japan serve disposable wooden chopsticks.

Foods Of Japan : For over 2000 years, rice has been the most important food stuff in the Japanese cuisine. Despite changes in eating patterns over the last decades and slowly decreasing rice consumption in recent years, rice remains one of the most important ingredients in Japan today, and can be found in numerous dishes.Sushi can be defined as a dish which contains sushi rice, cooked rice that is prepared with sushi vinegar. There are various kinds of sushi dishes.Fried rice or chahan has been originally introduced from China. A variety of additional ingredients such as peas, egg, negi (Japanese leek) and small pieces of carrot aLike Udon noodles, somen are Japanese noodles made of wheat flour, but they are much thinner than Udon and Soba. Somen are usually eaten cold. nd pork are mixed to the rice when stir fried. It is a suitable dish for using left over rice. Yakizakana means grilled fish. Many varieties of fish are enjoyed in this way.Korokke has its origins in the croquettes which were introduced to Japan in the 19th century. Korokke comes in many varieties depending on the filling that is coated with bread crumbs and deep fried. The most common filling is a mix of minced meat and mashed potatoes. Okonomiyaki is a mix between pizza and pancake. Various ingredients such as seafood, vegetables and meat can be mixed with the dough and placed on the okonomiyaki as topping.While udon and soba are also believed to have come from China, only ramen retains its image as Chinese food. Ramen is thin egg noodles which are almost always served in a hot broth flavored with shoyu or miso. This is topped with a variety of ingredients such as slices of roast pork (chashu), bean sprouts (moyashi), sweetcorn and butter. Ramen is popular throughout Japan and different regions are known for their variations on the theme. Examples are Corn-butter Ramen in Sapporo and Tonkotsu Ramen in Kyushu. Instant ramen (the most famous brand is Pot Noodles), to which you just add hot water, has become very popular in recent years.Tsukemono are Japanese pickles. There are many variety of pickles, and a small dish with some pickles is served with most Japanese meals.Hamubagu is a Japanese style hamburger without the bread.Beer is the most popular alcoholic drink in Japan. The biggest Japanese beer breweries are Asahi, Kirin, Suntory and Sapporo. Beer was imported to Japan in the early Meiji Period by foreign specialists who were invited to Japan for the development of the northern island of Hokkaido.Chuhai are flavored alcoholic drinks with a relatively low alcohol content. They come in many different flavors such as lemon, grapefruit and pineapple, and are based on shochu. When drinking alcoholic beverages, it is a Japanese custom to serve each other, rather than pouring the beverage into one's own glass. You are supposed to periodically check your friends' cups, and serve them more once their cups are getting empty. Likewise, if someone wants to serve you more alcohol, you should quickly empty your glass and hold it towards that person.

Things To Do In Japan : Everyone knows Tsukiji fish market is worth seeing, but not many people can drag themselves out of bed at 5:30 a.m. It is the most authentic way of seeing one of Japan’s biggest passions: Seafood. Then there are fleamarkets – a totally different shopping experience from glitzy department stores – where haggling is the norm and bargain antique treasures and souvenirs are waiting to be found. Try Hanazono-jinja market every Sunday at Shinjuku Sanchome.Time has stood still for fifty years in this quiet little street in the middle of bustling Shinjuku. A row of old style bars, each with room for only a handful of people. Many of the places welcome foreigners, and you are likely to meet a few colorful characters, maybe hear a few stories or enter into a lively debate.Futo was known as a village where dolphins are slaughtered, but it is now making an effort to replace dolphin slaughters with eco-tourism. You can take dolphin- and whale-watching cruises from the village.Once the largest castle in Japan when originally built in the 1580s, this castle has an observation platform with city views and a history museum that uses holograms, 3D pictures and other technologies to describe the history of the castle and the period during which it was built.See the wide range of habitats that make up the Pacific Rim on a tour of this fascinating aquarium, which takes you from one environment to another and lets you feel as though you’re underwater.One of the exciting things to consider is attending one of the festivals that go on throughout the year in Japan. Since ancient days, some festivals have continued and attracted huge crowds every year. The nightlife in Japan is also filled with variety, whether you want to check out a floor show or just party at the local nightclub. There is something for everybody. Watch some Japanese martial arts – or take part, if you're feeling brave. In terms of ceremonial wrestling, sumo and judo are Japan’s national sports, both drawing huge crowds. Three sumo tournaments are held in Tokyo, with others taking place in Fukuoka, Nagoya and Osaka. Karate, the art of self-defence, is taught at schools in Japan and has become a very popular sport since it was introduced into the country in 1922. For beach resorts, on Shikoku is Inland Sea National Park, whose 600 islands are popular summer destinations. The 161 islands that make up Okinawa lie to the far south of Japan, like stepping stones between Kyushu and Taiwan.There are dozens of major ski resorts in Japan, especially in the Japanese Alps and on the northern island of Hokkaido. One of the great attractions is the prevalence of hot springs in the skiing areas. Various resorts at Nagana in Central Honshu offer facilities for night-skiing. The southernmost natural ski slope in Japan is the Gokase Highland Ski, in the north Miyazaki prefecture, which offers grass skiing out of season between late April and late November.One of the hottest Tokyo attractions is the Fire-Walking Ceremony held in mid march at the foot of Mount Takao. Come see this 1400-year-old, pre-Buddhist sect of Yamabushi Monks meditate for hours, perform a mesmerizing fire dance and then take the hot walk. And if you feel up to it, you can even participate! .The remote island of Sado-ga-shima, is home to a famous Japanese taiko drumming troupe. Each year a world-renowned dance, drumming and music festival is held, making this event a remote but interesting Japan tourism option.

Travelling Guide and Tips For Travellers : Lightweight cottons and linens are required throughout summer in most areas. Light- to mediumweights during spring and autumn; medium- to heavyweights for winter months, according to region. Much warmer clothes will be needed in the mountains all year round. There is much less rainfall than in Western Europe.Whether you end up taking photos of a reproduction Eiffel Tower, surfing an indoor wave, musing in a Zen temple, shacking up in a love hotel or kipping down in a capsule, you'll do best to come with an open mind and be prepared to be surprised.Somewhere between the elegant formality of Japanese manners and the candid, sometimes boisterous exchanges that take place over a few drinks, between the sanitised shopping malls and the unexpected rural festivals, everyone finds their own vision of Japan.Your bag is your life. The smaller it is the less it sticks outs and the less vulnerable you feel. The closer you can stick to it and less cumbersome it is the happier you will be.Carrying a large, heavy, bulky bag onto a bus may sound alright, but when it is crowded you cannot and are therefore normally separated from it (it goes on the roof, underneath or is left at the back next to god knows what). It is normally okay there, but this can make you a little paranoid about theft as it does happen. In some regions you may also have to pay a surcharge or buy an extra ticket for your pack if very bulky. The same can be said for some metro/underground/tram systems.When you do get on little buses that stop at the side of the road - the most common way of getting around in many countries - they are normally crowded and have no luggage holds so while you get on and off you whack everyone in the face with your pack as you go past and sometimes need to buy a seat for your bag.No more than two T-shirts or similar. You could keep one to mess up and/or sleep in if needed (buy locally, you might acquire one as a souvenir) and the other could be a nicer moisture wicking polyester/dry-flo type or similar, made from a special fabric designed to suck sweat away from your body. You can always buy and discard more on the road.