For a country that lived in self-imposed isolation until 150 years ago, Japan has not hesitated in making up for lost time. Anyone who's eaten sushi, or used a Sony Playstation feels they know something about this slinky archipelago of some 6800 volcanic islands and yet, from the moment of arrival in Japan, it's almost as if you've touched down on another planet.
JAPAN Country Profile – Karen Ostromecki
National Anthem JAPAN Country Profile – Karen Ostromecki
Government: Parliamentary with constitutional monarchy
Prime Minister: Yukio Hatoyama (2009)
Flag description: White with a large red disk (representing the sun without rays) in the center
98.5% ethnic Japanese.
1.5 percent are mostly Korean
considerable numbers of Brazilians, Chinese, and Filipinos
Population Growth Rate: -0.191% (2009 est.), World Rank: 219 th
GDP: 4.34 Trillion (2008)
Industries : Consumer electronics, motor vehicles, machine tools, steel, and nonferrous metals
Climate: varies from tropical in south to cool temperate in north
Exports : Motor vehicles, semiconductors, and office machinery
Agriculture : Rice, sugar beets, vegetables, fruit, pork, fish
Currency : Yen
Life Expectancy : Average: 82, Male: 78.8, Female: 85.6
GDP per Capita : $33,800
Literacy Rate : 99%
Unemployment Rate : 5.5%
Oil imports : 5.425 million bbl/day
Internet Users : 87.5 million
Environmental Issues : Acid rain; Japan is the largest consumer of Amazon rainforest, timberdegrading water quality and threatening aquatic life; Japan is one of the largest consumers of fish and tropical timber
Japan history begins with the migration of people from the Asian mainland during a period in which the sea separating present day Japan from China and the Korean Peninsula was only partially formed. When the sea rose and the land bridges washed away, these first inhabitants of ancient Japan were left to settle the islands.
During the final stages of World War II in 1945, the United States conducted two atomic bombings against Japan in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki .
10,000BC – 300BC: Jomon Period
300BC – 300AD: Yayoi Period
300AD – 710AD: Kofun Period or the Yamato Period
710 – 794: The Nara Period
794 – 1192: Heian Period
1191 – 1333: Kamakura Period
1333 – 1573: Muromachi Period
1600 – 1867: Edo Period
1868 – 1912: Meiji Period:
1926 – 1989: Showa Period
1926 – 1945: Expansionism Period
1952 – 1989: Post-occupied Japan: Japan entered a period of peace and great economic growth after enacting the Treaty of San Francisco.
1989 - PresentHeisei Period: Japan's current period named by Emperor Akihito after the death of his father, Hirohito, the Showa Emperor.
Technological sophistication and mass culture have not led to strongly rooted individualism in Japan. Groups are still a very strong source of identity.
Japanese culture consists of the interaction between a strong original Jōmon culture and subsequent influences from the rest of the world. Culture of China was first mostly influential, starting with the development of the Yayoi culture from around 300BC.
After several waves of immigration from the continent and nearby Pacific islands (see History of Japan), the inhabitants of Japan experienced a long period of relative isolation from the outside world under the Tokugawa shogunate until the arrival of "The Black Ships" and the Meiji era.
Japan is an extremely homogeneous society with non-Japanese, mostly Koreans and Chinese, making up only about 1% of the population.
The vast majority of the population live on the crowded coastal plains of the main island of Honshū.
The Japanese people are primarily the descendants of various peoples who migrated from Asia in prehistoric times; the dominant strain is N Asian or Mongolic, with some Malay and Indonesian admixture.
One of the earliest groups, the Ainu, who still persist to some extent in Hokkaido, are physically somewhat similar to Caucasians. Japanese is the official language.
Of major concern to Japanese government policy planners are the expected steady decline in the population during the 21st cent. (the population decreased for the first time in 2005) and the large and growing portion of the population that is elderly.
Japanese is the sixth most spoken language in the world
Japanese is believed to be linked to the Altaic language family, which includes Turkish, Mongolian and other languages, but also shows similarities to Austronesian languages like Polynesian.
Dozens of dialects are spoken in Japan
Japanese uses four different writing systems; Kanji (Chinese characters), Hiragana (phonetic alphabet for native words), Katakana (phonetic alphabet for foreign words), and Romaji (western alphabet used to write Japanese)
Dialects are used in areas, particularly in Kyoto and Osaka, but standard Japanese, based on the speech of Tokyo, has become more popular through the use of television, radio and movies.
In newspapers, the words of Chinese and origin number greater than the Japanese native words.
Japanese is written using two systems of orthography, Chinese characters and syllabifies.
There are two principal religions in Japan, Shintoism and Buddhism , officially followed by 54% and 40% of the population respectively.
The Japanese people's concern towards religion is mostly related to mythology, traditions, and neighborhood activities rather than as a source of morality or a guideline for one's life.
The largest new religion is Soka Gakkai, a Buddhist sect, founded in 1930. Its declared motto is peace, culture and education.
Religion in Japan tends to be synergetic in nature, and this results in a variety of practices such as parents and children celebrating Shinto rituals, students praying before exams, couples holding a wedding at a Christian church and funerals being held at Buddhist temples.
Miyajima is universally recognized as being among the top three scenic places in Japan. A short ferry ride from Hiroshima, Myajima island is home to the beautiful Itskushima Shrine, a World Heritage Site, and home to the famous "floating" Torii gate.
Centuries of excitement await throughout Japan. Experience the beauty and splendor
of ancient shrines, temples, and traditions as you explore Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara and other
cities throughout the country.
Cherry blossoms frame a pagoda on Miyajima Island in Hiroshima. This is a solar-powered, illuminated rooftop garden at the top of the legendary Tokyo landmark, 115-year-old Imperial Hotel . The famous floating torii at Itsukushima Shrine Sunrise on Mt. Fuji Himeji castle Great Buddha of Kotokuin
A firms ability to borrow may also be based on its personal relationship and rapport with bank officials rather than on typical US standards of credit worthiness.
For US companies with operations in Japan, teaming up with Japanese partners in a joint venture has been effective as a way to receive better treatment from Japanese Banks.
The Japanese government has removed most legal restrictions on exports and foreign investments in Japan
Under the Economic Partnership for growth, the US and Japanese governments have worked to cut regulations in sectors of key economic importance where US firms are globally competitive – telecommunications, medical equipment, energy, information technology, insurance and financial services
Mobile subscriber penetration77.6%, Internet user penetration34.3%, Broadband subscriber penetration
Japan is a leader in mobile phone ( keitai denwa) technology and usage with about 75% of the population owning one.
The only foreign phones that work in Japan are some 3G models, however the number of compatible phones is increasing.
Japanese research and development efforts increasingly stress what one Japanese policymaker calls the "fusion" solution, or combining advances in different technologies to generate new products and innovations.
Electronic goods, such as TVs, stereo sets, cameras and computers are relatively inexpensive at stores like Yamada Denki, Yodobashi Camera, Sakuraya and Bic Camera, and in discount shopping areas like Akihabara in Tokyo.
Japan leads the world in robotics, possessing more than half (402,200 of 742,500) of the world's industrial robots used for manufacturing.
Utilities such as gas, water and especially electricity are expensive, and phone rates are high. For international calls, consider internet phones, callback services and other offers for the expat community
Coal imports by Japan reached 186 Mt [million tonnes - ed] in 2007, which was an increase of 5.2% compared with those of 2006.
In solar power, Japan ranks third in the world for installed capacity, behind only Germany and Spain
Crime in Japan is lower than in many other first world countries.
JAPAN Country Profile – Karen Ostromecki
Time Zone, Time Perceptions, & Political Systems
What time is it? - Nan ji desu ka. - 何時ですか。
Japan is 14 hours ahead of New York (standard time) and 9 hours ahead of London.
Time perception between urban and rural population is observed to be shifting in Japan. People in a bustling city like Tokyo, even being the Eastern city that it is, surely must monitor time more closely and break it down into finer units than they used to as Japan's competitor status in the world market escalates.
The Japanese believe strongly in 'no hidden surprises' and are committed to a very high degree of predictability and consistent reliability (not just reliability).
This is reflected in their business practices and everyday living, such that the train or bus schedule would read "Arrival: 8.23 p.m." and the train or bus would pull in exactly at that time!
People in Japan, on the other hand, arrive for meetings at least 5 minutes before a scheduled 9:00 a.m. appointment! The simple logic is that it takes about 5 minutes to get seated and settled in and the meeting is support to START at 9 a.m.
The politics of Japan is conducted in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic monarchy, where Prime Minister of Japan is the head of government.
The current government is led by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama
Most political parties in Japan are small and do not have broad, mass memberships; their members are mainly professional politicians.
The ruling coalition is formed by the liberal Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the leftist Social Democratic Party and the conservative People's New Party
The Imperial Household of Japan is headed by Emperor Akihito
Military: Sixth largest in the world
Close with the United States - Japan maintains close economic and military relations with its key ally and partner, the United States, and therefore the US-Japan security alliance serves as the cornerstone of its foreign policy.
Gifts play a major role in Japanese business. It is customary to exchange gifts.
In a business situation, avoid framing the gift in such terms, as it denotes the insignificance of the gift and therefore belittles the recipient's worth.
It is considered good luck to give gifts in pairs, such as a double pen set.
Do not give gifts in groups of four, as the Japanese word for four means death.
Wrap the gift in pastel colors, but not white, as this color is associated with death.
Do not take flowers; they are not considered an appropriate gift.
Gifts & Gift Giving
Many people will ask a guest to open a gift, but if they do not, the Japanese will resist the urge to ask if they can open the gift.
It is considered impolite to go to someone's house without a gift. In Japanese this is called tebura ( 手ぶら ? ) (empty-handed)
Instead of handing a cashier cash from one's hands to the cashier's hands, it is a commonplace practice in Japan to place the money onto a small tray that is placed specifically for the purpose near the cashier machine.
The use of mobile phones on public transport is frowned upon, and messages asking passengers not to make calls and to switch their phones to silent mode ("public mode" or "manners mode" in Japanese) are played frequently.
Two patterns of residences are predominant in contemporary Japan: the single-family detached house and the multiple-unit building, either owned by an individual or corporation and rented as apartments to tenants, or owned by occupants.
Some of the world's most expensive land can be found in central Tokyo
Japanese rooms are measured by "tatami" (woven thatch flooring); each tatami mat is 6 feet by 3 feet.
A standard room is 6 mats, or 9 feet by 12 feet. Some rooms can be as small as three tatami, others as big as 9 or even 12.
In a metropolis, expect to pay about 70,000 yen a month for a standard 1-room
The average renter has 2.84 rooms
Dwellings of homeowners in Japan are 121.67 sq. meters (1308 sq. ft.)
The average homeowner has 5.91 rooms
Six out of 10 Japanese live in single family houses, the rest live in apartments
About 50% provide 1 room for each child
Garden architecture is as important as building architecture and very much influenced by the same historical and religious background.
In Japanese culture, garden-making is a high art, intimately related to the linked arts of calligraphy and ink painting.
JAPAN Country Profile – Karen Ostromecki
Conclusion: What would it be like to conduct a project in Japan?
JAPAN IS A MODERN, thriving democracy, yet it retained a long and esteemed imperial tradition. The Japanese take great pride in being "unique," yet much of Japanese civilization is composed of selective borrowings, from the Chinese written language in the sixth century A.D. to United States semiconductors in the latter half of the twentieth century.
The scope of Japan's economy is second only to that of the United States. Japan's continued rapid economic growth since the nation's modernization began in the later half of the nineteenth century has gained the world's attention. Now that the nation's economy generally is prospering in quantitative terms, the focus has turned to the improvement of the quality of people's lives.
An ancient culture which has evolved within the geographical boundaries of an island has produced a modern day society with unique values, traditions and customs. Doing business in Japan arguably poses the most potential for cross cultural misunderstandings.
However, Japan's professionals are well educated in doing business with the West and will try to modify their own behaviors to accommodate you. Nonetheless, doing business in Japan necessitates preparing oneself by understanding areas such as business culture, business etiquette, negotiation and meeting protocol.
Harmony is a key value in Japanese society and is the guiding philosophy for the Japanese in family and business settings and in society as a whole.
In Japan, the family is of great importance, and you will often find several generations living under one roof.
You are expected to respect and honor elders and obey family laws.
You are not likely to see a Japanese man lose his temper or show immense emotion; this results in a loss of integrity, therefore, a loss of face.
Punctuality is important.
Japanese place a great deal of importance into what is not being said, whereas Westerners have a need to fill the gaps in conversation.
The Japanese word kimono means "something one wears" and they are the traditional garments of Japan.
Today, despite suffering massive losses during World War II and possessing very little natural resources, Japan has become an economic and technological powerhouse.
All business and personal dealings in Japan happen only when a strong relationship of trust has been established. Trust is the foundation of any business and a transaction will follow only after the Japanese counterpart has been assured of trust.