Introduction & Overview
Japan is an island nation lying off the east coast of Asia. It consists of a great string of islands in a northeast-southwest arc that stretches for approximately 2400 kilometers. Tokyo is the capital of Japan and the national language is Japanese. Japan covers 377,873 km2 and has a population of roughly 126,915,000. 98.5% of the population consists of native Japanese, while the rest are Chinese, Korean, and others. Shinto is the predominant religion followed by Buddhism and Christianity and other Shinto sects.
The report shall discuss some important facets of Japan, which are:
· Brief biophysical overview
· Historical and settlement characteristics
· Population characteristics
· Economic and resource characteristics
· Major internal issues
· International role
The climate of Japan is predominantly temperate but varies strongly in different regions due to the North South extension of the country. The climate in most the major cities is temperate to subtropical and consists of four seasons. The winter is mild while the summer is hot and humid. The northern island of Hokkaido is colder and experiences large amounts of snowfall. On the other hand, Okinawa in the south is much warmer. The average winter temperature in Japan is 5.1 °C and the average summer temperature is 25.2 °C.
Japan is in a region where several continental plates meet, hence the country experiences frequent earthquakes. And for the same reason, there are many volcanos in Japan. Japan’s most famous volcano and highest mountain is Mt. Fuji. Japan’s rivers are generally short and swift-running and are supplied by small drainage basins. The increasing demand for freshwater for use in paddy cultivation and industry and for domestic consumption is a serious problem.
Much of Japan’s original vegetation has been replaced by agriculture or the introduction of foreign species. Semitropical rainforest prevails in the northeastern regions, where different kinds of mulberries, camphor, oaks and ferns grow. A laurel forest extends from southwestern islands northward. Deciduous forests develop in the higher and more northerly regions of the laurel forest zone. The cherry tree is celebrated for its spring blossoms, which has been a long-standing symbol in Japan is planted throughout the country.
Despite the country’s large human population, the country’s fauna thrives in the remote, heavily forested mountain regions. These animals include, beats, wild boars, raccoon, dogs, foxes, deer, antelope, hares and weasels. Reptiles such as sea turtles, tortoises, sea snakes and lizards also inhabit the region. The Japanese archipelago constitutes around 600 bird species that are either resident or transitory. The cold and warm ocean currents near Japan has produced a rich sea life. The waters are inhabited by whales, dolphins, porpoises, and fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna, trout, herring, cod, etc. Crustaceans and mollusks include crabs, shrimp, prawns, clams, and oysters. The rivers and lakes abound in trout, salmon, and crayfish. Koi (carp) are often kept in ponds, both for commercial food production and for decorative purposes.
Historical and settlement characteristics
People first settled in Japan about 30,000 years ago during which the main islands were connected to Siberia and Korea by bridges of dry land. The first society, called the Jomon culture alongside the Ainu people who arrived by boat from Siberia., arose about 12,000 years ago. The Jomon and Ainu survived for thousands of years, hunting, fishing, and gathering plants. In 300 B.C., the Yayoi people came to Honshu Island from Korea and China. They were skilled weavers, tool makers, and farmers who began cultivating rice in flooded paddy fields. Japan was ruled by emperors from the 6th century until the 12th century, when military rulers, called shoguns, took absolute control. The Europeans first arrived in Japan in 1543. In 1635, the ruling shogun closed Japan to foreigners and forced isolation for over 200 years. The shoguns were overthrown in 1868 and the emperors came back to power. In 1947, Japan adopted a new pacifist constitution emphasizing liberal democratic practices. Japan was granted membership in the United Nations in 1956 after the Treaty of San Francisco. Japan achieved rapid growth ever since has become the world’s third largest economy.
The Japanese people constitute most of the country’s ethnic population. During the Edo period, there was a social division of the population into four classes – warrior, farmer, craftsman, and merchant. This social class system has almost disappeared. The density of Japan’s population is 336/km2. Japan has a very high literacy rate of 99%. As of 2015, Japan had a death rate of 10.1 per 1,000 people, a birth rate of 1.46 per woman and a life expectancy of 83.84 years.
From the late 19th century, economic and social changes affected even the remotest rural villages, but many traditional aspects of rural life have survived. No village is regarded as purely rural. Those that are near industrialized urban centers include large numbers of commuters and industrial workers. Widespread urban growth began in the late 19th century with the development of the international ports and naval bases. Japanese cities are jumbled mixtures of old and new, East and West. Japan faces serious problems that are shortage of better housing, the increasing use of the automobile, overcrowded public transportation systems, the shortage of open space for recreation, environmental pollution, and the constant menace of earthquakes and floods.
Economic and resource characteristics
Japan’s economy grew rapidly, especially in the first several decades after World War II. This growth was based on expansion of industrial production and the development of an immense domestic market, as well as an aggressive export trade policy. Japan has become world’s third largest economic power, ranking behind China. It has developed a highly diversified manufacturing and service economy and is one of the world’s largest producers of motor vehicles, steel, and consumer electronic goods. The service sector contributes most of the gross domestic product (GDP) and of employment.
The Japanese government’s control and influence over business is more prevalent than in most other countries with market economies. This is primarily committed through the government’s constant intervention with businesses and deep involvement in banking. Long term planning has been a major force of functioning in the Japanese economy.