GENERAL INFORMATION • Full name: Japan • Flag: • Population: 126.9 million (UN, 2010) • Capital: Tokyo • Major language: Japanese. Some English is spoken in Tokyo and other large cities but is less usual in rural areas. • Major religions: Shintoism and Buddhism (most Japanese follow both religions, although religion does not play a major everyday role in most Japanese lives, with frequent temple visits being more usually attributed to tourism). There is a Christian minority. (it is known as Hinomaru, 日の丸, • Time: GMT + 9 (if it’s midnight here, it’s "sun disc")the white part stands for 8am in Japan: when you go to sleep, they peace and honesty, the red one for are going to work!). hardiness, bravery, strength and valour) • Monetary unit: yen • Economy: Japan has the worlds third-largest economy (main exports: vehicles, computer parts, chemicals, scientific instruments and watches) • International dialling code: +81 (if you want to call to Japan) • Government: constitutional monarchy. Yukio Hatoyama • Head of state: Emperor Akihito (he succeeded his father, Hirohito, in 1989. Under the 1947 constitution, Japans emperors have a purely ceremonial role). • Prime minister: Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama since 2009.Emperor Akihito and his wife
GEOGRAPHY AND WEATHER Japan is situated in the PACIFIC OCEAN. Japans "mainland" consists of four primary islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. HOKKAIDO is in the northeast and the home of the islands capital city of Sapporo.SHIKOKU and KYUSHU are in the south HONSHU is the largest island and is(Kyushu is in the extreme southwest economically and culturally the mostand Shikoku is to its east). Besides important of the four major islands, thethese four islands, Japan includes Japanese core area which includes Tokyo and2,000 additional smaller islands. Osaka-Kyoto. Honshu is the worlds seventh largest island. Except for the Hokkaido area and the subtropical Okinawa region, the weather in Japan is mostly TEMPERATE, with FOUR SEASONS. Winters are cool and sunny in the south, cold and sunny around Tokyo (which occasionally has snow), and very cold around Hokkaido, which is covered in SNOW for up to four months a year. Summer, between June and September, ranges from warm to very hot, while spring and autumn are generally mild throughout the country. RAIN falls throughout the year but June and early July is the main rainy season. Hokkaido, however, is much drierMuch of the archipelago is MOUNTAINOUS and than the Tokyo area. Rainfall isonly a small percentage of land is available for intermittent with sunshine.agriculture and development. Thus large areas TYPHOONS are only likely to occurremain forested while TOWNS AND CITIES tend in September or October but rarelyto be densely populated. last more than a day.The climate varies from one island to another.
HISTORYIn the FEUDAL ERA (12th-19th century), a new ruling class ofwarriors emerged: the SAMURAI (not to be confused with theNINJAS who did not have rules of honour as strict as thesamurai). One of the most famous and successful samurai, ODANOBUNAGA, conquered numerous other warlords and hadALMOST UNIFIED JAPAN when he was assassinated in 1582.TOYOTOMI HIDEYOSHI succeeded him and UNITED THE LAND in1590 but OPEN WAR broke out following his death. Toyotomi Hideyoshi TOKUGAWA IEYASU defeated all rival clans in the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 and was appointed SHOGUN (= ruler of Japan). The Tokugawa shogunate began the ISOLATIONIST SAKOKU (= locked country) POLICY that spanned the two and a half centuries of tenuous political unity known as the EDO PERIOD. Tokugawa IeyasuIn 1854, the US Navy forced the opening of Japan to the outsideworld. Ensuing economic and political crises led to the BOSHINWAR and the establishment of a CENTRALIZED STATE unifiedunder the name of the EMPEROR (MEIJI RESTORATION). Emperor Kōmei The Meiji Restoration transformed Japan into an INDUSTRIALIZED WORLD POWER that embarked on a number of MILITARY CONFLICTS to expand the nations sphere of influence, including two Sino-Japanese Wars (1894-1895 and 1937-1945) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). Japan farm in the 19th centuryOn 7 December 1941, Japan attacked the US naval base in PEARLHARBOR. This act brought the USA into WWII and, on 8December, the USA, UK and Netherlands declared war onJapan. After the devastating atomic bombings of HIROSHIMAand NAGASAKI in 1945, Japan surrendered on 15 August. Thewar cost Japan millions of lives and left much of the countrysindustry and infrastructure destroyed. Hiroshima atomic bombing Japan later achieved exceptional growth to become one of the worlds most powerful economies. In August 2009, Yukio Hatoyama led the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the main opposition party, to victory and became Prime Minister, defeating the long-governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which had been in power almost continually since 1955. Eitai Bridge, Tokyo
FOOD and DRINKS National specialties: • TERIYAKI (marinated beef/chicken/fish seared on a hot plate). • TEMPURA (deep-fried seafood and vegetables). • SUSHI (slices of raw seafood placed on light and vinegary rice balls). • SASHIMI (slices of raw seafood dipped in soy sauce). • RAME, SOBA and UDON (varieties of noodles, which can Japanese sushi be served hot or cold, in soups or dry).National drinks (legal drinking age: 20):• GREEN TEA is extremely popular. The qualityof the tea varies greatly from houjicha (acommon brown-colored tea) to matcha (abitter green tea used in tea ceremonies).• SAKE (rice wine served hot or cold).• SHOCHU (strong vodka-like spirit usuallymixed with soft drinks to make cocktails).• Popular brands of BEER are Asahi, Kirin,Sapporo and Suntory. Japanese tea ceremony→There are no licensing hours. Drinking issubject to long-standing rituals of politeness.The host will pour a drink for the visitor, andwill insist on the visitors glass being full. It isbad manners for a visitor to pour one for himor herself.
TOURISM What you can see in Japan: the Japanese society is a blend of TRADITION and MODERNITY. As a tourist you can enjoy these two aspects travelling across the country. Main cities: Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara and Osaka-Kobe, Sendai, Sapporo, Nagano (it hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics), Nagoya, Hiroshima, Nagasaki. Modern tourism: skyscrapers and plazas, stadiums, aquariums, festivals, cuisine. OsakaNatural parks and landscapes: mountains(Japan’s highest mountain is Mount Fuji),lakes, volcan crates, active volcanoes,swamps (=pantano), jungle and rare wildlife,islands, beaches, coral reefs, whirlpools(remolinos), gardens, whales and dolphinswatching, sand-dunes, hot-sand saunas,caves, forests… Japanese garden History tourism: museums, craft cities and galleries (pottery, ceramics, porcelain, textile, lacquer, silk, dolls, pearls), fishing villages, ports (important for foreign trade) and markets, merchant quarters, foreign style houses, ancient burial mounds… Japanese dollMonuments: the Imperial Palace, Shinto and Buddhisttemples, monasteries, shrines (=santuarios), geisha tea-houses, medieval cities, forts and castles, samurairesidences… White Heron Castle Indigenous people and arts: Ainu people, Kodo drummers. Kodo drummersSecond World-War tourism: war memorials, Hiroshimaand Nagasaki (nuclear bombed cities). War memorial, Hiroshima
Sakurajima (active volcano) from seaport Kagoshima, Japan Tian Yuan Temple (ninja)
Osaka dome-stadiumKasuga Shintoist shrine Tokyo by night
Katsushika HokusaiThe Great Wave off Kanagawa(1829-32) 神奈川沖浪裏(神奈川沖浪裏 Kanagawa Oki Nami Ura
SPORTS and HOBBIESMartial artsJapanese ceremonial WRESTLING (= luchalibre), SUMO AND JUDO are Japan’s nationalsports. There are six sumo tournaments ayear, each of which lasts for 15 days. Three ofthem are held in Tokyo, and the others takeplace in Fukuoka, Nagoya and Osaka. Sumo KARATE, the art of self-defense, is taught at schools in Japan and has become a very popular sport since it was introduced into the country in 1922. Karate training, 1938 KENDO, Japanese fencing (= esgrima), is practiced in numerous clubs and college halls. In December, the All-Japan Championships are held in Tokyo. Kendo KYUDO, Japanese archery (= tiro con arco), is one of the oldest martial arts. It is closely associated with Zen Buddhism. Unlike many martial arts, it is pursued by almost as many female students as males. Kyudo YABUSAME, or archery on horseback (= tiro con arco a caballo), which was originally performed by courtiers or imperial guards in the seventh century, is today a Shinto rite for ensuring peace and good harvests. It is staged by horse riders in colorful costumes who gallop down a narrow 250m course shooting at small wooden targets set up at 80m intervals. Yabusame
There are over 50 major SKI resorts, 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. Some resorts even offer facilities for night-skiing. And others offer grass skiing out of season between late April and late November. Mount YoteiBoth DIVING and SNORKELING (= surface diving)are popular around the Kerama Islands nearOkinawa, which is one of the world’s clearest seaareas. Between January and March, it is also an areafor WHALE WATCHING. Coral reef snorkeling All kinds of FISHING are practiced, and there are many keen anglers in Japan. Freshwater fish include trout, funa (silver carp) and ayu (sweetfish). Given the shape of the country, fishing locations are never far away. Travelers might like to try UKAI or CORMORANT FISHING, a type of fishing where cormorants are used to catch fish. Cormorant fishingCYCLING is popular in April and May during thecherry blossom season and also in October andNovember when autumnal colors adorn Japan.Cyclists must keep to the left and should be carefulat all times because of heavy traffic, especially onthe national highways. There are numerousinteresting paths routed through Tokyo. FOOTBALL: Japan co-hosted the 2002 World Cup with Korea (Rep). Football has taken off in a big way in Japan in recent years with the introduction of the Japanese soccer J-League and the participation of the Japanese national team in the World Cup of 1998 and 2002.GOLF: Courses in and around Tokyo areconsidered by some to be among the mostchallenging in the world. However,membership or an invitation is sometimesrequired. Some courses have the additionalattraction of hot spring baths and MAJHONGrooms.
CULTURAL ASPECTSJapanese drama, theatre and festivals: among thetraditional entertainments on offer is BUNRAKU, a uniqueform of puppet theater. This can be seen in major towns,as can NOH drama and KABUKI, traditional Japanesedrama forms, with participants attired in medievalcostumes. The most fascinating and colourful of Japan’sreligious festivals take place in Kyoto, the old imperialcapital: in those festivals you can see street parades orprocessions with people dressed in traditional costumes, Aoi Festivalor representing ancient themes and ceremonies. GEISHAS: they are women trained in a number of skills such as traditional Japanese dance, singing, playing instruments like shamisen (three stringed instrument), flower arrangement, wearing kimono, Japanese tea ceremony, calligraphy, conversation or alcohol serving manners to entertain people.MANGAS: Manga is a Japanese word that means "comics" or"cartoons". Its been part of Japanese culture during centuries totell stories using several images displayed in sequence. But thegenre mostly developed after World War II. Perhaps one of themost popular manga of all time (and the one that started all) isMighty Atom (Astro Boy in the US) created by Osamu Tezukaaround the 50s. One of the fascinating aspects of mangacartoons in this period of time is the apparition of series for girlsand adults readers. You probably know Naruto, One Piece orBleach… CHERRY TREES (=cerezos): Japanese SAKURA, or "cherry blossoms" come into bloom once a year during March/April for only two weeks! There are quite a few places in Japan that are famous only for their cherry trees. People also organize viewing parties that are called “HANAMI”. Sakura and Mount FujiPAINTINGS: Japanese paintings are quite particular. Somesubjects most dealt with are shiki-e (landscapes during the fourseasons), meisho-e (views of famous places), monogatari-e(scenes from the life at the imperial court in Kyoto), rakuchu-rakugai-zu (views from Kyoto), kabuki-e (images from the kabukitheater), bijinga (images of beautiful women). A typical Japanese painting
RECENT EVENTSOn 11th March, the biggest EARTHQUAKE on recordto hit Japan (8.9 of magnitude) caused widespreaddestruction across the country. A 10 meter highTSUNAMI followed up that further devastated theregion of Sendai (in the North of Honshu, the mainisland). Tsunami in Japan (2011) In addition to the natural disaster, a nuclear emergency emerged. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from the vicinity of the Fukushima Daiishi nuclear power plant after two explosions. Technicians battled to prevent a reactor meltdown (=derretimiento), trying to cool it with sea water. But a number of explosions have led to a release of radiation on a number of occasions. Fukushima Daishii plant (2011)Tokyo was not badly damaged by the earthquake orthe tsunami, but some people are leaving becausethey are scared by the effects of radiation (someradiation has been found in the water and in somefood). Everybody remembers the Chernobyl(Ukraine) accident of 1986, where a nuclear planthad exploded and released an important amount ofradiation that had contaminated the soil, and hasbeen having consequences for years. Chernobyl (1986) Of course, the Fukushima accident is different because it is not due to human error but to a natural disaster. However, there will probably be consequences in the affected zone, as important amounts of radiation have been released both in the soil and in the sea. Japan affected zoneWhile the medias are mostly focusing on the nuclearalert, Japan is trying to comfort the affectedpopulations and to start assessing the economic costsrequired to rebuild the damaged zone.
Work adapted from the different websites:BBC on Japan: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/country_profiles/1258586.stmImages: google imagesJapanese flag: • http://www.flags-flags-flags.org.uk/japanese-flag.htm • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_JapanJapanese geography: http://geography.about.com/lr/japan/412254/1/Japanese painting: http://www.artelino.com/articles/japanese-painting.aspTourist guide on Japan: http://www.iexplore.com/dmap/Japan/The+Essentials Information gathered and original idea by MARIE DUMAS