Japan

Geographical Setting
Japan is an island country in the North Pacific Ocean. It lies off the northeast
coast of mainland Asia and faces Russia,Korea, and China. Four large islands and
thousands of smaller ones make up Japan. The four major islands-
Hokkaido,Honshu,Kyushu and Shikoku form a curve that extends for about 1,900
kilometres.


Topography
Japan is a land of great natural beauty. mountains and hills cover about 70% of
the country. IN fact, Japanese islands consist of the rugged upper part of a
great mountain range that rises from the floor of the North Pacific Ocean.

Jagged peaks, rocky gorges, and thundering mountain waterfalls provide some of
the country’s most spectacular scenery. Thick forests thrive on mountansides,
adding to the scenic beauty of the Japanese islands. Forests cover about 68% of
the country’s land.


Japan lies on an extremely unstable part of the earth’s crust. As a result, the
land is constantly shifting. This shifting causes two of Japan’s most striking
features– earthquakes and volcanoes. The Japanese islands have about 1500
earthquakes a year. Most of them are minor tremors that cause little damage, but
severe earthqaukes occur every few years. Underseaquakes sometimes cause huge,
destructive tidal waves, called tsunami, along Japan’s Pacific coast. The
Japanese islands have more than 150 major volcanoes. Over 60 of these volcanoes
are active.


Numerous short, swift rivers cross Japan’s rugged surface. most of the rivers
are too shallow and steep to be navigated. Their waters are used to irrigate
farmland, and their rapids and falls supply power for hydroelectric plants. Many
lakes nestle among the Japanese mountains. Some lie in the craters of extinct
volcanoes. A large number of hot springs gush from the ground throughout the
country. The Japanese islands have a total land area of about 337,708 sqkm. The
islands , in order of size, are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku. The sea of
Japan washes the country’s west coast and the Pacific ocean lies to the east.


Climate
Regional climates in Japan can be compared to those of the East Coast of the
United States. Kyushu and Shikoku have a climate much like that of Perth. They
have long hot summers and mild winters. The island Honshu’s generally has
warm,humid summers. Winters are mild in the south and cold and snowy in the
north. Honshu has balmy, sunny autumns and springs. Hokkaido has cool summers
and cold winters much like Tasmania.


Two Pacific Ocean currents–the Japan Current and the Oyashio Current–influence
Japan’s climate. The warm, dark-blue Japan Current flows northward along the
country’s south coast and along the east coast as far north as Tokyo. The Japan
current has a warming effect on the climate of theses regions. The cold Oyashio
Current flows southward along the east coasts of Hokkaido and northern Honshu,
cooling these areas.


Seasonal winds called monsoons also affect Japan’s climate. In winter, monsoons
from the northwest bring cold air to northern Japan. These winds, which gather
moisture as they cross the Sea of Japan, deposit heavy snows on the country’s
northwest coast. During the summer, monsoons blow from the southeast , carrying
warm, moist air from the pacific ocean. Summer monsoons cause hot, humid weather
in central and southern Japan.


Rain is abundant through most of Japan. All the areas of the country–except
eastern Hokkaido–recieve at least 100 centimetres of rain yearly. Japan has two
major rainy seasons–from mid-June to early July and from September to October.

Several typhoons strike the country each year, mainly in late summer and early
Autumn. The heavy rains and violent winds of these storms often do great damage
to houses and crops
Family:
The Extended Family
Family life has always been important in Japan. Before 1945, many Japanese lived
in large family units that included grandparents, parents, children, and
sometimes uncles and their families. Japanese families were bound together by a
strict set of customs. Husbands had complete authority over their wives, and
children were expected to show unquestioning obedience to their parents.

Marriage and Courtship-When a child was old enough to marry, the parents
selected a suitable marraige partner. In some cases, the bride and groom had
never met before the wedding.


The Nuclear Family Today most of the Japanese live in the style of a nuclear
family. These consist of only parents and children. The Japanese still have
strong family ties and a deep respect for authority. But since WW2 relationships
with families have become a little less formal, and more democratic.


Marriage and Courtship-Most young people now select their own marraige partners
on the basis of shared interests and mutual attraction.


Parental Roles
The parents still sometimes decide the marraige partner for their child to
marry.


Female and Male roles
Education:
Role in Society
Japanese law requires children to complete six years of elementary school, and
three years of junior high school. Education at public schools is free during
these nine years for children aged from 6 through 14 years of age. Almost all
Japanese children complete the education requirments. Completing these
compulsory years of schooling gives children the basic knowledge in a wide range
of areas to succeed in adult life. Further education builds on this basic
knowledge to prepare people for more intellectual jobs.


Primary Education
Japanese elementary and junior high school students study such subjects as art,
homemaking, the japanese language, mathematics, moral education, music, physical
education, science and social studies. In addition, many junior high school
students study English or another foreign language. Students spend much time
learning to read and write japanese because the language is so difficult.


Secondary Education
Senior high school runs for three years. To enter senior high school the
students must pass an entrance examination. Classes include many of the same
subjects studied in junior high school. Senior schools also offer courses to
prepare students for college or to train them for jobs. About 95% of junior high
school leavers go to senior high school.


Higher Education
Japan has about 460 Universities and about 600 junior and technical colleges.

The largest University is Nihon (Japan) University in Tokyo, which has about 80,
000 students. The country has 90 National Universities, which are supported by
the government. Some of these universities–such as the University of Tokyo and
the University of Kyoto–have exceptionally high reputations. Highly regarded
private universities include Doshisha University in Kyoto and Keio University
and Waseda University in Tokyo
Senior high school graduates who want to attend a college or university must
pass the entrance examination given by the school of their choice. Large numbers
of students compete for admission to the top Japanese universities. About 38% of
senior high school graduates go to an institution of higher learning.


Political System
Political Structure
Japan’s parliment, makes the country’s laws. it consists of two houses. The
house of Representatives has 511 members. They are elected to four-year terms
from electoral districts. The House of Councillors has 252 members. Half the
councillors are elected every three years to six-year terms. Of the councillors,
100 are elected from the country as a whole, and 152 are chosen from 47
political divisions called prefectures.


Political Parties
Japan has several political parties. The most successful is the Liberal-
Democratic Party (LDP), a conservative party which has more seats in the
Government than any other since 1955. In 1993, a coallition of other important
parties was formed to oppose the LDP. The largest members of the coallition
include the Social Democratic Party of Japan, the Japan Renewal Party, the
Komeito (Clean Government Party), and the Japan New Party.


Stability of Government
Although the Government itself is stable, within the parties there is much
disruption and complaint
Role of Local Government
The municipalities have fairly broad powers; they control public education and
may levy taxes.


Legal System
Organisation of judiciary system
The Japanese judicial system is entirely separate from and independent of the
executive authority. Except for reasons of health, judges may be removed only by
public impeachment. The highest court in the nation is the Supreme Court,
established by the constitution and consisting of a chief justice appointed by
the emperor upon the recommendation of the cabinet and 14 associate justices
appointed by the cabinet. Four types of lower courts are prescribed by the
constitution: high courts, district courts, family courts, and summary courts.

The Supreme Court is the tribunal of final appeal in all civil and criminal
cases and has authority to decide on the constitutionality of any act of the
legislature or executive. High courts hear appeals in civil and criminal cases
from lower courts. District courts have both appellate and original jurisdiction.

Family and summary courts are exclusively courts of first instance.


Type of Law
The Japanese do not have a law as such, the citizens have codes to abide by.


Social Organisations
Group Behaviour
The Japanese in general are very polite and well mannered people.


Race, ethnicity and subcultures
There are may Chinese in Japan as well as Koreans. The original race of Japan
are the Inu people.


Religon and Asthetics
Religon and other belief systems As below
Relationship with the people
Just about every single person is a Shinto and three quarters of people are also
buddhists. This shows that religon is very important to their everyday life.


Which religons are prominent
Buddhism and Shinto are the two most prominent religons in Japan by a long way.


Membership of each religon
Most Japanese observe both Shinto and Buddhist rites so the percentages add to
more than 100%
Shinto-95.8% Buddhist-76.3% Christian-1.4% Other-12%
Aesthetics
Visual Arts
The major Japanese visual arts are Sculpture and painting.


Music
Traditional Japanese music may sound thin compared with the rich harmonies of
Western music. Most forms of Japanese music feature one instrument or voice or a
group of instruments that follows the same melodic line instead of blending in
harmony. Japanese instruments include the lutelike biwa; the zitherlike koto;
and the three stringed banjolike samisen, or shamisen. Traditional music also
features drums, flutes, and gongs. Performances of traditional music draw large
crowds in Japan. Most types of Western music are also popular. Many Japanese
cities have their own proffesional symphony orchestras that specialize in
Western music
Drama, Ballet and other performing Arts
The oldest form of traditional Japanese performing arts is a type of drama
called the ‘no play’, which developed in the 1300’s. ‘No plays’ are serious
treatments of history and legend. Masked actors perform the story with
carefully controlled gestures and movements. A chorus chants most of the
important lines in the play.


Two other forms of traditional Japanese drama, the puppet theater and the kabuki
play, developed during the late 1600’s. In the puppet theater, a narrator
recites the story, which is acted out by large, lifelike puppets. The puppet
handlers work silently on stage in view of the audience. Kabuki plays are
melodramatic representations of historical or domestic events. Kabuki features
colourful costumes and makeup, spectacular scenery, and a lively and exaggerated
style.


The traditional types of theater remain popular in Japan. The people also enjoy
new dramas by Japanese playwrights, as well as Western plays.


Folklore
The Tale of Genji, a long novel written in the 1000’s is generally considered
the greatest work of Japanese fiction.


Living Conditions
Diet and Nutrition, Meat and Vegetable Consumption and Foods availible The main
food of the japanese people is rice. It is served at almost every meal. Fish
provides the chief source of protein in the Japanese diet.. Favourite Japanese
snacks include various kinds of noodles in broth and yakitori, charcoal-grilled
pieces of poultry on a skewer.


Soybeans are another major source of protein in the Japanese diet. The Japanese
also eat a wide variety of fruits and varieties of seaweed.


The Japanese would eat a lot more vegetables than meat because meat is
incredibly expensive.


Typical meals
A popular Japanese dish called sushi consists of rice flavoured with vinegar and
topped with raw fish, sliced vegetables, shellfish, foods wrapped in seeweed and
other ingredients. Other traditional dishes include sukiyaki (beef cooked with
vegetables) and tempura (fish and vegetables fried in batter)
Housing
Types of Houses availible
There are two major types of housing availible in Japan, modern apartment
buildings and traditional Japanese houses.


Renters or Home Owners
Due to short supply of land for sale, most Japanese can not afford to buy land
for a house and therefore a large number, especially in the crowded cities rent
apartments.


Clothing
National Dress The kimono
Types of clothing worn at work
The types of clothing worn to work are just the same as in the western world.

Men wear suits with smart ties and women wear conservative tailored attire
Recreation
Types and Demand
The Japanese people enjoy a wide variety of sports, hobbies, and other leisure
time activities. Their favourite spectator sports are baseball and sumo
wrestling. other popular sports include bowling, golf, ice skating, skiing,
table tennis, tennis and volleyball. Many Japanese practice aikido, judo, and
karate. Kendo is also popular. Japanese also enjoy fishing, hunting, jogging and
mountain climbing.


Percentage of Income spent on leisure activities
The Japanese would probably spend around% of their income on leisure
activities.


Social Security and Health Care
In the early 1990s about 18 percent of the annual national budget was allocated
for social security purposes. A medical insurance system has been in effect in
Japan since 1927. Self-employed people and employees in the private and public
sectors are included under the medical plan.


Social welfare services have greatly expanded since World War II; legislation
enacted or amended in the postwar years includes the Livelihood Security Law for
Needy Persons, the Law for the Welfare of Disabled Persons, the National Health
Insurance Law, the Welfare Pension Insurance Law, Old Age Welfare Law, and the
Maternal and Child Welfare Law. The entire population is covered by various
insurance systems. Most working people once retired at the age of 55, but an
increasing life expectancy and government encouragement has extended the average
age of retirement to 65. Health conditions are generally excellent. In the mid-
-1990s life expectancy at birth was 76 years for men and 82 years for women; the
infant mortality rate was a very low 4.3 per 1000 live births. Japan has about
211,800 physicians and 1.7 million hospital beds.


Language
Official Language
The official language of Japan is Japanese.


Spoken Versus written language
Spoken Japanese is much easier than written japanese to master. Written Japanese
consists katakana, hiragana and thousands of chinese symbols called ‘Kanji’.

Considering how hard these characters are to remember, especially the chinese
ones, its no wonder people can speak more than they can write.


Dialects
Japan comprises numerous mountainous islands, and this geography limited contact
between the Japanese peoples living in different regions of the country. As a
result, people in the various regions of Japan developed differing varieties, or
dialects, of the Japanese language. Japanese has also developed separate
varieties of the language for use in different social contexts; these varieties
are called social styles of speech. A large number of dialects are spoken
throughout Japan’s four main islands (Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu), as
well as on the smaller islands, such as the Ryukyu Islands. Some dialects-for
instance, those spoken in the southern parts of Japan, notably on the islands of
Kyushu and Okinawa-are virtually incomprehensible to the speakers of other
dialects. As a result of this diversity of dialects, the Japanese use a standard,
or common, dialect to facilitate communication throughout the country. The two
dialect families with the largest number of speakers are the dialect spoken in
and around Tokyo, which is the common dialect, and the dialects of the Kansai
region in western Japan, spoken in cities such as Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe. Due to
the spread of the common dialect through television and radio, most people
outside the Tokyo region speak the common dialect as well as a local dialect.


Refrences:
World Book Encyclopedia (Cd Rom) Grolier Encyclopedia (Cd Rom) Encarta 96
Encyclopedia (Cd Rom) JETRO (Internet Site) CIA World Factbook (Internet Site)
Category: History