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FLAG: The Sun-flag (Hi-no-Maru) consists of a red circle on a white background.

ANTHEM: (de facto) Kimigayo (The Reign of Our Emperor), with words dating back to the ninth century.

MONETARY UNIT: The yen (¥) of 100 sen is issued in coins of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500 yen, and notes of 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 yen. ¥1 = $0.00917 (or $1 = ¥109) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Adults' Day, 15 January; Commemoration of the Founding of the Nation, 11 February; Vernal Equinox Day, 20 or 21 March; Greenery Day, 29 April; Constitution Day, 3 May; Children's Day, 5 May; Respect for the Aged Day, 15 September; Autumnal Equinox Day, 23 or 24 September; Health-Sports Day, 10 October; Culture Day, 3 November; Labor-Thanksgiving Day, 23 November; Emperor's Birthday, 23 December.

TIME: 9 pm = noon GMT.


Situated off the eastern edge of the Asian continent, the Japanese archipelago is bounded on the n by the Sea of Okhotsk, on the e and s by the Pacific Ocean, on the sw by the East China Sea, and on the w by the Sea of Japan. The total area of Japan is 377,835 sq km (145,883 sq mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by Japan is slightly smaller than the state of California. It extends 3,008 km (1,869 mi) nesw and 1,645 km (1,022 mi) senw and has a total coastline of 29,751 km (18,486 mi).

The five districts are Honshū, Hokkaidō, Kyūshū, Shikoku, and Okinawa. Each of the five districts consists of a main island of the same name and hundreds of surrounding islands.

Of the thousands of lesser islands, four are of significance: Tsushima, in the straits between Korea and Japan; Amami Oshima, of the northern Ryukyu Islands at the southern end of the Japanese archipelago; Sado Island in the Sea of Japan off central Honshū; and Awaji Island, lying between Shikoku and Honshū. Two groups of islands returned to Japan by the United States in 1968 are located some 1,300 km (800 mi) due east of the Ryukyus: the Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands, about 885 km (550 mi) south of Tokyo, and the Kazan (Volcano) Islands, directly south of the Ogasawara group.

Japan's principal island is Honshū, on which are located the capital city of Tokyo, the principal cities and plains, and the major industrial areas. This island is divided into five regions: Tohoku, from north of Kanto to Tsugaru Strait; Kanto, embracing seven prefectures in the Tokyo-Yokohama region; the Chubu, or central, region, from west of Tokyo to the Nagoya area; Kinki, including the important cities of Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, and Nara; and Chugoku, a narrow peninsula thrusting westward from Kinki between the Sea of Japan and the Inland Sea, which lies between southern Honshū and the island of Shikoku.

The Japanese government maintains that the Habomai island group and Shikotan, lying just off Hokkaidō and constituting fringe areas of the Kurils, belong to Japan and should be returned to Japanese administration. These islands and the Kuril Islands are occupied by Russia, whose claims are not formally recognized by Japan.

Japan's capital city, Tokyo, is located on the east coast of the island of Honshū.


The Japanese islands are the upper portions of vast mountains belonging to what is sometimes called the Circum-Pacific Ring of Fire, which stretches from Southeast Asia to the Aleutian Islands. Mountains cover over 75% of the land's surface. Landforms are steep and rugged, indicating that, geologically, Japan is still a young area. Through the central part of Honshū, running in a northsouth direction, are the two principal mountain ranges: the Hida (or Japan Alps) and the Akaishi mountains. There are 25 mountains with peaks of over 3,000 m (9,800 ft). The highest is the beautiful Mt. Fuji (Fuji-san), at 3,776 m (12,388 ft). Japan has 265 volcanoes (including the dormant Mt. Fuji), of which about 20 remain active.

The plains of Japan are few and small and cover only about 29% of the total land area. Most plains are located along the seacoast and are composed of alluvial lowlands, diluvial uplands, and low hills. The largest is the Kanto Plain (Tokyo Bay region), about 6,500 sq km (2,500 sq mi). Others include the Kinai Plain (Osaka-Kyoto), Nobi (Nagoya), Echigo (north-central Honshū), and Sendai (northeastern Honshū). There are four small plains in Hokkaidō. The population is heavily concentrated in these limited flat areas.

Rivers tend to be short and swift. The longest is the Shinano (367 km/228 mi) in north-central Honshū, flowing into the Sea of Japan. The largest lake is Lake Biwa, near Kyoto, with an area of 672 sq km (259 sq mi). Lake Kussharo, in the Akan National Park of Hokkaidō, is considered the clearest lake in the world, having a transparency of 41 m (135 ft). Good harbors are limited because in most areas the land rises steeply out of the sea. Yokohama, Nagoya, and Kobe are Japan's most prominent harbors.

The Ryukyu Islands, among which Okinawa predominates, are the peaks of submerged mountain ranges. They are generally hilly or mountainous, with small alluvial plains.

Japan is considered to be one of the most seismically active areas in the world; about 20% of all magnitude of six or higher earthquakes in the world take place in this region. The country experiences an average of 1,500 minor shocks per year. One of the world's greatest recorded natural disasters was the Kanto earthquake of 1923, when the Tokyo-Yokohama area was devastated and upward of 99,000 persons died. In 1995, a 7.2 magnitude quake shook Kobe and left over 6,400 people dead. On October 23, 2004, a series of seven earthquakes in two hours caused severe damage in northern Japan; at least 16 people were killed and over 900 were injured. In the days that followed, at least 450 lesser tremors were felt.


Japan is located at the northeastern edge of the Asian monsoon climate belt, which brings much rain to the country. The weather is under the dual influence of the Siberian weather system and the patterns of the southern Pacific; it is affected by the Japan Current (Kuroshio), a warm stream that flows from the southern Pacific along much of Japan's Pacific coast, producing a milder and more temperate climate than is found at comparable latitudes elsewhere. Northern Japan is affected by the Kuril Current (Oyashio), a cold stream flowing along the eastern coasts of Hokkaidō and northern Honshū. The junction of the two currents is a bountiful fishing area. The Tsushima Current, an offshoot of the Japan Current, transports warm water northward into the Sea of Japan.

Throughout the year, there is fairly high humidity, with average rainfall ranging by area from 100 cm to over 250 cm (3998 in). Autumn weather is usually clear and bright. Winters tend to be warmer than in similar latitudes except in the north and west, where snowfalls are frequent and heavy. Spring is usually pleasant, and the summer hot and humid. There is a rainy season that moves from south to north during June and July.

Average temperature ranges from 17°c (63°f) in the southern portions to 9°c (48°f) in the extreme north. Hokkaidō has long and severe winters with extensive snow, while the remainder of the country enjoys milder weather down to the southern regions, which are almost subtropical. The Ryukyus, although located in the temperate zone, are warmed by the Japan Current, giving them a subtropical climate.

The typhoon season runs from May through October, and each year several storms usually sweep through the islands, often accompanied by high winds and heavy rains. In September 2005, Typhoon Nabi hit southern Japan causing the deaths of at least 77 people and temporarily displacing more than 300,000.


Hokkaidō flora is characterized by montane conifers (fir, spruce, and larch) at high elevations and mixed northern hardwoods (oak, maple, linden, birch, ash, elm, and walnut) at lower altitudes. The ground flora includes plants common to Eurasia and North America. Honshū supports a panoply of temperate flora. Common conifers are cypress, umbrella pine, hemlock, yew, and white pine. On the lowlands, there are live oak and camphor trees, and a great mixture of bamboo with the hardwoods. Black pine and red pine form the typical growth on the sandy lowlands and coastal areas. Shikoku and Kyūshū are noted for their evergreen vegetation. Sugarcane and citrus fruits are found throughout the limited lowland areas, with broadleaf trees in the lower elevations and a mixture of evergreen and deciduous trees higher up. Th roughout these islands are luxuriant growths of bamboo.

About 140 species of fauna have been identified. The only indigenous primate is the Japanese macaque, a small monkey found in the north. There are 32 carnivores, including the brown bear, ermine, mink, raccoon dog, fox, wolf, walrus, and seal. There are 250 breeding bird species and 8 species of reptiles. Japan's waters abound with crabs and shrimp; great migrations of fish are brought in by the Japan and Kuril currents. There are large numbers and varieties of insects. The Japanese beetle is not very destructive in its homeland because of its many natural enemies.


Rapid industrialization has imposed severe pressures on the environment. Japan's Basic Law for Environmental Pollution Control was enacted in 1967 and the Environment Agency was established four years later.

Air pollution is a serious environmental problem in Japan, particularly in urban centers. Toxic pollutants from power plant emissions have led to the appearance of acid rain throughout the country. In the mid-1990s, Japan had the world's fourth-highest level of industrial carbon dioxide emissions, which totaled 1.09 billion metric tons per year, a per capita level of 8.79 metric tons per year. In 2000, the total of carbon dioxide emissions was at 1.18 billion metric tons. Air quality is regulated under the Air Pollution Control Law of 1968; by 1984, compensation had been provided to 91,118 air-pollution victims suffering from bronchitis, bronchial asthma, and related conditions. However, the "polluter pays" principle was significantly weakened in 1987 as a result of years of business opposition. Nationwide smog alerts, issued when oxidant density levels reach or exceed 0.12 parts per million, peaked at 328 in 1973 but had declined to 85 (85% of which took place in the Tokyo and Osaka areas) by 1986, following imposition of stringent automobile emissions standards.

Water pollution is another area of concern in Japan. The nation has 430 cu km of renewable water resources with 64% used in farming activity and 17% used for industrial purposes. Increase in acid levels due to industrial pollutants has affected lakes, rivers, and the waters surrounding Japan. Other sources of pollution include DDT, BMC, and mercury. Environmental damage by industrial effl uents has slowed since the promulgation of the Water Pollution Control Law of 1971, but there is still widespread pollution of lakes and rivers from household sources, especially by untreated sewage and phosphate-rich detergents. Factory noise levels are regulated under a 1968 law. Airplanes may not take off or land after 10 pm and the Shinkansen trains must reduce speed while traveling through large cities and their suburbs.

Most of the nation's forests, which play a critical role in retarding runoff and soil erosion in the many mountainous areas, are protected under the Nature Conservation Law of 1972, and large areas have been reforested. Parks and wildlife are covered by the National Parks Law of 1967. In 2003, 6.8% of Japan's total land area was protected. One of the world's chief whaling nations, Japan vigorously opposed the 1982 resolution of the IWC calling for a phaseout of commercial whaling by 1986/87. However, since most of its trading partners, including the United States, supported the measure and threatened retaliatory measures if whaling continued, Japan finally agreed to comply with the ban.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 37 types of mammals, 53 species of birds, 11 types of reptiles, 20 species of amphibians, 27 species of fish, 25 types of mollusks, 20 species of other invertebrates, and 12 species of plants. Endangered species in Japan included the Ryukyu sika, Ryukyu rabbit, Iriomote cat, Southern Ryukyu robin, Okinawa woodpecker, Oriental white stork, short-tailed albatross, green sea turtle, and tailless blue butterfly. The Ryukyu pigeon, Bonin thrush, Japanese sea lion, and Okinawa flying fox have become extinct.


The population of Japan in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 127,728,000, which placed it at number 10 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 20% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 14% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 96 males for every 100 females in the country. The projected population for the year 2025 was 121,136,000. The population density was 338 per sq km (876 per sq mi).

Japan is the only Asian country thus far with a birthrate that has declined to the level of industrial areas in other parts of the world. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 0.1%, a rate the government viewed as too low. The estimated 10 births per 1,000 population in 2000 compares with about 343 births per 1,000 population in 1947. The steep drop since 1950 has been attributed to legalization of abortion, increased availability of contraceptives, and the desire to raise living standards.

Even with the low birth rate, Japan is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Urban density rates were 14,245 per sq mi (5,500 per sq mi). The UN estimated that 79% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 0.27%. The capital city, Tokyo, had a population of 34,997,000 in that year. Other major metropolitan areas and their estimated populations include Osaka, 11,286,000; Nagoya, 3,189,000; Kitakyushu, 2,815,000; Sapporo, 1,828,000; Kyoto, 1,805,000; Hiroshima, 1,005,000; and Sendai, 940,000.


Japanese nationals living in other countries totaled more than 600,000 in the 1990s, including some 250,000 in the United States and over 100,000 in Brazil. More than one million Japanese have emigrated since 1880; about 70% of them arrived on the US mainland and in Hawaii during the decades prior to World War II. Emigration continued after the war, encouraged by government policy as a way of relieving population pressure. By the mid-1960s, emigration had considerably decreased, as economic opportunities and living standards in Japan improved. From the 1970s1990s, however, the number of emigrants rose, from 12,445 in 1975 to 34,492 in 1985 to 82,619 in 1992.

Immigration to Japan is generally small-scale, although the illegal entry of workers from neighboring countries has come to be regarded as a problem. Since 1975, 10,000 Indo-Chinese refugees have settled in Japan. The total number of legal migrants who entered or departed Japan in 2002 was 44,651,272, an increase of 3.4% from 2001. The total number of migrants into Japan was 22,311,491, and the total number of people who left Japan was 22,339,781. The number of Japanese migrants increased by 1.9%, and the number of foreigners also increased by 9.8% from 2001. In the mid-2000s, there were 1.9 million foreign residents in Japan, half ethnic Koreans and Chinese who were mostly born in Japan, followed by 350,000 ethnic Japanese from Latin America, often the descendents of Japanese who emigrated.

Because citizenship is based on nationality of parent rather than place of birth, registered aliens may have spent their entire lives in Japan. According to Migration News, Japan continued to struggle with Zainichi, a term that literally means "to stay in Japan," but is used as a shorthand for Koreans who came to Japan during Japan's colonial rule, and their descendants. Zainichi are often considered outsiders in both Japan and Korea. Their numbers are reduced as more become naturalized Japanese. In 2003 there were 470,000 Zainichi in Japan. In 2005, the net migration rate was zero migrants per 1,000 population.

Internal migration, providing a steady exodus of people from farm and mountain communities to the cities and suburbs, has been accelerating since 1952. Most such migrants flocked to the three major population centersthe Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya metropolitan areas. As pollution and congestion in these areas increased, the government instituted programs to decentralize industry by directing new growth to smaller cities of the north and west, and also began efforts to improve rural living conditions and employment opportunities. Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications reported that the number of inter-prefectural migrants had decreased steadily from 19962004; in 2004 inter-prefectural migration was 2.6 million persons, decreased by 2.6% in comparison with the previous year.

According to Migration News, Japan began to allow temporary workers in 1986, and by 2004 lifted almost all remaining restrictions on the categories of jobs where temporary workers were permitted. In 2005 about 20% of Japanese manufacturers hired part-time workers. In 2003, Japan had an estimated 760,000 foreign workers, 1.5% of the work force. Foreigners in Japan remitted $2.8 billion officially in 2003 and an estimated $5.5 billion unoffi cially, to China, Korea, the Philippines, Brazil, and Peru.

Since the 1980s some 497 Myanma have sought asylum in Japan, usually on the grounds of religious persecution as Christians in a Buddhist nation. In 2004 Japan had 1,960 refugees and 496 seeking asylum, mainly from Turkey and Myanmar.


In 2004, 99% of the population was Japanese while only 1% be-longed to other ethnic groups (mostly Korean, Chinese, Brazilian, and Filipino). Although it is known that the Japanese are descended from many varied peoples of Asia, there is no agreement as to origins or specific ethnic strains. In physical characteristics, the Japanese belong to the Mongoloid group, with faint admixtures of Malayan and Caucasoid strains. Waves of migration from the continental hinterland reached Japan during the end of the Paleolithic period, blending into a complicated and diverse ethnic, linguistic, and cultural system. It is believed that the Japanese have their roots in the Old Stone Age race of at least 30,000 bc. A major migration appears to have taken place in the 2nd and 3rd centuries ad, and by the 4th century this group, called the Yamato clan, established a monarchy in the present Nara prefecture. Other ethnic strains may have come from Indonesia and China in the south, Korea in the west, and Siberia and Alaska in the north.

The one remaining distinct ethnic group in Japan is the Ainu. These people, living on the northern island of Hokkaidō, are physically distinct from the contemporary Japanese, having Nordic-like features, including more pervasive facial and body hair. There is no agreement as to their origins; their current population is less than 20,000.


Japanese is the official language. Most linguists agree that Japanese is in a language class by itself, although there is some inconclusive evidence that traces it to the Malayo-Polynesian language family. In vocabulary, Japanese is rich in words denoting abstract ideas, natural phenomena, human emotions, ethics, and aesthetics, but poor in words for technical and scientific expression. For these latter purposes, foreign words are directly imported and written in a phonetic system (katakana ). A distinct characteristic is the use of honorifics to show proper respect to the listener and his social status.

Written Japanese owes its origin almost entirely to Chinese forms. Having no indigenous script, the Japanese since the 5th century have used Chinese characters, giving them both an approximate Chinese pronunciation and a Japanese pronunciation. In addition, the Japanese invented phonetic symbols (kana ) in the 9th century to represent grammatical devices unknown to the Chinese.

Attempts have been made to reduce the complexity of the written language by limiting the number of Chinese characters used. The government has published a list of 1,850 characters for use in official communications. Newspapers adhere to this list.


According to a 2002 report by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, about 49.9% of the population practice Shintoism and 44.2% practice Buddhism. Religious identities are not mutually exclusive, however, and many Japanese maintain affiliations with both a Buddhist temple and a Shinto shrine.

Shinto, originally concerned with the worship of spirits of nature, grew under the influence of Chinese Confucianism to include worship of family and imperial ancestors, and thus provided the foundation of Japanese social structure. Shinto became an instrument of nationalism after 1868, as the government officially sponsored and subsidized it, requiring that it be taught in the schools and that all Japanese belong to a state Shinto shrine. After World War II, Shinto was abolished as a state religion, and the emperor issued an imperial prescript denying divine origin. Today, Shinto exists as a private religious organization.

Buddhism is considered by some the most important religion in Japan. Introduced through China and Korea around ad 552, Buddhism spread rapidly throughout Japan and has had considerable influence on the nation's arts and its social institutions. There are 13 sects (shu ) and 56 denominations, the principal shu being Tendai, Shingon, Jodo, Zen, Soto, Obaku, and Nichiren. Japanese Buddhism was founded on the Mahayana school, which emphasizes the attainment of Buddhahood, whereas the Hinayana Buddhism of India emphasizes obedience to commandments and personal perfection. The great temples and gardens of Japan, the famous Japanese tea ceremony (chanoyu ), and Japanese flower-arranging arts (ikebana ) owe their development to the influence of Buddhism.

Religions designated as other are practiced by about 6% of the population (including 0.9% practicing Christianity). "Other" faiths that were founded in Japan include Tenrikyo, Seichounoie, Sekai Kyusei Kyo, Perfect Liberty, and Risho Koseikai. Christianity, introduced to Japan by the Jesuit St. Francis Xavier in 1549, was first encouraged by feudal lords but then banned in 1613, often under penalty of death. After that time, a unique sect known as "hidden Christians" developed, with no tradition of churches or public displays of faith and a syncretic doctrine that incorporated local ideas and history. The prohibition against Christianity was in force until 1873, following the reopening of Japan to international relations in 1854. Following World War II, when the emperor lost his claim to divinity, some Japanese gave up Shinto and converted to Christianity or Judaism.

After World War II, a considerable number of new religious groups sprouted up. One of these, the Soka-Gakkai, a Buddhist offshoot, controlled a political party (Komeito ), the third-strongest political group in Japan, until politics and religion were officially separated in 1970. In addition to the established and new religions, Confucianism, an ethical system originating in China, has strongly influenced Japanese society since the earliest periods, providing underpinnings for some characteristically Japanese attitudes.


Despite its rugged terrain, Japan has a highly developed transportation system. In 2004, Japan had 23,577 km (14,664 mi) of railways, of which about 86% was 1.067-m narrow gauge. Of that total, 13,277 km (8,258 mi) were electrified. Standard gauge lines totaled 3,204 km (1993 mi), all of which are electrified. The government-owned Japan National Railways (JNR) was privatized in April 1987 and divided into six railway companies. Feeding into these six lines were 144 other private railroads. Like their counterparts elsewhere, Japan's rail lines face increasing competition from automotive, sea, and air transport, as well as rising operating costs. High-speed lines, however, have been successful in partially meeting these problems; the most famous of these is the Shinkansen, which opened to traffic in October 1964 between Tokyo and Osaka and was extended in March 1975 to Fukuoka in northern Kyūshū. In 1984, the Shinkansen superexpress trains covered the 1,069 km (664 mi) between Tokyo and Fukuoka in less than seven hours, with maximum speeds of 210 km/hr (130 mph). In 1982, the first section of the northern Shinkansen line, between Tokyo and Omiya, began operations. This line was extended in 1983 to Niigata and to Morioka, in northern Honshū. By far the longest railway tunnel in the world, the 54.2 km (33.7 mi) Seikan tube linking Honshū with Hokkaidō, was opened in 1983 and completed in 1985. The tunnel, lying beneath the Tsugaru Strait, cost well over $2 billion. A bridge links Honshū and Shikoku. Subway lines serve nine citiesTokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Kobe, Yokohama, Sapporo, Kyoto, Fukuoka, and Sendai. There are 410 km (255 mi) of track, with 196 km (122 mi) in Tokyo's 11 lines. Since 1964, down-town Tokyo has also been linked with that city's Haneda Airport by a monorail transport system, and several other monorails have been put into operation. In addition, a 7 km (4.3 mi) monorail serves the city of Yokohama.

Roads have become the most important means of domestic transport. Motor vehicles in 2003 numbered 55,212,593 passenger cars and 17,312,192 commercial vehicles, up from 25,848,000 and 8,306,000, respectively, in 1985. To speed traffic flow, a total of 6,946 km (4,320 mi) of expressways were open to traffic in 2002. In total, there were 1,177,278 million km (732,267 mi) of roadways, of which about 914,745 km (568,971 mi) were paved.

Japan is one of the world's great maritime nations. The chief ports are Yokohama (for Tokyo), Nagoya, and Kobe. In 2005, Japan's merchant fleet included 702 ships of 1,000 GRT or more, totaling 10,149,196 GRT. Since 1959, Japan has emerged as the world's leading shipbuilder, but output declined in the late 1970s and 1980s in the face of a worldwide recession and increased competition from the Republic of Korea (ROK). Although Japan had 1,770 km (1,101 mi) of navigable inland waterways, as of 2004, they are not used by ocean-going vessels, which prefer to use the country's inland seas.

Japan had an estimated 174 airports in 2004. As of 2005 a total of 142 had paved runways, and there were also 15 heliports. Principal domestic airports include Haneda in Tokyo, Itami in Osaka, Itazuke in Fukuoka, and Chitose on Hokkaidō. Principal international facilities include Kansai International at Osaka and New Tokyo International at Tokyo. Japan Air Lines (JAL), the nation's major domestic and international airline, began operations in 1952 and inaugurated international flights in 1954. All Nippon Airways, established in 1957, began as a domestic system serving smaller areas of the country and acting as a feeder line to JAL but now serves overseas routes; it began to carry freight in 1987. In 2003, Japan's airlines performed 7,985 million freight ton-km. In that same year, about 103.606 million passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.


Archaeological discoveries revealed the existence of Paleolithic humans in Japan when the islands were connected to the Asian continental landmass. Little is known about the origins of the earliest Japanese beyond the fact that they migrated from the continent. The first distinctive Neolithic culture, the Jõmon, existed in Japan from 11,000 bc to 300 bc. The Jõmon was displaced by the Yayoi culture, which introduced new agricultural and metallurgical skills from the continent. Tradition places the beginning of the Japanese nation in 660 bc with the ascendance to the throne of the legendary Emperor Jimmu. It is generally agreed, however, that as the Yayoi developed, the Yamato clan attained hegemony over southern Japan during the first three or four centuries of the Christian era and established the imperial family line. Earlier contacts with Korea were expanded in the 5th century to mainland China, and the great period of cultural borrowing began: industrial arts were imported; Chinese script was introduced (thereby permitting the study of medical texts), the Chinese calendar and Buddhism also arrived from China. Japanese leaders adapted the Chinese governmental organization but based power upon hereditary position rather than merit. The first imperial capital was established at Nara in 710. In 794, the imperial capital was moved to Heian (Kyoto), where it remained until 1868, when Tokyo became the nation's capital.

Chinese influence waned as native institutions took on peculiarly Japanese forms. Outside court circles, local clans gained strength, giving rise to military clan influence over a weakening imperial system. The Minamoto clan gained national hegemony as it defeated the rival Taira clan in 1185, and its leader, the newly appointed Yoritomo, established a military form of government at Kamakura in 1192, a feudal system that lasted for nearly 700 years. Under the shogunate system, all political power was in the hands of the dominant military clan, with the emperors ruling in name only. The Kamakura period was followed by the Ashikaga shogunate (13361600) which saw economic growth and the development of a more complex feudalism. For over 100 years, until the end of the 16th century, continuous civil war among rival feudal lords (daimyo ) ensued. During this time, the first contact with the Western world took place with the arrival in 1543 of Portuguese traders, and with that, the first guns were imported. Six years later, St. Francis Xavier arrived, introducing Christianity to Japan.

By 1590, the country was pacified and unified by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a peasant who had risen to a top military position. Hideyoshi also invaded Korea unsuccessfully, in 159293 and in 1598, dying during the second invasion. Ieyasu Tokugawa consolidated Hideyoshi's program of centralization. Appointed shogun in 1603, Tokugawa established the Tokugawa shogunate (military dictatorship), which was to rule Japan until the imperial restoration in 1868. Tokugawa made Edo (modern Tokyo) the capital, closed Japan to foreigners except Chinese and Dutch traders (who were restricted to Nagasaki) and occasional Korean diplomats, and banned Christianity. For the next 250 years, Japan enjoyed stability and a flowering of indigenous culture, although from the end of the 18th century onward, Japan came under increasing pressure from Western nations to end its isolationist policy.

The arrival of Commodore Matthew C. Perry from the United States in 1853with his famous "black ships"started a process that soon ended Japanese feudalism. The following year, Perry obtained a treaty of peace and friendship between the United States and Japan, and similar pacts were signed with Russia, Britain, and the Netherlands based on the principle of extraterritoriality. A decade of turmoil and confusion followed over the question of opening Japan to foreigners. A coalition of southern clans led by ambitious young samurai of the Satsuma and Choshu clans forced the abdication of the Tokugawa shogun and reestablished the emperor as head of the nation. In 1868, Emperor Mutsuhito took over full sovereignty. This Meiji Restoration, as it is known, signaled the entry of Japan into the modern era.

Intensive modernization and industrialization commenced under the leadership of the restoration leaders. A modern navy and army with universal military conscription and a modern civil service based on merit formed the foundation of the new nationstate. The government undertook the establishment of industry, by importing technological assistance. In 1889, a new constitution established a bicameral legislature (Diet) with a civil cabinet headed by a prime minister responsible to the emperor.

By the end of the 19th century, irreconcilable territorial ambitions brought Japan into open conflict with its much larger western neighbors. The Sino-Japanese War (189495) was fought over the question of control of Korea, and the Russo-Japanese War (190405) over the question of Russian expansion in Manchuria and influence in Korean affairs. Japan emerged victorious in both conflicts, its victory over the Russians marking the first triumph of an Asian country over a Western power in modern times. Japan received the territories of Taiwan and the southern half of Sakhalin Island, as well as certain railway rights and concessions in Manchuria and recognition of paramount influence in Korea. The latter became a Japanese protectorate in 1905 and was annexed by Japan in 1910.

During the Taisho era (191226), Japan participated in a limited way in World War I, in accordance with the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902. Japan was one of the Big Five powers at the Versailles Peace Conference and in 1922 was recognized as the world's third-leading naval power at the Washington Naval Conference. The domestic economy developed rapidly, and Japan was transformed from an agricultural to an industrial nation. Economic power tended to be held by the industrial combines (zaibatsu ), controlled by descendants of those families that had instituted the modernization of the country decades earlier. In 1925, universal manhood suffrage was enacted, and political leaders found it necessary to take into consideration the growing influence of parties.

In 1926, Emperor Hirohito ascended the throne beginning the Showa era. By the 1930s, democratic institutions atrophied and the military-industrial complex became dominant. With severe social distress caused by the great depression, an ultranationalist ideology emerged, particularly among young army officers. Acting independently of the central government, the military launched an invasion of Manchuria in 1931, eventually establishing the puppet state of Manchukuo. In 1932, a patriotic society assassinated the prime minister, bringing an end to cabinets formed by the majority party in the Diet. Japan withdrew from the League of Nations (which had protested the Manchurian takeover) in 1933, started a full-scale invasion of China (the Second Sino-Japanese War, 193745), and signed the Anti-Comintern pact with Germany in 1936 and a triple alliance with Germany and Italy in 1940. The military leadership, viewing the former USSR and the United States as chief barriers to Japanese expansion, negotiated a nonaggression pact with the USSR in April 1941, thus setting the stage for the attack on Pearl Harbor and other Pacific targets on 7 December of that year. Thereafter, Japanese military actions took place in the context of World War II.

With its capture of the Philippines on 2 January 1942, Japan gained control of most of East Asia, including major portions of China, Indochina, and the southwest Pacific. Japanese forces, however, could not resist the continued mobilization of the US military. A series of costly naval campaignsincluding battles at Midway, Guadalcanal, and Leyte Gulfbrought an end to Japanese domination in the Pacific. By 1945, the Philippines had been recaptured, and the stage was set for a direct assault on Japan. After the US troops captured Okinawa in a blood battle, US president Harry S. Truman argued that a full invasion of Japan would prove too costly and decided on aerial attacks to force Japan into surrendering. After four months of intense bombardment with conventional weapons, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and a second bomb on Nagasaki on 9 August. An estimated 340,000 persons died from the two attacks and the subsequent effects of radiation. In addition, all major cities, with the exception of Kyoto, were destroyed during the war and food and supply shortages continued for several years after the surrender.

On 14 August, Japan accepted the Potsdam Declaration for unconditional surrender with formal surrender documents signed aboard the USS Missouri on 2 September. After the surrender over 500 Japanese military officials committed suicide and hundreds more faced war crimes prosecution. Emperor Hirihito was not declared a war criminal and although he lost all military and political power he retained his royal title and became a symbol of the state until his death in 1989. The subsequent occupation (194552), under the direction of General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, began a series of ambitious reforms. Political reforms included the adoption of a parliamentary system of government based on democratic principles and universal suffrage, a symbolic role for the emperor as titular head of state, the establishment of an independent trade union, and the disarmament of the military. Economic reforms consisted of land reform, the dissolution of the zaibatsu, and economic and political rights for women. A new constitution was promulgated on 3 November 1946 and put into force on 3 May 1947.

The Postwar Period

Heavy economic aid from the United States and a procurement boom produced by the Korean War, coupled with a conservative fiscal and monetary policy allowed the Japanese to rebuild their country. The Japanese economy rapidly recovered, and the standard of living quickly surpassed the prewar level by a substantial margin. The state of war between the Western powers and Japan was formally ended by the San Francisco Peace Treaty, signed in September 1951 by 56 nations. The allied occupation ended officially when the treaty went into effect in April 1952. Japan renounced claims to many of its former overseas territories, including such major areas as Taiwan and Korea. The Amami island group, comprising the northern portion of the Ryukyu Islands, nearest to Kyūshū Island, was returned to direct Japanese control by the United States in December 1953; the remainder of the group, including Okinawa, was returned to full Japanese sovereignty in May 1972. The Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands and Kazan (Volcano) Islands were returned to Japanese sovereignty in June 1968. The former USSR never signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty, and Japan and Russia have continued to dispute sovereignty over the Kurile Islands, to the northeast of Hokkaidō, which the USSR occupied in 1945. In 1956, Japan and the former USSR agreed to establish diplomatic relations.

In 1956 Japan was elected to UN membership. A revision of the 1952 defense treaty with the United States, under which a limited number of troops were to remain in Japan for defense purposes, was signed amid growing controversy in 1960. On 22 June 1965, Japan signed a treaty with South Korea normalizing relations between the two countries. The US-Japanese Security Treaty was renewed in 1970, despite vigorous protest by the opposition parties and militant student organizations. In 1972, Japan moved to establish full diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. Formal diplomatic links with the Nationalist Chinese government on Taiwan were terminated by this move, but Japan's economic and cultural links with Taiwan nonetheless have survived virtually intact.

While Japan defined its new role in East Asian affairs, its remarkable economic expansion raised it to the level of a major trading power. Based on strong government support of export industries, political stability under the Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP), and public policy guidance from a powerful bureaucracy, Japan experienced a dramatic rise from the ruins of World War II. From 1955 to 1965, Japan experienced a nominal growth rate of 1020% annually and real growth rates (adjusted for inflation) of 512%. In 1968, it surpassed the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) to stand second after the United States among non-Communist nations in total value of GNP. The oil crisis of 1973a combination of shortages and rising pricesrevealed the crack in Japan's economic armor, the lack of domestic petroleum resources. A second oil crisis during the late 1970s was met by a reappraisal of Japan's dependence on foreign fuels and the institution of long-range programs for energy conservation and diversification. These oil crises led to a shift in the economy and to the creation of high-technology industries, most notably electric and electronic appliances.

The yen declined in value in the early 1980s, causing Japanese exports to become cheaper in overseas markets and leading to huge trade surpluses with the United States and other leading trading partners, who began to demand that Japan voluntarily limit certain exports and remove the barriers to Japan's domestic market. During 198587, the yen appreciated in value against the dollar and, by 1994, the dollar had hit a post-World War II low, but Japan continued to register substantial trade surpluses.

Political stability, maintained since the 1950s by the majority LDP, began to unravel in the 1970s, following the retirement from politics of Prime Minister Eisaku Sato in 1972. Sato's successor, Kakuei Tanaka, was forced to resign in December 1974 amid charges of using his office for personal gain in the Lockheed Corporation bribery scandal. Takeo Miki succeeded Tanaka and Takeo Fukuda became prime minister when Miki resigned in December 1976. Fukuda was defeated in intraparty elections by Masayoshi Ohira in 1978. When Ohira died in June 1980, he was succeeded by Zenko Suzuki. Suzuki stepped down as prime minister in November 1982 and was replaced by controversial and outspoken Yasuhiro Nakasone. Noboru Takeshita became prime minister in November 1987.

Policy regarding military force has been a major political issue in the postwar years. According to Article Nine of the 1947 constitution, Japan renounced the belligerency of the state but soon developed a Self-Defense Force with US encouragement. In 1986, breaking a long-standing policy, the government increased military spending to over 1% of the GNP. The Diet (parliament) approved a bill allowing the deployment of troops abroad for international peacekeeping in 1992 with troops participating with the United Nations in Cambodia, Israel, Iraq, Sudan, Indonesia, and other states.

Emperor Hirohito died of cancer on 7 January 1989, at the age of 87. He was succeeded by the Crown Prince Akihito, who was enthroned as the Heisei emperor in a formal ceremony in November 1990. The sense of entering a new era brought increased controversy over the assessment of Japan's role in the earlier part of the century, particularly during World War II. Some denied that Japan had committed atrocities during the war and there were attempts to further soften the wording of school textbooks. In March 1989, Prime Minister Takeshita apologized to North Korea (DPRK) for the suffering Japan caused over the 36 years of occupation of Korea (191045) and Emperor Akihito expressed similar regrets to President Roh Tae Woo of South Korea (ROK) in May 1990. In the same month, the government removed the requirement for fingerprinting of people of Korean descent living in Japan. In 1992, Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa apologized for the forced prostitution of Korean, Chinese, and Japanese women in Japanese military brothels during World War II. However, many minorities in Japan, Chinese and Koreans included, claimed that they still experienced social and economic discrimination in Japan well after the war.

The 1980s ended with a major scandal involving illegal stock trading and influence peddling by the Recruit Cosmos Company. Between the summer of 1988 and the closing of the case in May 1989, the scandal led to the implication and resignations of prominent business people and politicians in top government positions, among them then-finance minister Kiichi Miyazawa, and the former prime minister, Yashuhiro Nakasone. Scandals continued into the 1990s with stock rebates for politicians in 1991 and then in 1992, contributions to politicians from a trucking company linked to organized crime became public knowledge.

The economy entered a period of major stagnation and distress in the early 1990s. In 1990, the stock market declined more than 25% from January to April. Then, during the spring of 1992, the stock index fell rapidly again, until by the summer, the index was at its lowest point in six years at 62% below the record high of 1989. By the end of 1993, Japan was in the midst of its worst economic downturn in at least 20 years. This also led to a debt crisis that resulted in many banks becoming unsustainable causing a massive consolidation. Although the long-term economic prospects for Japan were good, it was further retarded by the impact of the Asian financial crisis of 199798. In 1998, the Japanese economy witnessed its most serious recession with a negative growth rate of 1.9%. As of 2005 there were only four national banks in Japan.

Against the background of scandals and an economic recession, the political landscape began a major change. Taking responsibility for political problems caused by the Recruit scandal, Noboru Takeshita resigned as prime minister in April 1989, to be succeeded in May by Sosuke Uno, who abruptly resigned when a sex scandal became public amidst the LDP loss of its majority in the upper house of the Diet. The next prime minister, Toshiki Kaifu, served his term from August 1989 to October 1991, but the LDP did not support him for a second term. Instead, Kiichi Miyazawa became prime minister in November 1991. When the lower house gave Miyazawa a vote of no confidence in June 1993 for abandoning electoral reform bills, Miyazawa dissolved the lower house and called for elections.

In the election for the 511 seats of the House of Representatives on 18 July 1993, the LDP, for the first time since its own formation in 1955, failed to secure the 256 seats needed for a majority. Without a majority, the LDP was unable to form a government and the new prime minister, Morihiro Hosokawa (JNP), was chosen on 29 July 1993, by a seven-party coalition of LDP defectors, socialists, and conservatives. Hosokawa, too, was tainted by questions regarding personal finances and stepped down as prime minister to be replaced by Tsutomu Hata (Shinseito) in April 1994. Just as Hata took office, the Socialist Party left the governing coalition, leaving the prime minister as the head of a minority government for the first time in four decades. Hata soon resigned and, in a surprise move, the LDP and the Socialist Party, traditionally opponents, allied to form a new coalition, which also included the Sakigake. The coalition selected as prime minister, Tomiichi Murayama, the head of the Socialist Party and the first Socialist prime minister since 1948. Within the coalition the LDP was the dominant factor but the decades of LDP rule appeared to be over and the nature of the LDP itself changed. The dissolution of the House of Representatives and the ensuing election on 18 July 1993 marked a major turning point for Japanese politics as the LDP lost its political dominance as new parties formed. One new party, the Japan New Party (JNP), was formed by Morihiro Hosokawa, a former LDP member, in May 1992. On 21 June 1993, 10 more members of the LDP, led by Masayoshi Takemura, left to form the Sakigake (Harbinger Party) and another 44 LDP members quit two days later to create the Shinseito (Renewal Party) with Tsutomu Hata as its head. By 28 June, one-fifth (57 members) of the LDP bloc of the dissolved lower house left the party.

In June 1994, Tomiichi Murayama became prime minister in a coalition consisting of the LDP, the Social Democratic Party of Japan (SDPJ), and Sakigake. In an unprecedented move, Murayama recognized the legal right for the existence of the Japanese Self-Defense force, much to the disapproval of left-leaning party members. The tumultuous reign of Murayama included the Kobe earthquake and political scandals which led to the resignation of the Justice Minister and the director of the Management and Coordination Agency. Elections in October 1996 resulted in a victory for the LDP, but the party still failed to obtain a majority of seats, only capturing 239 of 500. The Sakigake and Democratic Party of Japan agreed to support Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. In July 1998, Hashimoto resigned after a poor performance of the LDP in the House of Councilors election and was replaced by Keizo Obuchi. During the Obuchi regime, the Japanese economy showed signs of recovering with major fiscal stimuli including a massive public works program.

In April 2000, Obuchi suffered a stroke, entered into a coma, and was replaced by Yoshiro Mori who called summarily for elections. On 25 June parliamentary elections were held for the House of Representatives. Mori was reelected prime minister, with a ruling coalition of the LDP, the Buddhist-backed New Komeito, and the New Conservative Party (NCP). In early 2001, the Nikkei stock average fell to its lowest level since 1985 and unemployment rates reached 4.9%, the highest since the end of World War II. Plagued by scandal and the depressed economy, Mori resigned in April 2001. Junichiro Koizumi won control of the LDP and became prime minister on 26 April, promising to reinvigorate Japanese politics and radically reform the economy. He appointed members of his cabinet without seeking nominations from major factions of the LDP, as had been the practice in the past.

Koizumi immediately raised controversy by making a visit to the Yasukuni Shrine. Dedicated to Japan's war dead, it served as a symbol of nationalism during World War II and has been a lightning rod for anger among Asian nations that suffered under Japan's military aggression. He continued to visit the shrine annually. Japan was also the target of international criticism over its Education Ministry's approval of junior high-school textbooks that allegedly glossed over Japan's aggression in China, particularly the Nanjing Massacre and its annexation of the Korean Peninsula.

Koizumi's coalition dominated the July 2001 elections for the House of Councilors, with the LDP taking 65 of the 121 contested seats, its best performance in the House of Councilors since 1992. The victory was seen as a mandate for Koizumi. However, the economy remained in recession throughout 2002, which reduced his popularity.

In 2002, Japan began a diplomatic initiative to improve relations with North Korea. In September 2002, North Korean President Kim Jong Il apologized to Koizumi for North Korea's kidnapping of Japanese citizens during the 1970s and 1980s. Japan pledged a generous aid package to North Korea in return. In 2005 relations with South Korea and China soured over Japanese continued use of junior high-school textbooks which downplayed the aggressive nature of Japan's role in WWII. In addition, South Korea objected to the reassertion of the Japanese claim to the Liancourt Rocks, which Korea occupies. China objected to the Japanese proposal for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, while both countries objected to Japan's use of the East China Sea.

Elections in 2003 resulted in large gains for the opposition Democratic Party, but the LDP coalition retained a majority within the parliament. On 27 September 2004, Koizumi carried out a major cabinet reorganization dubbing his new ministerial lineup the "Reform Implementation Cabinet", in order to combat corruption and inefficiency. April 2005 public opinion polls showed Koizumi support ratings in the 4050% range, which was very high by Japanese standards, and his tenure in office was one of the longest on record.

Koizumi called for early elections in September 2005 after he dissolved the lower House due to the defeat in the upper House of his landmark proposals to reform the country's postal system. The upper House cannot be dissolved in Japan, and so a two-thirds majority was needed in the lower House to be able to pass new legislation without the consent of the upper House. The result was the second-largest landslide in a general election in the LDP's history. In combination with allied parties, the LDP coalition held over two-thirds of the seats, 296 out of 480. The results were a devastating setback for the Democratic Party, the main opposition, whose gains in 2001 and 2003 led some to believe that Japanese Democracy was evolving into a two-party system. Due to LDP term limits, Koizumi was expected to retire in 2006, although the possibility of his remaining in office still existed.


Japan follows the parliamentary system in accordance with the constitution of 1947. The most significant change from the previous constitution of 1889 was the transfer of sovereign power from the emperor to the people. The emperor is now defined as "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." The constitution provides for the supremacy of the National Diet as the legislative branch of the government, upholds the separation of legislative, executive, and judicial powers, and guarantees civil liberties. It is officially termed a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government.

The executive branch is headed by a prime minister selected from the Diet by its membership. The cabinet consists of the prime minister and 17 state ministers (as of February 2003) whom are elected by the prime minister, each heading a government ministry or agency. At least half the ministers must be selected from the Diet, to which the cabinet is collectively responsible. Upon a vote of no confidence by the House of Representatives, the cabinet must resign en masse.

The National Diet is bicameral. The 2005 House of Representatives (the lower House) has a membership of 480, with terms of office for four years, except that all terms end upon dissolution of the house (a law promulgated in February 2000 reduced the composition of the House from 500 to 480 members). Of the 480 seats, 180 are elected from 11 multi-member constituencies by proportional representation, and 300 are elected from single-member constituencies. The House of Councilors (the upper House) has 242 members, 144 members in multi-seat constituencies and 98 by proportional representation. The term of office is six years, with one-half elected every three years. This means that of the 121 members subject to election each time, 73 are elected from the 47 prefectural districts and 48 are elected from a nationwide list by proportional representation. The lower house holds primary power. In case of disagreement between the two houses, or if the upper house fails to take action within 60 days of receipt of legislation from the lower house, a bill becomes law if passed again by a two-thirds majority of the lower house.

Suffrage is universal, the voting age being 20 years, with a three-month residence requirement. The 1947 constitution granted suffrage to women. In January 1994, the Diet passed an electoral reform bill. In addition to new laws on campaign financing, the legislation abolished the multiple-member districts and replaced them with 300 single-member districts and 200 multimember districts. The number of multimember districts stood at 180. The 1996 elections resulted in the weakening of minor parties, in particular the SDPJ and Sakigake. Elections for the House of Representatives took place in 2005, two years before the official end of the term taken from the election in 2003 due to Koizumi's decision to dissolve the lower House. The next elections for the House of Councilors were scheduled to take place in 2007.


Most political parties in Japan are small local or regional parties, with the total number of parties exceeding 10,000. Japan's most popular party, the Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP) represents a wide spectrum of Japanese society, but especially the conservative elements. Formed in 1955 by the merger of the two leading conservative parties, this party held the reins of government since its formation until July 1993. The LDP supports an alliance with the United States and the various security pacts enacted by the two countries.

The Japan Socialist Party (JSP) is Japan's principal opposition party, drawing its support mainly from the working class, but it suffers from personality as well as ideological problems within its ranks. The JSP split into right and left wings over the ratification of the US-Japan Security Treaty of 1952. In October 1955, however, the two factions reunited, preceding the unification of the conservative parties and actually forcing the conservative groups into a unified front, thus creating a formal two-party system in Japan.

Beginning in the late 1960s, a shift took place toward a multipleparty system, with the gradual increase of opposition parties other than the JSP. The Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) represented moderate elements of the working class. The Komeito (Clean Government Party), professing middle-of-the-road politics, was the political wing of the Soka-Gakkai, a Buddhist sect. The Japanese Communist Party, founded as an underground group in 1922 and legalized after World War II, experienced major shifts in platform. The party had traditionally sided with China in the Sino-Soviet ideological dispute, although in recent years the Japanese Communists have focused instead on social conditions at home.

The LDP continued to hold its majority in both houses until 1993. Traditionally, the LDP has functioned as a coalition of several factions, each tightly organized and bound by personal loyalty to a factional leader. In the mid-1970s, policy differences among the factions and their leaders became acute, with the resignation under pressure of Prime Minister Tanaka in December 1974.

In the summer of 1993, after five years of scandals involving corruption, sex, organized crime, and in the midst of economic recession, the old political order disintegrated as dozens of younger LDP members defected to form new parties. Chief among these was the Japan New Party (JNP), formed in May 1992, and the Sakigake (Harbinger Party) and the Shinseito (Renewal Party), both formed in June 1993. A watershed election in July 1993 for the House of Representatives, the lower house of the parliament, resulted in the loss by the LDP, for the first time since 1955, of its majority. Of the 511 seats, the LDP won 223 seats (as compared with 275 in the 1990 election), the JSP won 70 seats (a loss of half of its previous seats), the Komeito won 51 seats, the Shinseito took 55 seats, the JNP won 35 seats, and the Sakigake won 13. A seven-party coalition, including new parties of LDP defectors, the JSP, and other conservative parties, formed the new cabinet, which governed for a year until the prime minister (Morihiro Hosokawa, JNP) resigned over a financial scandal. The coalition formed a new government, led by Tsutomu Hata of the Shinseito, in April 1993. However, the JSP, finding itself maneuvered out of any voice in the coalition, broke away and Hata, then with a minority in the House of Representatives, resigned after one month in office.

The next government was formed by a new, unorthodox coalition of the traditional opponents, the LDP and the JSP, as well as the Sakigake. Tomiichi Murayama, head of the JSP, was chosen prime minister in June 1994, the first Socialist to head a government since 1948, although the LDP appeared to be dominant in the coalition. This unusual partnership caused strains, leading to further defections, within the LDP and within the JSP. The Shinseito emerged as a serious focus of opposition, standing for an internationally more active Japan, including use of the military overseas, for a revision of the constitution, and for removing protective regulations to open the domestic economy to competition. The left wing of the JSP, unhappy with the alliance with the LDP, held that the Self-Defense Forces were unconstitutional, and that the North Korean government (DPRK) was the legitimate government of all of Korea, and advocated abolition of the security treaty with the United States.

The parliamentary election that took place on 20 October 1996 combined the 300 single seat constituencies with the proportional representation for the remaining 200 seats. After the dissolution of Shinshinto, a highly fractionalized party system emerged. Going into the 2000 election, the LDP had 266 seats, with the largest opponents being the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) with 94 seats, the Komeito with 52, the Liberal Party with 39, and the Communists with 23. The LDP worked closely with the Komei party and the Liberal Party, effectively making the DPJ the only significant opposition.

The 2000 House of Representatives election produced the following distribution of seats: LDP, 233; DPJ, 127; Komeito, 31; Liberal Party, 22; Japan Communist Party (JCP), 20; Social Democratic Party (SDP), 19; New Conservative Party (formed in 2000), 7; and 21 other seats. In the 2001 House of Councilors vote, the seats fell as follows: LDP, 110; DPJ, 59; Komeito, 23; JCP, 20; SDP, 8; Liberal Party, 8; New Conservative Party, 5; and independents took 14 seats. A new party emerged in Japanese politics, the New Conservative Party, formed in March 2000 by members who split off from the Liberal Party.

In November 2003, an election for the House of Representatives was held, and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, leading the LDP, emerged victorious, although with a reduced majority. The election was seen as a victory for the DPJ, which won 180 seats, its largest share ever. In 2005 the six largest parties represented in the national Diet were the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the New Clean Party Government (Komeito), the Japan Communist Party (JCP), the Socialist Democratic Party (SDP), and the Conservative New Party (CNP). The early election called by Koizumi in September of 2005, however, resulted in a firm majority for the LDP.


Local government throughout Japan was strengthened by the Local Autonomy Law of 1947. Administratively, Japan is divided into 47 prefectures. Within these prefectures there are 670 cities and 2,562 towns and villages. The local chief executives, mayors, and village heads, together with prefectural assembly members, are directly elected. Governors and assembly members are elected by popular vote every four years. The 47 prefectures are divided as follows: 1 metropolitan district (to Tokyo), 2 urban prefectures (fu Kyoto and Osaka), 43 rural prefectures (ken ), and 1 district (d Hokkaidō). Large cities are subdivided into wards (ku ), and further split into towns, or precincts (machi or cho ), or subdistricts (shicho ) and counties (gun ). The city of Tokyo has 23 wards.

Local public bodies have the right to administer their own affairs as well as to enact their own regulations within the law. The National Diet cannot enact legislation for a specific public entity without the consent of the voters of that district. Local governments control school affairs, levy taxes, and carry out administrative functions in the fields of land preservation and development, pollution control, disaster prevention, public health, and social welfare. However, the Ministry of Home Affairs has had enormous control over the designs the systems of local administration, local finance and taxation, and co-ordinates between the central government and local governments although its purpose is to support and develop local and regional autonomy. The result of this power is a high level of organizational and policy standardization among the different local governments. Because Japan does not have a federal system, and its 47 prefectures are not sovereign entities in the sense that the United States are, most depend on the central government for subsidies. Mainly through the actions of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Japanese government was seeking to decentralize power, through a process termed "controlled decentralization," away from Tokyo by allowing prefectures to exercise greater fiscal and budgetary autonomy.


The 1947 constitution provides for the complete independence of the judiciary. All judicial power is vested in the courts. There are five types of courts in Japan: the Supreme Court, High Courts (8 regional courts), District Courts (in each of the prefectures), Family Courts, and 438 Summary Courts. Family Courts, on the same level as the District Courts, adjudicate family conflicts and complaints such as partitions of estates, marriage annulments, and juvenile protection cases.

The Summary Courts handle, in principle, civil cases involving claims which do not exceed 900,000 yen; and criminal cases relating to offenses punishable by fines or lighter penalties; and civil conciliations. They are situated in 438 locations nationwide. The cases are handled by a single summary court judge. The District Courts handle the first instance of most types of civil and criminal cases. They are situated in 50 locations nationwide (one in each of the 47 prefectures and one in the 3 cities of Hakodate, Asahikawa, and Kushiro) with branch offices in 203 locations. Most cases are disposed by a single judge, aside from those cases in which it has been decided that hearing and judgment shall be made by a collegiate court or cases where the crimes are punishable by imprisonment with or without labor for a minimum period of not less than one year. The High Courts handle appeals filed against judgments rendered by the district courts, family courts or summary courts. The cases are handled by a collegiate body consisting of three judges.

The Supreme Court is the highest and final court that handles appeals filed against judgments rendered by the High Courts. It is composed of the Chief Justice and 14 Justices with a Grand Bench made up of all 15 Justices. The Supreme Court is divided into three Petty Benches each made up of 5 Justices to which cases are first assigned. Those cases that involve constitutional questions are transferred to the Grand Bench for its inquiry and adjudication. The chief justice is appointed by the emperor on designation by the cabinet; the other justices, by cabinet appointment. Judges of the lesser courts also are appointed by the cabinet from lists of persons nominated by the Supreme Court. Their term of office is limited to 10 years, with the privilege of reappointment.

The Supreme Court is the court of last resort for determining the constitutionality of any law, order, regulation, or official act that is challenged during the regular hearing of a lawsuit. Abstract questioning of a law is prohibited and thus there is no judicial review. The constitution affords criminal defendants a right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial tribunal. There is no right to a trial by jury. The constitution requires a judicial warrant issued by a judge for each search or seizure. Japan accepts compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice with reservation.

Japan has the death penalty and it can be enforced for the crimes of murder, arson, or crimes against humanity, although only 23 prisoners are executed a year. Japan has been widely criticized for giving lenient punishments for certain crimes, especially rape which carries a typical sentence of 25 years in prison. On 18 May 2005, the Diet enacted a new law to improve the treatment of inmates and to help prevent recidivism.


The reestablishment of Japanese defense forces has been a subject of heated debate in the period since World War II. Article 9 of the constitution renounces war as a sovereign right and the maintenance of "land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential." During the Korean War, General MacArthur recommended the establishment of a national police reserve. Following the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, the reserve force was reorganized into a National Safety Agency (1 August 1952). Laws establishing a Defense Agency and a Self-Defense Force became effective on 1 July 1954, both under firm civilian control.

The strength of Japan's armed forces in 2005 was 239,900 active personnel, supported by a reserve force of 44,395. The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) had 148,200 personnel, organized into one armored and nine infantry divisions. The JGSDF's weaponry included 980 main battle tanks, 100 reconnaissance vehicles, 70 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 730 armored personnel carriers, 1,980 artillery pieces, and 90 attack helicopters. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) had an estimated 44,400 personnel, with 16 tactical submarines, 44 destroyers, 9 frigates, 31 mine warfare vessels, and 9 patrol/coastal craft. The JMSDF's naval aviation arm had an estimated 9,800 members with 80 combat capable aircraft that was made up of 80 fixed-wing maritime patrol aircraft. The service also had 10 mine counter-measures and 88 antisubmarine warfare helicopters. Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) personnel numbered up to 45,600, with 300 combat capable aircraft, including 150 fighters, and 130 fighter ground attack aircraft. Japan has a paramilitary coast guard of 12,250 operating 419 patrol vessels.

Although Japan's defense budgets rank high by world standards, they are modest in relation to gross domestic product (about 1%). In 2005, Japan's defense budget totaled $44.7 billion. The United States maintains extensive military facilities and several thousand troops in Japan. Japan participated in peacekeeping missions in the Middle East.


Japan was admitted to the United Nations on 18 December 1956, and it holds membership in ESCAP and all the nonregional specialized agencies. It is a member of the WTO, participates in the Colombo Plan, and has permanent observer status with the OAS. In 1963, Japan became a member of IMF and the OECD. It is also a charter member of the Asian Development Bank, which came into operation in 1966; Japan furnished $200 million, a share equal to that of the United States. Japan is also a member of APEC, G-5, G-7, G-8, the Paris Club (G-10), the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA). Japan is a dialogue partner in ASEAN, and observe to the Council of Europe, and a partner in the OSCE.

Japan has been actively developing peaceful uses for nuclear energy, and in 1970 it signed the Geneva Protocol, which prohibits the use of poisonous and bacteriological weapons. In June 1976, Japanthe only nation to have suffered a nuclear attackbecame the 96th signatory to the international Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Japan also participates in the Australia Group, the Zangger Committee, the Nuclear Energy Agency, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (London Group), the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and as an observer in the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).

Japan has been extending technical and financial aid to many countries, and in 1974 it established the Japan International Cooperation Agency to provide technical assistance to developing nations. Japan also was instrumental in establishing the Asian Productivity Organization, the objective of which is to organize national productivity movements in various Asian countries into a more effective movement on a regional scale. Japan has entered into cultural agreements with many European and Asian nations and maintains an educational exchange program with the United States. Through the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers, Japan sends youths to work in developing countries.

In environmental cooperation, Japan is part of the Antarctic Treaty, the Basel Convention, Conventions on Biological Diversity and Whaling, Ramsar, CITES, the London Convention, International Tropical Timber Agreements, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


Japan's economy is the most technologically-advanced in Asia and the second most technologically-advanced in the world, behind the United States. Total GDP at market exchange rates in 2005, estimated at $4.617 trillion, was second only to the United States, but in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, given the high price level in Japan and the low price level in China, Japan's estimated GDP of $4.008 trillion (PPP) put it third behind the United States and China. In per capita GDP at market exchange rates, Japan was among the leading nations of the world, at an estimated $36,236 in 2005. GDP per capita in PPP terms was $31,457 that year. Japan was the first Asian country to develop a large urban middle-class industrial society. It was also the first Asian country where a sharp reduction in the birthrate set the stage for notable further increases in per capita income.

Since 1952, the number of farmers has fallen sharply, while expansion has been concentrated in industry and trade. The agriculture sector in 2004 accounted for only 1.3% of the GDP, although it remained highly subsidized, employing a relatively high 5% of the labor force. Domestic raw materials are far too limited to provide for the nation's many needs, and imports must be relied on for such basics as raw cotton, raw wool, bauxite, and crude rubber, with fuels and foodstuffs heading the list of materials. The primary engine of Japan's modern growth has been the need to pay for these basic imports with manufactured exports. The exchange of high value-added finished products for low value-added commodities and raw materials has been the basis for both its high level of industrialization and its persistently high trade surpluses. Up until the mid-1980s, economic development depended on continued expansion in exports. With the steady appreciation of the yen in real terms after 1985, however, the country's economic structure underwent some adjustment. Business investment became the second major engine of growth. Facilitated by growing wage rates, favorable credit conditions, cuts in personal and corporate income tax rates and other stimulus measures by the government, domestic demand as well as direct foreign investment have played an increasingly important role as a source of growth in recent years.

After a period of recovery following World War II (from 1947 to 1960), Japan entered into about 15 years of rapid growth (1961 to 1975) that was arrested by the world oil crisis, signaled by the first oil shock in 1973. In 1974, for the first time since World War II, the GNP fell (by 1.8%). The recession was cushioned, however, by the nation's ability to improve its trade balance (by $11 billion) by increasing exports while reducing imports. The recovery of the mid-1970s was slowed by the second oil shock, in 197879, and although the Japanese economy continued to outperform those of most other industrial countries, growth in GNP slowed to an estimated 4.1% yearly in real terms for 197982, compared with 8.9% for 196972.

Meanwhile, the continued stimulation of exports, especially of automobiles and video equipment, combined with Japan's restrictive tariffs and other barriers against imports, led to increasingly strident criticism of the nation's trade practices in the United States and Western Europe. As early as 1971, Japan agreed to limit textile exports to the United States, and in the 1980s it also imposed limits on exports of steel, automobiles, and television sets. Similar limits were adopted for exports to Canada, France (where criticism focused on videocassette recorders), and West Germany. Nevertheless, Japan's trade surpluses with the United States and other countries continued to swell through the mid-1980s, helped by a number of factors, most notably the misalignment of major currencies, particularly between the dollar and the yen.

During the late 1980s, a 70% appreciation of the yen's value against the US dollar helped narrow Japan's trade surplus by 19% for two consecutive years in 1988/89 and 1989/90. This was accompanied by low rates of unemployment as well as strong growth in consumer spending and private investment, in turn contributing to a healthy 5% annual growth rate in the GNP between 1987 and 1990. The end of the period of high growth, 1975 to 1990, coincided with the collapse of the Cold War confrontation. The period that followed, after 1991 and until about 2003, had been characterized by very low to stagnant growth, and three dips into recession. The investment boom of the late 1980s, known retrospectively as the bubble economy, had its corresponding bust from 1991 to 1994, leaving mountains of debts that still constitute a drag on the economy. GDP growth rates fell to 1.0%, 0.3%, 0.6%, and 1.5% in the period 1992 to 1995. A spurt of recovery to 5% in 1996 was cut short by the Asian financial crisis of 1997, and Japan saw its first recession year since 1974 when GDP declined 1% in 1998.

Recovery from the Asian financial crisis was itself cut short in 2001, with the onset of a global slowdown and the aftershocks of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States: real GDP growth dropped from 2.2% in 2000 to -0.5% in 2001. The depth of recessions have been minimalized by massive stimulus packages and tax cuts across the period of stagnant growth. Recently, major tax cuts were made in 1999 and 2003, and in 2001, the government implemented its ninth massive stimulus package since 1992, this one for ¥11 trillion (about $960 billion). Total national debt, at 164.3% of GDP in 2004, is proportionately the highest among developed countries.

As of 2006, howeverdespite a currency that rose more than 20% from 200205Japan's economy was beginning to show signs of improvement. GDP was forecast to grow by 2.3% in 2005 and by 2% in 2006. Japan remained set to end persistent deflation in 2006, although fiscal tightening could slow GDP growth. Consumer prices were forecast to fall by 0.1% in 2005 and to rise by 0.3% in 2006. The unemployment rate was forecast to fall from 3.9% in 2006, to 3.8% in 2007, to just 3.5% in 2008.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Japan's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $3.9 trillion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $30,400. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 2.1%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was -0.2%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 1.3% of GDP, industry 25.3%, and services 73.5%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $1.078 billion.

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Japan totaled $2.448 trillion or about $19,123 per capita based on a GDP of $4.3 trillion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 1.4%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 12% of household consumption was spent on food, 7% on fuel, 2% on health care, and 22% on education.


Japan's labor force in 2005 numbered an estimated 66.4 million persons. The distribution of employed workers in 2004 was as follows: services, 67.7%; industry, 27.8%; and agriculture, 4.6%. The unemployment rate in 2005 was estimated at 4.3%. Employers tend toward traditional, paternalistic, often authoritarian, control over their workers, but in turn, most regular workers have traditionally enjoyed permanent status.

Union membership in 2005 was about 10.3 million or 19.2% of the workforce. Union strength is greatest in local government employees, automobile workers, and electrical machinery workers. Most members are organized in units called enterprise unions, which comprise the employees of a single firm. Virtually all organized workers are affiliated with national organizations, of which the largest is the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Shin-Rengo), established in 1987 following the dissolution of the Japanese Confederation of Labor (Domei), and incorporating the General Council of Trade Unions (Soyho) as of 1989. Collective bargaining is widely utilized, and the right to strike is available to most workers.

Strict enforcement of child labor laws as well as societal values protects children from exploitation in the workplace. Children under age 15 are not permitted to work, and those under 18 are restricted. As of 2005, the minimum wage ranged from $5.77 to $6.76 per hour, depending on region. Labor legislation mandated a standard workweek of 40 hours, with premium pay rates for overtime.


Crop production is vital to Japan despite limited arable land (13% of the total area) and the highest degree of industrialization in Asia. Steep land (more than 20°) has been terraced for rice and other crops, carrying cultivation in tiny patches far up mountainsides. With the aid of a temperate climate, adequate rainfall, soil fertility built up and maintained over centuries, and such a large farm population that the average farm has an area of only 1.2 hectares (3 acres), Japan has been able to develop intensive cultivation. Agriculture exists in every part of Japan, but is especially important on the northern island of Hokkaidō, which accounts for 10% of national production. Since World War II (193945), modern methods, including commercial fertilizers, insecticides, hybrid seeds, and machinery, have been used so effectively that harvests increased substantially through the 1970s. Japan is the third-largest agricultural product importer in the world (after the United States and Germany), with total agricultural product imports of $41.5 billion in 2004. At $39.6 billion, Japan had the largest agricultural trade deficit in the world that year.

Almost all soybeans, feedstuffs, and most of the nation's wheat are imported. In 2004, Japan produced 10.9 million tons of rice, the chief crop. In that year, rice accounted for about 90% of all cereal production. About 39% of all arable land is devoted to rice cultivation. Overproduction of rice, as a result of overplanting and a shift to other foods by the Japanese people, led the government in 1987 to adopt a policy of decreasing rice planting and increasing the acreage of other farm products. For many years the government restricted imports of cheaper foreign rice, but in 1995 the rice market was opened to imports, as the government implemented the Uruguay Round agreement on agriculture. Other important crops and their annual production in 2004 (in thousands of tons) included potatoes, 2,839; sugar beets, 4,656; mandarin oranges, 1,200; cabbage, 2,400; wheat, 860; barley, 240; soybeans, 163; tobacco, 53; and tea, 95. In 2003, the government estimated that Japan's self-suffi ciency rate for cereals was 60%; for fruits, 44%; and for vegetables, 82%.

As a result of the US-occupation land reform, which began in late 1946, nearly two-thirds of all farmland was purchased by the Japanese government at low prewar prices and resold to cultivators on easy terms. By the 1980s, nearly all farms were owner-operated, as compared with 23% before reform. A more telling trend in recent years has been the sharp growth in part-time farm households. Farmers are aging, and 84% of farm income is derived from other sources, such as industrial jobs. Although agriculture accounts for only 1% of GDP, about 10% of the population lives on farms. Despite increasing urbanization, 59% of all farms still cultivated less than one hectare (2.7 acres) in 2004. As a result, Japanese agriculture intensively utilizes both labor and machinery for production. In 2003, Japan had 2,028,000 tractors and 1,042,000 combines.


Livestock production has been the fastest-growing sector in Japanese agriculture, with meat production increasing from 1.7 million tons in 1970 to 3 million tons in 2005. In 2004, Japan imported $8.8 billion in beef, pork, and poultry meat. In 2005 there were 9,600,000 hogs, 4,401,000 head of beef cattle, and 283,000,000 chickens. That year, pork production reached 1,250,000 tons (up from 147,318 tons in 1960); beef, 500,000 tons (142,450 tons in 1960); milk, 8,255,000 tons (1,886,997 tons in 1960); and eggs, 2,465,000 tons. Japan is the single largest recipient of US agricultural exports; over a third of Japan's meat imports come from the United States. In 2003, the government estimated that Japan's self-suffi ciency rate for meat was 45%; for eggs, 96%; and for dairy products, 69%.


Japan is one of the world's foremost fishing nations, accounting on average for about 8% of the world's catch. In 2004, the total catch was 5.73 million tons, with marine fishing accounting for 78%. The waters off Japan include cold and warm currents in which fish abound. In 2003, there were 335,938 registered fishing boats which sailed both on nearby waters and in other fishing grounds in the Pacific Ocean, the South China Sea, and the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, with a total capacity of 320,010 gross tons. Annual per capita fish and shellfish consumption from 1999 to 2001 averaged 66 kg (145 lb). In 2003, despite domestic fish production, about $12.4 billion in fish and shellfish was imported in order to satisfy domestic demand.

Whales have been prized in Japan as a source of both food and a variety of by-products, and Japanese whalers caught 2,769 whales in 1986. Japan ended commercial whaling in 1987, following the imposition of a worldwide ban on the hunting of endangered species of whales by the International Whaling Commission, but announced that it would catch 875 whales for "research" purposes. The 2003 Japanese whale catch of 820 blue and fin whales represented about 42% of the world's whale catch.

Competition for overseas fishing privileges has at various times brought Japan into conflict with Canada over salmon, with Russia over fishing in the Sea of Okhotsk (between 1905 and 1945 Japan had special treaty privileges in these waters), with the ROK and China over their limitations on Japanese fishing operations, with Australia over pearl fishing in the Arafura Sea, with Indonesia over fishing in what Indonesia regards as inland waters, and with the United States, especially over fishing in north Pacific and Alaskan waters. Japan has been adversely affected by the adoption of the 200 mi fishing zone by the United States and more than 80 other world nations. Fishing in waters claimed by the United States (where about 70% of the Japanese catch originates) or by many other nations now requires payment of fees and special intergovernmental or private agreements.

Fish culture in freshwater pools, as well as in rice paddies, has long been practiced in Japan. Aquaculture provides an additional 1.2 million tons of fish annually. The leading species cultivated are laver (nori ), yesso scallops, Pacific cupped oysters, and Japanese amberjack. Seaweed culture provides winter season activity for many fishermen. Pearl culture has for more than half a century been the foundation of a valuable export industry.


Forests cover nearly 64% of the total land area of Japan and in 2000 supplied about half the domestic demand for lumber and wood pulp. Of 24 million hectares (59.5 million acres) of forest, the Japanese government owns 30%, which it maintains under strict regulations limiting overcutting. On private forest lands, cutting is less controlled. About 6.6 million hectares (16.3 million acres) are reforested with trees less than 20 years old. Forest management and erosion control are urgent necessities in a land where gradients are very steep and flooding is frequent. Japan was the world's third leading producer of paper and paperboard in 2004 (after the United States and China), at over 30.5 million tons.

About 45% of the forest area consists of plantations. The Japanese cedar (sugi), which grows in most of Japan, is the most exploited species, followed by Japanese cypress (hinoki), and Japanese red pine (akamatsu). These three species grow on 10 million hectares (24.7 million acres) of plantation forest and were first planted in the 1950s and 1960s. In 2004, roundwood production totaled 15.2 million cu m (537 million cu ft), as compared with 49.1 million cu m (1.7 billion cu ft) in 1965. Domestic roundwood production met 51% of Japan's total wood fiber demand that year (up from 48% in 2003); the rest was supplied by imports. In 2004, Japan's 9,420 sawmills processed 13.6 million tons of logs.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Japan became more reliant on imported wood to satisfy domestic demand. In 2004, Japan imported $11.1 billion in forest products, second only to the United States. Japan is the world's dominant importer of softwood and tropical hardwood logs, and has become one of the largest importers of softwood lumber, which is mainly used for housing construction.

In the early 1960s, 42 public corporations were formed to help private landowners with harvesting and replanting Japan's forests. Since timber prices have fallen 75% since the 1980s, many of these public corporations are now unable to pay back loans and are accruing large debts. As of 2004, the failure of these corporations left several prefectures with a great deal of unpaid loans.


The mining sector was the smallest of Japan's industrial-based economy, accounting for 0.2% of GDP in 2003. The mineral-processing industry, however, was among the world's largest and most technologically advanced, accounting for 6.3% of Japan's GDP, in 2003 and it played a key role in supplying steel, nonferrous metals, and chemicals for the country's world-class manufacturing sector, as well as to those of the region. Japan is among the largest producers and consumers of cadmium, and a leading producer of selenium metal, electrolytic manganese dioxide, titanium sponge metal iodine, pig iron, nickel metal, crude steel, copper metal, diatomite, zinc metal, and cement. Japan also produced and had considerable resources of limestone, carbonate rocks (construction aggregates and dolomite), clays (bentonite and fire clay), pyrophyllite, and silica. Since the beginning of the 20th century, most mineral production has undergone a steady decline, and Japan has become a net importer of minerals, relying heavily on imports for petroleum, iron ore, chromium, cobalt, copper concentrate copper metal, primary aluminum, ilmenite, rutile, natural gas, gallium, uranium, manganese (for all its requirements), indium, nickel and coal, although coal accounted for slightly more than half of all mineral production by value. With the exception of gold and zinc, Japan's ore reserves for other minerals, especially oil, gas, and metallic minerals, were very small.

Of Japan's $470.7 billion in total exports in 2003, minerals, mineral-related chemicals, and processed minerals products were valued at $38.5 billion; iron and steel products, and nonferrous, rare, and other base metals totaled $27.3 billion; processed mineral products of asbestos, cement, ceramics, glass, mica, and stone, $4.7 billion; mineral-related chemicals and fertilizer, $2.4 billion; precious and semiprecious stones, and precious metals, $2.1 billion; salt, sulfur, earths, stone, plastering materials, lime, and cement, $2.0 billion.

Among metal minerals, preliminary data for 2003 shows that Japan produced 8,143 kg of mine gold (metal content), and 78,862 kg of mine silver. In addition, Japan produced the metal minerals alumina, antimony oxide, high-purity arsenic, bismuth, mine copper, germanium oxide, iron ore, iron sand concentrate, mine lead, manganese oxide, rare-earth oxide (including oxide of cerium, europium, gadolinium, lanthanum, neodymium, praseodymium, samarium, terbium, and yttrium), elemental selenium, high-purity silicon, elemental tellurium, titanium dioxide, mine zinc, and zirconium oxide. Gold ore reserves totaled 178,762 kg (metal content); and zinc ore (metal content), 3.25 million tons.

Among industrial minerals, preliminary output totals for 2003 were: hydraulic cement, 68.766 million tons; iodine, 6,524 metric tons; diatomite, 1850,000 metric tons; limestone (crushed), 163.565 million tons; dolomite (crushed), 3.579 million tons; bentonite, 425,945 tons (estimated); crude fire clay, 460,000 metric tons (estimated); pyrophyllite (from Nagasaki, Okayama, and Hiroshima prefectures), 600,000 metric tons (estimated); silica sand, 4.699 million tons; and silica stone (quartzite), 12.838 million tons. In addition, Japan produced asbestos, elemental bromine, kaolin clay, feldspar, aplite, gypsum, quicklime, nitrogen, perlite, salt, sodium compounds (soda ash and sulfate), sulfur, talc, and vermiculite. Reserves of iodine totaled 4.9 million tons; limestone, 57.9 billion tons; dolomite, 1.19 billion tons; pyrophyllite, 160.4 million tons; silica sand, 200.95 million tons; white silica stone, 880.7 million tons; and kaolin, 36.03 million tons.

Japan's mineral industry consisted of a small mining sector of coal and nonferrous metals, a large mining sector of industrial minerals, and a large minerals-processing sector of ferrous and nonferrous metals and industrial minerals. Mining and mineral-processing businesses were owned and operated by private companies. There were two major nonferrous metal mines and around 40 major industrial mineral mines in 2003.About 50,000 people were employed by Japan's mining sector in 2003. The mineral-processing industry produced, among other things, inorganic chemicals and compounds, ferrous metals, industrial minerals, nonferrous metals, petrochemicals, and refined petroleum productsfor domestic consumption and for exports.

The government, through its Metal Mining Agency of Japan (MMAJ), collaborating with the Japan International Cooperation Agency, continued to promote overseas mineral exploration by providing loans and technical assistance, and by carrying out basic exploration. In line with its mineral policy to secure and diversify its long-term supply of raw materials, Japan was expected to continue its active search for direct investment in joint exploration and development of minerals in developed and developing countries. The targeted minerals were antimony, chromium, coal, columbium (niobium), copper, gold, iron ore, lead, lithium, manganese, molybdenum, natural gas, nickel, crude petroleum, rare earths, silver, strontium, tantalum, titanium, tungsten, vanadium, and zinc.


As of August 2004, Japan was the fourth-largest energy consumer in the world, and the second-biggest importer of energy topped only by the United States. Japan's primary energy needs in 2002 were supplied by oil (49.7%), coal (18.9%), nuclear power (13.7%), natural gas (12.7%), hydropower (3.7%), and other renewable sources (1.1%).

Japan's proven oil reserves are miniscule. As of 1 January 2004, these reserves were estimated at 59 million barrels. In 2003, oil production averaged an estimated 120,000 barrels per day, of which 5,000 barrels per day consisted of crude oil. However, oil demand by Japan in 2003 was estimated at 5.57 million barrels per day. Thus imports for that year made up the difference, at an estimated average of 5.45 million barrels per day. However, Japan has been involved in exploration for petroleum and its production overseas. However, in 2000, Japan lost its drilling rights in Saudi Arabia. To make up for this loss, Japan began making investments in Iran, and has sought equity stakes in the Caspian Sea region. Japan is also looking at the Russian Far East.

As of 1 January 2004, Japan's crude oil refining capacity was estimated at 4.7 million barrels per day, spread among 32 refineries.

As of 1 January 2004, Japan's proven natural gas reserves were estimated at 1.4 trillion cu ft. However, additional deposits may lie under the seabed around Japan. Domestic natural gas output is small. In 2002, Japan's production of natural gas came to an estimated 0.10 trillion cu ft. As a result, Japan must import the vast majority of the natural gas it consumes. Demand for natural gas in 2002 was estimated at 2.67 trillion cu ft, with imports for that same year estimated at 2.57 trillion cu ft. Almost all of Japan's natural gas imports are in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Although Japan has coal reserves estimated in 2002 at 852 million short tons, Japan ceased all coal production in January 2002, when it closed its last operating mine at Kushiro, on the island of Hokkaidō. With demand for coal at an estimated 179.1 million short tons in 2002, Imports of coal that year came to an estimated 175.8 million short tons. In 2002, the last year of domestic production, output came to 3.3 million short tons.

In 2002, Japan's electric power generating capacity stood at 236.995 million kW, of which conventional thermal plants accounted for 168.728 million kW, nuclear generating plants 45.907 million kW, hydropower facilities 45.907 million kW, and geothermal/other 0.709 million kW. Electric power output in 2002 came to 1036.208 billion kWh, of which 646.457 billion kWh came from conventional thermal plants, 280.339 billion kWh from nuclear plants, 81.554 billion kWh from hydropower facilities and 27.858 from geothermal/other sources. Electricity is provided by several private companies, with the public Electric Power Development Co. and the Japan Atomic Power Co. playing supplementary roles in distribution.

To reduce its reliance on oil and its carbon dioxide emissions, Japan has aggressively pursued the development of nuclear power since the 1980s. In 2002, nuclear generated electric power accounted for 27% of all power produced. According to Japan's 10-year energy plan, which was approved in March 2002, nuclear generation is to be increased by about 30% by 2011. It is anticipated that between 9 and 12 new nuclear plants would be needed. As of 2002, Japan had 51 reactors in operation, with a total capacity of 45 GW. These included the world's first Advanced Boiling Water Reactor, which came online in 1997.


Manufacturing has been a key element in Japan's economic expansion during three periods of phenomenal growth. First, during the 50-year rise of Japan from a feudal society in 1868 to a major world power in 1918, output in manufacturing rose more rapidly than that of other sectors. Second, during the 1930s, when Japan recovered from the world depression earlier and faster than any other country and embarked on an aggressive course in Asia, manufacturing, especially heavy industries, again had the highest rate of growth. Third, in the remarkable recovery since World War II, manufacturing, which had suffered severely during the latter stages of the war, was again a leader, although commerce and finance expanded even more rapidly.

Japanese industry is characterized by a complex system of exclusive buyer-supplier networks and alliances, commonly maintained by companies belonging to the same business grouping, or keiretsu. Such a system utilizes a web of vertical, horizontal, and even diagonal integration within the framework of a few large conglomerations. Keiretsu firms inhibit the foreign acquisition of Japanese firms through nontransparent accounting and financial practices, cross-holding of shares among keiretsu member firms (even between competitors), and by keeping a low proportion of publicly traded stock relative to total capital.

During the 1970s and early 1980s, the rate of Japan's industrial growth surpassed that of any other non-Communist industrialized country. Of the 26 largest industrial companies in the world in the mid-1980sthose with sales of $20 billion or morefour were Japanese: Toyota Motor, Matsushita Electric, Hitachi, and Nissan Motor. In addition to spectacular expansion in the volume of output, Japanese industry has also achieved impressive diversity, with maximal application of efficiency standards and technological input. In 1997, industry accounted for about 38% of GDP and 33% of the total labor force. However, the Asian financial crisis that beset the region impacted Japan's industrial production growth, which went from 9.6% in 1997 to -6.9% in 1998. Growth was still negative in 1999, but only by -0.1%, and in 2000 positive growth had returned as industrial production rose 5.3%. The recovery was short lived. The global slowdown of 2001 compounded by the economic aftershocks of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States contributed to a massive 8.3% decline in industrial production in Japan in 2001. The percentage of Japan's labor force in industry had dropped from 40% in 1997 to 30% in 2001. However, by 2003, industrial production had improved, and by 2004 was growing by 6.6%, even though the percentage of Japan's labor force in industry had dropped further, to 25%.

A brief recession forced production cutbacks in 1965; a deeper recession in 1974, related to rising world oil costs and diminished supplies, slowed Japan's economy in 197375 and again in 197880. At the same time, wage rates rose substantially, thereby reducing Japan's competitive advantage vis-à-vis other industrialized nations and prompting a major government effort to promote high-technology industries capable of making the most efficient use of the high educational level and technical competence of the Japanese labor force. Japan's industrial strategy, which involves close cooperation between business, government, and labor, was coordinated by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). Particular emphasis was given by MITI and other government agencies to encouraging and assisting research and development of new products and technologies.

Facing increasingly stiff competition from overseas trading partners in the 1980s, Japanese firms responded with several strategies, including product diversification, increased investment in overseas plants, as well as a greater focus on production for the domestic market. Despite declining profits with the economic downturn of the early 1990s, Japanese companies continued to make large investments in new plants and equipment; in 1992, these outlays amounted to over 20% of the GDP, well outstripping the level of private investment in the United States. Since 1992, the government has implemented nine massive stimulus packages, including large investments in public projects like roads, bridges, and airports, in its efforts to spark renewed growth, or, at least, prevent a deeper recession.

Manufacture of electrical machinery ranks first in value added. Nonelectrical machinery ranks second, followed by transportation equipment and chemicals. The electronics industry grew with extraordinary rapidity in the 1980s and now leads the world. Radio and television sets and household appliances have been exported in large quantities since World War II; in addition to generators, motors, transformers, and other heavy equipment, the industry now produces automatic devices, electronic computers, videocassette recorders, tape recorders, calculators, and communications and broadcasting equipment. Japan plays an increasingly important role in the computer industry. By 1987, Japan was fiercely competing with the United States in developing high-tech products, such as superconducting materials.

Japan is the world's leading shipbuilder; more than half the ships built are exported, including some of the world's largest oil tankers. Rapid increases in shipbuilding capacity by Brazil and South Korea reduced demand for Japanese-built ships from a peak of 38 million gross tons of new orders in 1973 to 7.0 million gross tons in 1991. The decline prompted direct government intervention in the ailing industry and the closing of close to 37% of dockyard facilities in 1980. As of 2001, Japan had 33% market share in new orders of ships, followed by South Korea with 30%, and China with 11%.

Passenger car production expanded rapidly in the 1970s, as Japan moved to fill rising demand for fuel-efficient cars in the United States and Europe. In the early 1980s, Japan emerged as the world's leading automobile producer, topping the United States for the first time in the history of the industry. Dominant industry giants are Nissan and Toyota, which together produced about three-fifths of all passenger cars in the mid-1980s. Restrictions imposed on Japanese automobile exports have promoted a marked increase in Japanese investment in automobile manufacturing facilities (engine manufacture, assembly as well as research and development) in the United States, Western Europe, and other overseas markets. Japanese manufactures have also sustained growth through greater focus on producing for the booming domestic motor vehicle market. Japan's superior technology in the design of bicycles, motorcycles, buses, and high-speed trains has been another major factor in the growth of the transport industry. In 2004, Japan produced 10,511,518 cars, trucks, and buses, of which 4,957,663 were exported. Leading car makers included Daihatsu, Fuji, Hino, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Honda, Isuzu, Mazda, Suzuki, and Toyota.

The chemical and petrochemicals industry has been another of the economy's key growth sectors since the late 1960s, in part due to rising domestic demand. Products include industrial chemicals such as sulfuric acid, caustic soda and fertilizers, as well as plastics, dyestuffs, paints, and other items for domestic use. Japan must import much of the iron ore and coking coal used in its steel industry, which ranked second only to the former USSR's in the mid-1980s. Output of crude steel peaked at 119.32 million tons in 1973 but declined to 101.6 million tons in 1995. In 2004, crude steel production totaled 112.72 million tons.

Textiles and apparel, Japan's main exports during the years immediately following World War II, have steadily declined in importance. Output of cotton and woolen fabrics, yarns, and rayon and acetate remains substantially below 1965 levels. The Japanese textile industry has been especially hard hit by rising wage rates and competition from developing nations, especially the other industrializing countries of East Asia.

Japan's semiconductor business has grown in size and profit due to the trade pact between Japan and the United States. While some argue that this pact had a negative effect on Japan's domestic chip market, it now appears, that these chip companies have become more efficient and therefore more profitable. Both the United States and Japan have become so intertwined in the semiconductor area that neither could afford to terminate the relationship.


The Japanese rank second only to the United States in spending on scientific research and technology development. However, in Japan, 80% of all research and development (R&D) is carried out by industry, in contrast to the United States, where industry undertakes about half of all R&D (the US government supports the rest). This is important because industry is more likely to support the type of research that will result in new technologies and products. For many people, this breakdown of R&D funding explains why Japan has become such an economic powerhouse. Much more of the total R&D budget is focused on near-term and commercial science and technology. Some of the more successful applications of the fruits of Japanese R&D include high-speed trains, robotics, semiconductor chips, telecommunications, cancer research, and environmental technologies.

In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 21% of college and university enrollments. In 2002, of all bachelor's degrees awarded, 18.6% were in the sciences (natural, mathematics and computers, and engineering) In that same year, there were 5,085 scientists and engineers per million population actively engaged in R&D. In 2000 (the latest year for which the following data was available) R&D spending in Japan totaled $98,242.931 million, or 2.98% of GDP, for which business accounted for 72.4%, and government 19.6%. Higher education, that same year, accounted for 7.6%, while foreign sources provided 0.4%. Despite Japan's economic downturn in the 1990s, it was likely that investments in both equipment and personnel would grow. In 2002, high-tech exports were valued at $94.730 billion and accounted for 24% of manufactured exports.

In terms of the Japanese government's role in national science and technology, three ministries are important. The Ministry of Education, or Monbusho, provides most of the support and funding for scientific education and training at the university level in Japan. In the 1990s, Monbusho led a national effort to improve science and technology education at universities, particularly in "basic" research (areas where research does not necessarily have to pay off in commercial products). Another organization, the Science and Technology Agency (STA) promotes science and technology policies, and acts as the prime minister's leading policy and budgetary agency. It performs this function through annual "white papers" which describe the current stateand future goalsof Japanese science and technology. The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) is probably the ministry best known by Americans. MITI promotes and protects Japanese industry by sending them signals and giving guidance to those firms which undertake research and development. MITI has been instrumental in providing close government-industry cooperation in many high technology fields, including computers, electronics, and biotechnology.

Regional research institutions such as Tskuba Science City and Kansai Science Park also play a role in fostering Japanese research and development. Their growth since the 1970s has begun to shift some of the focus and power of the national government and industry in Tokyo to the regional prefectures. International cooperation with the United States in areas like global warming and space launches may create new opportunities for greater scientific research at local, regional, and national levels in Japan.

Japan has numerous universities and colleges that offer courses in basic and applied sciences. The country's National Science Museum, founded in 1877, is located in Tokyo. The University of Tokyo has botanical gardens that were established in 1684.


At least half of all consumer goods are purchased through small, privately owned and operated shops. Street hawkers and peddlers provide certain foods and small consumer items; street stalls offer food, clothing, and household and other goods. Specialty shops exist in great profusion, and about 100 associations of such shops represent common interests. There are chain stores owned and operated by a single management and there are voluntary chains of independent stores operating in association. Japan also has numerous cooperatives, principally consumer, agricultural, and fishing. Recent revisions in the large-scale retail store law have loosened government regulation of the distribution system, allowing the establishment of large foreign discounters and mega-stores, which are likely to offer growing competition to smaller retailers in the future. As of 2005, Japan's franchise industry was the second-largest in the world in total sales with over 1,000 chains. The number of outlets in Japan exceeds 218,000.

A key characteristic of the country's distribution system has been the long term and carefully cultivated nature of the supplier and wholesaler or retail store relationship, necessitating considerable commitment of time and outreach effort by foreign companies wishing to enter the Japanese market.

In retail trade, cash transactions have been traditional, but various forms of installment selling are increasingly being used, especially in the sale of durable goods. The use of charge accounts is growing rapidly. Promotion by displays, advertising, and other methods used in Western countries is increasing rapidly in Japan. Advertising appears in the daily press, in the numerous weekly and monthly magazines, and in special publications of many kinds. Radio and television also carry extensive advertising, excepting those channels run by the government's Japan Broadcasting Corporation.

Normal shop hours are 10 am to 8 pm, seven days a week, although department stores shut their doors at 7:30 pm and are closed two or three weekdays a month; government offices are open 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday. Banks are open from 9 am to 3 pm Monday through Friday, and are closed on Saturdays and Sundays.


Despite the fact that Japan's currency rose more than 20% from 200205, and 13% in 2005 alone, it remained the world's second-largest exporting nation, behind Germany. However, Japan exhibits a low degree of openness to foreign trade, and therefore maintains a significant trade surplus. For example, as a percentage of current-price GDP, the value of Japan's two-way foreign trade in 2003 was just above 18%, compared with 54% for Germany. The closed nature of Japan's economy is also comparable to other countries in Asia, such as China, which in 2003 saw foreign trade reach nearly 60% of current-price GDP. This phenomenon is due to official and unofficial restrictions on merchandise imports, which remain in placedespite pressure from the United States and other important trading partnersto protect the less efficient sectors of Japanese industry, such as textiles, food, and pulp and paper. This lack of openness to foreign trade has been named as one of the reasons for the poor productivity of companies in the nontradable sectors of the economy, for example, and for other structural economic problems.

Imports consist mostly of fuel, foodstuffs, industrial raw materials, and industrial machinery. Exports are varied, but manufactures now account for nearly all of the total. Cars represent a leading export product, with the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, and the United Kingdom as the main markets. The export of office machinery, scientific and optical equipment is also important. South Korea, China, and Taiwan are among the main buyers of Japan's iron and steel, while plastic materials and fertilizers are shipped primarily to South Korea and the Southeast Asian countries, and woven fabrics are supplied to China, the United

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 471,996.0 383,452.0 88,544.0
United States 117,539.5 59,994.8 57,544.7
China 57,415.5 75,469.3 -18,053.8
Korea, Republic of 34,805.6 17,902.7 16,902.9
Other Asia nes 31,235.7 14,311.4 16,924.3
China, Hong Kong SAR 29,896.9 29,896.9
Germany 16,422.2 14,207.5 2,214.7
Thailand 16,040.1 11,892.9 4,147.2
Singapore 14,846.6 5,435.1 9,411.5
United Kingdom 13,226.2 5,846.3 7,379.9
Netherlands 11,772.3 11,772.3
() data not available or not significant.

States, and Saudi Arabia. Only a small fraction of Japan's total exports consists of food items, mainly fish.

In light of growing overseas concern about Japan's continuing large trade surplus, the US and Japanese governments collaborated on the Structural Impediments Initiative of 1989. Steps taken in the wake of the initial report included a variety of import and direct foreign investment promotion measures, including deregulation, accelerated government spending on public infrastructure, and support services for foreign businesses. The Initiative as a framework for US-Japanese relations was ended in 1993.

Manufactured products make up most of Japan's commodity exports. Japan is the world's largest maker of machine tools, and is one of the world's most important iron and steel makers. The automobile is the country's most important industry, along with computers and electronic equipment. Japan makes more than 25% of the world's exported ships.

In percentage terms, Japan's main exports in 2004 were: electrical machinery (23.5% of all exports); transportation equipment (23.1%); nonelectrical machinery (20.6%); chemicals (8.5%); and metals (6.6%). Japan's main imports in 2004 were: machinery and equipment (31.3% of all imports); mineral fuels (21.7%); food (10.8%); chemicals (7.8%); and raw materials (6.2%). Japan's leading markets that year were: the United States (22.4% of total exports); China (13.1%); South Korea (7.8%); Taiwan (7.4%); and Hong Kong (6.3%). Leading suppliers in 2004 were: China (20.7% of all imports); the United States (13.7%); South Korea (4.8%); Indonesia (4.1%); and Taiwan (3.7%). Bilateral trade between China and Japan now exceeds trade between Japan and the United States.


Beginning in 1981, surpluses in Japan's current accounts increased rapidly, reaching $49 billion in 1985 and $86 billion in 1986, the latter being 18 times the level of 1981. These huge surpluses resulted

Current Account 136.2
     Balance on goods 106.4
         Imports -342.7
         Exports 449.1
     Balance on services -33.9
     Balance on income 71.2
     Current transfers -7.5
Capital Account -4.0
Financial Account 71.9
     Direct investment abroad -28.8
     Direct investment in Japan 6.2
     Portfolio investment assets -176.3
     Portfolio investment liabilities 81.2
     Financial derivatives 5.6
     Other investment assets 149.9
     Other investment liabilities 34.1
Net Errors and Omissions -17.0
Reserves and Related Items -187.2
() data not available or not significant.

largely from the high value of the dollar relative to the yen; price declines of primary goods, such as petroleum, also enhanced Japan's favorable trade position. Japan's mounting surpluses and the rising deficits of the United States forced the United States and other leading industrial nations to attempt to realign their currencies, especially the dollar and the yen, in September 1985. Within two years the yen rose 70% against the dollar. The yen's appreciation increased the competitiveness of American products and contributed to the reduction of Japan's external imbalances through 1990, when the current account surplus fell by 37.4%, due to higher expenses for imported oil and rising expenditures by Japanese traveling abroad. Whereas long-term capital outflows exceeded Japan's current account surplus from 1984 through 1990, by 1991 the outflow shifted predominantly to short-term capital, and overseas direct investment slowed.

In 2004, Japan's merchandise trade surplus, on a balance-of-payments basis, stood at $132.1 billion, with exports totaling $539 billion and imports totaling $406.9 billion. The current account recorded a surplus of $172.1 billion, or 3.7% of GDP in 2004. Japan's current account balance averaged 3% of GDP over the period 200105. Japan had the highest trade and current account surpluses in the world in the early 2000s; however, Japan is less open to trade than other highly developed economies. As a percentage of current-price GDP, the value of Japan's two-way foreign trade in 2003 was just 18%, compared with Germany's 54% and China's nearly 60%. This was due in part to restrictions on merchandise imports to protect the country's less efficient industry sectors. Due to this lack of openness to trade, companies in the nontradable sectors have not been productive.


Japan's highly sophisticated banking system continued to play a dominant role in financing the country's and the world's economic development, despite Japan's decade long recession. In the mid-1980s, while the United States was becoming a debtor nation, Japan became the world's largest creditor. Banks provide not only short-term but also long-term credit, which often in effect becomes fixed capital in industry. In terms of sheer size, Japanese banks occupy some of the top spots in worldwide bank ratings.

The controlling national monetary institutions are the Bank of Japan (founded in 1882) and the Ministry of Finance. The Bank of Japan, as central bank, has power over note issue and audits financial institutions to provide guidance for improving banking and management practices. Ceilings for interest rates are set by the bank, while actual rates, commissions, and discounts are arranged by unoffi cial agreements among bankers and other financial institutions, including the National Bankers' Association. A new banking law, replacing the National Banking Law of 1928, was adopted in 1982. Its objectives were to increase competition in the financial world by enabling banks to sell bonds and by authorizing both banks and securities firms to sell commercial paper and certificates of deposit.

Eleven important city banks, with branches throughout the country, account for about two-thirds of all commercial bank assets, the rest accruing to 131 regional banks, 7 trust banks, and 83 foreign banks. In addition, 112 foreign banks have representative offices in Japan. Of special interest are the postal savings facilities, which are used by many Japanese families and have assumed many of the aspects of a huge state-owned banking business.

The Foreign Exchange Law was changed to totally liberalize cross-border transactions in 1998. Important foreign exchange banks include the city banks, long-term credit banks, trust banks, major local banks, major mutual loan and savings banks, and the Japanese branches of foreign banks. Such governmental financial institutions as the Japan Export-Import Bank, the Central Bank for Commercial and Industrial Associations, and the Central Bank for Agriculture and Forestry also participate in foreign exchange markets.

The rapid expansion of bank lending and the importance of land and stocks as assets in Japan's financial sector have exposed its financial institutions to the risks stemming from falling asset prices. Thus one of the root problems of Japan's diffi culty in returning to a trend rate of GDP growth lies in the fragility of the financial sector. Banks and other financial institutions have been rocked by the huge sums of nonperforming debt, stemming from an earlier lending spree based on inflated land values as collateral. In the aftermath of the collapse of the "bubble economy," many of the generous loans extended, especially to land and property developers, cannot be repaid or even serviced. Japan's 21 major banks, including the 11 city banks, wrote off about ¥11 trillion ($102 billion) of bad debts at the end of March 1996.

The bad debt held by the seven failed jusen (housing loan companies established by banks and agricultural financiers), which were liquidated partly at public expense, led to huge secondary losses in other areas of the financial sector. The liquidated jusen moved their assets to the newly established Housing Loan Administration Corp., which had the responsibility, from the beginning of its operations in October 1996, of recovering loans from the seven companies. This was unlikely, however, since not only would many property companies go bankrupt, but also much of the bad debt was extended illegally or to companies associated with yakuza (gangsters). Consequently, several jusen executives were arrested in 1996 on charges of alleged aggravated breach of trust.

The most dramatic merger was that between the Bank of Tokyo and Mitsubishi Bank in April 1996. This "mega-merger" created the world's largest bank, which became highly competitive in global financial markets. In 1999, three Japanese banks: Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank, Fuji Bank, and IBI, announced a merger worth more than $1.3 trillion, surpassing all other large financial institutions. The other premier Japanese banks in 1999 were Sumitomo Bank, Sanwa Bank, and Sakura Bank. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $2,318.7 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $5,293.5 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 0.06%. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 0.1%.

Major securities exchanges are in Tokyo, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Nagoya, and Osaka. Small regional exchanges are in Kyoto, Niigata, and Sapporo. Although prior to World War II most stocks were held by large business firms (zaibatsu), stocks are now available for public subscription. The Tokyo Stock Exchange, the largest in the world, is the most important in Japan.

In the late 1980s, there were three categories of securities companies in Japan, the first consisting of the "Big Four" securities houses (among the six largest such firms in the world): Nomura, Daiwa, Nikko, and Yamaichi. The Big Four played a key role in international financial transactions and were members of the New York Stock Exchange. Nomura was the world's largest single securities firm; its net capital, in excess of us$10 billion in 1986, exceeded that of Merrill Lynch, Salomon Brothers, and Shearson Lehman combined. In 1986 Nomura became the first Japanese member of the London Stock Exchange. Nomura and Daiwa were primary dealers in the US Treasury bond market. The second tier of securities firms were affiliates of the Big Four, while some were affiliated with banks. In 1986, 83 of the smaller firms were members of the Tokyo Securities and Stock Exchange. Japan's securities firms derived most of their incomes from brokerage fees, equity and bond trading, underwriting, and dealing. Other services included the administration of trusts. In the late 1980s a number of foreign securities firms, including Salomon Brothers and Merrill Lynch, became players in Japan's financial world.

The Tokyo Securities and Stock Exchange became the largest in the world in 1988, in terms of combined market value of outstanding shares and capitalization, while the Osaka Stock Exchange ranked third after Tokyo and New York. As of 2004, there was a combined total of 3,220 companies listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and the JASDAQ, which had a combined market capitalization of $3,678.262 billion. In 2004, the TOPIX index rose 10.2% from the previous year to 1,149.6.


After 56 years, the Japanese Insurance Business Law was revised in 1997. The purpose of the newly revised law is competition, to protect policy holders, and to promote greater management efficiency. The law allowed, for the first time, cross entries of life and nonlife companies into each other's sector through the establishment of subsidiary companies. In response to this development, 6 life and 11 nonlife insurance companies set up subsidiaries. Firms may not engage in life and nonlife insurance at the same time. In 2003, leading Japanese nonlife insurance firms included Tokio, Mitsui Sumitomo, Aioi, and Nippon Koa. Leading life insurance companies included Nippon, Dai-Ichi, Sumitomo, Meiji Yasuda, and ALICO Japan. Direct premiums written in 2003 totaled us$478.865 billion.

Life insurance is by far the most extensive of all classes of insurance. Premium income is more than three times that of all nonlife premium income. In 2003, direct life insurance premiums written totaled us$381.335 billion, while nonlife insurance premiums totaled us$97.530 billion. Japan is the world's largest holder of life and health insurance. More than 90% of the population owns life insurance, and the amount held per person is at least 50% greater than in the United States. Nippon Life Insurance Co., the world's largest insurance firm, had us$44,356.7 million in gross premiums written in 2003.

In the nonlife field, automobile insurance is the largest sector. (Automobile liability insurance is compulsory.) Personal accident insurance was next in importance, followed by fire, marine cargo, and marine hull insurance. Worker's compensation, nuclear liability and health insurance are also compulsory. In 2003, Tokio was the nation's leading nonlife insurer, with direct premium income (net cancellations and returns, but including savings in maturity funded policies) of $14,861.1 million.

In the mid-1990s the combined Japanese life and nonlife insurance market had the world's largest share with 30.8% of the world total premium. The life insurance market was 42.6% of the world market, and the nonlife market with 15.2%, the second-largest in the world after the United States. The Japanese nonlife insurance market consisted of 29 domestic companies and the life insurance market consisted of 36 domestic companies in 1997.


Plans for the national budget usually begin in August, when various agencies submit their budget requests to the Ministry of Finance. On the basis of such requests, the ministry, other government agencies, and the ruling party start negotiations. The government budget plan usually is approved by the Diet without diffi culty, and the budget goes into effect in April. Deficits, financed by public bond sales, have steadily increased in size since the 1973 oil crisis. As a result, the ratio of gross debt to GNP has risen from 8% in 1970 to 60% by 1987. By 1990, debt servicing was absorbing over 20% of budgeted expenditures. Since 1982, Japan has pursued tight fiscal policies and has attempted to constrain government debt. In June 1987, however, as a response to appeals from other nations to reduce international imbalances, Japan initiated a $35 billion public works spending package, followed up by $10 billion in tax cuts. In recent years, however, fiscal stimulus policies have contributed to an increasing budget deficit. Japan's government deficit was 3% of GDP in 1994 and reached 4.3% of GDP in 1995, due to ongoing high levels of public sector borrowing. The government's focus on fiscal policy to compensate for a tight monetary policy has restricted spending on infrastructure, yet by 2002, the deficit had reached 7.8% of GDP.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Japan's central government took in revenues of approximately $1.4 trillion and had expenditures of $1.7 trillion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$346 billion. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 170% of GDP. Total external debt was $1.545 trillion.


After World War II, Japan adopted a tax system relying mainly on direct taxes, like those in the United States and the United Kingdom. The most important of these are the income tax and corporation tax.

Japan's standard corporate tax rate is 30%, but local enterprise and inhabitant taxes can push that rate to 41%. Corporations capitalized at ¥100 million or less are taxed at a 22% rate that is applied to the first ¥8 million of taxable income. Capital gains received by companies are taxed as income at normal tax rates. In the past, capital gains received from the sale of land had been subject to a special surplus tax. As of 2005, that tax was suspended until 31 December 2008. Dividends are generally subject to a withholding tax of 20%. However, dividends paid on listed shares from 1 April 2003 through 31 March 2008 are taxed at a lower 10% rate. Interest paid to residents and nonresidents is also subject to a 20% withholding rate, although interest received by nonresidents from debentures, bank deposits, and bonds are subject to a lower rate of 15%.

Japan has a progressive individual income tax that has a top rate of 37%. However, local taxes can push the effective rate to 50%. Local taxes can include municipal and prefectural inhabitant and per capita taxes. There is also a 5% consumption tax that is applied to most services and goods. However, a number of items are zerorated. These include: exports; foreign cargo handling, carriage, and storage; certain services to nonresidents; and patent, trademark and copyright loans or transfers to nonresidents. Exemptions include land transfers, medical services, residential rents, and financial services.

Additional national taxes include customs duties; a stamp tax; inheritance and gift taxes; a monopoly profits tax; a sugar excise tax; taxes on liquor, gasoline, and other commodities; and travel, admissions, and local road taxes.


The Japanese tariff system is administered by the Customs Bureau of the Ministry of Finance. As of 1997, Japan imposed a general tariff rate of 2%. However, import duties remained relatively high for certain agricultural and manufactured goods. In addition, quantity quotas and tariff quotas are still applied to some goods. There is also a 5% consumption tax on imports based on cost, insurance, freight plus the duty. In August 2005, Japan imposed a 15% retaliatory duty on 15 products manufactured in the United States. These included ball bearings, steel products, navigational instruments, machinery accessories, printing machines, forklift trucks and industrial belts. There is a free trade zone at Naha, on Okinawa; no free trade zones function on the main islands.


Japanese investments abroad have expanded steadily since the 1970s, the result both of liberalization on the outflow of capital and of the prosperity of the Japanese economy. It has also been due in part to increased investment in the United States and European Union (EU) as a conciliatory move to lessen the trade gap between Japan and the two industrial regions. Net annual direct investment outflows remained near $5 billion in the late 1970s but climbed steadily between 1985 and 1991 when they reached $48 billion, declining somewhat to $30.7 billion in 1992. Overseas direct investments made by Japan totaled $41 billion in 1993/94 and $51.4 billion in 1994/95. In 1996, Japan reportedly invested $50 billion overseas and attracted only about $7 billion in inward direct investment. In 2003, inward FDI was $6.3 billion, and outward FDI amounted to $28.8 billion.

Foreign investment in Japan has historically been less than in other G-7 countries. One reason for this is that in the past, the Japanese government discouraged foreign investment. A second but perhaps more significant reason is the high cost of doing business in Japan, which, in turn, reduces profits. Some of the barriers became less significant with the signing of the US-Japan Investment Accord signed in 1995. As of 2005, Japan's government imposed few formal restrictions on FDI in Japan, and had removed or liberalized most legal restrictions that applied to specific economic sectors. In 2005, President Koizumi promised to double the amount of FDI in Japan by 2010.

During the early 1990s, there was a significant imbalance in Japan's investment in other countries compared to other countries investing in Japanthe former was far greater than the latter. As an example, Japan invested $17,331 million in the United States in 1994 and $22,649 million in 1995. During those same two years, the United States invested $1,915 million and $1,837 million, respectively, in Japan. Since the mid-1990s, however, investment in Japan soared. FDI stock in Japan had more than tripled (on a yen basis) from 19982003. Reforms in the financial, communications, and distribution sectors have encouraged foreign investment in these sectors.

In 2003, inward FDI to Japan slowed to $6.3 billion, from $9.2 billion in 2002, but this followed continued strong increases in FDI in the preceding several years. In 2003, Japan's overseas investments also shrank, to $28.8 billion, from $32.3 billion in 2002. In 2003, China attracted 90% of Japan's FDI in the Asia region alone. The primary foreign investors in Japan in 2003 were (in order): the United States, the Netherlands, France, Germany, and the Cayman Islands. Japanese direct investment abroad went to (in order): the United States, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, China, and the Cayman Islands.


Japan's phenomenal economic growth since the 1950s has been based on an efficient blend of two economic tendencies. First is government activism in national planning and implementation, with guidance of the largely free economy via sophisticated and powerful monetary and fiscal policies. Second is the distinctively Japanese way of coupling largely private ownership of assets with conservative, public-spirited management. Especially significant was the role of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), which coordinated national industrial policies consistent with economic and social growth. In a unique government-industry collaboration sometimes referred to overseas as "Japan, Inc.," MITI selected and nurtured industries targeted as important to Japan's future economic growth. Industries so targeted have included chemicals, iron and steel, shipbuilding, and transistor radios in the 1960s; automobiles and electronics in the 1970s; and computers, computer chips, and other high-technology industries for the 1980s. In addition to stimulating new industries, MITI also smoothed the way for plant closings and worker retraining in industries targeted for de-emphasis, such as textiles in the 1970s and the ailing coal-mining and shipbuilding industries in the 1980s. MITI also assumed an active role in lessening Japan's positive trade imbalances through a variety of import promotion measures, in collaboration with both domestic companies and foreign firms. Close ties between government and industry are illustrated by the ministries' issuance of informal "administrative guidance" to Japanese companies, the frequent placement of retired bureaucrats in Japanese companies and trade associations, and the delegation of quasi-regulatory authority to trade associations (which are often allowed to devise and regulate their own insider rules). In 2001, MITI was reorganized as the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI).

The objectives of maintaining rapid GNP growth, controlling inflation, and developing Japan's social and industrial infrastructure have been the concern of the Economic Planning Agency, which produced the successful Ikeda plan (to double the national income between 1961 and 1970) and released projections of key indicators at frequent intervals. (In 2001, the offices and functions of the Economic Planning Agency were reassigned to the newly-formed Cabinet Office, where they function as a secretariat to the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy.) In the main, the Ikeda plan consisted of a series of projections of growth in a free market economy, with the basic assumptionthe continued growth of Japan's overseas tradelargely outside of government control. During the plan's 10-year span, an annual growth of 11% in GNP was realized, as against the forecast rate of 7.2%. An economic and social development plan (196775) accomplished a GNP growth rate of 10.6%, as against 8.2% projected.

A second economic and social plan (197075) projected a continued annual growth rate of 10.6%. The 1973 world oil crisis and its aftermath severely shook Japan's trade-dependent economy, however; in 1974, the GNP actually shrank by 1.8%, the first such negative growth in three decades. In 1975, the cabinet approved a new economic and social plan for 197985 calling for an average annual growth rate of 5.7%. However, the impact of the second oil crisis in 1978 necessitated downward revisions of projected growth targets. Plans to stimulate the economy by increasing public-works spending and cutting taxes were approved in October 1983 and in May 1987. Also enacted in 1989 was a value-added tax to strengthen the government's revenue base while allowing reductions in personal and corporate income tax.

In 1988, a five-year plan was adopted to sustain real GNP growth at 3.8% per year, maintain low unemployment (2.5% per year), contain inflation, reduce the country's trade surplus, and improve the quality of life through a shorter work week and stabilized property prices. Many of these objectives were achieved or surpassed in the closing years of the decade. After 1992, however, the economy's downturn was likened by some analysts to the 1974 recession in its severity and length. Economic indicators included steep declines and sluggish recovery in the stock market index after 1989, falling real estate prices, as well as a shrunken rate of GNP growth, despite surging exports. To prompt a recovery, the Ministry of Finance approved large stimulus packages for 1992 and 1993, totaling $85.6 billion and $119 billion in expenditures, respectively. Under the Structural Impediments Initiative, the government sought to sustain growth while also reducing the country's external trade imbalances. Among the main steps taken under the Initiative was a 10-year program targeting the expenditure of up to $8 trillion for the construction or renovation of airports, bridges, roads, ports, telecommunications systems, resorts, retirement communities, medical facilities, and other forms of public infrastructure development. Real growth during the 1990s hovered around 1% a year, however. The Asian Tigers, such as Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, saw their economies grow at a much higher rate than Japan's, and China's economic growth rate of 10% a year during the 1990s. In 1999, Japan began a tentative recovery from its longest and most severe recession since the end of World War II. By 2005, the economy was growing by a rate of approximately 2.3%.

Japan's financial assistance to developing countries and international agencies has grown significantly, making it one of the world's leading donor countries. The government has committed itself to large increases in official development assistance to developing countries and multilateral agencies since the late 1980s. Among the top recipients of bilateral ODA from Japan have been Indonesia, China, the Philippines, Thailand, Bangladesh, and Malaysia. Japan's increasing financial assistance to developing countries like China and Indonesia is an indication that the Japanese government is willing to sacrifice short term gain for longer term prosperity and stability. In essence, Japan is helping to create viable trading partners; and since Japan is a trading state, this strategy will enhance Japan's economic development over the long term. From 19922001, Japan was the largest donor of ODA, in terms of raw dollars. That was until 2001, when the United States reclaimed that position, and Japan's amount of aid dropped by nearly $4 billion. A key factor accounting for this was the 12.7% depreciation of the yen. In 2004, Japan donated $8.859 billion in ODA, or 0.19% of GNP, down from $9.678 billion in 2001 (0.23% of GNP).


Living standards reflect Japan's rapid economic development since the mid-1960s. Greatly contributing to the social stability of the nation is the strong sense of family solidarity among the Japanese; virtually every home has its butsudan, or altar of the ancestors, and most elderly people are cared for in the homes of their grown children. A further source of social stability has been Japan's employment system, noted for its "lifetime employment" of workers from the time they enter the company after completing their education to the time they retire. Traditionally, layoffs and dismissals of employees were rare, even during times of recession.

The present social insurance system includes national health insurance, welfare annuity insurance, maternity coverage, unemployment insurance, workers' accident compensation insurance, seamen's insurance, a national government employees' mutual aid association, and day workers' health insurance. It also provides pension plans designed to maintain living standards for the elderly, based on years of employment, and for families of deceased workers. Per capita expenditure on social security programs remained low, however, in relation to expenditure in many other industrial nations. There is a family allowance for low income residents with children under the age of nine.

Nearly the entire population receives benefits in one form or another from the health insurance system. Health insurance is compulsory for those employed at enterprises with five or more workers and premiums are shared equally by the insured and their employers. Those not covered at work are insured through the National Health Insurance program. Other sickness and health insurance is in force among farmers, fishermen, and their dependents. Unemployment coverage is obligatory for all enterprises regardless of size; workers' compensation must also be provided by employers.

The Daily Life Security Law laid the groundwork for an ever-growing livelihood assistance program. Out of this have come laws pertaining to child welfare, physically handicapped persons' welfare, social welfare service, welfare fund loans to mothers and children, aid to the war-wounded and ill, and aid to families of deceased soldiers. The system provides direct aid for livelihood, education, housing, medical, maternity, occupational disability, and funerals. More than a thousand welfare offices throughout the nation are staffed by full-time, salaried welfare secretaries and assisted by voluntary help. Institutions have been established to care for the aged, those on relief, and those needing rehabilitation. Numerous private organizations assist government agencies. There are special pension programs for public employees, private school teachers and employees, and employees of agricultural, forestry, and fishery cooperatives.

Women make up over 40% of the labor force. Although the law prohibits wage discrimination, there remained a significant gap between earnings for men and women in 2004. Women also retain the responsibility of child care and household chores. Domestic abuse and other violence against women are often unreported due to societal concerns about shame in the family. The government is taking some action in providing shelter facilities and passing laws to protect victims. There is also an increase in the molestation of women on the railways while commuting. Sexual harassment in the workplace is prevalent.

Discrimination against ethnic Koreans and other non-Japanese minorities also continued. Human rights are generally respected by the government, but there have been some reports of abuse of detainees and prisoners.


The Ministry of Health and Welfare has become the central administrative agency responsible for maintaining and promoting public health, welfare, and sanitation. All hospitals and clinics are subject to government control with respect to their standards and spheres of responsibility. In 2004, there were 201 physicians, 820 nurses, 72 dentists, and 171 pharmacists per 100,000 people. Every practitioner in the field of medicine or dentistry must receive a license from the Ministry of Health and Welfare. In addition, the ministry recognizes and authorizes certain quasi-medical practices, including massage, acupuncture, moxa-cautery, and judo-orthopedics, all based upon traditional Japanese health professions.

Expanded examination and treatment have brought about a dramatic decrease in the death rate from tuberculosis, the major cause of death in the 1940s. Death rates from cancer and heart disease have risen considerably and now rank among the leading causes of death, trailing cerebrovascular diseases. Japanese medical researchers have been working on research for a new cure for breast cancer.

Infant mortality dropped to 3.26 per 1,000 live births in 2005, one of the lowest in the world. Only 3% of children under age five were malnourished. The total fertility rate was 1.4 as of 2000. Immunization rates for children up to one year old are nearly 100%. Average life expectancy was 81.15 years in 2005, among the highest rates in the world. In the mid-1990s there were nearly 300,000 deaths per year strictly from cardiovascular diseases. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 12,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 500 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


A severe housing shortage plagued Japan after World War II. It was estimated that in 1947, two years after the war's end, the housing deficit amounted to more than four million units. A construction program resulted in 9.7 million new units by the end of 1965. The following year, the government undertook a five-year plan for the construction of 7.6 million houses by mid-1971; the plan was designed to fulfill the goal of "one house for each family."

Housing construction peaked at 1.9 million units in 1973; despite efforts to promote construction as a means of stimulating the domestic economy, construction lagged in later years, falling to between 1.1 million and 1.5 million units in the 1980s. The decline reflected not so much a saturation of demandmany Japanese regard their housing as inadequateas a rapid rise in land and construction costs, especially in the Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka metropolitan areas, which put new housing out of the reach of potential buyers.

In the mid-1990s, the average salaried worker in Tokyo could only afford a house 40 km outside the Tokyo metropolitan area. Condominiums and prefabricated homes provided much of the nation's new housing in the 1980s. In fiscal 1987, low interest rates pushed new housing starts to 1.729 million units; they declined in 1988 to 1.6 million, and fell to 1.343 million in 1991 with the start of the recession. However, in 1998, there was a total of 50.25 million dwellings, representing 13% more than the number of households. In 2000, about 58.5% of all households were living in detached houses. About 61% of all households lived in owner-occupied dwellings.


Japan's entire educational system was reorganized along US lines after World War II, adhering to a six-three-three-four plan (six years of primary school, three years of lower secondary school, three years of upper secondary schoolfull-time, part-time or correspondenceand four years of college). Education is compulsory and provided free of charge for the first nine years, from age 6 through 14. Entrance into high schools, the stage following the compulsory level, is by examination only, and most of these schools charge tuition. Coeducation has become an accepted principle.

In 2001, about 84% of children between the ages of three and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 100% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was also estimated at about 100% of age-eligible students. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 20:1 in 2003.

Would-be national and local public university students must pass entrance examinations in Japanese, English, mathematics, science, and social studies. There are three types of institutions for higher educationuniversities, junior colleges and technical colleges, all of which receive prefectural and national support or annual subsidies. There are 95 national universities, with each prefectural capital having one school; the remainder are in the principal cities. The largest religious bodies, both Christian and Buddhist, maintain important universities and other educational institutions. There are many special schools for the handicapped. In 2003, about 51% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program; with 54% for men and 47% for women. The adult literacy rate for 2002 was estimated at about 99%.

Educational activities for adults and youths are organized both by government and private bodies. There is a board of education in each of the 47 prefectures and 3,000 municipalities and these serve as the local education authority. The central education authority is the Ministry of Education, which provides guidance and financial assistance to the local bodies. As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 3.6% of GDP, or 10.5% of total government expenditures.


In 1948, the National Diet Library Law established the National Diet Library to provide reference service to the Diet, other libraries, and the general public. In 1949, this library absorbed the Ueno Library (the former national library) as one of its branches. The National Diet Library acts as a legal depository for Japanese publications and is also a depository library for the United Nations. There are over 7.3 million volumes in the library's collection. The University of Tokyo (Tokyo Daigaku) has 7.6 million volumes, and Keio University, also in Tokyo has libraries with holdings of over 1 million volumes.

Public libraries are beginning to find their place in Japanese life. Prior to the enactment of the Library Law of 1950, 70% of those who utilized libraries were students and scholars. Today, libraries are information centers, and increasing numbers of citizens are patronizing them. The Tokyo Metropolitan Library consists of three main branches with ties to about 360 town and village libraries throughout the metropolitan region.

Except in large cities, typical Japanese museums take the form of the treasure halls of shrines or temples, botanical gardens, and aquariums. Important museums include the National Science Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Calligraphy Museum, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, all located in Tokyo. Also in Tokyo are the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, a criminal museum, and a clock museum. In 2002 the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art opened in Kobe. Osaka houses a museum of natural history and the National Museum of Ethnography, and Kyoto, the former capital, has many historical sights and monuments. Yokohama is home to an equine museum and Kanazawa Bunko, a general museum dating back to 1275 and featuring Zen Buddhist documents. There is a Peace Memorial and Museum in Hiroshima.


Telephone and telegraph services are offered by Nippon Telephone and Telegraph, which was privatized in 1986, and by Japan Telecom and other companies that entered the market after Nippon Telegraph and Telephone's monopoly ended in 1985. Telex, fax, and international telegram services are provided by Kokusai DenshinDenwa (KDD). In 2003, there were an estimated 472 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 679 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

A semigovernmental enterprise, the Japan Broadcasting Corp. (Nihon Hoso KyokaiNHK), plays a large role in Japan's radio and television communications. Started in 1935, Radio Japan is also beamed by NHK throughout the world. There are four other national commercial networks. Some commercial stations are connected with large newspaper companies. Color television broadcasting began in 1960; multiplex broadcasting, for stereophonic or multiple-language programming, was made available in Tokyo and other metropolitan areas in 1978. As of 2001 there were 215 AM and 89 FM radio stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 956 radios and 785 television sets for every 1,000 people. About 193.4 of every 1,000 people were cable subscribers. Also in 2003, there were 382.2 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 483 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet.

The Japanese press is among the world's largest in terms of newspaper circulation and is also a leader in ratio of copies to population. The leading Japanese dailies, with their 2002 morning (and evening) circulations, are: Yomiuri Shimbun, 10,224,70 (4,183,130 evening); Asahi Shimbun, 8,322,050 (4,070,610); Mainichi Shimbun, 3,976,360 (1,708,910); Nihon Keizai Shimbun, 1,796,310 (959,730); Sankei Shimbun, 1,997,700 (907,370); Tokyo Shimbun, 653,120 (348,750); Hochi Shimbun, 438,420; Osaka Nichi-Nichi Shimbun, 225,000; Chunichi Shimbun (in Nagoya), 3,075,320 (1,247,820); Nishi-Nippon Shimbun (in Fukuoka), 841,460 (187,530); Hokkaidō Shimbun (in Sapporo), 677,550 (387,520); Kyoto Shimbun (in Kyoto), 504,600 (319,730); Kobe Shimbun (in Kobe), 546,080 (269,640); and Chugoku Shimbun (in Hiroshima), 732,730 (89,310).

There are two domestic news agencies: the Kyodo News Service, with 50 domestic bureaus and with foreign bureaus in every major overseas news center; and the Jiji Press, serving commercial and government circles.

The constitution of Japan provides for free speech and a free press and the government is said to respect these rights in practice. The Japanese press enjoys the reputation of having the most vigorous and outspoken in the world. It operates under the constitutional provision of absolute prohibition of censorship.


The Japan Chamber of Commerce includes several regional and local branches. Workers and employers are represented by a number of trade organizations, including the umbrella organizations of the General Council of Trade Unions, the Congress of Labor Unions, and Federation of Employers Associations. Specialized business and industry organizations include the Japan Silk Association, the Japan Whaling Association, and the Japan Pearl Exporters' Association.

The Japan Industrial Safety and Health Association serves an important role in regulating workplace safety standards. The Japan Medical Association promotes research and education on health issues and works to establish common policies and standards in healthcare. There are several other associations dedicated to research and education for specific fields of medicine and particular diseases and conditions. There are numerous professional associations representing a wide variety of careers.

There are numerous youth organizations, including the Scout Association of Japan, Girl Guides, YMCA/YWCA, and the Japan Youth Association. Numerous sports associations and clubs promote amateur competition in such pastimes as tae kwon do, horse racing, squash, table tennis, track and field, and cricket.

The Institute of Art Research and the National Institute of Japanese Literature are important in the cultural field. The Society for International Cultural Relations, established in 1934, is active in the publishing field and in cultural exchange. The Motion Picture Association of Japan is a prominent entertainment organization. There are many associations and clubs available for hobbyists.

There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society, CARE, Greenpeace, Habitat for Humanity, and Amnesty International.


Tourism in Japan is regarded as a major industry, since many foreign visitors as well as the Japanese themselves tour the country extensively. In 2003, Japan had about 5.2 million visitors. There were 1,562,867 hotel rooms with an occupancy rate of 70%. Tourism expenditure receipts totaled $11.4 billion. A valid passport along with an onward/return ticket is required. A visa is not necessary for stays of up to 90 days.

Japan's chief sightseeing attractions are in the ancient former capital of Kyoto: Nijo Castle, Heian Jingu Shrine, the 13th-century Sanjusangendo temple, and the Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion); the Ryoan-ji (Temple of the Peaceful Dragon), famed for its garden of stones and raked sand, and numerous other ancient Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Nearby sights in the vicinity of Nara include the Great Buddha, a huge bronze statue originally cast in the eighth century; the Kofuku-ji pagoda; and Horyu-ji, the seventh century temple from which Buddhism spread throughout Japan. There are few historic sites in the capitalTokyo was devastated by an earthquake in 1923 and virtually destroyed in World War IIbut nearby attractions include Mt. Fuji and the hot springs of Fuji-Hakkone-Izu National Park; Nikko National Park, site of the Toshogu Shrine, where the first Tokugawa shogun is entombed; and the summer and winter sports facilities in the mountains of central Japanthe so-called Japan Alps. The Hiroshima Peace Park and Peace Memorial Museum commemorate the destruction of the city by an atomic bomb in 1945.

Baseball is Japan's national pastime; there are two professional leagues, each with six teams. Sumo, a Japanese form of wrestling, is also popular, with tournaments held six times a year. Golf, an expensive sport because of the lack of open space, is used mainly as a means of entertaining business clients. Other pastimes include judo, karate, table tennis, fishing, and volleyball. Gardening is the most popular hobby among men and women alike. Nagano hosted the 1998 Olympic Winter Games.

The costs of traveling in Japan, among the highest in the world, were reduced slightly when a 3% tourism tax, in effect since 1960, was abolished on 1 April 2000.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated daily expenses for staying in Tokyo at $257. Okinawa was estimated at $354 from May through September and $238 the rest of the year. To stay in Osaka-Kobe the daily expenses were $260 and in Kanazawa, $195.


Murasaki Shikibu (late 10thearly 11th cent.) was the author of The Tale of Genji, probably the best-known Japanese literary classic in English since it was first translated in the 1920s. Zeami (Motokiyo, 13631443) was an actor who established Noh theater and wrote a number of plays that have been part of the Noh repertoire ever since. Monzaemon Chikamatsu (16531724) wrote plays for the Bunraku theater, many of which later became part of the repertoire of Kabuki. Basho (Matsuo Munefusa, 164494) perfected the writing of the poetic form now known as haiku. In this genre, three other poets are also known: Buson Yosa (171683), Issa Kobayashi (17631827), and the modern reformer Shiki Masaoka (18671902). Ryunosuke Akutagawa (18921927) is best known for his story "Rashomon." Prominent modern novelists include Jun'ichiro Tanizaki (18861965); Yasunari Kawabata (18991972), winner of the 1968 Nobel Prize for literature; Kobo Abe (192493); Yukio Mishima (192570); Shusako Endo (192396); Haruki Murakami (b.1949); and Kenzaburo Oe (b.1935) who won the 1994 Nobel Prize in literature. A leading modern writer and Zen Buddhist scholar was Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki (18701966).

In art, Sesshu (14201506) was the most famous landscape artist of his day. Ogata Korin (16581716) was a master painter of plants, animals, and people. The leader of the naturalist school was Maruyama Okyo (173395). The best-known painters and wood-block artists of the "ukiyo-e " style were Kitagawa Utamaro (17541806), Katsushika Hokusai (17601849), Saito Sharaku (fl.179495), and Ando Hiroshige (17971858). Four 20th-century Japanese architects whose work has had a marked influence on international style are Mayekawa Kunio (190586), Hideo Kosaka (19122000), Kenzo Tange (19132005), and Yoshinobu Ashihara (19182003).

Noted Japanese film directors include Kenjii Mizoguchi (18981956), Yasujiro Ozu (190363), and Akira Kurosawa (191092). Toshiro Mifune (192097) was the best-known film star abroad. Important composers include Toshiro Mayuzumi (192997) and Toru Takemitsu (193096). Seiji Ozawa (b.1935) is a conductor of world renown. The leading home-run hitter in baseball history is Sadaharu Oh (b.1940), manager of the Yomiuri Giants, who retired as a player for the same team in 1980 after hitting 868 home runs.

Hideyo Noguchi (18761928), noted bacteriologist, is credited with the discovery of the cause of yellow fever and is famed for his studies on viruses, snake poisons, and toxins. Hideki Yukawa (190781), Japan's most noted physicist, received the 1949 Nobel Prize for research on the meson. In 1965, Shinichiro Tomonaga (190679), a professor at Tokyo University of Education, became one of the year's three recipients of the Nobel Prize for physics for work in the field of quantum electrodynamics. Leo Esaki (b.1925) won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1973; Kenichi Fukui (19181998) shared the 1981 chemistry award; and Susumu Tonegawa (b.1939) won the 1987 medicine award. Hideki Shirakawa (b.1936) shared the 2000 Nobel Prize in chemistry; Ryoji Noyori (b.1938) shared the chemistry prize in 2001; and Koichi Tanaka (b.1959) shared the 2002 chemistry prize. Masatoshi Koshiba (b.1926) shared the Nobel Prize in physics in 2002.

Hirohito (190189) became emperor of Japan in 1926. His eldest son, Akihito (b.1933), succeeded him in 1990. The leading statesman after World War II was Eisaku Sato (190175), prime minister from 1964 to 1972 and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974.


Japan has no territories or colonies.


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(including Okinawa)

Major Cities:
Tokyo, Yokohama, Ōsaka, Kōbe, Kyōto, Nagoya, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Sapporo, Nagasaki

Other Cities:
Chiba, Gifu, Hamamatsu, Himeji, Kagoshima, Kanazawa, Kawasaki, Kita-kyūshūu, Kumagaya, Kumamoto, Kurashiki, Miyazaki, Niigata, Nishinomiya, Okayama, Sakai, Sendai, Utsunomiya, Yokosuka


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 2001 for Japan. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


For a country that lived in self-imposed isolation until 150 years ago, Japan has not hesitated to make up for lost time.

It is a place of ancient gods and customs but is also the cutting edge of cool modernity. High-speed trains whisk you from one end of the country to another with frightening punctuality. You can catch sight of a farmer tending his paddy field, then turn the corner and find yourself next to a neon-festooned electronic games parlor in the suburb of a sprawling metropolis.

Few other countries have, in the space of mere generations, experienced so much or made such an impact. Industrialized at lightning speed, Japan shed its feudal trappings to become the most powerful country in Asia in a matter of decades. After defeat in World War II, it transformed itself to a wondereconomy, the envy of the globe.

In the cities you will first be struck by the mass of people. In this mountainous country, the vast majority of the 126 million population live on the crowded coastal plains of the main island of Honshu. The three other main islands, running north to south, are Hokkaido, Shikoku, and Kyushu, and all are linked to Honshu by bridges and tunnels that are part of one of Japan's modern wondersits efficient transport network of trains and highways.

Outside the cities, there is a vast range of options from the wide open spaces and deep volcanic lakes of Hokkaido, blanketed by snow every winter, to the balmy subtropical islands of Okinawa. You will seldom have to travel far to catch sight of a lofty castle, ancient temple or shrine, or locals celebrating at a colorful street festival. The Japanese are inveterate travelers within their own country and there is hardly a town or village, no matter how small or plain, that does not boast some unique attraction.

Rampant development and sometimes appalling pollution is difficult to square with a country also renowned for cleanliness and appreciation of nature. Part of the problem is that natural cataclysms, such as earthquakes and typhoons, regularly hit Japan, so few people expect things to last for long.

And yet, time and again, Japan redeems itself with unexpectedly beautiful landscapes, charmingly courteous people, and its tangible sense of history and cherished traditions. Most intriguing of all is the opaqueness at the heart of this mysterious hidden culture that stems from a blurring of traditional boundaries between East and West. Japan is neither wholly one nor the other.



Tokyo, the capital of Japan and one of the world's largest cities in terms of area, is at the head of Tokyo Bay on the Kanto Plain, the largest level area in the country. The city proper covers 221 square miles and has a population of 8.5 million. The 796-square-mile metropolitan area occupies sea-level stretches along the bay and rivers, as well as hilly areas farther inland which include suburban cities and towns, and several small villages; total population of this area is now more than 14 million.

Tokyo developed originally around a feudal castle built during the 16th century. Toward the end of that century, a great feudal lord named Tokugawa Iyeyasu ruled this castle and the surrounding area. In 1603, after a series of civil wars, he established himself as shogun, or military dictator, of all Japan, and administered his rule from Edo, which later was called Tokyo. Under succeeding rulers of the Tokugawa dynasty, the city grew in importance and became the leading commercial center of the area.

Tokyo has been, for all practical purposes, the capital of Japan since 1603, although the imperial court in the ancient capital of Kyōto maintained nominal authority until 1868. The court moved to Tokyo, and a Western-style government was established in the late 1860s.

Besides being the seat of government, Tokyo is the industrial, commercial, financial, communications, and educational center of Japan. It has over 7,900 factories or plants with 30 or more employees, 102 four-year colleges and universities, and 28 daily newspapers. It is Japan's most international city, with more than 122,500 foreign residents, of whom over 14,000 are Americans. Most foreign companies doing business in Japan have their headquarters here.

Tokyo is a vital metropolis of striking contrastsof confusion and calm. Business and residential properties are side by side, giving the city a patchwork-quilt impression. It has lovely parks and shrines, broad thoroughfares, modern office buildings and hotels, expressways, and department stores similar to those in other large international cities. Beyond all this, however, lies another world of narrow streets, markets, theaters, restaurants, and Japanese-style houses that make Tokyo a unique city.


Electricity in Tokyo is single phase 100 or 200 volts, 50 cycles (HZ) electric current. Most U.S.-manufactured appliances will operate satisfactorily as long as they will tolerate 50 cycle electric current. Electric timing devices and clocks that are designed for standard U. S. 60-cycle electric current may not operate properly on 50-cycle electricity. Most appliances manufactured for Tokyo use require 100 volt, 50 cycle electric current.


Most food items available in the U.S. can be obtained on the local market at higher prices.

The New Sanno Hotel also has a small shoppette. Throughout the city one can conveniently locate greengrocers, convenience-type stores, and large modern supermarkets.

Clothing General:

Bring a four-season wardrobe for all family members. Winter clothing is advised for the cold and damp winter months. Summer in Tokyo can be very hot and humid. Raincoats and umbrellas are essential.

Local department and specialty stores carry a variety of Western-style clothes and imported items from the design centers of the world for both men and women but are generally available in sizes unique to the Japanese physique and are very expensive. Excellent quality silks, woolens, and various synthetics are available.

Shoes for men, women and children are available locally but it is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to find the proper size. Shoe sizes are shorter and wider than in the U.S.

If you need special sizes or particular brands in clothing and shoes in order to be properly fitted, bring them with you. Office dress as well as sports and casual attire follow Washington or U.S. standards. Social functions are not extremely dressy. Simple good taste is the best criterion.

Men: The accepted attire for dinner parties, unless otherwise stated, is a business suit.

Women: An afternoon dress, a simple long dress, or long skirt and top are suitable for the frequent cocktail parties, receptions, and buffet dinners. Formal attire is a floor-length dress. Bring at least one full skirt (either long or short) that would be appropriate for dining in Japanese restaurants or homes where guests sit on tatami mats on the floor.

Children: A variety of children's clothing is available; sizes are not a big problem but prices are high.

Supplies and Services

The following items are available at higher prices: toiletries for men and women, cosmetics, feminine personal supplies, tobacco items, home medicines and drugs; common household items, including minor repair materials; and entertainment supplies such as candles, napkins.

All basic services-laundry, drycleaning, barber and beauty shops, shoe, and automobile repair-are available.

Domestic Help

The number and type of domestics varies with the obligations and living pattern of the employee. The hourly rate for part-time domestics is approximately Y1,000. Salaries for full-time domestics vary but generally you can expect to pay $1,000-$1,500 per month.

Domestics are covered by Japanese national health insurance but are not covered by unemployment insurance. Many employers assume partial obligation for doctors' bills and for the placement of a domestic in another position when they leave Japan. Those who sponsor non-Japanese domestics are responsible for assuring their departure from Japan if not placed with a qualified sponsor.

Part-time maids are available as babysitters when those services are needed. Teenagers charge from Y500 per hour depending on age and experience while part-time maids charge Y1,000 per hour.

Religious Activities

English-language services are available in the Tokyo and Yokohama areas for members of most denominations. Religions represented include Roman Catholic, Baptist, Seventh-day Adventist, Episcopal, Mormon, Christian Scientist, Lutheran, Interdenominational, Jewish, and Interdenominational Charismatic. The churches offer a variety of fellowship for all age groups and combined programs to provide services for the benefit of the foreign community in the area.


Tokyo has a wide selection of excellent schools that provide education comparable to that available in the best schools in the U.S. and elsewhere. The school styles range from open classroom to more structured approaches; sports, music, drama, and other outside activities are provided in varying degrees. Graduates from the schools in the area have no difficulty being accepted by the best U.S. colleges and universities. To accommodate the requirements of children with special needs, parents should be certain to communicate directly with the schools regarding individual educational needs and programs available. The school year is from September to June. It is essential to communicate with the schools as early as possible since competition for spaces is keen. Most schools begin accepting applications for the upcoming school year in November of the current year. Most of the private schools maintain waiting lists. Upon acceptance, many schools require an early commitment on the part of the family and may require a non-refundable deposit. The schools in the Tokyo area most frequently used are listed below. Each is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

A physical examination is required by most of the schools.

The American School in Japan (ASIJ) (1-1, Nomizu 1-comme, Chofushi, Tokyo 182-0031, tel: 0422-34-5300, fax: 0422-34-5308; web address: www.asij.acjp; e-mail: [email protected]) is an independent elementary and secondary school accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. It is an overseas member of the National Association of Independent Schools of the United States and is affiliated with the International Schools Service. Of the 1,400 students, 67% are American, 15% are Japanese and the rest third-country nationals. The curriculum is similar to that of the best U.S. college preparatory schools. In addition, Japanese language and area studies are offered in all grades. The facilities include an indoor swimming pool, two gymnasiums, theater, laboratories, libraries, and cafeteria. The emphasis is on individualized instruction through the modular schedule in the secondary schools and through employment of team teaching as a means of greater flexibility in the elementary school. The number of graduates who enter colleges is about 98%.

The school is at Chofu in Tokyo's western suburbs. The school provides bus service from all areas of Tokyo including a stop at the apartment compound, with commuting time running slightly under an hour each way. Train service to within 10 minutes walking distance from the school is also available.

American School in Japan Nursery-Kindergarten (3-5 age group) (15-5, Aobadai 2-chome, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-0042; e-mail: [email protected]). In addition to the kindergarten on the Chofu campus, ASIJ operates a nursery kindergarten Meguro that is about 20 minutes from the housing compound. It accommodates 115 students of several nationalities. The normal school day includes teacher-directed work and activities (music, library, films), rest periods, snack, and outdoor play.

International School of Sacred Heart (3-1, Hiroo 4-chome, Shibuyaku, Tokyo 150-0012; fax: (3) 3400-3496; tel: (3) 3400-3951; web address: www.iac.cojp/-issh3/ ; e-mail: [email protected]) is an elementary and secondary institution with a student body of about 588 students directed by the Catholic Sisters of the Society of the Sacred Heart. Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, it is a school for girls; however, boys are accepted for kindergarten. Around 50 different nationalities are represented in the student body and about 40-50 graduates are admitted to U.S. and Japanese colleges and universities each year. The school plant includes laboratories, gymnasium, and library; sports facilities also are provided. The school is on the Sacred Heart University campus in central Tokyo.

Nishimachi International School (14-7, Moto Azabu 2-chome, Minatoku, Tokyo 106-0046; tel: (3) 3451-5520; fax: (3) 3456-0197; web address:; e-mail: [email protected]) offers instruction from kindergarten through grade 9. It is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Enrollment is about 400 with an international student body. The curriculum allows easy progression into the international high schools in the Tokyo area. Centrally located in Tokyo, the school has a gym (but no field), a large library, plus a strong Japanese language and active cultural activities programs. It generally requires early application for admission since there is usually a waiting list, particularly in the lower grades.

Seisen International School for Girls (12-15, Yoga 1-chome, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 158-0097; fax: (3) 3701-1033; tel: (3) 3704-2661; web address:; e-mail: [email protected]) is a girls' elementary and secondary school accredited by the Western Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges and operated by the Catholic order, the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Boys are accepted for kindergarten. Enrollment is around 645, representing 60 nationalities. The emphasis in the secondary school is college preparatory with an extracurricular program of arts, drama, journalism, music, and sports. Some 94% of graduates enter college. The school is in Tokyo, convenient to public buses, subways, and trains.

St. Mary's International School (6-19, Seta 1-chome, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 158-8668; fax: (3) 3707-1950; tel: (3) 3709-3411; web address:; e-mail: [email protected]) is sponsored by the Catholic order, Brothers of Christian Instruction. It is an elementary and secondary boy's school accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges with an enrollment of 900, representing some 70 nationalities. The school has a preschool (5 years), but there is a waiting list. The secondary school curriculum is college preparatory, and participation in sports and extracurricular activities including music, arts, drama, and journalism is emphasized. The international Baccalaureate program is offered in the high school. The facilities include a gymnasium, indoor pool, laboratories, library, and cafeteria. Almost all graduates enter American colleges. Bus service is provided by the school. In addition, train, subway, and public bus service to the school is excellent.

Tokyo International Learning Community (6-3-50 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181-0015, Tel: 0422-31-9611; fax: 0422-31-9648; web address:; e-mail: [email protected]) Established in 1987, Tokyo International Learning Community was set up by concerned parents and professionals in Tokyo's English-speaking community to support the education of students with special needs.

Its staff now consists of four full-time teachers and over 10 other staff members, including an occupational therapist, a physical therapist, a speech pathologist, and a psychologist. Based in a seven-room school building in Mitaka, Tokyo International Learning Community has an Early Childhood program for children from newborn to 5 years old with developmental disabilities or difficulties, and their families, as well as an Upper School Program for elementary, middle-and high-school students.

There is a support group for parents of children with special needs. A program for students enrolled in other international schools who are diagnosed as having a learning disability is also available. Services are offered in central Tokyo as well as the Mitaka campus.

Special Educational Opportunities

Exceptional opportunities exist in Tokyo for higher education and for training in Japanese arts and crafts. Each institution has its own admission requirements; courses can be followed as part of a degree program or for enrichment.

Sophia University, a Jesuit institution, has an international division that offers accredited courses in English and comparative cultures, leading to bachelor's and master's degrees. Both part-time and full-time study is possible, and all courses are in late afternoon or evening.

Temple University Japan, established in the early 1980s, is a branch of Temple University of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the fall of 1987, the school moved into a new building in Shinjuku, which include such facilities as classrooms, a library, a language laboratory, and an auditorium. Temple offers bachelors degrees in the liberal arts and masters degrees in teaching English as a second language and business administration. Classes take place days and evenings.

International Christian University is about 20 miles from the center of Tokyo. It is an interdenominational school offering courses in English in all of its divisions-humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and languages. The Bachelor of Arts degree requires competency in Japanese, which can be acquired at the university by taking an intensive program. Night courses are not offered.

The University of Maryland, in cooperation with the Armed Forces, offers night courses at the undergraduate and some graduate levels. Although these courses are offered primarily to military personnel, Embassy staff members also are eligible. Courses currently are given at Camp Zama and Yokota Air Force Base. The commuting distance is from 1 to 1-1/2 hours from Tokyo by train.

Many opportunities exist for participation in adult classes in painting, sumie painting, ikebana (flower arrangement), woodcarving, doll making, pottery, and other Japanese crafts. Lessons in Japanese and Chinese cooking, music, and dancing can also be taken.


The Japanese are sports lovers and participate in virtually every sport popular in the West in addition to their own. The foreigner is welcomed, either as an active participant or as a spectator, and sports are effective avenues for establishing social and informal contacts with the Japanese people.

The most popular spectator sport of Western origin in Japan is baseball; the Tokyo pro teams play to sellout crowds nearly every day in season, and the annual Japan World Series championship team often gives visiting American teams stiff competition. Ranking in spectator popularity is the traditional Japanese wrestling or sumo. Fans include foreigners and Japanese alike, and tickets to the major tournaments held throughout the year are hard to find. Local television broadcasts both baseball and sumo events. Other popular spectator sports include soccer, rugby, gymnastics, swimming and diving competitions, and the Japanese martial arts exhibitions and matches. In addition to judo and karate, the arts include kendo (fencing with bamboo swords), Aikido (self-defense emphasizing physical conditioning and mind over matter), and Japanese longbow archery. You can study any of the martial arts in Tokyo under the most famous instructors. Judo instructions are available to Mission employees on the compound.

Golf is very popular in Japan. The courses are excellent and playable year round. Public courses are relatively few, and membership in the private Japanese clubs is prohibitively expensive. The military has three 18-hole golf courses at Tama, Zama, and Atsugi, all from 1 to I-1/ 2 hours' drive from downtown Tokyo. Membership is open to all Mission employees and their families, and dues are reasonable. Non-members can play by paying a nominal greens fee.

Golfers bringing a letter certifying their handicap at a previous golf club will be considered by the handicap committee for an "in-Japan" handicap.

The city has few public tennis and badminton courts. Private clubs have long waiting lists and are expensive.

Many Japanese recreational centers and clubs feature table tennis.

The major hotels have swimming pools and clubs; memberships are available but costs are relatively high. In the complex of the Olympic sports facilities are two Olympicsized pools and a high diving area open to the public. The New Sanno Hotel has an outdoor pool.

Beaches and water in the Tokyo area are polluted. However, nice but crowded beaches are located along the coast south of Tokyo near Kamakura on the Miura Peninsula, on the picturesque Izu Peninsula about 80 miles from Tokyo, and the eastern coast of the Chiba Peninsula about 60 miles from Tokyo. These areas abound in picturesque fishing villages and dramatic scenery.

The Tokyo YMCA has a basketball court, swimming pool, and facilities for volleyball and gymnastics. Also, Tokyo's Olympic Gymnasium facilities for these sports are open on a limited basis to the public. Bowling is popular in Japan, and Tokyo has many centers.

Several indoor ice skating rinks in the city are open year round and outdoor skating is popular on lakes and rinks outside Tokyo during winter.

The mountain resort areas of Nikko and Hakone have facilities for sailing and water-skiing. Commercial marinas, like Enoshima on Sagami Bay, rent sailboats. Skiing is excellent in Japan. Many ski areas are to the north and northwest of Tokyo (3-6 hours by train), with areas for beginners and experts. Accommodations range from luxurious lodges to skier dormitories. Equipment can be rented, but large ski boots are difficult to find.

Mountain climbing is also popular; you can join several hiking clubs. Good hiking over mountain trails is within 2 hours by train from Tokyo.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Japan's rugged and beautiful terrain offers a great deal to outdoor enthusiasts. Most scenic areas, including nearby Nikko and Mt. Fuji, have been incorporated into an extensive national park system. Hiking trails and good camping facilities abound. Hundreds of lowpriced hostels exist, many in isolated places. The hostels are open to people of all ages, single or married.

Much of Japan is easily accessible from Tokyo on Japan's excellent rail transportation system. The historic Kyoto-Nara area, with its hundreds of shrines and their typical Japanese gardens, can be reached by Shinkansen (super express trains) in about 3 hours. Shinkansen to Kyushu, southern Japan, takes about 7 hours. Northern Japan is a day's journey by train. Domestic airlines will take you to most major cities in Honshu, Shikoku, Hokkaido, and Kyushu or Okinawa within a few hours. Travel by air, rail and car tends to be expensive.

Within hours by car or rail from Tokyo are the many hot-spring mountain resorts of the Hakone Range near Mt. Fuji, beautiful Nikko National Park with its famous shrines of the Tokugawa Shoguns; and northwest of Tokyo, Nagano Prefecture, popular winter sports center. These resort areas offer excellent recreational facilities and fine Western and Japanese-style hotels.

Shimoda, at the tip of the Izu Peninsula (about 3 hours from Tokyo by express train), is of historic interest as the site of the first American Consulate in Japan, opened by Townsend Harris in 1856.

Nearby Tokyo is Kamakura, which is also of great historical interest with its many 12th-and 13th-century shrines and temples and the famed Great Buddha. Added incentives to travel are the many colorful festivals that take place throughout Japan, especially during the summer. Timing a trip to coincide with a festival or witnessing some of the many festivals held in Tokyo can add greatly to your experience.

In all the major cities and many of the others are Western-style hotels with facilities ranging from acceptable to adequate. A stay in a Japanese-style inn or Ryokan can be most interesting. Ryokans are usually more expensive than firstclass Western-style hotels, but the attentive service given guests is almost unequaled anywhere in the world. The guest must be prepared, however, to sleep on tatami mats and eat Japanese food.


Tokyo is one of the entertainment capitals of the world. It offers an infinite variety of nightlife from the most deluxe and expensive clubs and spectacular music hall revues to jazz coffeehouses and working-class restaurants. Restaurants are everywhere. Hardly a street in the city does not have at least one Japanese restaurant specializing in tempura (shrimp, fish, and various vegetables deep fried in oil), sushi (raw fish or shrimp in a small rice mold wrapped in a special kind of seaweed), and sukiyaki, perhaps the best known Japanese food among foreigners. Many nice restaurants feature international cuisine or regional specialties (Chinese, French, American, Russian, Italian, Korean, or Spanish). Tokyo also has a variety of fast-food chains, both Japanese and such American favorites as McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, Shakey's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Pizza Hut. Recent casual restaurant additions include Outback Steakhouse and TGI Friday's. Prices in the restaurants range from moderate to extremely expensive. One of the best ways to sample the restaurants in Tokyo is at lunchtime when a meal costs half as much when served in the evening.

Tokyo is the center of the Kabuki and Noh theaters. Two major theaters in Tokyo present Kabuki, and usually at least two productions are playing at any one time. Several productions of Noh and the classical Japanese comedy, Kyogen, are shown every week. The famous Bunraku Puppet Theater of Osaka visits Tokyo regularly.

Tokyo has nine symphony orchestras that perform year round, several ballet and opera companies, and many chamber groups and individual artists. With these choices, and with the constant stream of visiting foreign orchestras, ballet and opera companies, and individual artists, it has become one of the world's music centers. However, ticket prices are expensive.

Tokyo Weekender and Tokyo Classified, periodic publications especially for foreign residents or tourists in the city, present useful information on what is happening in music and the theater in Tokyo and describes various events going on throughout Japan.

Tokyo is also the center of Japan's contemporary art life. Several museums have fine collections of Japanese and Western arts, and innumerable small galleries present showings of Japanese and foreign artists. The major department stores often sponsor art exhibitions. The Tokyo Museum of Modern Art each year has several large foreign exhibitions of international significance.

The Western Theater in Tokyo attracts much interest and activity. Most foreign plays are translated and presented in Japanese. The Tokyo International Players, an international English-language amateur group, produces several plays and readings during their October-May season. American and other foreign movies, shown with Japanese subtitles, are quite popular in Tokyo. They are, however, expensive. The English-language press carries detailed schedules. American movies are shown on Sunday afternoons and evenings at the New Sanno Hotel.

Photography is a popular hobby for both still and video enthusiasts. The Japanese are avid picture takers, and most foreigners follow suit. Excellent Japanese cameras and accessories are sold at the exchanges at reasonable prices. American film is sold locally and at the exchanges, although Japanese film is also of high quality.

Social Activities

The Tokyo American Club is a large, long-established club to which many in the business community belong. It has a restaurant and swimming pool. Fees are prohibitive.

The New Sanno Hotel, open to US. Government civilian employees, has three restaurants and a snack bar, a cocktail lounge, a swimming pool, and offers dancing, night-club shows, special events, and movies.

Social life is comparable to the social life enjoyed in most large U.S. cities. Acquaintances and friends are developed through contacts in the office, at clubs, churches, and through friends.

Although opportunities are numerous for making Japanese friends in Tokyo, it does require a positive effort in most cases. This is partly explained by the size of the city, the language barrier, and differences in cultural background and personality between Westerners and Japanese. Although the Japanese are not surprised when Westerners remain aloof in the foreign colony, they are delighted when a foreigner makes an effort to learn about their way of life, e.g., by studying their various art forms, by traveling Japanese-style, etc. One good way to make daily contact with the Japanese more meaningful is to learn some of the language and customs. In addition, a great number of organizations and activities bring people together for both business and pleasure, such as the American Chamber of Commerce, the Japan-America Society, the Royal Asiatic Society, the International House, international friendship clubs, and the Japanese alumni associations of many American colleges and universities. Many organizations directed either toward community welfare or cultural exchange provide excellent opportunities to meet both Japanese women and women of other nationalities, i.e., the College Women's Association of Japan, the Japan-American Women's Club, the International Ladies Benevolent Society, the International Social Service, and the Tokyo-Washington Women's Club. The latter club meets several times a year and offers monthly or biweekly meetings of various small interest groups such as golf, bridge, chorus, ink painting, flower arranging, and doll making.

Classes in Japanese arts and crafts are also readily available throughout the city and serve both to broaden your circle of friends and your knowledge of the culture of Japan. These classes are not offered solely for foreigners, since the formal study of various aspects of Japanese culture has traditionally been popular for Japanese as well.

An excellent way to make Japanese friends is to offer classes in English conversation. These classes are not difficult to arrange. Another way to make Japanese friends is to participate in the American Orientation Program sponsored by the Fulbright Commission for Japanese scholarship students going to the U.S. to study.


Yokohama is Japan's second largest city, with a population of 3.3 million, and is part of the Kanto metropolitan area centered near Tokyo. Yokohama was one of the first Japanese ports to open to Western trade, and today is one of the world's busiest shipping ports, with a cosmopolitan flavor and a large international population. Despite being a large, industrial city, Yokohama retains a pleasant atmosphere and is relatively close to a number of sightseeing and recreation areas, such as the ancient capital of Kamakura, the hot spring resorts at Hakone, and Mount Fuji.

Yokohama's climate is essentially the same as Tokyo's, with hot, humid summers and mild winters.

The United States Foreign Service Institute has a field school in Yokohama, established to provide language and area-studies training. The center is in a converted residence (the former American Consulate) on the Bluff, a ridge overlooking the harbor and the city, about a five-minute walk from Harbor View Park and the Foreign Cemetery.

The school's neighborhood, called Yamate. It features several parks and historic sites related to the opening of the port to foreign trade and the early foreign community in Yokohama. This neighborhood hosts a commercial center with a wide variety of stores, restaurants and entertainment.

Japanese Language and Area Training Center

FSI Yokohama is an overseas field school of the State Department's Foreign Service Institute, offering intensive, full-time language instruction to U.S. Government civilian and military officials, their spouses, and in some cases diplomats from third countries.

FSI Yokohama's excellent teaching staff is small but highly experienced. The faculty has created many texts and reference materials in-house, and continues to innovate in both teaching methods and course content. In recent years, the school has adopted a number of computer-based interactive teaching materials. Instructors can help students in finding opportunities to use Japanese outside the classroom as well, through local sport or hobby groups, travel and language exchanges. The school has a library of language texts and reference works, books in English about Japan, Japanese literature in the original and in translation, and videotapes in Japanese.

Taking advantage of its location in country, the school arranges frequent field trips to places of interest to students for their ultimate assignments in Japan. These may include government offices, political party conventions, newspapers and TV stations, Japan Self-Defense Force facilities, factories or museums. The class may take overnight field trips out of town to experience some of the variety of Japanese society, particularly the more traditional culture found in rural areas. Many students also do a week-long practicum, working on a volunteer basis in a Japanese business or institution to gain experience in practical use of the language and in social interaction. A series of guest lectures, in both English and Japanese, offers further insights into Japan's politics, economy and society.

Other, optional events, such as attending a sumo match or traditional Japanese theater, are open to students' families as well.


Local grocery stores, however, are more convenient and have a better selection of fresh foods such as produce, meat, fish, and baked goods. Local stores also carry premium imported items such as cheeses and wines, but at high prices.

The Honmoku area offers a number of Japanese-and Western-style restaurants, including several family restaurants. Farther afield, you can find restaurants serving just about any kind of cuisine in and around downtown Yokohama.


Japanese clothing prices vary from near US. prices to much higher, depending on the item and outlet, and larger sizes may be hard to find.

Supplies and Services

Most things are usually found nearby, although it sometimes takes more of a search than in the U. S., and prices may be higher. Yokohama has a growing number of large U.S. specialty retailers (e.g., Toys R Us, Sports Authority) within a 30-minute drive from student housing, although the selection of goods differs somewhat from the same stores in the US.

Services such as drycleaning, hair styling, and photo developing available.

Phone service is good but expensive. Pre-paid phone cards, however, offer calls to the U.S. for as little as 15¢ per minute. Home e-mail and Internet service is available at a cost, and quality is comparable to that in the U.S. In Japan, however, even local calls are metered, so extended Internet use will result in a high phone bill. Cell phones are available locally at reasonable rates.

Religious Activities

In addition to numerous Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, the neighborhoods are home to several Catholic and Protestant churches. Most of the churches serve international congregations and offer services in English.


Children in kindergarten through sixth grade usually attend the R. E. Byrd DODDS Elementary School at the Negishi Housing Area (PSC 472 Box 12, FPO AP 96348-0005). It is a small school, less than 200 students total, in a modern facility on a quiet residential street.

Middle and high school students usually attend St. Maur International School (83 Yamate-cho, Nakaku, Yokohama 231-8654 Japan, www.stmaur.acjp) or Yokohama International School (258 Yamatecho, Naka-ku, Yokohama 2310862 Japan, Both are coeducational day schools, and both are about a 30-minute walk from the student housing area. St. Maur is operated by the Sisters of the Infant Jesus, a Catholic order, and is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. YIS is an independent nonsectarian school, and is accredited by the New England Association of Colleges and Schools.

Both the international schools include kindergarten and elementary grades as well. There are several pre-kindergarten options, but most are fairly expensive. The Byrd School offers one year of pre-kindergarten, but class size is limited and space might not be available for children of non-DOD families. The two international schools offer pre-school classes, and some families have sent children to local Japanese pre-schools.

The Yokohama area offers a wealth of opportunities for instruction in both traditional Japanese and Western arts, crafts, music, drama, and sports. Many of these classes can be found within walking distance of student housing. Extension programs of U.S. universities are offered on the larger military bases, but long commutes make participation difficult for those living in Yokohama.

Recreation and Social Life

The Yamate neighborhood offers good routes for walking, jogging, or bicycling. Neighborhood playgrounds are within a block or two of all student housing. A municipal sports center has a weight room, basketball and volleyball courts, and classes for martial arts and other sports, usually for a small per-visit fee. A public parkf has an outdoor pool open in summer with a reasonable entry fee.

A commercial sports club offers year-round swimming as well as a weight room, aerobics classes and other facilities. Rates are around Y6,000 to Y10,000 per month, depending on the hours and days of use. The Yokohama Country and Athletic Club offers more extensive indoor and outdoor sports facilities, but membership fees are high.

The Negishi housing area has a library which has a large selection of English-language books for children and adults. Yokohama boasts a wide variety of museums, concert halls, theaters, and cinemas. Cinemas are much more expensive than in the U.S., but video rentals are close to American prices. American movies are often available in English with Japanese subtitles.

Yokohama in general and the area around FSI in particular have a large international population, and local Japanese residents tend to be very open to foreigners. Most students and family members, even those who speak little or no Japanese, have few problems making friends.

Ōsaka & Kōbe

One of the world's greatest commercial cities, Osaka sits at the center of the Kansai region, Japan's traditional heartland and its second largest economic center. It is Japan's third largest city with a population of nearly 3 million. From the 3rd century A.D., Osaka (then called Naniwa), with its bay and magnificent river system, has been the hub of inland traffic for the Kansai region and the center of Japanese trade. Over the past 3 decades, Osaka has lost its position as Japan's premier commercial and industrial city to Tokyo. But Osaka and the Kansai region still rank as one of the most important economic regions in the world, and its economic output exceeds that of most European countries and equals that of Canada. Osaka is home to many of Japan's most famous companies, including Matsushita (Panasonic), Sharp, Sanyo, Suntory and Minolta. The approximately 85,000 manufacturing enterprises in Osaka prefecture alone employ nearly 1 million people and produce over $220 billion worth of good annually.

Thirty minutes to the west of Osaka is the cosmopolitan port city of Kobe , noted for its foreign influence. Another major city Hiroshima, site of the first atomic bombing and the headquarters of the Japanese car maker, Mazda, now one-third owned by Ford Motor Company.

Kōbe lies on a narrow strip of land along the famous Inland Sea. It faces an excellent harbor on the south and is bordered by the steep, pine-clad Rokko Mountains on the north. The altitude ranges from sea level to some 600 feet within Kōbe proper, and rises abruptly to 3,000 feet in the mountains behind the city. In the bay is Port Island, the world's largest man-made island.

An industrial city and one of the busiest ports in the world, Kōbe is a cosmopolitan city noted for its foreign influence. In recent years, coastal reclamation has enlarged the industrial and port areas. Manufacturing centers around shipbuilding, steel, textiles, and electronics.

One of the first seaports to be opened to foreign settlement more than a century ago (1868), Kōbe remains a highly cosmopolitan city.

The population of 1.4 million includes an international community of Koreans, Chinese, Indians, French, British, Germans, and Americans. Over 1,000 Americans live in Kōbe, many of whom commute to work in Ōsaka.

Western-style hotels, modern trade shows on Port Island, restaurants serving international cuisine, and colorful festivals add to the city's unique atmosphere. Parks and gardens accentuate the natural beauty of Kōbe, particularly during azalea time in May and the blooming of the chrysanthemums in late autumn. Some of the Western-style houses built more than a century ago in Kitano, the old foreign district, are open for walking tours.

Between Kōbe and Ōsaka is Takarazuka. It is the site of a popular hot-spring resort and family amusement park.


No shortages of or problems with electricity, gas, or water occur in Japan, absent an event like the Kobe Earthquake in January 1995. Telephone service is excellent, and direct dialing is available for international calls. Electricity in the Osaka area is 100 volts/60 cycles.

Typical Japanese outlets accommodate a plug with two, equally-sized flat prongs.


The local market is filled with fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, breads, meats, fish, and dairy products, and its use requires no more sanitary caution than one would apply in the U.S. All of these items are expensive. Many stores in Kobe also carry foreign-brand foodstuffs, albeit at higher prices than in the U.S. or the country of origin. A local buyer's club also permits the purchase of international foods.

Osaka is known as a "kuidaore" (food-loving) city. Both Western-style and Japanese restaurants are abound.

These range from affordable shops and sushi bars to exclusive, members-only establishments.

There is the opportunity to experience a broad range of the dining spectrum.


Fashion tastes in Japan increasingly are influenced by American trends, but Japanese-particularly in this area-tend to be fashion-conscious in a conservative way. Americans who dress similarly will be well received. Clothing and shoes purchased locally are expensive, and size also presents a problem.

Supplies and Services

Almost everything is available in Japan, but prices range from high to exorbitant. If you favor certain brands or need special medicines or a regular supply of some item (e.g., contact lens cleaner, toiletries, or hot cooking sauce), it may be better and cheaper to ship them from the U.S.

Laundry and drycleaning services are excellent, as are barber and beauty shops. Women's hair coloring may not match colors available in the U.S., so bringing samples may help. Repair facilities for American-made appliances and automobiles are often inadequate; repairs for Japanese products are adequate and easily available but expensive.

Domestic Help

Domestic help is hard to find, and wages are high. Day help can be obtained from an agency, but at nearly $300 per day. Live-in cook/servants charge about $1,800 a month, plus a month's bonus twice a year. Employees must also provide plane fare to the home country once per year.

Religious Activities

English-language services for followers of the Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish faiths are held in Kobe. Catholic and Anglican/Episcopalian Churches, with Japanese-language services, are 10 minutes away in Nishinomiya.


English-speaking students have a choice of four schools in the Osaka and Kobe areas.

Canadian Academy, a coeducational facility founded in 1913, teaches kindergarten through high school and also offers boarding facilities for boys and girls grades 7-12. The curriculum is based on the typical college preparatory system in the U.S. The school has an extensive array of extracurricular activities. The language of instruction in all subjects is English. Address: Koyo-cho Naka 4chome, Higashinada-ku, Kobe, 658-0032, Telephone +81 (78) 857-0100, Fax +81 (78) 857-3250.

Osaka International School, founded in 1992, also offers a wide curricula and a number of extracurricular activities with a college preparatory emphasis. A school bus for all ages can be taken from near the housing compound. Address: 4-16, Onohara Nishi 4-chome, Mino-shi, Osaka 562-0032, Telephone +81 (727) 27-5050, Fax +81 (727) 27-5055.

Marist Brothers International School, for boys and girls from kindergarten through grade 12, was founded in 1951 and is located in western Kobe. The curriculum is based on the U.S. college preparatory system. The language of instruction in all subjects is English. Children can go from Nishinomiya (east of Kobe) to Marist by public transportation: Address: 2-1, Chimori-cho 1-chome, Suma-ku, Kobe 654-0072, Telephone +81 (78) 732-6266, Fax +81 (78) 7326268.

St. Michael's International School, a primary school for boys and girls, is an Episcopal school for children of all nationalities and faiths. It is built on the site of the old English Mission School in the center of Kobe. A school bus stop is available about 2 kilometers away from the compound. Address: 17-2 Nakayamate dori 3-chome, Chuoku, Kobe 650-0004, Telephone +81 (78) 2318885, Fax +81 (78) 231-8899.

A number of Japanese nursery schools accept foreign children. In Kyoto, the Kyoto International School, for boys and girls in grades 1 through 8, serves a diverse foreign community of a number of nationalities. Most of the parents are teachers, research scholars, artists, or missionaries. Address: 317 Kitatawara-cho, Naka-dachiuri Sagaru, Yoshiyamachi-dori, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto 602-8247, Telephone +81 (75) 451-1022, Fax +81 (75) 451-1023.

Special Educational Opportunities

Many Americans here enjoy classes and tutoring in traditional Japanese art forms such as flower arranging, cooking, dancing, pottery making, music, brush painting, and calligraphy, as well as in Japanese sports such as judo, kendo, karate, and aikido. Prices for lessons, however, are typically high.


Sports facilities are available, but are more crowded and expensive than in the U.S.

A number of pools, tennis courts, and health clubs in the area are open on either a membership or a pay-as-you-go basis. Typical costs are a one-time membership fee of about $100, and about $100 a month thereafter.

Public golf courses and driving ranges are crowded and rather expensive. Private golf clubs are numerous but beyond the financial reach of most U.S. visitors. However, occasionally invitations are sent to play in golf tournaments organized by the Japan-America societies and other American-affiliated groups.

Excellent beaches are a few hours' drive or a ferry ride away from Kobe. The Osaka-Kobe area has numerous bowling alleys and roller and ice skating rinks. Winter skiing areas are located a 2-hour train ride or 3-hour car ride away. The Rokko Mountain National Park in Kobe has extensive hiking trails, and a smaller mountain hiking area is a 10-minute walk from the Nishinomiya compound.

Zoos, aquariums, amusement parks, and museums of all types are available for family outings.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Local festivals are held in the consular district throughout the year. Public and private museums regularly feature special exhibits. Department stores also sponsor fairs showcasing food items and crafts from different Japanese prefectures. Kyoto is an international cultural treasure and a popular touring destination. Shops in Kyoto and elsewhere are well-stocked with wood block prints, china, porcelain, scrolls, screens, etc. Its centuries-old festivals and innumerable temples and shrines bring visitors back again and again.

Nearby Nara was founded in A.D. 710 and contains some of the oldest and most famous art treasures in Japan, including the Great Buddha of the Todaiji Temple, housed in the world's largest wooden building. Hundreds of tame deer freely roam Nara Park and are very popular with children.

To the west of Kobe is Himeji, site of the most spectacular castle in Japan. It has been the site of many Japanese samurai movies, including the American TV program, "Shogun." To the west and south lies the Inland Sea, whose quiet shores and scenic islands are within easy reach of the compound by bridge and ferry.

Two of Japan's most famous scenic spots are in the consular district: Amanohashidate on the Japan Sea and Miyajima Shrine near Hiroshima. Also in Hiroshima is the Peace Park and Museum. See also Tokyo, Touring and Outdoor Activities.


Movie houses throughout Osaka and Kobe show first-run American and foreign films, while at prices two to three times higher than in the US. Auditoriums in Kobe and Osaka offer concerts by world-famous classical and popular artists as well as symphony orchestras, ballet, and opera. Osaka is also the home of Bunraku, the famous traditional Japanese puppet theater, and Kabuki and Noh performances are also presented. The spring tournament of sumo, the historical sport popular among foreigners and Japanese alike, is held annually in Osaka. A unique all-girl troupe in Takarazuka, a 30-minute train ride from the compound, performs Western-style musicals on a constantly changing bill.

Social Activities

Most Americans entertain in their homes. Kobe and Osaka have many nightclubs and restaurants suitable for entertainment in a variety of price ranges. The Kansai Chapter of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) maintains an office in Osaka and meets periodically for luncheons and dinners in Osaka and Kobe. The George Washington Society, a gathering of American residents in the Kansai, celebrates George Washington's birthday with a formal ball and the Fourth of July with a picnic.

Japanese enjoy Western entertainment and accept invitations to American homes. Both format and informal contacts between Americans and Japanese are extensive. The Japan-America Societies in Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, and Hiroshima sponsor a variety of lectures, luncheons, and parties that offer an excellent opportunity to establish friendships. The Japan-America Women of the Kansai (JAWK) meets bimonthly and organizes a number of programs to increase friendship and understanding between women of the two countries as well as to raise money for charitable organizations. Rotary International, Lions International, and the Jaycees have chapters in almost every city and like to meet with official Americans. Japanese-American sister city affiliation committees promote a number of exchanges. The Kobe Women's Club meets weekly from September to May for art programs, excursions, bridge, and other activities. Twenty-three official and 45 honorary consulates general and consulates are in the Osaka-Kobe area, as are foreign business representatives of all nationalities.


Kyōto is about an hour's drive from Ōsaka over an excellent highway, and is one of the world's most famous and beautiful cities. It was the capital of Japan from 794 (when it was called Hei-an-kyo) until 1868 and, although it was superseded as the administrative seat of government for brief periods during those years, it remained the ceremonial capital. And since Kyōto was spared the bombs of World War II, it is the city richest in historical remains and cultural assets in Japan.

Modeled after the ancient Chinese capital Ch'an An, and surrounded on three sides by forested mountains, Kyōto has long inspired scholars and artists. Its centuries-old festivals and innumerable temples and shrines bring visitors back again and again. Nijo Castle, the residence of the first Tokugawa shogun ; Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion; the Shinto shrine with its lovely cherry-blossom gardens; and Gosho, the ancient imperial palace, are but a few of Kyōto's treasures. Japan's history is still very much alive in Kyōto today, but the charm of the cultural heritage is only one aspect of the city.

The visitor is aware of the old and new, which initially seem to contradict one another, but soon he realizes that ancient shrines and temples and quiet gardens and traditional handicrafts blend with the modern life of Kyōto in beautiful harmony. All of these contribute to the unique atmosphere of the city.

Many English books are available at local stores as a help to guide visitors through this fascinating city. Since Kyōto has been thriving primarily on the tourist industry, other industries are less important, except for electronics and silk-weaving.

Kyōto's population is 1.5 million.


Kyōto International School, for boys and girls in pre-kindergarten through grade eight, serves a diverse foreign community of at least eight nationalities. Most of the parents are teachers, research scholars, artists, or missionaries. An American/British curriculum is followed.


Sports facilities are available but very crowded and expensive.

Public golf courses in the Ōsaka-Kōbe district are crowded and expensive, and private clubs are even more costly. Tennis, health clubs, and swimming are available, as are playing fields for soccer, rugby, and field hockey. Social clubs have been organized by members of the foreign community, but membership fees are quite high.

Excellent, but crowded, beaches are only a few hours away. Boating and water-skiing enthusiasts find many opportunities to enjoy their sports. The area has numerous bowling alleys and roller and ice skating rinks. In the winter, skiing areas are two hours away by train. Also, there are limitless hiking trails in the Rokko Mountain National Park.

Zoos, an aquarium, amusement parks, and many different types of museums are found in this area.

In the district is Nara, center of the nation's spiritual heritage and the ancient capital of the earliest known Japanese dynasty. Founded in the year 710, it contains some of the oldest and most famous art treasures in the country, including the Great Buddha of the Todaiji Temple, housed in the world's largest wooden building. The massive five-story pagoda of Kofuku-ji and some beautiful Buddhist shrines and statues can also be visited. Hundreds of tame deer freely roam Nara Park.

Two of Japan's most famous scenic spots are also in this area: Amanohashidate on the Japan Sea and Miyajima near Hiroshima.

Souvenir and curio hunting is a popular diversion, and shops in these three cities are well stocked with woodblock prints, china, porcelain, scrolls, screens, and the like.

Many movie houses show first-run American and foreign films. Fine auditoriums offer concerts and recitals by world-famous artists; the Ōsaka music festivals are held three weeks annually in a splendid 3,000-seat auditorium. Ōsaka is also the home of Bunraku, the traditional Japanese puppet theater. Legitimate stage productions in English are few, but a unique all-girl troupe in Takarazuka performs Western-style musicals on a constantly changing bill. Theater-goers enjoy Kabuki and Noh plays as well as other forms of traditional Japanese theater. A sumo (Japanese wrestling) tournament is held every spring.

Since nightclubs are quite expensive, most Americans in the area entertain in their homes. The Japanese happily accept such invitations.

Rotary, Lions International, and the Jaycees have chapters in almost every city in Japan, and are active in the Ōsaka-Kōbe area. Also represented are Japan-America societies, the Japan-America Women of the Kansai, the YMCA and YWCA, the Kōbe Women's Club, and the Japan League of Women Voters.


Nagoya City is the capital of Aichi Prefecture and center of commerce, industry, and culture in central Japan (the Chubu Region). The city has over 2 million people, ranking fourth in population among Japan's cities. It is located between Tokyo and Osaka and sits astride Japan's major east-west highway and railway systems.

Nagoya and the surrounding region make up an industrial powerhouse. Economic activity in this region is such that even if separated from the rest of Japan, it would still have one of the world's largest economies. This is the center of Japan's automobile and auto parts industries. The country's largest carmaker, Toyota Motor Corporation, has its headquarters and virtually all of its Japan operations in Aichi and other car and truck manufacturers are either headquartered or have plant facilities in the region. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries, along with other aerospace companies, are located in or near Nagoya.

Other industries, ranging from machine tools to fine ceramics, are located here and form part of the Chubu Region's vast economic base. Some of this manufacturing output is exported out of the Port of Nagoya, the busiest in export volume of all of the country's ports. Nagoya Bay is large enough to accommodate some of the world's largest ships; every year, about 38,000 ships enter the bay to dock at Nagoya's port. In 1999, foreign trade volume in and out of all of the regional air and maritime ports was almost $142 billion.

Nagoya and its residents have long been associated with commerce and merchandising. Located along the historical transportation routes between eastern and western Japan (e.g., between Edo, or Tokyo, and Osaka), the town prospered from its trade with both regions. Among the important early regional industries were textiles, steel-making, and ceramics, traditional economic activities whose imprint is still evident today. The first of Japan's Tokugawa shoguns, Tokugawa leyasu (who was from the area of Nagoya), recognized the town's strategic importance in the early 17th century and built an imposing castle in its center. Ruled over first by one of his sons and then by other Tokugawa successors, Nagoya grew both in economic and political importance during the long, and virtually warfare-free, Tokugawa era. Over time, the city and the surrounding area became the commercial and industrial hub that it remains today. The castle built by the shogun, leveled along with the rest of the city during World War II, was rebuilt and remains the premier landmark in and symbol of the city.

Regional civic and business leaders are pushing ahead with several large scale 21st century projects in and around Nagoya. Already in place is a giant new commercial development, JR Central Towers, which opened in downtown Nagoya over the city's main train terminal in March 2000. The year 2005 looms large both as the deadline for completion of the new Central Japan International Airport and as the year the region will host the 2005 World Exposition. The airport is a $7.2 billion project to be built on landfill in Ise Bay about 35 kilometers south of Nagoya. Plans for the World Exposition (EXPO 2005) have been scaled back from the original conception but the project is still an enormous undertaking with a projected investment of about $1.4 billion by the Japanese government, local governments, and the private sector. The estimated number of visitors to the March through September EXPO is upwards of 18 million. The EXPO, which will have an environment based theme, will be held on existing parkland near a forested area adjacent to Nagoya. There are also several huge highway and railway construction projects planned for the region. The most heavily trafficked highways between Nagoya and Tokyo (the "Tomei") and between Nagoya and Osaka (the "Meishin") both have new partner routes planned for construction early in this century. In addition, Nagoya-based Central Japan Railways is going ahead with development of the " Linear Chuo Shinkansen," a futuristic "maglev" (magnetic levitation) train that could run at speeds as high as 500 kilometers per hour, connecting Tokyo and Nagoya in 40 minutes.


Electricity in Nagoya is 100v, 60 cycles, so many U.S.-made electric appliances can be used without adjustment. However, televisions, radios, VCRs, and clocks intended for use in the U.S. will not work well in this area because of frequency and/or timing problems. A VCR, for instance, might work for playback only but not record well because the timing would be askew. Electric sockets are compatible with regular two-prong, U.S. plugs, but three-prong sockets with grounding are rare.

Food and Clothing

Shopping for groceries and other goods in Japan follows a simple rule of thumb: you can get most anything you want if you are willing to pay for it.

Nagoya, like all large Japanese cities, has world-class department stores, specialty food shops selling an ample selection of imported goods, wine and liquor stores, and fashionable boutiques. Those are all predictably expensive. But Nagoya also offers less costly shops that may be in less convenient locations or provide a somewhat lower standard of packaging or presentation but still offer high-quality goods. Also, large, lower-cost, high-volume retailers, American stores among them, are increasingly in evidence in the Nagoya area and these firms are adding to the variety of goods sold and increasing price competition.

Recreation & Entertainment

Nagoya provides an especially strong encounter with the Japanese and their way of life. Contacts in and around Nagoya are less likely to speak English, so Japanese language skills are going to be tested every day. Local and regional news, whether on television or radio or in the regional newspaper, is going to be in Japanese, further testing language skills.

Among the best features of life in Nagoya are the city's own cultural attractions, its location in the midst of some of Japan's greatest historic sites, and its natural setting with both seacoast and mountains nearby. Few of the ancient temples and shrines that once dotted the city exist any longer but those that do, such as Atsuta Shrine, are well worth a visit.

Tokugawa leyasu, who had such an important role in the city's history and his descendants are featured in the Tokugawa Museum, a splendid collection of weapons, armor, artworks, and other artifacts from that era in Japanese history. Tokugawa's castle, restored in the 1950s, is a great structure that visitors can enter and explore inside. The Nagoya Boston Museum has an impressive collection of treasures from ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome along with more modern works of art on display; the works are on long-term loan from the Boston Museum.

The new Aichi Performing Arts Center is a huge complex with a concert hall, theaters, and museum space. The city also has numerous parks, among which is Higashiyama Koen, with a beautiful Japanese garden as well as a great zoo.

Using Nagoya as a base, some of Japan's greatest historic sites are within easy reach. Kyoto, for instance, is about an hour and a half away by car and 45 minutes away by train, a fairly easy day trip. Ise Shrine in Mie Prefecture, among the best-known and most beautiful of Japan's shrines, can also be reached in less than 2 hours. Takayama in Gifu Prefecture, where an ancient part of city remains intact and where traditional Japanese craft-making is still preserved, is probably too far for a day trip but can easily be visited in a weekend. There are also old post towns set in the mountains that are around Nagoya to the north and west. The mountains are an attraction themselves; some of Japan's tallest peaks are not far from Nagoya, making hiking and skiing easy to do for those posted here. If you want to ski, bring your boots, clothes, and other equipment; there are plenty of ski slopes in the nearby mountains.

Nagoya has a well-deserved reputation for being very hot and humid in the summer. Winters are cool to cold, but are milder with each passing year. These days it snows only rarely, perhaps one snowfall in Nagoya itself each winter.


Nagoya's only English-speaking school is the Nagoya International School (NIS), which offers a U.S.-based education program. The school has over 300 students in kindergarten through grade 12 college preparatory curriculum. The post educational allowance covers tuition and some other educational expenses. NIS is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. A large proportion of the faculty has advanced degrees. Facilities dating back from the later 60s and early 70s are well-maintained. A new gymnasium and arts center was dedicated in 1999. The school's location is about 30 minutes from the eastern part of the city where the principal officer lives and about 45 minutes from the more central area where the two other American officers have their homes. Both areas are served by buses operated by the school. The principal officer serves as a member of the Board of Trustees.

Special Information

Nagoya has a number of quality hospitals with English-speaking personnel. There are a number of U.S.-trained doctors and dentists who are well-acquainted with the Consulate and its staff and are very helpful. There are also English speaking druggists.


Hiroshima is in the center of the National Park Inland Sea of Seto and is the largest city of West Honshū. As the target of the first atomic bomb on August 6, 1945, Hiroshima is known throughout the world. Ninety percent of the city was destroyed that day, and the estimated loss of life is as high as 200,000.

Hiroshima was rebuilt in the post-war years. Peace Memorial Park, with the Cenotaph, Atomic Dome, and Peace Memorial Museum, draws thousands of visitors annually; the park was created in a section of the city which had been gutted by the atomic explosion. Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island, one of the three most scenic views in Japan, is 14 miles west of Hiroshima.

Prominent among local enterprises are the automotive industry, represented by Toyo Kogyo K.K., Japan's third largest car manufacturer; and the shipbuilding companies of Mitsubishi Heavy Industry, Ltd., and Hitachi Engineering Co., Ltd.

The current population of Hiroshima is over one million.


Hiroshima International School, located in a suburban/rural area, offers coeducational classes for kindergarten through grade eight. The school was organized in 1962 by business people, missionaries, and families attached to the Hiroshima Radiation Effects Research Foundation (U.S.-sponsored).

International's curriculum is based on U.S. and British educational systems; all students receive instruction in Japanese, and other languages are also taught (including English as a foreign language).


Fukuoka City, capital of Fukuoka Prefecture, is the cultural, economic, and educational center of Kyushu Island with a population of 1.3 million people. The city is the heart of the region's $410 billion economy, which is larger than that of Australia and almost equal that of South Korea. The Island encompasses 10% of Japan's GNP and the region represents Japan's fourth economic center behind the Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya region. In addition, the region boasts an economic growth rate above the national average and increasing integration into the regional Asian economy. Already known as Japan's "Silicon Island" because of the semiconductor industry that accounts for over 30% of Japan's total chip output, Kyushu is also developing into a major car-manufacturing center. It will soon produce 10% of Japan's car output, based on roboticized state-of-the-art auto technology.

Fukuoka City also is the heart of the Island's dynamic hi-tech research and development, which is noted as a leading world center for research in advanced computer chips, nuclear fusion, and robotics. With its long tradition of openness to the outside world and receptivity to foreign ideas and products, Fukuoka City has developed into Japan's test market for fashion design and new products.

Culturally and politically, Fukuoka has led Kyushu's advancement in promoting some of the nation's most active sister-city programs and Japan-America Society activities. Fukuoka City's universities are highly active in expanding student and cultural exchanges, particularly with Asia. In addition, Fukuoka City's leading officials are exploring ways in which the City, region, and people may play a more constructive role in the development of the Asian-Pacific Region.

In this context, the Kyushu region is known as the "Gateway to Asia," maintaining close economic, cultural, and political ties with Japan's Asian neighbors. Fukuoka City has established the Asian Cultural Awards to honor contributions to the understanding of Asian culture and thought by both Western and Asian scholars. It has also initiated an Asian-Pacific Mayors summit to encourage networking by local leaders in order to work cooperatively in developing solutions to common problems. The City has also established regular meetings with counterparts in Korea to promote understanding and cooperation. Reflecting Fukuoka City's increasing prominence in Asia, Asia Week, a weekly magazine published in Hong Kong named Fukuoka City the "Most Livable City in Asia" for the second time in 1999. Fukuoka also hosted the G-8 Finance ministers meeting in July 8, 2000, prior to the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit of G-8 meeting in Okinawa on July 21-23. The city hopes to become an important international economic, cultural, and political center in the future.

Few regions in Japan can match Kyushu's historic consciousness, and fewer yet have the deep sense of self identity and pride seen in the people of Kyushu. According to tradition, it is here that the Sun Goddess Amaterasu descended from heaven to establish the nation of Japan, and it is here where Japan's first emperor was born. Kyushu led Japan out of feudalism in 1868, and its local heroes have played major roles in shaping modern Japan.

The consular district-which contains over 15 million people comprises the seven prefectures of Kyushu Island and Yamaguchi Prefecture on the main island of Honshu. Other major cities in the district include Kitakyushu, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita, and Kagoshima.

Two key US. military facilities, Sasebo Naval Base and the Marine Corps Air Station at Iwakuni, are located in the consular district. The foreign missions are also established in Fukuoka and the Kyushu region.

Utilities and Equipment

Electricity in Fukuoka is 100v, 60 cycles; AC (different from Tokyo's 50 cycles), so most U.S.-made electric appliances can generally be used without difficulty. Overseas calling services are available, and are considerably cheaper than the Japanese long-distance carrier.

There are a number of FM radio stations in Fukuoka. These stations broadcast at a different frequency than those in the U.S., however, so a radio capable of receiving the Japanese FM band is required. Similarly, regional television channels broadcast at a different frequency.

Newer televisions allow automatic programming of channels. English on the sub-channel, including news programs. Cable TV is available at commercial rates at post. Video rental stores (VHS) are common in Fukuoka, but selection varies.


American-type foods are available locally, and health and food product safety standards are comparable to those in the U.S. Fresh meat, seafood, fruits, and vegetables, as well as staples, packaged foods, and coffee are sold in Japanese markets, although at higher prices than in the U.S. Beef prices are exceptionally high by American standards.

Baby food is available but difficult to find on the local economy. Good quality milk, butter, and margarine are available locally. A selection of cheeses from Europe, the U.S. and New Zealand are sold at Japanese outlets at higher than U.S. prices. Fruits and vegetables are more expensive than those in the U.S.; however, they are also fresher.


As with other major cities in Japan, current American and European fashions are available at the larger department stores but at higher prices (for name labels, two to three times the U.S. price is the norm). Also, finding U.S. sizes is often a problem. Military exchanges offer some relief, but stocks are limited and trips to the bases are expensive and time consuming. Mail-order catalogs are a commonly used source of clothing.

Fukuoka's winters are usually mild (it usually snows one or two days per year) although the proximity to the Korean Peninsula occasionally results in a sudden cold snap. Summers in Fukuoka are similar to those in Washington, hot and humid. Bring a four-season wardrobe. As with the rest of Japan, residents of Fukuoka dress conservatively.

Supplies and Services

Toiletries, cosmetics, tobacco products, commonly used home medical supplies, and virtually all household supplies can be found in Japanese shops but at high prices. Cribs, playpens, strollers, diapers, and other products for babies are available but, again, are expensive locally.

Local shoe repair, dry cleaning, laundry, barbers and beauty shops are more expensive than in the US. Dealers representing the major U.S. automobile manufacturers have offices in Fukuoka. Nevertheless, parts for American and other foreign autos are expensive and harder to find. In terms of servicing and size, most employees choose to purchase a used Japanese car, which can be purchased at post.

Domestic Help

Cost of a full-time servant, including food and transportation, is about Y175,000 per month. Part-time domestic help costs Y10,000 daily, including transportation. It is also customary to pay semi-annual bonuses (June and December), that usually amount to a month's pay each time.

Religious Activities

Roman Catholic, Latter-day Saints, and Protestant churches (including Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Episcopal) in the city hold services in Japanese to which Americans are welcome. English-language Protestant and Roman Catholic services are also available. Fukuoka does not have a Jewish congregation.


Founded in 1972, the Fukuoka International School (FIS) is a private, coeducational day and boarding school that offers an educational program from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 for English-speaking students of all nationalities. The school year comprises two semesters extending approximately from September 1 to June 18.

A Board of Directors and Board of Trustees govern the school. The school is a member of the Japan Council of Overseas Schools and the East Asia Regional Council of Overseas Schools. A basic college preparatory U.S. curriculum is updated regularly to keep it current with trends in the U.S. as well as in other international schools in Japan. The curriculum includes English as a Second Language (ESL) program, Japanese-language classes, and computer classes. FIS is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The 2000-2001 school year consists of i headmaster, 18 full-time and 9 part-time staff members, including 11 American citizens, 8 host-country nationals, and 5 third-country nationals. Enrollment at the beginning of the 2000-2001 school year was 173 students. Korean, American, and Japanese are the largest nationalities represented at the international school, but British, Australian, Canadian and other nationals also are part of a very culturally diverse student community.

A new two-story physical plant with a gymnasium was constructed in 1990/91. A dormitory was built in the 1994/95 school year. The current facility consists of 11 classrooms, a science lab, a music room, a language laboratory, physics, science and computer rooms, an art room, an office, principal's room, a kitchen, a student lounge, and a 5,100 volume library. The dormitory provides rooms for 24 live-in students.

In the 2000-2001 school year, nearly all of the school's income was derived from regular day school tuition and registration fees. Annual tuition rates were as follows: pre-kindergarten: $8,341; kindergarten-grade 6: $9,082; grades 7-8: $9,916; and grades 9-12: $10,658. There is a one-time registration fee of $1,853 and annual facility fee, $463. Unless special arrangements are made with the school's treasurer, tuition is payable at the beginning of each semester. (All fees are quoted in U.S. dollars-107_/$1.) Local business and government support for the Fukuoka International School is strong.

Fukuoka International School 18-50, Momochi 3-comme, Sawara-ku, Fukuoka, Japan 814-0006 Tel: 81-92-841-7601. Fax: 81-92-841-7602


For the avid jogger/runner there is Ohori Park, modeled after China's famed West Lake in Hangzhou. Ohori Park has a specially paved two-kilometer jogging path along with bicycle and walking paths along the scenic lake. Rowboats are available for rental on the lake from spring to autumn. There are numerous road races and marathons held year around in Fukuoka and Kyushu. The October Fukuoka City Marathon attracts a large number of participants of all ages from the region.

Bowling is popular in Fukuoka along with ice and in-line skating. Swimming is also a popular pastime, with numerous facilities around the city. Swimming lessons for children and adults are offered year around at reasonable prices at facilities. There is also a man-made beach facing Hakata Harbor. Hikers enjoy the trails at the Citizen's Forest.

A full range of sports activities is offered in Fukuoka, particularly in the martial arts. The "budokan," or sports center, offers kendo, judo, laido, karate, and other types of Asian martial arts courses.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Kyushu is noted as Japan's leading center for porcelain and ceramic production. Imari and Arita, in nearby Saga Prefecture, are home to Japan's most famous porcelain makers Imaemon and Kakiemon.

There are numerous pottery areas and antique shops in and around Fukuoka City. The region also is noted for its historic and scenic spots. Fukuoka City has numerous excavation sites such as Korokan, an ancient site underscoring Fukuoka's historic importance as a major trading center for the region. Nagasaki City is a well-known tourist destination, noted for its historic setting and tragic wartime experience. Kyushu is also famous for its "onsen," or hot spring. Yufuin and Beppu in neighboring Oita Prefecture, as well as Kumamoto and Kagoshima, are popular destinations. Hiking is another popular activity in the region.

The Fukuoka Dome, Japan's largest retractable sports stadium, hosts international concerts, sports programs, and trade promotional events. The Daiei Hawks professional baseball team plays at the Dome. Fukuoka City is the center for the arts as well as shopping, Nagasaki hosts the Huis Ten Bosch Dutch theme park, Miyazaki has the world's largest indoor swimming complex, and Kitakyushu has the Space-World Amusement Park. All locations are accessible by train or car.


Fukuoka City hosts the spectacular annual Dontaku (May) and Yamakasa (July) festivals, which attract national attention. "Yatai" or outdoor food vendors, are also popular, serving a variety of local cuisine, including "Hakata ramen" noodles.

Current American films in English with Japanese subtitles attract large audiences. In April 1996, AMC opened a 13-theater complex in the new Canal City Hakata mall complex in downtown Fukuoka. Fukuoka is now a major stopping area for internationally known performers, since the opening of several large entertainment facilities. Jazz, country and western, western, and Japanese classical music concerts are popular in Fukuoka. Kumamoto hosts a major Country and Western music concert each October, "Country Gold," which attracts famous performers from the U.S. and Japan. In Fukuoka, there are also restaurants such as the Blue Note which feature live jazz and popular music. The November Sumo wrestling tournament also adds to Fukuoka's visibility and appeal.

Fukuoka has a wide range of excellent Japanese and Western restaurants. Although more expensive than those restaurants in the U.S., the quality is high.

Social Activities

Opportunities for meeting Japanese from all walks of life are virtually unlimited. Fukuoka's residents are noted in Japan as being friendly and hospitable to guests. Although growing, the foreign community is small, and a minimal knowledge of Japanese is essential.


Sapporo is a modern city of 1.8 million people and the capital of Hokkaido, the northernmost major island of Japan. The city is the governmental and commercial center of Hokkaido, which is the size of Austria and has a population a bit larger than that of Finland or Denmark (5.7 million).

Sapporo is renowned for its winter events and sports facilities. The city has hosted the Winter Olympics (1972), many other world-class skiing events, and holds the world's largest Snow Festival each year in February.

Within easy driving of the city are breathtaking volcanic lakes and gorges, white water rivers, mountains dressed with cedar, pine, birch, and aspen, and spectacular views of both the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan.

Sapporo is located in a snow belt and has a "subarctic" climate. But, despite over 20 feet of snow each year, winter temperatures are moderate, seldom dropping below 20° at night and staying just below freezing during the day. Spring is short but pleasant and summer is delightful, with temperatures in the 70s-15 to 20 degrees cooler than in Tokyo or Osaka.

The special attachment the people of Hokkaido have for Americans is unique. In the early 1870s when the Japanese Government began a crash program to develop Hokkaido, Japanese officials called on President Grant for advice. Grant responded by recommending his own Secretary of Agriculture, Horace Capron, as a candidate to-organize a group of American and foreign experts to assist in the opening Hokkaido. After accepting the Japanese offer, Capron left his post in the U.S. and worked for the Government of Japan for 5 years as a senior advisor in charge of developing Hokkaido. The American educators, engineers, and agricultural experts who joined Capron are remembered fondly in Hokkaido even today; and are honored with statues and museums in and around Sapporo.


The electric current in Sapporo is 100v, 50-cycle, AC. Except for appliances with synchronous motors, such as electric clocks, phonographs, and tape recorders, standard American electrical appliances run well. Cable and satellite television are available for a reasonable monthly fee.


You can get most foods, including delicious Hokkaido crab and other seafood delicacies, on the open market. Department stores, supermarkets, and specialty food shops sell a variety of foodstuffs; however, most food prices in the local markets are considerably higher than they are in Washington, D.C.


Bring an adequate supply of clothing. Though department stores carry a variety of clothing and shoes, sizes are limited, and prices are very high. Local tailors and dressmakers are good but extremely expensive. Fashion for men is fairly conservative, i.e., dark suits for business.

In the long winters here, lined, knee-high snow boots, warm gloves, caps and warm winter clothing, including snow suits for children, are necessities. If you plan to ski, snowboard, or skate, bringing the necessary equipment from the U.S. could cut costs by more than 50%.

Supplies and Services

Sapporo has nearly every kind of specialty shop and repair facility. Barbers and beauticians are adequate. Drycleaning is available though somewhat more expensive than in the U.S. Local auto mechanics are competent, but parts for foreign-made cars must be specially ordered and are expensive.

Domestic Help

Live-in domestic help is almost impossible to find and very expensive. Hourly maid services are available. A cook and a maid staff the consul general's home.

Religious Activities

Sapporo has Catholic and Protestant churches and Baha'i and Islamic communities. Some services and activities are conducted in English. There is no synagogue, but a small group of Jewish residents gather to celebrate Passover and other observances.


The Hokkaido International School is the only English-language school in Sapporo and offers courses from kindergarten through grade 12, with a student population of about 170 children. Though small, the school has improved considerably since moving into an impressive new building built with the aid of the Hokkaido Government in 1995. HIS is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Recent graduates have been accepted by such universities as Cornell and the University of Virginia.


Hokkaido is a sports fan's paradise. In the winter one can ski, ice skate, and cross-country ski; in the summer one can play golf (very expensive compared to the U.S.) and tennis, hike, camp, boat, and swim (both in summer and in winter at indoor public pools near the Consulate General and at various resorts). Hunting for bear, deer, pheasant, duck, and rabbit is available. However, obtaining a hunting license is a difficult and complicated procedure.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Jozankei, a hot-spring resort, lies on the banks of a swiftly flowing stream in a beautiful valley, 17 miles southwest of Sapporo. Jozankei has many large hotels, some with Western-style accommodations. Noboribetsu hot springs is about 80 miles southeast of Sapporo. Its outstanding feature is a valley filled with sulfur pools known as the Valley of Hell.

The Ainu Village at Shiraoi, about 1 hour south of Noboribetsu, is one of the few places in Hokkaido where you can see an exhibition of Ainu customs and culture.

Lake Toya and Lake Shikotsu were formed by ancient volcanic eruptions. Both offer pleasant mountain scenery and opportunities for hiking and boating. They are 2-3 hours' drive from Sapporo. For a long weekend or holiday, Akan National Park in the eastern part of the island offers the famous lakes of Akan, Kutcharo, and Mashu as well as pleasant drives through beautiful mountain and forest scenery. Sounkyo Gorge, about a 5-hour drive from Sapporo, is also famous for its scenery.


Sapporo is a modern city with excellent restaurants, first-class hotels serving international cuisine, modern theaters featuring American movies in English with Japanese subtitles, a zoo, a municipal symphony orchestra, a modern art museum, and well-stocked department stores.

Social Activities

Hokkaido has a small but growing American business community. There is an American missionary community and the number of American English teachers in Hokkaido is increasing. Aside from these groups, social activities among Americans are limited.

Social and recreational opportunities here for a foreigner not willing to plunge into the Japanese culture and language are much more limited than in cosmopolitan cities with larger foreign communities.

Only a limited number of Sapporo citizens can carry on a conversation in English, but many people are eager to befriend foreigners. A basic speaking knowledge of Japanese is essential in broadening friendships


Nagasaki, capital of the eponymous and westernmost prefecture of the Japanese archipelago, faces China across the China Sea. One of Japan's most prosperous commercial cities, it also is the site of early Christianity in the country. The Jesuit, St. Francis Xavier, arrived in Nagasaki in 1549 bearing Christianity.

Nagasaki was insignificant until 1571, when Portuguese traders first arrived, and thereafter became a port of call not only for Portuguese ships, but for Spanish and Dutch as well. The city was the only port of contact kept open to the outside world between the mid-17th and mid-19th centuries, the long interval when Japan enforced its isolationist policy.

Chinese temples and Western structures are among the many historical sites in Nagasaki. On Dejima (Deshima), an artificial island, is a scale model of the quarters where representatives of the Dutch East India Company once lived. In the central city is the authentically reconstructed Uragami Cathedral, built by a French missionary with help from Japanese Christiansit was totally destroyed in the second atomic bombing of August 9, 1945, which leveled one-third of the city and killed an estimated 40,000 people; nearly as many more were critically injured. Peace Park and the Statue of Peace, at the core site of the bombing, are memorials to that devastation.

Nagasaki today is a center of shipbuilding, fishing, and coal mining industries, as well as the heart of a large agricultural area. It has grown considerably as a tourist attraction, and boasts Japan's first seaborne airport, built in 1975. The city was used as a setting for the novel by John Luther Long which later became the Puccini opera, Madame Butterfly.

The current population of Nagasaki is approximately 442,000.


CHIBA , the seat of Chiba Prefecture, is situated on the eastern shore of Tokyo Bay. Once a poor fishing village, it is now a prosperous commercial city of 887,000 residents. Large-scale industry and the opening of major railway lines have contributed heavily toward the development of the city, which is now the 13th largest in Japan. Chiba dates to 1126; it evolved around a castle built by a local warlord but, when the castle burned two centuries later, the clan collapsed and the community was all but deserted. It was only after the Meiji Restoration of the mid-19th century that Chiba again began to achieve significance.

The city of GIFU is located 19 miles north of Nagoya in central Honshū. It lies on the edge of the Nobi Plain at the foot of the Japan Alps. Situated in a region that once had 516 earthquakes in one year, not many of this ancient city's old buildings survived the 1891 earthquake. The fertile farmland on the Nobi Plain enables residents to grow rice and vegetables. Gifu is noted for its paper products which include fans, umbrellas, and lanterns. It also manufactures cutlery and textiles. Tourists in Gifu enjoy boating on the Nagara River in the evening to see the cormorant (aquatic birds) fishing. The use of tame cormorants to catch fish is an old technique called ukai. The population of Gifu is 407,000.

HAMAMATSU , with a current population of 582,000, is situated in southern Honshū, about 56 miles southeast of Nagoya and 145 miles southwest of Tokyo. Historically an old castle town, Hamamatsu today is an industrial city whose chief products include musical instruments, motorcycles, compact automobiles, tea, and textiles. Allied forces bombed the city in May and June 1945.

HIMEJI is located on Honshū Island, 50 miles west of Ōsaka. It is a commercial city whose old craft industries produce leather, toys, and dolls. Since World War II, Himeji has acquired new integrated iron and steel works, a large petro-chemical complex, and heavy engineering plants. The city, whose population exceeds 453,000 is one of the many towns built by Japan's feudal lords. Japan's most spectacular castle is located here; it commands a view of the city from a hill. Completed in the early 17th century, it is called "Egret Castle" because of its resemblance to the white bird and has been the site of many Japanese samurai movies.

KAGOSHIMA is a seaport city situated in a well-protected harbor on the southern coast of Kyūshū. Historically important as a castle town, Kagoshima was the site where the first Christian missionary, St. Francis Xavier, landed in 1549. The city was bombarded by British warships in 1863, destroyed by fire in 1877, damaged by a volcano eruption in 1914, and severely bombed by Allied forces during World War II from June through August 1945. Today, Kagoshima is an important port, the site of a naval yard, and since 1961, the home of a major Japanese rocket base. The center for the manufacture of Satsuma porcelain ware, Kagoshima also produces silk and cotton clothing, wood products, and tinware. There are two universities in Kagoshima; the city has a current population of 552,000.

KANAZAWA is situated near the coast of west-central Honshū, about 80 miles north of Gifu. A historic city, Kanazawa became an industrial and cultural headquarters after 1580. Its power deteriorated with the decline of feudal political units in 1871 and the growth of modern industry on the opposite coast of Honshū. Kanazawa is best known for manufacturing Kutani porcelain and Kaga silk. Recently added products include textiles and textile machinery. The present city, with a population of about 428,000, was built around the Maeda Castle, which was destroyed in 1881 by fire. Kanazawa is home to the country's renowned landscape garden, Kenrokuen. The sacred Hakusan Mountain of five peaks can be seen and easily reached from here.

KAWASAKI , with a population of 1.2 million, is one of the nation's 10 largest cities. Lying on the west coast of Tokyo Bay, it is a major industrial center surrounded by an extensive farming area. The city was severely damaged during World War II. Kawasaki is the site of a renowned temple called Kawasaki Daishi, and of an exhibit garden of typical Japanese folk housesboth spots are widely visited by tourists.

KITA-KYŪSHŪ is another city with more than one million residents. It was formed in 1963 by the amalgamation of the five northern Kyūshū cities in Fukuoka Prefecture. It is the center of the prefecture's production, and is one of the cities which has grown dramatically with Japan's development as a major industrial nation. Among Kita-Kyūshū's many and diverse industries are shipbuilding; coal shipping; iron, steel, glass, and chemical factories; fishing; and the production of specialized textiles. A well-known technical institute is located here. International School Kita-Kyūshū, coeducational day school, was founded in 1990. Serving students pre-kindergarten through grade eight, the enrollment is 13. A U.S. curriculum is followed; both English and Japanese are used for instruction. The address is Yahata Higashi-ku Takami 2-chome Shinnittetsu Shijo Kaikan, Kita-Kyūshū.

KUMAGAYA , with a population over 150,000, lies on the Ara River, about 40 miles northwest of Tokyo in central Japan. Many of its residents work in Tokyo even though Kumagaya is a commercially vibrant city. While silk reeling was the traditional industry, heavy industries have been established here today.

An important 17th-century castle town, KUMAMOTO today is a market center for the surrounding agricultural region. It is situated on the west coast of Kyūshū on an extensive plain near the Shira River. The city was founded in the 16th century at the site where a magnificent castle was built, and became a stronghold during feudal times. Although it was partially destroyed in 1877, the remains of the castle are still visited by tourists. Pilgrims are attracted to Kumamoto's Buddhist temple as well as the city's several shrines. Industries in the city include food processing, textiles, and chemicals. Kumamoto has two universities and a current population of 662,000.

KURASHIKI , with 417,000 residents, is located 10 miles west of Okayamaso close that the two cities blend into one population center. Kurashiki was a rice-trading center in the Edo period (1603-1867), and many of the warehouses used then for storage line the streets of the modern city. Textile manufacturing is the main industry today. Among Kurashiki's cultural facilities are Ohara Museum, with a fine collection of Western art; a folk-craft museum, built from old rice warehouses, and containing exhibits of pottery, woodwork, Japanese papers, and rush mats; and archaeological and historical museums.

MIYAZAKI , with a population of 287,000, is located on the Hyuga Sea in southeast Kyūshū, 150 miles southeast of Fukuoka. The Oyodo River traverses the city, and the nearby volcano, Sakurajima, occasionally spews its ash. Inhabited for nearly 8,000 years, the city has managed to retain some of the elements from its past. There is virtually no heavy industry in Miyazaki; the resultant clean air, along with secluded parks, tree-lined boulevards, and an accessible riverfront have made the city a popular tourist and resort center. Miyazaki is the site of the great Shinto shrineMiyazaki-jingudedicated to Japan's first emperor, Jimmu; the shrine also houses an archaeological museum. Ageless Japanese traditions may be found throughout the city. At the Miyazaki Cultural Center, the fine arts of calligraphy, koto music, tea preparation, and flower arrangement are taught by masters. Several summer festivals are held each year in Miyazaki. The city accessible by all forms of transportation. A runway expansion at Miyazaki Airport is expected to handle some diversions from the Tokyo and Ōsaka airports. A university was founded here in 1949.

Situated in west-central Honshū, the major seaport of NIIGATA lies on the estuary of the Shinano River, about 30 miles north of Nagaoka. Divided into two sections by the river, the city has an industrial side and a residential side which features shopping areas and Niigata University. Niigata was established by the Nagaoka clan as an outpost in 1616. It became the capital of Niigata Prefecture in 1870. The city has a population of over 500,000.

Located on the island of Honshū, NISHINOMIYA has a population of approximately 413,500. It is situated between Kōbe and Amagasaki on Ōsaka Bay. The city is known for its manufacture of saki, an alcoholic beverage of fermented rice usually served hot. Kōbe Women's College is located here.

OKAYAMA is a seaport city of 627,000 and capital of Okayama Prefecture on western Honshū. It developed from a jokamachi, or castle town, founded in 1573, and is now a market hub in an area that is devoted to large-scale mechanized farming. One of Japan's most beautiful parks, Okayama Korakuen, lies nearby on an island in the Asahikawa River. The park, and a popular youth festival held at the Saidaiji Temple in the city each February, are major attractions in Okayama.

SAKAI is a satellite city on Ōsaka Bay in west-central Honshū. It developed mainly after World War II, and now stands 14th on the list
of Japan's large cities, with a population exceeding 800,000. It is a center of industrial importance, producing machinery, automobile parts, and chemicals. In the 16th century, Sakai was a leading port, or minatomachi.

SENDAI , the Mori-no-miyako, or city of trees, is located in Mayagi Prefecture of northern Honshū, about 180 miles north of Tokyo. It is a center for branch offices of many government agencies and major corporations. The largest city in the Tohoku district, it has a population over 1 million, and is the site of Tohoku University; several technical schools also are located here. The Japanese National Railways and other rail lines converge in the city. Sendai is known for Sendaihira silk, and also for the production of beautiful Sendai cabinets and other wood products. The famous Tanabata festival is held here in early August. Close to the city is a hot-spring resort called Aiku Spa.

UTSUNOMIYA is the capital of Tochigi Prefecture, situated about 60 miles north of Tokyo. Previously, it was called Ikebenogo; once the road leading to northeastern Japan was opened, it was also known as Otabashi Station. About 1059 it was named Utsunomiya. A processing center for the grain and tobacco grown in the region, Utsunomiya also manufactures knit goods, wood products, and paper. The ruins of Utsunomiya Castle may be seen on the south side of the city. Utsunomiya has a population of over 425,000 and is home to Utsunomiya University.

Located in Kanagawa Prefecture, on Honshū Island, at the southwest end of Tokyo Bay, YOKOSUKA is about 20 miles south of Yokohama and 40 miles south of the capital. In 1868 the city became an important naval base. Its only major industry is shipbuilding. Yokosuka developed into a city by 1907 and slowly expanded into the nearby towns and villages. Japan's first modern lighthouse is located at Cape Kannon, which is east of the naval base. There are a few small fishing villages along the nearby coast. The city has a population of more than 450,000.


Geography and Climate

Japan, a country of islands, extends along the eastern or Pacific coast of Asia. The main islands, running from north to south, are Hokkaido, Honshu or the mainland Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa, which is about 380 miles southwest of Kyushu. About 3,000 smaller islands are included in the archipelago. In total land area, Japan is slightly smaller than California.

About 71% of the country is mountainous, with a chain running through each of the main islands. Japan's highest mountain is world famous Mt. Fuji (12,385 feet). Since so little flat area exists, many hills and mountainsides are cultivated all the way to the top. Situated as it is in a volcanic zone along the Pacific deeps, frequent low intensity earth tremors and occasional volcanic activity are felt throughout the islands. Hot springs are numerous; some have been developed as resorts.

Temperature extremes are fewer than in the U.S. since no part of the interior is more than 100 miles from the coast. At the same time, because the islands run almost directly north-south, the climate varies. Sapporo, on the northern island, has warm summers and long, cold winters with heavy snowfall. Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe, on the southern part of the largest island of Honshu, experience relatively mild winters with little or no snowfall and hot, humid summers. Fukuoka, on the island of Kyushu, has a climate similar to that of Washington, D.C. with mild winters and short summers. Okinawa is subtropical.

Spring, with its profusion of cherry blossoms and other flowering trees and shrubs, and autumn, with its gold and flaming red trees and lovely fall flowers, are the most pleasant seasons. The hot, humid summers are difficult in the cities, but the sandy beaches along the coast and the many fine mountain resorts provide pleasant relief. The rather mild and dry winters are not as severe as the U.S. East Coast; it rarely snows or rains in the Tokyo area at this time of year. The climate causes no more of a problem with mildew, mold, moths, mosquitoes, or other pests than is experienced in Washington, D.C.


Japan's population, currently some 125 million, has experienced a phenomenal growth rate during the past 100 years as a result of scientific, industrial, and sociological changes. High sanitary and health standards produce a life expectancy exceeding that of the U.S.

The Japanese are a Mongoloid people, closely related to the major groups of East Asia. However, some evidence of a mixture with Malayan and Caucasoid strains is present. The latter is still represented in pure form by a very small group of Ainu in Hokkaido, the remains of the Caucasoid people who inhabited Japan in prehistoric times, and who perhaps formed a portion of a circumpolar culture extending across Siberia to European Russia.

The Japanese usually are described as group-oriented rather than individually oriented. Geography is the main reason for this group orientation. Many people confined in a small land area poorly endowed with natural resources traditionally work together for the good of the whole.

In premodern Japan the extended family or clan system provided security for the component families. Industrialization and urbanization broke up this type of family system, but the paternalistic tradition has continued through government social welfare agencies and, to a greater degree, through large companies that provide more fringe benefits than their Western counterparts.

The Japanese are always conscious of their uniqueness as a people. They are proud of their country, its great natural beauty, distinct culture, and the important role it plays in the modern world. Because the Japanese are polite and cautious in approaching social situations, they often impress foreigners as being shy and reserved, but beneath this they are always interested and curious to learn about foreign ideas and attitudes.

Japan's communication with the rest of the world, from commerce to the arts, has been hampered by a language barrier. Japanese is a difficult language with a complicated writing system. Relatively few non-Japanese are completely bilingual. Although English has been for many years the international language of Japan, and the study of English is compulsory in Japanese junior and senior high schools, the Japanese have as difficult a time with English as non-Japanese speakers do with Japanese. The average person can speak only a few words, and business representatives and government officials are constantly trying to improve their command of the language. Instruction in English conversation is in great demand, and it is a common experience for an American to be stopped on the street by someone who just wants to practice a few sentences of English.

Japan is an urban society with only about 7% of the labor force engaged in agriculture. Many farmers supplement their income with part-time jobs in nearby towns and cities. About 80 million of the urban population are heavily concentrated on the Pacific shore of Honshu and in northern Kyushu. Metropolitan Tokyo with approximately 14 million, Yokohama with 3.3 million, Osaka 2.6, Nagoya 2.1, Kyoto 1.5, Sapporo 1.6, Kobe 1.4, and Kitakyushu, Kawasaki, and Fukuoka with 1.2 million each account for part of this population. Japan faces the same problems that confront urban industrialized societies throughout the world: overcrowded cities, congested highways, air pollution, and rising juvenile delinquency.

Shintoism and Buddhism are Japan's two principal religions. Buddhism first came to Japan in the 6th century and for the next 10 centuries exerted profound influence on its intellectual, artistic, social, and political life. Although still important, it is a relatively inactive religious form today. Monasteries and temples, large and small, dot the landscape but usually play only subdued background role in the life of the community. Most funerals are conducted by Buddhist priests, and burial grounds attached to temples are used by both faiths.

Shintoism is founded on myths and legends emanating from the early animistic worship of natural phenomena. Since it was unconcerned with problems of afterlife that dominated Buddhist thought, and since Buddhism easily accommodated itself to local faiths, the two religions comfortably coexisted, and Shinto shrines and Buddhist monasteries often became administratively linked. Today, many Japanese are adherents of both faiths. From the 16th to the 19th century Shintoism flourished, eventually seeking unity under a symbolic imperial rule. Adopted by the leaders of the Meiji restoration, it received state support and was cultivated as a spur to patriotic and nationalistic feelings. Following World War II, state support was discontinued and the Emperor disavowed divinity. Today, Shintoism plays a more peripheral role in the life of the Japanese people. The numerous shrines are visited regularly by a few believers and, if they are historically famous or known for natural beauty, by many sightseers. Many marriages are held in the shrines, and children are brought after birth and on certain anniversary dates; special shrine days are celebrated for specific occasions, and numerous festivals are held throughout the year. Many homes have " god shelves" where offerings can be made to Shinto deities.

Confucianism arrived with the first great wave of Chinese influence into Japan between the 6th and 9th centuries. Overshadowed by Buddhism, it survived as an organized philosophy into the late 19th century and remains today as an important strain in Japanese thought and values.

Christianity, first introduced into Japan in 1549, was virtually stamped out a century later; it was reintroduced in the late 1800s and has spread slowly. Today, it has 1.4 million adherents, which includes a high percentage of important persons in education and public affairs.

Beyond these three traditional religions, many Japanese today are turning to a great variety of popular religious movements normally lumped together under the name "new religions." These religions draw on the concept of Shinto, Buddhism, and folk superstition and have developed in part to meet the social needs of elements of the population. The officially recognized new religions number in the hundreds and total membership is reportedly in the tens of millions.

Public Institutions

Japan's parliamentary government constitutional monarchy-operates within the framework of a constitution that took effect on May 3, 1947. Sovereignty is vested in the Japanese people by constitutional definition, and the Emperor is the symbol of the state, "deriving his position from the will of the people with whom resides sovereign power."

Japan has universal adult suffrage with secret ballot for all elective offices, national and local. The government has an executive responsible to the legislature and an independent judiciary.

The seven major political parties represented in the National Diet are the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the Clean Government Party (Komeito), the Liberal Party (LP), the Japan Communist Party (JCP), the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and the Conservative Party (CP).

Arts, Science, and Education

Japan's educational system is based on 6 years of elementary and 3 years of middle or junior high school. Schooling is compulsory and free. More than 97% of children finishing middle school go on for 3 years of upper or senior high school. Japan has over 1,174 universities, colleges, and junior colleges and over 3 million college students, making it second only to the U.S. in the proportion of its college-age population that are students. Nevertheless, the most prestigious Japanese universities can accept only a fraction of the applicants. About half of the Japanese university students study in the Tokyo area. Before senior high school and college, students must take extremely rigorous competitive entrance examinations. The most difficult college entrance examinations are for national universities like Tokyo and Kyoto.

Despite the difficulty of the written language, Japan has one of the world's highest literacy rates. It is a country of readers, ranking second only to the U.S. in book publishing. Japan's unique culture includes centuries-old graphic and performing arts.

Modern theater forms and modern graphic arts are very popular, and Japanese artists and designers are among the world's best. Institutions like Tokyo's National Theater continue to preserve and encourage traditional art forms. Flower arranging (ikebana), one of the unique cultural heritages, originated in the 1300s with the advent of the tea ceremony; today Japan has 3,000-4,000 ikebana schools with millions of followers. The tea ceremony (chanoyu), perfected in the 16th century, fascinates both participants and spectators by its simplicity and elegance, designed to create peace of mind in both the performer and the partaker. Kabuki, one of the most colorful forms of traditional Japanese entertainment, a bustling, exaggerated drama accompanied by music and song, and Noh, a form of Japanese court dance characterized by use of masks, are performed regularly in cities throughout Japan. Martial arts which include judo, karate, kendo, aikido, and Japanese long-bow archery draw on Zen philosophy and traditionally have as their objective the achievement of self-discipline and inner peace. Martial arts performances can be seen regularly in the leading cities.

Commerce and Industry

Japan's industrialized free market economy is the world's second largest, after the U.S. Together the two countries comprise over 30% of global output. Japan's economy provides the Japanese people with a high standard of living: per capita GDP in 1999 was $24,075.

With only one-sixth of its land arable, Japan produces roughly half of the food required for its population. Food self-sufficiency rates continue to fall, however, with the Agriculture Ministry predicting a rate of 40% by 2005. Fish is a staple of the Japanese diet, and Japan maintains one of the world's largest fishing fleets. It currently ranks third among the top fishing countries, accounting for almost 6% of global fishery production. Demand for imported food has increased yearly as Japanese dietary preferences change toward meat, bread, and dairy products. Japan imported over $47 billion in foodstuffs in 1997.

Japan's natural resources can supply only a fraction of the raw materials needed by industry. For example, Japan imports more than 80% of its primary energy supply. Foreign trade is therefore vital; reliable sources of raw materials and stable export markets are essential to continued economic prosperity. With close government-industry cooperation, a strong work ethic, and a mastery of high technology, Japan's industries have risen to become household names and world leaders in the production of autos, electronics, and machinery.

The U.S. is Japan's leading trade partner; Japan is our third largest foreign market, and the largest for U.S. agricultural products. Japan's exports to the U.S. are primarily motor vehicles, machinery, and electronic products. The bulk of U.S. exports to Japan are agricultural products, raw materials, and high-technology products, such as aircraft and computers.



A personally owned vehicle is not absolutely essential in view of the excellent public transportation systems in Tokyo and throughout most of Japan.

All vehicles must be registered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. To obtain registration, you must provide proof of ownership (factory invoice or bill of sale) and a valid insurance policy. Third-party insurance is compulsory. Premiums for third-party insurance differ by the age of owner and capacity of engine displacement and are currently Y60,340 for age 26 with 1,500 cc-2,500 cc.

Many people purchase a used car for use while in Japan since these vehicles are in good supply and available at relatively reasonable prices. Traffic moves on the left and most cars are right-hand drive. Gasoline costs more than in the U.S.

Japanese streets and roads are generally congested with cars, trucks, buses, motorbikes, and bicycles. Japanese cars are small by American standards but are advantageous in the narrow streets and limited parking areas. Driving is complicated by the fact that many road signs are written in Japanese kanji, and most Tokyo streets are not numbered or marked at all. Maps are essential for getting around in the city. Rental cars are available, but the charges are exorbitant.

Apply for a Japanese driver's license issued by the Public Safety Commission. In order to have your U.S. driver's license converted to a Japanese driver's license, you must appear in person at the licensing office and submit official documents to prove that you had been in the US. for a minimum of three full months during the time your U.S. driver's license was effective.

The Japanese driving licensing office will check the issuance date and expiration date on your US. driver's license and also check the issuance date, embarkation/disembarkation stamp dates, date of entry permit on your passport and compare the two. They will accept your application if it reflects that you have been in the U.S. for 3 months anytime your US. driver's license was effective.

If your U.S. driver's license was renewed recently, and you were not physically present for 3 months in the US. before your initial arrival date to Japan, you will be required to submit an original document issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles of the State where your license was issued that lists your previous driver's license records. The authorities will compare the DMV records with your passport entry/exit stamps and issuance date in an attempt to verify your physical presence in the U.S. for 3 months in total.

Necessary items to apply for a Japanese driver's license:

1. Japanese translation of your U.S. driver's license. 2. Diplomatic/official and tourist passport (s) or any official document that will certify that you have been in the U.S. for 3 months (e.g., expired passports, school records, letter from prior employer, copies of travel orders indicating a stateside tour.) 3. One photo (size must be 3 cm x 2.4 cm).

Yokohama: Most students, especially those bringing families to Yokohama, find it worthwhile to have a car for shopping trips and sightseeing on weekends. Others get by without a car, relying on travel by foot, bicycle, motorcycle, taxi, or the region's excellent public transportation network. Used cars are available fairly cheaply.

Roads are usually congested, and expressway tolls are high. Parking in downtown areas often costs around Y500 per hour, although shopping centers usually discount parking for customers who spend over a certain amount. Bus lines offer frequent service to downtown Yokohama and to the nearest train stations. The rail network offers extensive and efficient, though not cheap, service from Yokohama throughout the Kanto area.

Sapporo: Reasonably priced used cars are available in Sapporo. Four-wheel drive is useful, particularly outside the city in winter. Since Japanese drive on the left, right-hand drive cars make passing and turning hazardous.

Okinawa: The limitations of public transportation make a car essential on Okinawa. A small car is appropriate for the many narrow and congested roads. Compared to elsewhere in Japan, cars here tend to be less costly to maintain, and probably easier to sell on departure. Cars deteriorate rapidly on Okinawa due to the humid climate and salt air, and regular steam cleaning and undercoating are advised. Spare parts for many foreign cars, including some of the more popular American models, are limited and expensive. Good used cars can be purchased from departing American personnel or from local used car dealers. Financing and insurance are available from American firms here. Insurance rates are considerably higher than in the U.S.

Public buses are a clean, safe and reliable, though expensive option. Taxis are numerous and less expensive than in Tokyo.

New cars are readily available but not recommended. Although Okinawa has a Ford dealer, repairs and spare parts for U.S.-made cars, including American-made Japanese models, are difficult to obtain. Reliable used Japanese cars can be purchased for about $2,000-$3,000, but may be expected to require substantial upkeep and repair expenditures during a 3-year tour. The high humidity, heavy with salt from the ocean, and blowing coral dust are hard on metal, and cars rust quickly.


The public transportation systems of Japan's major cities are among the most modern in Asia and include excellent trains, extensive subway systems, and buses. All cities have an abundance of taxis. As in all heavily populated areas, transportation facilities are over-taxed, particularly during rush hours. Japan Railway (JR) electric trains link the major parts of Tokyo with outlying towns and cities, and the subway system crisscrossing Tokyo is the most inexpensive transportation in the city. Osaka has a JR loop line, and subway systems are also located in Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka, Fukuoka, and Sapporo. Bus service links subway and loop train lines in Tokyo and is the system of local transportation in cities and towns throughout Japan. Signs and directions in subway and railway stations in the major cities usually appear in English as well as Japanese, making subway and rail travel relatively simple for the non-Japanese-speaking traveler.

Cruising taxis are plentiful. Taxis are safe and clean, though not inexpensive. Most taxi drivers do not speak English, so have directions to your destination written in Japanese, Most hotels have these instructions at the front desk to assist their guests in returning to the hotel. Taxi doors are operated by the driver, opening and closing automatically. Taxis are metered; the charge in Tokyo is Y660 for the first 2 kilometers plus Y80 for each additional 274 meters. There are additional charges for slow movement in traffic and late-night service. Consumption tax is added to the total fare amount. It is not customary to tip taxi drivers.


Most of the country is served by the JR system. The Shinkansen (popularly known as the bullet train) is a familiar sight speeding across the Japanese countryside connecting Tokyo and many of the larger cities throughout Japan. These and other express and local trains combine to form a vast rail network that is heavily used. Sleeping, dining, and first-class (green) coaches are available on the main lines. Trains maintain strict schedules, and the personnel are polite and efficient. Porters or redcaps are available at all principal stations although they are extremely few in number. Their charges range from Y200 to Y300 per piece of baggage or more if the baggage is extremely heavy.

Most of the major international airlines and a number of steamship companies provide service to Japan. Domestic air travel is quite extensive. Several domestic airlines operate to all the major cities in Japan; airbus service has been instituted between Tokyo and several cities. The airport used for domestic travel is Haneda, 23 kilometers from Tokyo. Rapid monorail or bus service is available from Haneda to downtown Tokyo locations, and taxis are plentiful. The taxi fare is around Y6,500.

The new Tokyo International Airport at Narita, about 77 kilometers from Tokyo, is used for all international flights (except those of China Airlines, the Republic of China national carrier that operates from Haneda). Surface transportation from Narita into the city is commonly via limousine bus directly to the Tokyo City Air Terminal (TCAT) or by taxi. Train service is also available, but its use is not recommended for the newcomer due to the complicated connections. Transit time by bus and taxi can be time consuming, at least 1-1/2 hours, often more, depending on traffic conditions on the heavily congested highways serving the airport from central Tokyo. The airport limousine bus fare is Y3,000, and taxi fare is approximately Y27,000, including toll charges.

Many express toll roads are excellent. Almost all roads are paved. The main roads are generally in good condition, the secondary roads are more inclined to be narrow and winding.


Telegraph and Telephone

To obtain the lowest possible rates, bring a telephone credit card from AT&T, MCI, or SPRINT. These carriers also provide International Long Distance service from any phone within Japan.

International telegrams can be sent from any Kokusai Denshin Denwa (KDD) office in any leading city, any local telegraph or telephone office, and most hotels.


Postal rates for ordinary letters addressed within Japan are Y80 and for ordinary postcards Y50. International postal rates to the U.S. for airmail letters are Y110 for the first 25 grams; postcards Y70, aerogram Y90, and printed matter up to 20 grams Y80 plus Y40 for each additional 2 grams.

Radio & TV

The Far East Network (FEN) is an affiliate of the U.S. Armed Forces Radio Network. FEN broadcasts 24 hours daily in English with the latest news, music, and sports events (AM 810).

Japanese radio stations present a variety of classical and popular music on both AM and FM. Japanese FM radios operate on a lower frequency spectrum of 76 MHz to 90 MHz rather than the U.S. frequencies of 88 MHz to 108 MHz. It is impossible to convert a U.S. receiver for Japanese frequencies; so if you wish to receive most Japanese stations, you will need to buy a domestic receiver.

TV in Japan has reached the highest levels of technical sophistication. TV is broadcast in stereo, bilingual multiplex, high-definition, and direct broadcast satellite (DBS). Of the many channels available, two government non-commercial channels (NHK) broadcast high quality programs that include public service, sports, and music events. The program content of the commercial networks varies little from channel to channel with a large emphasis on entertainment, musicals, and quiz programs. They do broadcast in stereo.

Movies and U.S. TV series are often transmitted with a unique bilingual soundtrack, Several hours of bilingual programming, including live news broadcasts are transmitted daily.

Residents often have access to satellite TV companies, including "Direct TV" and "Perfect TV" as well as the Japanese broadcast stations.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

Five English-language daily newspapers are published in Tokyo-the Japan Times, the Daily Yomiuri, the Mainichi Daily News, the Asahi Evening News, and the U.S. Army's Stars and Stripes. Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Japan's major financial daily, has a weekly English-language edition. Home delivery is available for all of these newspapers. The Asian Wall Street Journal, published in Hong Kong, is also available daily.

American magazines arrive from a few days to a month after publication. The most popular periodicals are available in Stars and Stripes bookstores, military exchanges, major hotels, or by subscription. Asian editions of Newsweek and Time are published in Tokyo and are promptly available by subscription or at major newsstands.

Large Japanese bookstores and bookstores in major hotels carry a wide selection of English-language books. Books also can be purchased at the Sanno Hotel.

Health & Medicine

Medical Facilities

Many English-speaking Japanese physicians, with US. post-graduate training, as well as Western doctors, maintain private practices in Tokyo. Local hospitals and clinics range from older facilities to very modern medical centers. Language continues to be a frustrating barrier in many facilities.

Completing the following "to do" list will make your transition to Japan easier:

  • Do not pack prescription medications in your check-in luggage. Hand carry your prescription medications.
  • Individuals enrolled in a preferred provider organization (PPO) or health maintenance organization (HMO) will find it difficult to use this coverage overseas. Individuals that are members of a PPO or HMO should consider changing insurance policies before arriving to Tokyo.
  • Bring a hot-steam humidifier (s) for dry winter weather. *Bring a dehumidifier (s) for the hot and humid summer weather.
  • Bring flashlights and emergency firstaid kit (s) for your home and car.
  • Enroll in a first aid and CPR course.
  • Visit your dentist for cleaning and dental check-up before arriving to Tokyo. Dental care in Tokyo is expensive.

Okinawa: The Adventist Medical Center provides an alternative for dental and medical care at Camp Lester. It is a modern, well-run facility staffed by American or American-trained missionary physicians and dentists from the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Full payment in yen at the time of service is expected.

Osaka-Kobe: There are excellent medical resources in Osaka-Kobe. Physical exams can be done at Kobe Kaisei Hospital. Serious medical problems are referred to appropriate medical specialists.

Sapporo: Sapporo has two university hospitals for emergency and routine care.

Community Health

General health conditions in Japan are similar to those in the U.S. The city water supply, in all major cities, is potable. Sewage and garbage disposal facilities are adequate. The country has no special pest or vermin problems.

Air pollution has been a problem in Tokyo over the years, but an active anti-pollution program has reduced the problem significantly. Nevertheless, the summer heat and humidity will exacerbate respiratory ailments such as asthma.

In recent years, tuberculosis (TB) has been on a sharp increase in Japan. Employees and eligible family members are encouraged to have annual TB skin testing (PPD).

Preventive Measures

Endemic diseases are not prevalent and no particular preventive measures need be taken beyond updating routine immunizations. The water is not fluoridated.

No immunizations are required to enter Japan.


Okinawa is the largest of the Ryukyu Islands, a chain that extends from Kyushu to Taiwan. Okinawa Prefecture (which includes the southern part of the archipelago) derives its name from the main island. Naha, the prefectural capital, is also located on the main island. The island of Okinawa is 70 miles long and on average 7 miles wide. It has over 1 million inhabitants, including about 50,000 U.S. military personnel and their families. Another 200,000 people live on the outlying islands. Naha is 800 miles southwest of Tokyo, 350 miles northeast of Taipei, and 750 miles north of Manila.

Although it is part of Japan, Okinawa has a distinct history and identity. It was once an independent kingdom, with a language and culture of its own, and paid tribute to the Chinese emperors. Even today, it differs from mainland Japan as climate, diet, customs, and other aspects of life shade into those of Southeast Asia. Okinawa officially became a part of Japan in the 1870s, and many of the Japanese emigrants to Hawaii and South America at the turn of the century actually came from Okinawa.

The island was the scene of the last major U.S.-Japanese battle of the Second World War, a battle in which about one-third of the Okinawan population was killed. From 1945 to 1972, Okinawa was under U.S. administration. The war and occupation left the Okinawan people with strong reservations about the use of military force. It is a source of friction that this small, crowded island is home to a large concentration of U.S. and-to a much lesser extent-Japan Self Defense Forces.


Okinawa's climate resembles that found along the South Carolina coast. Winters are comfortable but cool at night and at the shore. Spring and fall are delightful. Summers are long, hot, and humid. Okinawa often experiences typhoons or strong tropical storms in the fall and occasionally heavy weather in the spring. Accordingly, most buildings are low and built of concrete.

Whenever annual rainfall is less than the normal 80 inches, water rationing is necessary. As of late 2000, there had been no rationing since a 21-day period in the winter of 1994.

Okinawa has a full complement of semitropical insects and reptiles, including the habu, a very aggressive, poisonous species of snake. Although Okinawan field workers and small animals are occasional snakebite victims, no consular personnel have experienced problems with snakes in recent memory. Prudence, however, especially at night, is the watchword; 200 to 250 snake-bites are reported annually. Ants, spiders, fleas, ticks, rodents, and other small pests have from time to time caused minor problems. Small lizards called geckos are a standard part of the exterior and interior landscapes.


Ryukyuan history has had its legendary heroes, fine artists and patrons of the arts, sages, diplomats, philosophers, the rise and fall of dynasties, and alternating periods of foreign domination and vigorous independence. Written records, beginning about A.D. 600, mention several unsuccessful attempts by China and Japan in the seventh century to require tribute and submission from this diminutive Oriental state.

The first significant date in Ryukyuan history is 1187, when Shunten, the son of a Japanese hero and an Okinawan princess, established himself as king of Okinawa. Out of respect for his legendary father, Shunten gave Japan titular jurisdiction over the islands, thus providing a basis for later Japanese claims to the Ryukyus. Under the dynasty of Eiso, who reigned from 1260 to 1299, the unified kingdom made rapid strides in cultural development, achieved economic order, and enjoyed internal peace. Tradition also ascribes to his reign the introduction of Buddhism into Okinawa.

During the first half of the 14th century, the kingdom collapsed and the island reverted to feudalism. In 1372, King Satto, usurper of the Shuri throne, reunified the kingdom, acknowledged the suzerainty of the Ming dynasty, and brought in Chinese traders and teachers. Under his rule, Ryukyuans became enterprising, prosperous sea traders, voyaging as far as Korea and the Indies. During this period, the people also became students and imitators of Chinese art, philosophy, and craft.

Okinawa's "golden age" began in 1477 with the reign of King Sho-shin, whose successors carried on the grand tradition until 1609, when the good fortune came to an abrupt, disastrous end. Japan, having suffered defeat in Korea, invaded the defenseless island as punishment for Okinawa's refusal to aid the shogun. During the next few years, King Shonei was held hostage while the Japanese exploited the island and monopolized the trade with China. In 1611, Shonei was permitted to return to Okinawa, but only after acknowledging the suzerainty of the Lord of Satsuma and pledging that the Ryukyus would always remain a dependency of Japan.

The next two centuries marked a continuous struggle for economic survival. The Satsuma clan dominated Okinawa, controlling its foreign affairs, many aspects of its internal administration, and its overseas trade, particularly trade with China. The people were left to make their living from the meager resources of the countryside. By chance, the sweet potato was introduced in 1606, and sugarcane in 1623. These became major crops and alleviated, to some degree, the Okinawans' struggle for survival in that era.

In 1853, Americans arrived in Naha harbor under the command of Commodore Matthew C. Perry, whose objective was to establish a base in the Ryukyus in order to open Japan to foreign trade and commerce. In 1854, Perry proposed that the U.S. assume territorial jurisdiction over Okinawa to prevent other nations from seizing it, and to provide a continuing base for American shipping in the event negotiations with Japan failed. His proposal was rejected by Washington. Perry successfully carried out his mission to Japan in March 1854, and his interest in the Ryukyus rapidly waned. However, before his departure for the U.S., he sought to preserve American interests in Naha against outside intrusion. He drafted a covenant of friendship between Okinawa and America, and the compact was signed on July 11, 1854.

Japan began to exert greater control over the Ryukyus and, in March 1879, the king abdicated. Tokyo proclaimed Okinawa a prefecture and appointed a governor and other officials to administer the islands.

Okinawa remained a prefecture of Japan, eventually with elected representatives in the Japanese national Diet, until shortly before the end of World War II in 1945. U.S. military forces invaded the island on April 1 of that year. In the Battle of Okinawa, which lasted almost three months, American casualties totalled 12,000 dead and 35,000 wounded. Japanese losses approached 100,000. A high percentage of the Okinawan civilian population lost their lives, and the Battle of Okinawa has remained a major determinant of Okinawan attitudes towards the presence of either U.S. military forces or the Japanese Self-Defense Forces on Okinawa.

The U.S. administered the Ryukyus (except for the Amami Oshima Islands, which were returned to Japan in 1953) under the provisions of the Treaty of Peace with Japan until May 15, 1972; America then returned the administration of the islands to Japan in what is referred to as the Okinawa Reversion. The island reverted to its former status as a prefecture of Japan, and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty and Status of Forces Agreement and Japanese national laws became applicable to Okinawa.

Public Institutions

As a Japanese prefecture, Okinawa elects a governor and legislative assembly every 4 years. Local branches of conservative and reformist political parties vie for power, with the electorate divided roughly between the two broad persuasions. Anti-base sentiments and desires for base reductions are widespread among the Okinawan people, but anti-Americanism is very rare. Individual Americans rarely encounter expressions of hostility.

Okinawa receives the largest part of its income from the Japanese central government as transfer payments; tourism contributes about 12%; and direct, military-related spending accounts for about 6% of prefectural income. The U.S. military presence is less important to Okinawa's prosperity than it once was, and some Okinawans argue that in fact it hinders the island's development prospects.

The conduct and stationing of U.S. military personnel on Okinawa are subject to the US. Japan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). All four services are represented. These forces assist in the defense of Japan according to the terms of the Mutual Security Treaty and have regional responsibilities that take them throughout the western Pacific area on exercises and training missions.

U.S. Military

American life on Okinawa is heavily influenced by the presence of 50,000 U.S. military personnel and their families. The military bases offer a full range of American-style conveniences, shopping, education, and leisure activities. Some neighborhoods just outside the larger bases resemble similar communities in the U.S., with shops, restaurants, car lots, and bars catering to service members.

Although many Americans make an effort to experience Okinawan culture, most focus the vast majority of their activities on base and within the American community. This is partly attributable to the fact that, despite many years of association with Americans, relatively few Okinawans can converse easily in English. The decline of the dollar against the yen has also made it more expensive to venture off base for shopping or entertainment. At the same time, few Americans-most of them on short assignments-acquire a working competence in Japanese.

The U.S. Navy operates a hospital, and the Air Force a clinic, but the cost for civilians for nearly all forms of treatment is higher than at local hospitals. Off-base, only one hospital-Adventist Medical Center-has an English-speaking medical staff. For dental care, the only reasonable option is at an off-base clinic, such as Adventist's, because civilians are a low priority at military facilities and prices are far higher than off base.


Electricity on Okinawa is 100 volt, 60 cycles, with American standard wiring. American appliances such as fans, microwaves, radios, lamps, TVs and VCRs usually operate without problem.

Although some TV programs on Japanese stations are bilingual, a U.S. bilingual set will not work. A special FM receiver can be purchased locally for about $100. Locally available rental videotapes are VHS. Telephone calls to the U.S. are relatively inexpensive, but internet service is somewhat cost-lier than in other countries since local calls are charged by the minute. During water shortages, water is rationed, and the tap water is not potable.


Dairy products such as milk, cottage cheese, and sour cream are ultra-pasteurized for extended shelf life but still sometimes spoil prior to their expiration date. Japanese grocery stores offer a better selection of high-quality produce but at much higher prices. There is no need to import anything except perhaps ethnic or specialty cooking ingredients and spices. American and other wines and liquors are available.


Bring clothing suitable for the Carolinas, including warm jackets. Clothes can be purchased at the exchange (akin to Walmart or Sears in selection, but with slightly higher prices), at local shops catering to foreigners (where prices are very high), or through catalog mail orders. Bring special sizes or brand names, or plan to shop by mail. Japanese adult clothing is expensive and comes only in small sizes. Dry-cleaning and laundry service is available on the military bases through Japanese concessions, so prices are the same as at off-base facilities.

Men: Normal US. leisure clothing is fine, bearing in mind that Japanese tend to dress conservatively.

Women: Cotton and other lightweight dresses and accessories are suitable for summer wear. Afternoon and evening wear is similar to that worn in the U.S., though depending on the occasion, more variety and less formality is seen. Scarves, jackets, and wraps are practical during the cool months. Lightweight wool suits and dresses are worn, as well as coats, jackets, and sweaters.

Children: Children dress as they would in the U.S. As with adults, shopping for children's clothing is best accomplished through local stores, and mail order. The supplies available on the island are adequate, but the range of choice in both style and pace is often limited. Kids have the most luck in Japanese department stores, although prices are higher than in the U.S.

Religious Activities

Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Orthodox, and Muslim services are offered on the military bases. Protestant services offered off-base in English include Episcopalian, Lutheran, Baptist, Evangelical, and other denominations. There are a number of Catholic churches off-base, but not all offer masses in English.


Several English-language school choices are available for children. The Department of Defense operates two senior high schools, two middle schools, and several elementary schools, offering a standard kindergarten through grade 12 American public school curriculum, athletic program, and after school activities, as well as a range of special education facilities.

The Okinawa Christian School is U.S. accredited and Protestant affiliated, and offers a kindergarten through grade 12 curriculum with American teachers and texts. It functions as the de facto international school here for students who do not have access to DOD schools, but want an English-language education; nearly half of the students come from non-Christian homes. The school is located in Yomitan village, a fair distance from the Consulate General residential areas; busing is available.

New Life Academy, which is not U.S. accredited, offers a kindergarten through grade 6 academic curriculum with a Christian focus. It is located in Okinawa City near Kadena Air Base.

Several Montessori pre-schools and kindergartens for children age 2-6 have been used by recent employees. All of the military bases have day care facilities for younger children, but waiting lists are long and military dependents are given preference. Some off-Llay care facilities include teaching components.

Special Educational Opportunities

The following universities offer undergraduate and graduate degrees on Okinawa through military base education offices:

  • Central Texas College: Associate of Applied Science (business management, child development, computer technology, legal assistant, other)
  • University of Maryland: Associate of Arts (accounting, Japanese studies, management, other); Bachelor of Arts (Asian studies, business management, English, history, psychology, sociology, other); Master of Education (counseling and personnel services); teaching certification (secondary teaching)
  • Michigan State University: Master of Science (community service)
  • University of Oklahoma: Master of Arts (economics); Master of Human Relations; Master of Public Administration
  • Troy State University: Master of Science (educational leadership, management).


Okinawa offers a variety of excellent facilities for anyone interested in taking up or playing a personal sport. Okinawan bullfighting (bloodless, between two bulls), Japanese professional baseball games during spring training, and marathon running are options. There is an active Hash House Harriers organization, with several runs/walks weekly.

The military bases offer a selection of youth activities: Cub/Boy Scouts, Brownie/Girl Scouts, soccer, peewee basketball, Little League baseball or t-ball, touch football, dance, gymnastics, cheerleading, etc.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Although many of the Okinawan beaches consist of ground coral mixed with sand, they are still one of the main attractions of a tour here. The better beaches on Okinawa charge an admission fee, but the military beaches are free. Wonderful islands just an hour away and accessible by ferry boats are great for snorkeling and diving. The northern half of Okinawa is sparsely populated and features a beautiful coastline of mountains and coral 'reefs. Unfortunately, all historical sites with the exception of ancient castle ruins were leveled in the 1945 battle. Shuri Castle, home of the most recent Okinawan monarch, has been rebuilt and is a major tourist attraction, as are other, older castle ruins. A large botanical garden and many well-maintained parks make Okinawa a family-friendly place.

Okinawa is a small, crowded island far from the mainland, so island fever can be a serious problem, especially given the prohibitively high cost of traveling off island. Northwest Airlines operates a ticketing office on Okinawa, but connections must be 'made in Tokyo or Osaka.


Japanese movie theaters show recent foreign films in the original language with Japanese subtitles, but admission is quite expensive. Video rental shops offer wide selections. A military TV station with standard U.S. programming, three Japanese TV commercial stations, and one Japanese pubic TV station, may be picked up offse with roof antennas. The military also operates AM and FM radio stations. Numerous cable TV packages are available but more expensive than such services in the U.S.

Other eating establishments are found of-base at higher prices and include numerous steak houses, Mexican, Korean, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Italian, French, Argentine, pizza, fast food, and Japanese restaurants. Prices are slightly lower than in Tokyo for comparable meals. Bars and discos abound,

though some refuse to cater to non-Japanese. American musical groups sometimes visit Okinawa, but these activities receive limited English-language publicity. Several large and impressive concert halls offer cultural events throughout the year.

Social Activities

The 50,000 military personnel and family members on Okinawa focus most of their activities on the bases. Contacts with most Americans, DOD personnel and others come from work, church, or through children's school activities. There is a small expatriate community and international women's clubs where English is spoken are active. Other international contacts are more difficult, though not impossible, without Japanese language ability.


Passage, Customs & Duties

Northwest and United Airlines offer several flights daily from the U.S. to Tokyo. American, Delta, and Continental Airlines also provide service. Flight time varies from 9 to 14 hours, depending on the route.

All international flights (except China Airlines, which operates between Japan and Taiwan out of Haneda) arrive and depart from the Tokyo International Airport at Narita. American airlines, Northwest and United are served at terminal 1. Continental Airlines and Delta Air Lines are served at Terminal 2. Clearance at Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine (CIQ) is fast and courteous.

Public transportation via airport limousine bus is recommended; it can be take to a number of downtown hotels, including the Okura and ANA. Train routing is complicated and taxi fares are prohibitive. Person using public transportation facilities into Tokyo are encouraged to limit accompanying baggage to two pieces plus one carry-on in view of limited baggage space available on the carriers.

Travelers arriving from the U.S. need no special immunizations. Those arriving directly from other areas of the world must make certain they have appropriate inoculations to enter Japan.

A valid passport and an onward/return ticket are required. A visa is not required for tourist/business stays up to 90 days. For information about the Japanese visa waiver for tourists, Japan's strict rules on work visas, special visas to take depositions, and other visa issues, travelers should consult the Consular Section of the Embassy of Japan at 2520 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, tel. (202) 238-6700, or the nearest Japanese consulate. In the United States, there are Japanese consulates in the following cities: Agana (Guam), Anchorage, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Portland (Oregon), Saipan (Northern Marianas), San Francisco and Seattle. Additional information is available via the Internet on the Embassy of Japan home page at

U.S. citizens transiting Japan should ensure that their passports and visas are up to date before leaving the United States. Many Asian countries deny entry to travelers whose passports are valid for less than six months. It is not usually possible to obtain a new U.S. passport and foreign visa during a brief stopover while transiting Japan. Airlines in Japan will deny boarding to Americans who seek to transit Japan without the required travel documents for their final destinations in Asia.

It is illegal to bring into Japan some over-the-counter medicines commonly used in the United States, including inhalers and some allergy and sinus medications. Japanese customs officials have detained travelers carrying prohibited items, sometimes for several weeks. Some U.S. prescription medications cannot be imported into Japan, even when accompanied by a customs declaration and a copy of the prescription. Japanese physicians can often prescribe similar, but not identical, substitutes. Lists of Japanese physicians are available from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo through its web site, from U.S. consulates in Japan, and from the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of American Citizens Services. Persons traveling to Japan carrying prescription medication that must be taken daily should consult the Japanese Embassy in the United States before leaving the U.S. to confirm whether they will be allowed to bring the particular medication into Japan. Japanese customs officials do not make on-the-spot "humanitarian" exceptions for medicines that are prohibited entry into Japan.

U.S. citizens resident in or visiting Japan are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo or one of the five U.S. Consulates in Japan, where they may also obtain updated information on travel and security within Japan. Registration forms are available via the home pages or by fax from the U.S. Embassy or one of the U.S. Consulates. Online registration is available for the areas served by the Embassy and our Consulate in Naha, Okinawa through the respective web sites. Travelers and residents can also sign up for an e-mail Community Security Update newsletter through the Embassy web site at Alien registration formalities required under Japanese immigration law are separate from U.S. citizen registration, which is voluntary but allows U.S. consular officials to better assist American citizens in distress. Registration information is protected by the Privacy Act.

The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo is located at 1-10-5 Akasaka, Minatoku, Tokyo 107-8420 Japan; telephone 81-3-3224-5000; fax 81-3-3224-5856. Recorded visa information for non-U.S. citizens is available at the following 24-hour toll phone number: 0990-526-160. The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo's web site is Please see also the U.S. Commercial Service in Japan's web site at

The U.S. Consulate General in Osaka-Kobe is located at 2-11-5 Nishitenma, Kita-ku, Osaka 530-8543; telephone 81-6-6315-5900; fax 81-6-6315-5914. Recorded information for U.S. citizens concerning U.S. passports, notarials and other American citizens services is available 24 hours at 81-6-6315-5900. Recorded visa information for non-U.S. citizens is available at the following 24-hour toll phone number: 0990-526-160. Its web site is

The U.S. Consulate General in Naha is located at 2564 Nishihara, Urasoe, Okinawa 901-2101; telephone 81-98-876-4211; fax 81-98-876-4243. Its web site is

The U.S. Consulate General in Sapporo is located at Kita 1-Jo Nishi 28-chome, Chuo-ku, Sapporo 064-0821; telephone 81-11-641-1115, fax 81-11-643-1283. Its web site is

The U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka is located at 2-5-26 Ohori, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka 810-0052; telephone 81-92-751-9331; fax 81-92-713-9222. Its web site is

The U.S. Consulate in Nagoya is located at the Nishiki SIS Building, 6th Floor, 3-10-33 Nishiki, Naka-ku, Nagoya 460-0003; telephone 81-52-203-4011; fax 81-52-201-4612. The U.S. Consulate in Nagoya offers only limited emergency consular services for U.S. citizens. The U.S. Consulate General in Osaka-Kobe handles all routine matters. A consular officer from the U.S. Consulate General in Osaka-Kobe visits the U.S. Consulate in Nagoya on the second Wednesday of every month. During those visits the consular officer provides consular services to U.S. citizens by appointment. To make an appointment for consular services in Nagoya, please contact the U.S. Consulate in Nagoya at the number listed above. The U.S. Consulate in Nagoya's web site is


All dogs and cats imported into Japan are subject to a minimum quarantine of 14 days to a maximum of 180 days at the Animal Quarantine Facility of the arrival airport (Shin-Chitose, Narita, Haneda, Kansai, Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Naha airports).

Upon arrival, you must present two types of documents to the Animal Quarantine Office at the airport: 1. Health Certificate issued or endorsed by the government agency, indicating that your pet is rabies-or leptospirosis-free. 2. Rabies Vaccination Certificate, including the date, type and validity of the vacci-nation. The vaccination must be administered over 30 days prior to entry into Japan and still be within the valid period. You will also need to fill in an import quarantine application form at the Animal Quarantine Office.

When your pet is not hand carried, the importers need to notify the Animal Quarantine Services in charge of the importing airport from 70 to 40 days prior to the arrival. Advance information about the pet should include the following: species of animal, total number, sex, age, weight and country of origin, estimated date of arrival, name and address of consignee and consignor, date and port of embarkation, flight information, and any remarks you would like to put for their information.

The owner of the dog/cat is not required to be present in order to apply for quarantine inspection. Such application may be made by proxy. The Quarantine Service charges a detention fee for pets, which includes boarding, food and care while in quarantine, at a rate of around Y2,000-Y2,500 per day for a cat and Y3,000-Y3,500 for a dog, depending on the size. In relation to your pet import, other costs such as transportation fee to kennel custom clearances and import tax will be involved.

Importing pets from countries other than the U.S. may have different requirements. Please contact the Animal Quarantine Office at Narita at 81-476-32-6664 or

Firearms and Ammunition

Local law prohibits the purchase and/or importation of personally owned firearms.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

The unit of currency in Japan is the yen. Bills are in denominations of Y10,000, Y1,000. Coins are Y500, Y100, Y50, Y10 and Y1. Japanese currency floats on international markets so exchange rates can vary dramatically. In calendar year 2000, the exchange rate has averaged about Y107 to the U.S. dollar.

The use of credit cards is not widespread, particularly outside major cities. While there are ATMs in Japan, most are not open 24 hours a day or do not accept a U.S.-based card.

Japan uses the metric system of weights and measures.

Disaster Preparedness

Japan is faced with the ever-present danger of deadly earthquakes and typhoons. Japan is one of the most seismically-active locations in the world; minor tremors are felt regularly throughout the islands. While responsibility for caring for disaster victims, including foreigners, rests with the Japanese authorities, one of the first things a traveler should do upon arriving in Japan is to learn about earthquake and disaster preparedness from hotel or local government officials. Additional details on self-preparedness are available via the Internet on Embassy Tokyo's web site at


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Jan. (2nd Mon Coming of Age Day (Adults Day)*

Feb. 3 Beginning of Spring

Feb. 5 Martyr Day

Feb. 11 National Foundation Day

Feb. 14 Valentine's Day

Mar. 3 Doll's Festival (Girl's Festival)

Mar. 14 White Day

Mar. 21 Vernal Equinox

Apr. 29 Green Day

May 1 May Day

May 3 Constitution Day

May 5 Children's Day (Boy's Festival)

July 7 Star Festival

July 20 Ocean Day

July/Aug. Obon (Commerates deceased ancestors)

Sept. 16 Respect for the Aged Day

Sept. 21/22 Autumnal Equinox

Oct.(2nd Mon) Sports Day

Nov. 3 Culture Day

Nov. 23 Labor Thanksgiving Day

Dec. 23 Emperor's Birthday

Dec. 25 Christmas



The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:

Benedict, Ruth. The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture. New York: Fawcett, 1983.

Bingman, Charles F. Japanese Government Leadership and Management. New York: St. Martin's, 1989.

Challenges and Opportunities in United States-Japan Relations. Report of the United States-Japan Advisory Commission. GPO, 1984.

Choate, Pat. Agents of Influence. New York: Knopf, 1990.

Christopher, Robert C. The Japanese Mind: The Goliath Explained. New York: Ballantine and Fawcett, 1984.

De Mente, Boye L. Japan Made Easy. Passport Books: 1990.

De Mente, Boye L. The Kata Factor. Phoenix Books/Publishers.

Gibney, Frank. Japan: The Fragile Superpower. 2nd rev. ed. New York: New American Library, 1985.

Hamabata, Matthews Masayuki. Crested Kimono: Power & Love in the Japanese Business Family. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990.

Iriye, Akira, and Warren I. Cohen, eds. The United States and Japan in the Post-War World. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 1989.

Ishinomori, Shotaro. Japan, Inc. Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California, 1988.

Johnson, Chalmers. MITI and the Japanese Miracle. Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1982.

Kitahara, Michio. Children of the Sun: The Japanese and the Outside World. New York: St. Martin's, 1989.

Kosaka, Masataka ed. Japan's Choices: New Globalism & Cultural Orientation in an Industrial State. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.

Lauren, Paul Gordon, and Raymond F. Wylie, eds. Destinies Shared: U.S.-Japanese Relations. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1989.

Moon, Okpyo. From Paddy Field To Ski Slope: The Revitalization of Tradition in Japanese Village Life. New York: St. Martin's, 1989.

Morris-Suzuki, Tessa. A History of Japanese Economic Thought. New York/London: Routledge, 1989.

Nakane, Chie. Japanese Society. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970.

Ohmall, K. Beyond National Boundaries: Reflections on Japan and the World. New York: Dow-Jones, 1987.

Pascale, Richard T., and Anthony G. Athos. The Art of Japanese Management. New York: Warner Books, 1982.

Prestowicz, C.V., Jr. Trading Places: How We Allowed Japan To Take the Lead. New York: Basic, 1988.

Reischauer, Edwin O. Japan: Tradition & Transformation. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1989.

Reischauer, Edwin O. The Japanese. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981.

-, Edwin O. The Japanese Today. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988.

Rosenbluth, Frances M. Financial Politics in Contemporary Japan. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989.

Sanson, George. Japan, A Short Cultural History. New York: D. Appleton-Century Co., 1943.

Schonberger, Howard B. Aftermath of War: Americans and the Remaking of Japan. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1989.

Seidensticker, Edward. Low City, High City. Tokyo From Edo to the Earthquake: How the Shogun's Ancient Capital Became a Great Modern City, 1867-1923. New York: Knopf, 1983.

Shiraishi, Takashi. Japan's Trade Policies 1945 to the Present Day. London/Atlantic Highland, NJ: Atholone Press, 1989.

Spector, Ronald. Eagle Against the Sun: The American War with Japan. Free Press. 1984.

Statler, Oliver. Japanese Inn. Honolulu: Univ. of Hawaii, 1982.

Toland, John. The Rising Sun. New York: Ballantine Books. 1971.

Tsuchiyanka, J. Japan's Alliance Policy: Past, Present and Future. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1988.

Ward, Robert E. Japan's Political System. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1978.

Watt, J.A. Truth about Japan. Rutland, VT: C.E. Tuttle, 1988.

Weimstein, Martin E. The Human Face of Japan's Leadership: Twelve Portraits. New York: Praeger, 1989.

Whiting, Robert. The Chrysanthemum and the Bat. New York: Macmillan, 1984.

Zimmerman, Mark. How to Do Business with the Japanese. New York: Random House, 1985.

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Japan
Region: East & South Asia
Population: 126,549,976
Language(s): Japanese
Literacy Rate: 99%
Academic Year: April-March
Number of Primary Schools: 24,376
Compulsory Schooling: 9 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 3.6%
Foreign Students in National Universities: 53,511
Libraries: 3,561
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 7,855,387
  Secondary: 9,878,568
  Higher: 3,917,709
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 101%
  Secondary: 103%
  Higher: 40%
Teachers: Primary: 420,901
  Secondary: 702,575
  Higher: 401,509
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 19:1
  Secondary: 14:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 101%
  Secondary: 104%
  Higher: 37%

History & Background

The Japanese people consider the love of learning to be one of life's main virtues. That fact has led to education playing a crucial role in their culture, especially since the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Virtually all Japanese people complete education through the high school (also called upper secondary) level, and most go on to further technical or university training. This emphasis on the value of education has contributed to the success of Japan in the modern world.

Despite its overall exemplary record in education, Japan does face some serious challenges in the new century. For example, minorities such as the native Ainu and the Korean-Japanese still do not participate adequately in the educational system. Also, the system has been criticized for focusing too much on test-taking and not enough on critical-thinking skills. Because many parents believe public school fails to prepare students adequately, they send their students to juku (private academies), after school and on weekends, to prepare for the next level within or beyond the public school system. But the Japanese educational system does satisfy the needs of the vast majority of the population and has helped the nation compete on the international scene for over 100 years.

The Ancient Period: Formal education in Japan started when the Chinese language system was introduced into Japan in about 500 A.D. At that time only the aristocracy had access to education through schools that primarily taught Confucianism and Buddhist thought and practice. The first real school, the Daigakuryo (the university), was started by Emperor Tenji during this period. Located in the capital of Kyoto, the Daigakuryo focused mainly on providing prospective government officials with a background in Confucian practice that would relate to their future jobs. Later the school became an official institution under the Taiho Code of 701. Young men usually entered the university in their early to mid-teens. When they graduated, they were placed in government positions at levels that corresponded to their success at the university. The Taiho Code also called for establishing colleges called kokugaku, located in each of the country's provincial areas. Besides teaching the Chinese classics, these early provincial schools provided training in medicine and in divination.

During the Heian Period (794-1185 A.D.), the height of Japan's aristocratic age, educational institutions continued to be focused on the nobility and were located in the capital of Kyoto. However, the curriculum of the Daigakuryo made a transition from Confucianism to the arts, reflecting the great emphasis on aesthetics during the Heian Period. Perhaps more than any other time in Japanese history, this period placed the highest value on the ideal of courtly love through the medium of poetry, music, visual art, calligraphy, and dance. Such refinements were of course reserved for those privileged to be educated in the court. Education also continued to take place in the Buddhist temples, both in the capital and in the provinces. After completing their training, priests became the primary means for providing education to those who were not among the aristocracy.

Thus education and religion were intertwined during the ancient period. Two of the most prominent figures in religious education were Saicho (767-822) and Kukai (774-835). Saicho established the Enryakuji Temple at Mt. Hiei near Kyoto. Besides being the center during the Heian Period for educating monks in the Tendai sect of Buddhism, it became a focal point for Japanese religious education for hundreds of years. Saicho's friend and rival, Kukai, established a monastery on Mt. Koya, which became the educational center for Shingon Buddhism. Kukai's central role in the history of Japanese education is evidenced by his having invented Kana, the Japanese alphabet, and by his effort to establish a school that addressed the needs of commoners, a group not enrolled in the Daigakuryo or the kokugaku. His private academy, the Shugei Shuchiin, did not exclude the lower classes and promoted the personal, moral, spiritual, and intellectual development of its students.

Medieval Period: During the Kamakura Period (1185-1333) and the Muromachi Period (1333-1573), Japanese education paralleled the militarism of the times. With the rise to power of the bushi (warrior class, made up of samurai) and the shogun (chief lord and military dictator), education in the cities and countryside added skills for warfare to the religious training. A departure from the aesthetics of the Heian Period, the medieval education for warriors included training in weaponry and horseback ridingwhile still teaching young samurai the importance of good manners and knowledge of their culture. Schooling revolved around the warrior's home, the estate of his lord, and the local temples. As for the shogunate and the ruling families, there continued to be educational opportunities unavailable to commoners.

Rather than start new schools, however, the shogunate established several major learning centers that contained libraries open to scholars and members of the priesthood. A famous one called the Kanazawa Library opened in 1275 and remains open today as a museum. Another medieval Japanese educational center, the Ashikaga School, opened in 1439 and offered curricula in Confucianism and military science. Thus even schools and libraries for the ruling class focused on traditional Confucian values and on military education, matching the cultural themes of the age.

Toward the end of the medieval period, Japan's educational system was subjected to a new influenceJesuit Catholic missionaries, beginning with the arrival of Francis Xavier in 1549. These missionaries established schools and churches that emphasized general education, vocational training, Western technology, andof courseChristianity. Although Christianity was banned less than a century after Xavier came to Japan, and wasn't permitted back into the country for more than two centuries, it did help shape education in late medieval Japan.

Early Modern Period: The early modern period in Japan comprises the years of the Tokugawa Period (1600-1868), during most of which Japan remained isolated from the rest of the world. One positive byproduct of this isolation was that the country could focus on the development of its own culture, including the educational system. Although the very best education remained open only to the upper classes, the period did witness the spread of education among the commoners in a way that had not occurred previously in Japan. By the end of the period, about 40 percent of the boys and 10 percent of the girls were provided education outside the home. These figures probably meant Japan's education opportunities and literacy rate were ahead of most countries in the world, with the exception of two or three nations in the West.

The Tokugawa educational system included several main types of schools such as the hanko, terakoya, Shoheiko, and shijuku. Established in each of the domains of the daimyo (lords), the hanko mainly educated the children of the lord's samurai on topics related to Confucianism. Only later in the Tokugawa Period did the schools enroll a wider range of social classes and expand their curriculum to include non-Confucian topics such as medicine, Japanese studies, and Western science.

Unlike the hanko, the terakoya were independent schools intended mainly for the children of the merchants and townspeoplenot the samurai. Usually set up in Buddhist temples, they offered instruction in a wide range of basic subjects such as penmanship, reading, and arithmetic. Children entered at the age of seven or eight and stayed for about three or four years. In addition to the terakoya were the shijuku, private academies that often were housed in the homes of the teachers and that focused on subjects usually considered to be the favorite fields of the teacher. Finally, the Tokugawa Period also had an official school of the shogunate called the Shoheiko, located in Edo (Tokyo). Here the children of the nation's leaders were educated by Confucian scholars.

Thus far our discussion of educational opportunity in Japan has mostly included only male children. Girls generally were not sent to schools and instead were trained at home in matters of homemaking and etiquette. Although a few girls may have been exposed to education in literature and the arts, most were not. However, opportunities for girls to receive an education did increase in the closing years of the period, with an increase in female students in terakoya and even the start of a few schools exclusively for girls. But the curriculum in these schools was slanted toward nonintellectual subjects such as tea ceremony, flower arranging, and etiquette.

Modern Period: The modern period in Japan began with the restoration of the emperor in 1868, about 15 years after the country had been "opened" to the outside world by the expeditionary tour of U.S. Admiral Matthew Perry. This period saw a tremendous amount of educational reform as the country sought to catch up to the West after more than 200 years of virtual isolation. Although World War II, including its prelude and aftermath, certainly devastated Japan's educational system, the country has witnessed unparalleled educational advancement from the Meiji Period to the present.

Educational goals in the modern period were reflected in the Gokajono Goseimon, the Imperial Oath of Five Articles (or Charter Oath) issued by the emperor in 1868. Article 5 best articulated Japan's international objectives for education that would become the theme of the modern era: "knowledge shall be sought all over the world, and the foundations of imperial rule shall be strengthened." The document also made it clear that "the common people... shall all achieve their aspirations," thus setting out a second basic theme of education in Japan's modern era: availability of the appropriate level of education to all the people.

Four years into the Meiji Period, the government issued the Educational Order of 1872 (Gakusei, ) which formed the basis for the modern public system of education in Japan. The Gakusei called for strong control of education by the central government and integrated many of the Tokugawa-era schools into the new system. For example, the terakoyapreviously the schools in the provinces for commonerswere transformed into the new primary schools. These primary schools formed the core of the new public school system and numbered 25,000 by the mid-1870s. Students throughout the nation were required to attend primary school. Although schooling was compulsory, the cost still had to be paid by the students' families. Resentment toward the new system led to several later revisions, including Kyoikurei, the Education Order of 1879. It permitted more local control of the curriculum and school policies, and it also relaxed the compulsory requirements.

Despite these revisions, the trend toward national standards for public education continued throughout the rest of the modern era, as did the effort to bring basic education to all the people. The end of the shogunate in 1868 meant an end to the class system that had created significant differences between education for the lords and samurai families and the common people. Now the four former classessamurai, farmers, artisans, and merchantswere viewed as equal participants in the new schooling.

Besides the new primary (also called elementary) schools, Japan's modern educational system included two other main elements: secondary schools and universities. Secondary school was not yet compulsory and was intended for children deserving of additional training. Then, an even smaller group of highly qualified candidates would proceed on to the university system. The most distinguished university of the period was Tokyo University, which had its roots in the elite shogunate institutions of the past. It became the forerunner of other imperial universities such as those established in Kyoto, Tohohu, Kyusha, Hokkaido, Osaka, and Nagoya. Private universities that began during the period include Keio, Waseda, Doshisha, Meiji Gakuin, and Tsudajuku.

During the early years of the Meiji Period, there was a strong and intentional reliance on Western assistance in the development of all levels of education. The government sent emissaries abroad to learn as much as possible about all elements of Western culture, including education, so that Japan could achieve Western-style success in technological advancement. The most famous group to go abroad was the Iwakura Mission, a large group of high-ranking government officials and students that traveled to the United States and Europe from 1871 to 1873. Such missions had a strong influence over the curricula adopted at all levels of schooling in Japan.

Just as important as the Japanese missions to the West were the Western experts who traveled to Japan in the 1870s and 1880s. David Murray, hired to serve as an advisor to the Ministry of Education, came to Japan in 1873 and worked on a wide range of new educational initiatives, including the Education Order of 1872. He also was instrumental in having the government establish the Tokyo Women's Normal School, as well as being heavily involved in planning Tokyo University. Like other Western experts, Murray faced the challenge of deciding what combination of Western and native Japanese features would produce the best educational system for modern Japan. That's the challenge Japan faced throughout the period during which Western influence was strong.

Another Western contributor to the development of Japanese education was James Curtis Hepburn, a missionary doctor who came to Japan in 1859, just six years after Admiral Perry's arrival. Hepburn founded Meiji Gakuin University, became the university's first president, invented a system of Romanizing the Japanese language, and took part in translating the Bible into Japanese. Many other Western Christians were instrumental in promoting education in Meiji Japan, including those who established the so-called "Schools of Western Learning." The three most famous such schools, or "bands" as they were called, were located in Kumamoto, Sapporo, and Yokohama. The Kumamoto Band was led by an American teacher, L. L. Janes, who taught a Western curriculum of mathematics, history, and English, but who also exposed his young sons-of-samurai students to the tenets of Christianity. These young men in the Western bands learned about Western science, technology, and religion. Some of the early leaders of modern Japan were Christian, even though Christianity remained a minority religion in Japan, never gaining more than 1 percent to 2 percent of the population.

Perhaps Japan's best-known private university, Doshisha University, was founded in 1875 by Niijima Jo, a former member of the Kumamoto Band, and by Jerome Davis, a Congregational minister. Niijima was one of the first Japanese to be educated in the United States (at Amherst College). Like some other private universities in Japan, Doshisha adopted curricula similar to that of Western educational institutions. It has six main academic groupingstheology, law, economics, letters, commerce, and engineeringwith over 25,000 students enrolled.

Doshisha also was the first university in Japan to admit women. Private universities served an important role in coeducation in that the government, in 1879, restricted coeducation to the primary (or elementary) schools. It was only through the support of private groups that high schools and university-level education became available to women. Christian missionaries were particularly active in supporting coeducational and women's high schools and colleges. Also serving an important role in the development of women's education during the Meiji Period was Tsuda Umeko, who had been a student member of the Iwakura Mission in 1871 and became one of the first Japanese women to study in the United States. After completing studies at Bryn Mawr College and also working as a tutor and teacher of young women in Japan for many years, Tsuda founded the Women's English School (now called Tsuda College) in Tokyo in 1900. The government did strongly support coeducation in primary schools in the Meiji Period, but it took support from many dedicated individuals and private groups to maintain educational opportunities for women at the high school and postsecondary levels.

Notwithstanding the efforts Japan was making to pattern much of its modern education after Western content and procedures, by 1890 there was strong sense among many leaders that the nation also needed to emphasize "moral education" that was unique to Japan. The document that resulted from this concern for morality in education was the Imperial Rescript on Education, issued on October 30, 1890, in the name of the Emperor Meiji. Written with the advice and counsel of the Confucian scholar, Nagazane Motoda, the Rescript made clear the essential connection between the education of the people and the tenets of Confucian thought and loyalty to the emperor. A few excerpts from the 315-word document follow:

Know ye, Our subjects: Our Imperial Ancestors have founded Our Empire on a broad basis and everlasting... Our subjects, ever united in loyalty and filial piety, have from generation to generation illustrated the beauty thereof. This is the glory of the fundamental character of Our Empire, and herein lies the source of Our education. Ye, Our subjects, be filial to your parents, affectionate to your brothers and sisters; as husbands and wives be harmonious, as friends true; bear yourselves in modesty and moderation; extend your benevolence to all; pursue learning and cultivate arts, and thereby develop intellectual faculties and perfect moral powers; furthermore advance public good and promote common interests; always respect the Constitution and observe the laws... and thus guard and maintain the prosperity of Our Imperial Throne coeval with heaven and earth.

The promulgation of this document served as a corrective measure to the more liberal Western influences on education since the beginning of the Meiji Restoration. Distributed throughout the country by the Ministry of Education, the Rescript reminded the populace that education was inextricably connected to the nation's needs, to traditional Confucian values, and to an Imperial House descended from Heaven. It was read during ceremonial events in schools throughout the nation, with the appropriate bowing required. Though generally accepted by the people, one famous incident of an inappropriate response remains well known in Japan even today. Uchimura Kanzo, a high school teacher who had been educated in Japan and in the United States, apparently failed to bow deferentially enough to the Emperor's signature on the Rescript when it was read at his school. This incident led to his leaving the school, after which he became a famous journalist and religious figure until his death in 1930. In about 1900 Uchimura founded what became the largest branch of indigenous Christianity in Japan, Mukyokai, or nonchurch Christianity.

By the end of the 1900s, Japan had seen considerable development of all parts of its education systemboth under the influence of Western experts and under the watchful eye of nationalists who made certain the country retained its Confucian and imperial focus. With direction from the Ministry of Educationand its influential first minister, Mori Arinorithe country had a compulsory primary school system throughout the country; about 500 secondary schools throughout the country, with some providing technical training and others providing traditional academic subjects; and an elite system of public and private universities that prepared students for teaching, medicine, law, government service, and other professions.

In the early years of the twentieth century, attendance in primary schools continued to rise to over 90 percent, and in 1907 the years of compulsory education were increased from three to six. From the 1890s to the start of World War I, Japan's rush to industrialize and to create a strong military led to a greater focus on industrial education and training than in the past. Victories in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) had stimulated this change in direction. Japanese education came somewhat under the influence of the democratic, socialistic, and related worldwide movements that were "in the air" after World War I and after the Russian Revolution. One example was the Shin Kyoiku Undo (New Education Movement), which emphasized the individuality of children and encouraged each child's effort to demonstrate initiative in ways that were largely not reflected in conventional Confucian education. Although this movement lost favor when a more conservative climate returned during the militarism of the 1930s, it did significantly influence the direction of Japanese education during the Taisho Period (1912-1926). Another noteworthy trend of the period after World War I was the expansion in the number of colleges and universities. The University Order of 1918 stimulated this growth by extending government recognition to postsecondary institutions that were not associated with the government. Students surged into the private schools as a result of this change.

The militarism of the 1930s and the beginning of World War II ended Japan's brief period during which progressive ideas had been promoted in education. Now the schools could best be characterized as tools of the state. Even the name of primary schools was changed to kokumin gakko, or national people's schools, reflecting their mission of training loyal subjects for the Japanese empire. Graduates of the kokumin gakko were obligated to attend seinen gakko, schools that emphasized the kinds of vocational skills that would serve the country in its effort to marshal a major militaristic expansion. Even textbooks were used during the wartime period to reinforce the ultranationalistic objectives of the state. One set of texts, called the Kokutai No Hongi (Cardinal Principles of the National Entity), served the government's purpose to control the people's thinking and their access to a full range of historical information.

After its defeat in World War II, Japan was occupied by the Allied Forces under the command of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), General Douglas MacArthur. From 1945 until 1952, the Occupation forces aimed to transform Japan into a democracy and to demilitarize the country. A significant part of the plan involved altering the educational system that had been part of the prewar and wartime culture. The socalled "moral education," central to the ultranationalism of the wartime period, was ended. The major catalyst for all changes was the United States Educational Missions to Japan, which took place from 1946 to 1950. The recommendations of these missions formed the plans by which education was reformed after the War.

The centerpiece of the postwar educational transformation in Japan was a series of reforms that took place in 1947. They were overseen by SCAP and by the Education Reform Council, consisting of Japanese civilians. At the core of the reforms was the Fundamental Law of Education, which replaced the 1890 Imperial Rescript on Education that had been issued by the Emperor Meiji. Consisting of a preamble and 11 articles, the law replaced the former emphasis on training to be a loyal subject of the emperor with a new focus on the following principles: equal opportunity to education for all citizens, coeducation, the full development of one's personality, an appreciation and respect for truth and justice, and a new emphasis on academic freedom for faculty. Following are some specific features of the reformed system:

  1. The 6-3-3-4 structure with six years of primary school (also called elementary school), three years of lower secondary school (also called middle school or junior high school), three years of upper secondary school (also called high school), and four years of university
  2. Compulsory education for nine yearsthat is, both for primary and lower secondary school
  3. Education of handicapped persons
  4. Replacement of government-produced textbooks with texts that were published privately, with less involvement by the government than in the past
  5. New emphasis on the training of public school teachers at the university level
  6. Shift from total central control of education to much greater autonomy in villages, cities, and prefectures
  7. Permission to have teacher unions and other support organizations such as parent-teacher groups

Most reforms were retained after the Occupation ended, but there was some backtracking when a conservative government came to power in 1956. For example, the government increased its efforts to review textbooks, influence appointments to local school boards, place restrictions on leftist teachers' unions, and reestablish some level of moral education in the school system.

The decades since the 1950s have brought few structural changes to Japanese education. However, a number of social and political events have related to education, such as the following: criticism of government influence on textbooks in the 1960s; student demonstrations in 1968 against rising costs of a university education; the introduction in 1979 of a common general admission exam for public universities; and concern that private academies are needed to supplement a child's public education if he or she is to have a good chance of being accepted to a university.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

In 1946, the Allied forces orchestrated the effort to write the new Constitution of Japan, which replaced the Meiji Constitution of 1889. Based on the U.S. and British constitutions, the new document included a level of freedom and democracy that was unprecedented in Japan. Effective May 3, 1947, it perhaps is best known for Article 9, which states that "the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat of use of force as a means of settling international disputes." Also noteworthy is the restriction of the emperor to being only a "symbol of the State and of the unity of the people, deriving his position from the will of the people with whom resides sovereign power." So certainly the new Constitution would never again permit approval of a document like the 1890 Imperial Rescript on Education, which in a sense mainly viewed education as a means of respect for, and praise of, the Japanese emperor.

The new Constitution also specifically addressed the rights of children to be educated. Article 26 reads as follows:

All people shall have the right to receive an equal education correspondent to their ability, as provided by law. All people shall be obligated to have all boys and girls under their protection receive ordinary educations as provided for by law. Such compulsory education shall be free.

For the first time in its history, the Japanese people acquired constitutional rights to an education. These rights were further defined by the 1947 Fundamental Law of Education. This law replaced the 1890 Prescript on Education and articulated a variety of legal educational rights in its Preamble and 11 articles.

A related law was the School Education Law of 1947, which outlined the general structure of the Japanese school system. Another lawthe 1956 Law Concerning the Organization and Functions of Local Educational Administrationregulates the operations of local schools around the country. For example, it covers operational details related to boards of education, superintendents, attendance policies for students, and the appointment of teachers. It tended to reestablish some of the previous centralized authority over local school districts, though certainly not to the degree of the pre-World War II system.

Educational SystemOverview

Since the end of World War II education has been compulsory for all children in Japan for nine years, which includes six years of primary school (also called elementary school) and three years of lower secondary school (also called middle school or junior high school). Children start their schooling at the age of six. After graduating from primary school six years later, and then lower secondary school three years after that, they have completed their compulsory educational period by the age of 15. At that point, most students move along to upper secondary school (high school) for three additional years, followed by four years of university education for an even more select group. Because of changes in the population patterns of Japan, the number of students in primary school has declined steadily since 1980, though the number of students enrolled in universities has increased every year since the end of World War II.

Academic Year: The academic year in Japan begins in April and ends the following March. Students have a summer vacation of several weeks starting in July, as well as a two-week break at New Year's. The year is broken down into three main terms beginning in April, September, and January, respectively. School generally starts at 8:30 a.m. and ends about 3:00 or 3:30 p.m. on weekdays. There was a half day of additional schooling on Saturday morning, but schools have gradually been dropping the Saturday schedule and moving instead to a five-day school week.

Language of Instruction: The language used most predominantly in Japanese schools is, of course, the Japanese language. Dominant features of this language are the high dependence on context to determine meaning, the precise ordering of words in a sentence, and the use of three different types of character systems in the written language (kanji, hiragana, and katakana ). The complexity of the written language means that Japanese students spend many years studying their own language.

Although Japanese is the dominant language of instruction, there is no law declaring it the official language of the country. In fact, a school could use other languages. There are now a few schools that use English to teach science and mathematics classes. Although English is usually not the language of instruction, it is now studied by almost all students in Japanmaking it the most commonly used foreign language in the country. The entrance exams for high school and for universities test for English ability.

It appears that the question of the role of English in the school systemand, indeed, in the entire culturewill remain a controversial subject for some years to come. A report entitled "Japan's Vision for the 21st Century," submitted to the Japanese prime minister's office in early 2000, suggests that the government consider establishing English as Japan's official second language. Given the need to increase the "global literacy" of the population, the report went on to urge that all students should be able to speak English before they start working after their schooling. Although the reading and writing of English is taught in schools, speaking and listening skills lag behind. So the recommendation of the report would require a significant upgrading of English language training in Japan.

A final point about the language of instruction concerns the minority populations in Japan. Although Japanese remains the dominant language in the classroom, there are significant numbers of Japanese residents whose native language is not Japanese. The native Ainu population, located mainly in the northern island of Hokkaido, is not permitted to receive courses in the Ainu language and culture in the public schools. Other linguistic minorities include Chinese and Ryukyuan (Okinawa). The teaching of ethnic languages and cultures remains a politically charged subject in Japan, though the debate has not yet presented any significant challenge to the dominance of Japanese as the language of instruction in the school system.

Use of Technology: Japan continues to emphasize the use of technology in education at all levels. In 1998 the Curriculum Council submitted a major recommendation report to the Ministry of Education, in which it advocated the use of computers throughout the educational system. Apparently that report has brought even more attention to the need to increase the exposure of Japanese students to instructional technology.

Statistics from 1999 suggest that although almost all public schools have computers, many teachers have not yet learned to use them in their teaching. As of March 1999, computers were used in 97.7 percent of primary schools, 99.9 percent of lower secondary schools, and 100 percent of upper secondary schools. The average number per school was 12.9, 32.1, and 76.4, respectively. Contrasted to these figures are the relatively low percentages of teachers who can use the technology effectively: 28.7 percent in primary schools, 26.1 percent in lower secondary, and 26.0 percent for upper secondary.

More traditional audiovisual media are widely used in Japan, especially in the primary schools. Television, audiotapes, and videotapes are common support for teaching. Especially popular is the use of broadcasts of educational programming produced by NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation. Also, in July 1999 the Ministry of Education started a television station devoted exclusively to the education of Japan's children. Called the Children's Broadcasting Station, the channel beams programs by communications satellite to receiving stations that have telephone links. When the station broadcasts programs on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month (school holidays), children can send faxes back to the television guests and take part in videoconferences.

Another technology Japan has started to use is distance education. Although the country is probably behind the United States in the development of distance education, some educational institutions are now becoming quite active in the field. One prestigious institution, Waseda University, has linked up with five universities around the country to offer real-time online classes, as part of a trial program. What has enabled universities like Waseda to begin such programs is the relaxing of previously strict standards for transferring credit from one institution to another. As of 1998 college and junior college students have been allowed to earn up to almost half the credits for a degree from institutions other than their home institution. That change, as well as the spread of Internet and related technology, suggests that Japan will be a major player in distance education in years to come.

Entrance Exams: The Japanese system places great emphasis on the use of exams as qualifiers for all levels of schooling. Exams exist for students entering preschool, primary, lower secondary, upper secondary, and universities. Yet clearly the most crucial tests are those given for entrance to the upper secondary schools (high school) and universities. The high school entrance tests are mainly for determining what type of school students will attendnot if they will attend, because well over 90 percent of middle school students go on to high school. Both private and public high schools require such tests and usually test students in five main fields: English, mathematics, Japanese, social studies, and science.

For admission to most public universities and some private ones, students are required to take the University Entrance Examination Center Tests. These standardized tests comprise mostly objective questions in the Japanese language, social studies, mathematics, science, and foreign languages. When students receive the test results, they then have a much better idea of the range of colleges and universities to which they would likely be admitted. The final decision for admission to a particular institution may depend on the standardized test results, the test given by the individual college or university, and the student's high school record.

International Issues: A major international issue related to education in Japan concerns Japanese who are living, or used to live, abroad. The number of children of Japanese who have lived overseas has grown considerably in recent decades because of the large number of government and industry employees who have been assigned to positions outside Japan.

In the 1998 school year, for example, the following number of students lived overseas for at least one year and returned to Japan: 7,700 at the primary school level, 2,908 at middle school level, and 7,700 at the high school level. Returning elementary and middle school students do not have to take entrance exams, but returning high school students do. Often students are given special consideration in testing, but they also may need to take additional course workespecially in reading and writing Japanese. Language proficiency can be a problem if students did not regularly attend Japanese schools overseas.

Curriculum Reform: It is important to observe that there are serious efforts taking place to analyze and respond to problems with the curriculum in Japanese schools. Of particular note is a recommendation report submitted in 1998 by the Curriculum Council to the Minister of Education. The report suggests that the public school system should do a better job of emphasizing problem-solving activities, independent thinking, the use of computers in all subjects at all levels, and interdisciplinary courses that integrate content from diverse content areas. It also suggests that the school day be reduced to weekdays only. Some of these recommendations, such as the shorter school week, are being implemented. The report reflects the interest of the Japanese to improve an educational system that, overall, has worked well for them.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Over 95 percent of Japanese students enroll in some form of preschool, which is not compulsory. These schools are intended to develop the cognitive skills of infants from age three and up, and thus to prepare them for the six years of compulsory elementary school that follow. Preschool education is provided either through a kindergarten, which is considered to be an educational institution, or through a day care center, which is considered a type of welfare institution as defined by the Child Welfare Law.

One indication of the extreme competitiveness of Japanese education is a phenomenon called ojuken. "O" is a prefix that means "politeness" or "childishness," and juken means "taking entrance exam." The complete term refers to parents who are so eager to have their children be accepted into the most competitive schools at every level that they seek to enroll them in a top-notch preschool. Graduates of these prestigious preschools are usually permitted to go all the way to a prestigious high school without having to take entrance exams. These kindergartens are extremely competitive, in some cases admitting only 1 in every 20 applicants. Parents sometimes pay as much as $10,000 to educate their children so that they can take the entrance test for just private preschools or primary schools.

Ojuken has become a well-publicized issue in the media. Some critics point out that young mothers have equated the success of their infants in being admitted to prestigious private schools with their own success as mothers. Others see it as one more sign that Japan places too much emphasis on testing in the education process. But there are also those who view the ojuken phenomenon as a sign of the mediocrity of public schools, resulting in parents willing to pay heavily for private schooling.

After preschool, children begin six years of compulsory primary (or elementary) school. The curriculum of the elementary school has three main groupings: regular subjects, moral education, and extracurricular activities. Regular subjects comprise the following nine topics: Japanese language, social studies, arithmetic, science, life environmental studies, music, arts and crafts, physical education, and homemaking. Although there is some room for local control in organizing subjects, the actual content of the academic areas flows from national standards that are imposed on the schools. In any particular year, the curriculum is the same for all students in the same grade across the country. Students cannot skip grades, nor are there special groupings of students according to abilities.

Besides academic subjects, elementary school students are taught the importance of personal values through what is called "moral education." For those schools that are funded privately, religious education is permitted to substitute in this area. After academic and moral education, the final emphasis in primary schools is extracurricular work. These include activities such as clubs, festivals, competitions, class trips, athletics, and entrance and graduation ceremonies.

Secondary Education

Secondary education in Japan comprises two main divisions: lower secondary (also called middle school or junior high school) and upper secondary (also called high school or senior high school). Included here is information on juku, the private schools that many students attend in addition to public school.

Junior High School: After completing their six years of elementary school, students shift to the last three years of compulsory educationcalled variously junior high school, middle school, or lower secondary schoolusually when they are between the ages of 12 and 15. One significant change is that their curriculum is now divided by subject matter, creating a more regimented environment than elementary school. Classes last longer than in elementary school50 minutes as opposed to 45 minutes. Unlike many U.S. schools, the Japanese junior high schools require the teachers to move from classroom to classroom instead of the students. Teachers generally teach only one of the three grade levels. Thus both students and teachers acquire a sense of community in their grade, and students view themselves as part of a home-room class.

The curriculum of middle school includes four main groupings: required subjects, elective subjects, moral education, and extracurricular activities. The eight required subjects are as follows: Japanese language, social studies, mathematics, science, music, fine arts, health and physical education, and industrial arts or homemaking. Students are exposed to courses that provide vocational and technical classes as well as academic subjects. This feature is especially important because classes at this level include a broad range of students, not just those who are likely to attend college or even high school.

Elective subjects include a foreign language or another special subject such as music or art. But almost all students in middle school choose to take English. Like primary school, the middle school schedule includes one hour of moral education each week, but there is no specific religious education in public schools. The final category of the curriculumextracurricular activitiesincludes sports, clubs, assemblies, ceremonies, plays, musical events, field trips away from school, and educational guidance, such as instruction for using the library and safety advice for walking in traffic-congested streets. Such activities may take place on or off the school campus.

A curious phenomenon seen among both primary and middle school Japanese childrenbut more among the latteris called "school allergy." This term describes an emotional condition whereby a child develops fever, headaches, nausea, or other medical symptoms that make him or her stay home from school. The numbers of affected students have risen sharply in recent decades. A Ministry of Education survey determined that in 1991, 54,112 middle school children missed 30 or more days of school in a year as a result of emotional problems. That was up from 7,310 students in 1974. The numbers for primary school students were 2,651 in 1974 and 12,637 in 1991. Reasons vary for this "allergy," but three notable ones are as follows: fear of being bullied by other students, which has been a growing problem in Japanese schools; anxiety about entrance examinations; and reaction to the strict administration of the schools. Though physical bullying is said to have decreased since the late 1980s, both physical and verbal bullying and other forms of violence continue to be a larger problem in middle schools that in any other component of the educational system.

Senior High School: The term upper secondary school, also called high school or senior high school, is used to indicate the noncompulsory education beyond middle school. High school provides general or specialized education in three main formats: full-time, part-time, or correspondence. Although the full-time option generally lasts three years, part-time or correspondence school usually takes additional time for completion. Over 95 percent of junior high school graduates enter some form of high school, and about 70 percent of these students attend a public high school.

Admission to high school is based on the results of a test, and competition for acceptance into the best schools is incredibly fierce. To prepare for the exams, many students attend what are called yobiko (cram schools) in the eveningto gain admission both to high school and also to the university. With a full school day and evening obligations such as yobiko, many secondary school students have little if any time remaining for personal activities beyond the routine of schooling. This phenomenon worries many Japanese leaders and has led to a reevaluation of the average number of hours students spend in school each year.

Most high school students follow an academic track that prepares them to apply for entrance to universities. Once in an academic high school, students discover that their school day resembles that of junior high in that class periods last 50 minutes, courses are given in essentially the same subjects, and the extracurricular activities are similar. However, students in vocational high schools have a different routine. They often take on part-time employment, and they almost always enter the workplace after graduation.

The curriculum of academic high schools commonly includes courses in the following subjects: Japanese language, geography and history, civics, mathematics, science, health and physical education, the arts, and home economics. The vast majority of students also take English, with a lesser number taking European languages such as French or German. As for the particular content level of the coursework, here is an overview:

  • Japanese language: The focus in high school is on classical Japanese. Students are expected to enter high school having learned the 1,945 kanji characters known as the joyo kanji.
  • Social Studies: Geography and history are taught as one course in high school, along with a civics course. Students at this level have gone beyond local and regional issues to study Japan and East Asia in an international context.
  • Mathematics: High school math courses include general math, algebra, geometry, basic analysis, differentiation and integration, and probability and statistics.
  • Science: High school students are required to take two from the following list of courses: comprehensive science, basic science, physics, chemistry, biology, or earth science.
  • Health and Physical Education: Options in physical education classes include gymnastics, track and field, swimming, ball games of different types, kendo, sumo, judo, and dancing. Health classes focus on the prevention of disease and on the cultivation of healthy habits as a young adult.
  • The Arts: High school students generally select two of the following courses: music, art, calligraphy, or crafts. Art course offerings may include painting, drawing, sculpture, or graphic design.
  • Home Economics: As in lower schools, high school home economics comprises courses for both boys and girls that stress skills such as cooking, sewing, consumer skills, and computer use. Courses for boys tend to be called "Industrial Arts."

As mentioned earlier, the Curriculum Council submitted a report to the Ministry of Education that included a number of substantive recommendations for changing the public school system. This 1998 report suggested that secondary schools should offer a new required course called "Information Study." Such a course would help students learn to think independently, to process and send information via computers, and to fully participate in an information-driven society. Recommendation reports like this one are commissioned by the Ministry of Education as part of its periodic review of the Japanese education system.

Juku: Japanese education includes a "shadow" system of private schooling that students use to supplement the conventional education they receive. In addition to the yobiko (cram schools), the umbrella term juku is often used by Japanese students and teachers to encompass the full range of academic options outside the school system. The two main types of juku, other than cram schools, are as follows: naraigato/okeikogoto, courses that provide personal enrichment such as calligraphy or piano; and gakushu, (academic) juku, courses and tutoring that are directly related to academics. Academic juku can be taken to gain remedial help in particular courses or to provide advanced learning in preparation for entrance exams. These courses are to be distinguished from the specific type of juku called yobiko, which exclusively prepares students for particular exams. Although ideally juku are taken while a student is still in school, students who fail to gain admission to colleges of their choice may spend a year or two after high school studying in yobiko in hopes of being admitted on their next try.

A very high percentage of students attend juku. In 1998 it amounted to 71.8 percent of public junior high students, 54.9 percent of private junior high students, 35.1 percent of public senior high students, and 40.9 percent or private senior high students. These schools have turned into a huge business in Japan. In the mid-1990s, the largest such school in the country, called Yoyogi Seminar, had 27 branches, 2,000 employees, and a gross revenue of tens of millions of dollars.

Opinions about juku vary widely in Japan. The public has generally accepted them as a "second" school system that complements the public system and fills the gap between what the conventional schools teach and what the next level of schooling and related exams require. Even many educators recognize the value of juku in this respect. Of course, the juku employees and owners would agree that they provide an essential service. Critics of juku use the same argument to point out that the popularity of juku reflects the absolute failure of the Japanese educational system to prepare students for an academically rigorous future. Others note that juku focus primarily on rote memory learning. The time devoted to the schooling on nights and weekends keeps youth from balancing both work and play in their lives. But there are others who claim that juku in fact create an environment for social interaction of children, much like high school clubs do. You can find almost as many opinions about juku as there are people ready to talk about them. The fact is that juku are a part of the educational landscape that provide a necessary service and are not about to disappear.

Higher Education

Students who complete high school have these main options available to them: colleges or universities, junior colleges, technical colleges, special training, or employment.

Universities & Colleges: Japan has over 500 four-year colleges and universities. No special distinction is made between institutions called "college" and those called "university." (The term university is used here to indicate both.) There are basically three types of four-year institutions: (1) national universities that are supported by the central government, such as Tokyo University; (2) public universities that are supported by governments at the municipal or prefecture level; and (3) privately funded institutions. Approximately 75 percent of all universities in Japan are private.

The quality of education varies widely among Japan's four-year colleges and universities, which accounts in part for the stiff competition among students who wish to enter the best schools. Generally, universities aim to expose students to a broad range of knowledge while providing a context for research to be conducted by faculty. As of 1999 there were 99 national universities, 66 nonnational public universities, 457 private universities, altogether enrolling about 2,700,000 students, including graduate students. Overall, about 40 percent major in social sciences, 19 percent in engineering, and 17 percent in humanities. When just considering national universities, however, the proportions change to 31 percent in engineering, 18 percent in education, and 17 percent in social science. Most students do not have a "minor" field in their university studies.

Most university programs are completed in four years, with the exception of medical, dental, and veterinary undergraduate preprofessional programs, which take six years. Universities establish graduate programs in areas where they aim to provide opportunities for profound research and scholarship for both their faculty and their students. For admission to a graduate school, an applicant must have completed an undergraduate degree program or its equivalent. Most master's programs require two years of study beyond the undergraduate degree, whereas most doctoral degrees require five years. Exceptions are medical, dental, and veterinary graduate programs, which last four years. About 10 percent of university students went on to graduate school in 1999. The number has continually increased since 1980, when it was about 4 percent. In 1999 about 65,000 students began master's programs, and about 16,000 began doctoral programs.

The academic environment in Japanese universities and colleges has come under criticism in recent decades. It is extremely difficult for students to gain admission to universities, and they often only do so after taking a particular university's admission test two or three times. Having been admitted, however, many students often lapse into what are sometimes called "leisure lands" in Japanthat is, universities where little real academic work is completed. For example, students may dedicate a good portion of their time to extracurricular activities such as sports, music, arts, or even a part-time job. In the 1960s many students were extremely politically active and spent much of their time on leftist causes. Although that is not so much the reason for the leisure lands today, the result in that period is similar to the result today students often skip class and fail to spend much time on their studies. Some reasons often given for this phenomenon are as follows: first, many students do not get admitted into the school of their first choice and are less motivated to work hard; second, they have not yet grasped the significance of the course of study they have selected and its importance to their future; third, many of the professors have given in to the phenomenon and are less than inspiring teachers, preferring instead to conduct their research and other duties; and fourth, there remains the perception that companies or government agencies traditionally hire their employees from the same universities, with little regard for the degree of academic achievement of graduates. Some aspects of this approach to university life have changed in recent years. The educational and working culture has changed as a result of globalization and as a result of Japan's economic downturns, creating a more competitive atmosphere in universities and in companies. But there is still work to be done to raise academic standards in universities.

Junior Colleges: Established during the Occupation after World War II, junior colleges usually involve two or three years of training and traditionally have enrolled mostly women. In fact, about two-thirds of the women who go on to higher education after high school enroll in junior colleges, though that number is decreasing as women gain access to more professional careers and attend universities in greater numbers. Taken together, about 12 percent of men and women who participate in higher education attend junior colleges. As of 1999 there were a total of 585 junior colleges in Japan, with 503 being private and 82 being public. Some of the most popular majors in junior college are as follows: home economics or domestic science (24 percent of students), humanities (23 percent), education (17 percent), and social science (13 percent).

Technical Colleges: Technical colleges were established in 1962 as five-year institutions for students who had completed their lower secondary (middle) schooling. These colleges emphasize specialized subjects that prepare students for a vocational life. Japan's technical colleges can be grouped into two main categories: industrial and merchant marine. For the industrial track, students can take courses in subjects such as industrial chemistry, public works, metalworking, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, electronic control, information technology, material/bio-engineering, civil engineering, and management information. The merchant marine track focuses on various aspects of marine studies and takes an additional six months, for a total of 5.5 years. In 1999 there were 62 technical colleges, 59 of which were national or public and 3 of which were private. A total of 56,436 students were enrolled, up from 52,930 students in 1990. Technical education continues to be a solid option for students who enjoy skilled labor and do not plan to advance to a university.

Special Training Schools: Another postsecondary option is "special training schools" and other miscellaneous schools that focus on specific vocational needs. Started in 1976 to fill particular niches in the industrial community, these schools are required to enroll at least 40 students and to last for at least one year, offering 800 hours of training for that one-year course. The courses at special training colleges can be grouped into three categories: advanced courses designed for graduates of upper secondary school (high school), high school level courses for graduates of middle school, and other courses. Courses in the high school group usually comprise two-year programs of study in business, engineering, foreign languages, hygiene, or medicine. As of 1999, there were 3,565 special training colleges, 3,206 of which were private and 359 of which were public or national. That year there were 753,740 students enrolled, up from about 40,000 in 1989.

Sometimes grouped with special training schools are "miscellaneous schools," a category that included special training colleges until they were declared a special type of institution in 1976. After the higher category of special training colleges was established, the miscellaneous schools began to be recategorized and thus declined precipitously in number. From 1980 to 1989 the number dropped from about 5,400 to 3,570, and the enrollment dropped from 724,000 to 442,186.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

The Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture (often shortened to Ministry of Education) represents the central educational authority in Japan. It is headed by the minister of education, who is appointed by the prime minister and serves on the prime minister's cabinet. The Ministry oversees many national institutions such as universities, museums, research institutes, and youth centers. It gives assistance to all levels of education throughout the country, especially at the municipal and prefecture level. Following are some of the specific responsibilities of the Ministry:

  1. Plans and coordinates educational projects at all levels
  2. Provides advice upon request from educational units around the country
  3. Gives financial assistance to enhance education
  4. Operates many educational institutions including universities, junior colleges, and technical colleges
  5. Gives final approval for establishing public and private higher education institutions
  6. Promotes lifelong learning throughout the country, because Japan has been making the cultural shift to this sort of system
  7. Requires heads of municipal and prefecture governments to submit reports about their organizations, as deemed necessary
  8. Orders local authorities to make adjustments in policies, procedures, or situations that may be in violation of regulations or laws
  9. Oversees the curricula
  10. Coordinates the selection of textbooks
  11. Controls the programs for the training of teachers
  12. Establishes standards for various types of equipment used in the schools

The Ministry has purview over essentially all educational institutions and serves as a central clearinghouse for proposals that aim to improve the national system of education.

Japan is composed of 47 prefectures. Every prefecture has a board of education that coordinates education in that geographic unit. Each board comprises five members who are appointed by that prefecture's governor, approved by the legislative assembly, and serve for a four-year term. Some of the main responsibilities of the board are as follows:

  1. Manage the wide variety of educational units in the prefecture, from secondary schools and schools for the handicapped to museums and public libraries
  2. Promote events and activities related to physical education and the social education of youth
  3. Provide advice and financial assistance to the mayors and municipal boards within the prefecture
  4. Establish or close down kindergartens, upper secondary schools, special education schools, special training schools, and miscellaneous schools
  5. Issue certificates to teachers

In addition to the board having a wide range of responsibilities, the governors of the prefectures are charged with the following tasks: managing universities and junior colleges in the prefecture, approving the establishment of a variety of schools, and overseeing the drafting of budgets for a variety of educational activities.

Education administration at the municipal level is handled by a municipal board of education. Each board includes five members selected by the mayor of the municipality with the agreement of the elected assembly. Holding office for four years, these board members have the following responsibilities: selecting a municipal superintendent of education from among its own membership, managing a variety of educational institutions in the municipality, promoting cultural activities, and selecting textbooks for elementary and middle schools. Then the municipal mayor has the responsibility to oversee the municipal universities and junior colleges and the process of preparing educational budgets.

Several advisory councils assist the minister of education. The most important is the Central Council for Education, established in 1952 for the purpose of studying possible changes related to education, culture, and the arts and sciences. Composed of up to 20 members appointed by the minister of education, with the approval of the cabinet, the council has taken on a variety of issuessome of them quite controversialduring its tenure. In its first few years its work was primarily related to instituting compulsory education, maintaining the teaching profession as a politically neutral group, and improving the system by which textbooks are compiled. In the 1960s the council issued reports on subjects such as the junior college system, technical and scientific education, and financial aid for students.

In 1984 the Central Council for Education suspended its work and was temporarily replaced by the Provisional Council on Educational Reform, an advisory group installed by the cabinet to address serious issues related to the reform of the entire educational system in Japan. It consisted of 25 members, a strong staff of technical specialists, and a chairman, Okamoto Michio, a well-known figure in Japanese education and the former president of the prestigious Kyoto University. All four major reports completed by the Provisional Council focused on the importance of reinforcing a respect for individuality at all levels of education. The council offered proposals to improve adult and continuing education; create new university admission tests that would apply to national, public, and private universities alike; convert the separate three-year middle school and three-year high school systems into a six-year secondary school system; initiate a more flexible system for high schools whereby students could graduate after completing three years of work and a prescribed number of credits; and improve the training provided to teachers during their first year on the job. In the late 1980s the Ministry of Education began working to put a number of the group's recommendations into practice throughout the country. After the Provisional Council completed its work, the Central Council for Education was reconvened in 1989 and issued several important documents at that time.

In 1995 the Central Council for Education was reorganized by the Ministry of Education and asked to consider the educational challenges ahead for Japan in the twenty-first century. In its first report, issued in July 1996, the council showed that it was willing to take on many of the difficult challenges that would confront Japanese education in the new century. Following are a few of its observations and recommendations:

  1. Advancements in information technology will change the nature of education in the coming years, and Japan must be prepared to incorporate these new technologies into the classroom.
  2. Excessive focus on completion, especially for entrance to many levels of schooling, is a problem that must be addressed because it works against the need to nurture "competencies for positive living"or balancein the lives of children of all ages.
  3. The family, schools, and community must do a better job of working together to solve growing problems such as school truancy and bullying within the schools.
  4. The curriculum of schools should be reformed to include less straight memorization and more emphasis on critical thinking and independence of mind.
  5. Schools should supplement the traditional classroom activities with additional programs in sports, volunteer work, nature studies, and other means of developing the full personality of the child.
  6. There should be more emphasis on the importance of the home in the education of children, for example, with the use of new media and with the expansion of networking among groups of parents.
  7. All elementary and secondary schools should begin to make the transition to the five-day school week, and "special attention should be paid to the following needs: the enrichment of children's out-of-school activities; an increase in the educational functions of the home and community; the mitigation of excessive competition for entrance examinations; the securing of some latitude in children's life; and the implementation of the five-day school week for all schools irrespective of different categories: national, local public or private" (Outline of Education in Japan 1997 ).

As a result of the council's 1996 report and the many other recommendations for reform in the years leading up to and following the report, the Ministry of Education has implemented a number of significant changes in all levels of education. The last few decades have witnessed serious efforts to reform education by the administrative units charged with overseeing the Japanese educational system.

Finances: Three main entities share financial responsibility for supporting public education: the national, prefectural, and municipal governments. Through the use of taxes and other means of acquiring income, each of these units funds a diverse array of educational programs at its level.

At the national level, the Ministry for Education funds two main units: first, the national educational establishments, such as universities; and second, various public and private educational institutions at the prefecture and municipal level. In 1999, the budget for the Ministry of Education was a little over 7 percent of the entire national budget. About half of that amount was related to liability of the cost of compulsory education, about a quarter was devoted to subsidizing national institutions such as universities, and the remainder was devoted to programs such as life-long education. At the level of the local governments, the relative expenditures for education are as follows for a typical year, in this case 1997: 35 percent for elementary schools, 20.8 percent for junior high schools, 18.3 percent for senior high schools, 17.3 percent for social education, and 5.6 percent for education administration.

Special mention should be made about the significant level of financial support provided to private institutions by the national government. The part that private institutions play in Japanese education is huge. In 1995, for example, the following percentages of Japanese students were enrolled in private schools: 74 percent of students in universities and junior colleges, about 30 percent of high school students, and about 80 percent of kindergarten students. Because of this major contribution, and the important research that goes on in many of these organizations, the government provides major subsidies under the provisions of the Private School Promotion Subsidy Law. Assistance is given to private universities, junior colleges, colleges of technology, secondary schools, and elementary schools.

As for scholarship aid, student aid programs are available through many private and public organizations. The primary benefactor is the Japan Scholarship Foundation, a public corporation supported by the national government, by prefectural and municipal governments, and by not-for-profit organizations. The foundation provides students with loans, either with or without interest. The no-interest loans are mainly directed to students attending upper secondary schools, universities, junior colleges, graduate schools, colleges of technology, and special training schools. The loans with interest generally are geared for students in universities, junior colleges, master's degree programs in graduate school, and specialized training schools. These loans do not accrue interest while the students are enrolled. Upon graduating, students begin to repay the loans, which have a relatively low annual interest rate. The heads of educational institutions have authority to choose the students who will receive loans in their respective institutions. In fiscal 1996, about 484,000 students received such loans.

Educational Research: Research on education in Japan is conducted both by government agencies and by private academic societies. The first main unit to support such research was formed in 1949 by the Ministry of Education. Originally called the National Institute for Educational Research, this agency had nine departments and had a wide range of official duties both within and outside the country. In particular, it coordinated research work being done by both private and public organizations throughout the country. Also, it linked up with research institutes in other Asian countries. In 2001 the institute was reorganized by the government and also renamed. Now called the National Institute for Educational Research, the organization has added to its agenda of research topics the study of educational policy.

In addition to the National Institute sponsored by the Ministry of Education, there are many other consortiums and academic societies that support educational research. A prominent one is the National Federation of Educational Policy Research Institutes, which in 2001 had a membership totaling 279 educational institutes throughout Japan. As for academic societies that support research in education, the most well known one is the Japan Society for the Study of Education. Founded in 1941, as of May 1999 it had 2,920 individual members and 340 organization members, of which 255 are universities and research institutes and 85 are bookstores.

Besides the Japan Society for the Study of Education, many other groups are involved with research in education, such as the following:

  • Council for Improvement of Education through Computers (CIEC)
  • History of Educational Thought Society (HETS)
  • The Japanese Association of Educational Psychology (JAEP)
  • The Japanese Association for Methods of Moral Education (JAMME)
  • The Japanese Association for the Study of Educational Administration (JASEA)
  • The Japan Academic Society for Educational Policy (JASEP)
  • Japan Association for Women's Education (JAWE)
  • The Japan Educational Administration Society (JEAS)
  • Japan Society of Educational Information (JSEI)
  • The Japan Society for Education System and Organization (JSESO)
  • The Japanese Society for the Education of Young Children (JSEYC)

In addition to the above organizations, each subject taught within the school system is represented by its own society of education.

Nonformal Education

Japanese nonformal education comprises the various forms of learning that are not covered under the Fundamental Education Law of 1947 (which established the 6-3-3-4 system that extended from primary school through university education). Nonformal education includes the types of learning that occur outside the formal educational system. Though still under the oversight of the Ministry of Education, these forms of learning include supplemental learning quite unlike what is included in the formal system. Examples of nonformal education includes the following: juku or yobiko, social education, adult education, correspondence courses, and English language training.

"Social education" (or community education) generally refers to a wide range of organized activities beyond the structured school curriculum, aimed especially for adults and young people. Facilities often used for these activities include public halls, libraries, museums, youth houses, children's centers, women's education centers, and sports facilities, as described below.

Citizens' public halls exist in over 90 percent of Japanese communities and serve as centers for various activities. Besides lending books to members of the community, they provide a venue for lectures, exhibitions, meetings, physical training, and other forms of recreation. Public libraries and museums also serve as centers of learning, both by giving citizens access to their collections and by opening their facilities to community groups. Youth houses and children's centers give young people an opportunity to participate in activities that involve an overnight stay. Often located in areas with beautiful natural surroundings, these facilities focus on teaching young people skills such as self-discipline, collaboration, and service. Women's education centers aim to provide an opportunity for women to gain experience in leadership skills and to get together to share experiences and develop networks for support. Most of these centers are nongovernmental organizations or are run by local governments. Finally, there are many facilities throughout the country that encourage physical education of people of all ages. Besides playgrounds, swimming pools, and gymnasiums that are open to public use, many colleges and schools permit their physical education facilities to be used by members of the general public when not scheduled for students.

Adult education can also take the form of courses that are taken outside the classroom through correspondence or through other media such as radio, television, satellite transmission, or the Internet. Traditional correspondence course work was introduced in the 1880s at Waseda University, one of the most prestigious universities in the nation. Generally, two main options are available in correspondence work. First, the courses can be taken for actual course credit that applies to degrees, certificates, or diplomas given by the institution. Second, the curricula offered through correspondence may have no credit attached to it and instead can be taken to gain vocational background, to advance in cultural understanding, or to develop an outside interest or hobby. Courses range widely in content and include topics such as bookkeeping, drafting, calligraphy, childcare, and computer literacy.

One type of correspondence course of special note is the so-called Hoso Daigaku "University of the Air," a college that is operated by the Broadcast College Special Corporation and that is administered from an office in the city of Chiba. This organization was established in 1983 to provide university-level curricula on television and radio. Generally, students are required to have graduated from high school; however, students who are 18 or older and who have not received a high-school education can participate in the program. The system works in this fashion: a participant gets two credits by listening to 15, 45-minute lectures and then by completing some on-site work at local study centers located throughout the country. The course work falls into three main groups: domestic science, business/social science, and humanities/natural science. Once a student gains enough credit, he or she receives a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Students of all ages participate in the University of the Air, but about half the students are over the age of 40. The University of the Air is just one example, therefore, of the shift in Japan away from a strictly traditional student body receiving traditional professional degrees. Now certificates or nontraditional degrees, such as those gained through the University of the Air, are gaining credibility as mechanisms for seeking new employment or promotions in current positions.

One type of nonformal education that is extremely popular is training in the English language. An entire private industry has developed to teach English to those who feel they need more language preparation than they received in public school. As of the mid-1990s there were more than 400 such schools around the country, usually offering courses of one year or more. Much of the popularity of such courses arises from the fact that English has become the language of business and industry throughout the world, including Japan. Many of the Japanese people feel that the kind of English training they received in public school was inadequate for their purposes in the workplace, thus requiring nonformal courses later in life. Yet the subject of English language teaching certainly is not without controversy in contemporary Japan. In the year 2000 the prime minister's office received a report from a prestigious advisory group that suggested much more emphasis on English literacy in Japan's universities. Entitled "Japan's Vision for the 21st Century," the report even noted that it may be time to consider declaring English to be the country's official second language. Such a change would help provide the impetus for giving young people an adequate working knowledge of English before they enter the workforce, reducing the need for so much extra training after exiting the school system. Although establishing English as an official second language would be a controversial subject in a country that takes such pride in its own linguistic inheritance, there continues to be a strong demand for English training in nonformal education.

Teaching Profession

The aftermath of World War II saw significant changes in teacher training that had been in existence since the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Prompted by the recommendations of the 1946 U.S. Education Mission to Japan, the education of teachers was upgraded. Previously, most teachers received their training at "normal schools" or gained a certificate by passing an exam. The postwar reform grouped teacher training curricula into three main areas: general education, professional courses related to the subject matter being taught, and professional courses related to the practice of teaching. Other changes included the restructuring of the normal schools into professional teachers' colleges that required four years of education and the introduction of teacher training programs into traditional universities.

Teacher training today occurs at various types of institutions, depending on the level. Preschool or kindergarten teachers are educated at private junior colleges or at special institutes approved by the Ministry of Education. Teachers in primary schools or in special schools (e.g., schools for the handicapped) are trained in education departments of universities and at national teachers' colleges. Finally, middle and high school teachers are educated mainly at regular universities.

Teaching certificates, which are required for the profession, are divided into two groups, first class and second class, according to the amount of education received and the level of education being taught. Teachers can sometimes be given temporary certificates. They may advance from temporary to second class or from second class to first class by taking additional coursework, such as through in-service training while they are employed. Japanese educators have three main types of in-service training available to them:

  1. Training done on their own or through the school where they work
  2. In-service training completed at designated education centers operated by the Ministry of Education
  3. In-service training at regular universities

A variety of opportunities exist for teachers to upgrade their skills. In addition, teachers who strive to advance their skills through such training often are selected for midlevel management positions within their school systems.

Teachers' incomes tend to be comparable to employees in other industries and actually slightly higher than other types of government workers. They have a standardized pay scale that is based primarily on their level of education, and middle school teachers have a separate salary scale than do high school teachers; however, beginning teachers in both groups with the same educational level start their career at the same salary. Besides their basic salary, teachers receive family allowances, bonuses, and other types of special pay adjustments. All teachers receive their bonuses three times each year. The amount of these bonuses is considerable, possibly totaling five times the individual's monthly salary. Teachers certainly deserve all the salary they earn because they are charged with a wide range of responsibilities within their schools.

Besides teaching in their subject areas or grades, teachers are responsible for guidance counseling, student activities such as clubs, homeroom supervision, and oversight of field activities conducted outside the school. Like teachers in many other countries, they also are obliged to commit time to tasks associated with their parent-teacher associations. One way that the system attempts to reduce "burn out" and stagnation in the profession is by periodically transferring teachers among schools within the same prefecture.

Teachers are appointed in various ways, depending on level and affiliation. If they teach at schools associated with national universities, the minister of education is responsible for appointing or dismissing them. If they teach at public elementary or middle schools, they are appointed or dismissed by the board of education in their prefecture. And if they teach in public high schools, they are appointed or dismissed by either the prefecture or municipal board of education. Oversight of the profession corresponds to the general administrative hierarchy for the national prefectural, and municipal governments.

Unions continue to play a role in the Japanese education system, with well over half of the teachers belonging. The largest teachers' union is Nikkyoso (the Japan Teachers' Union, or JTL), founded in 1947. Over the years it has tended to oppose the educational policies of the Ministry of Education. There are also more conservative teachers' unions such as the Nihon Kyoshokuin Remmei (Japan Federation of Teachers) and the Nihon Kyoshokuin Kumiai Rengo (New Japan Federation of Teachers Union). Union membership among teachers is most prevalent in the public schools at compulsory levels, but certainly unions are also represented in the high schools and even in the universities.


In many ways, Japanese education can be considered an overall success story, though certainly not without its problems in the early part of the twenty-first century. Highlights of what has worked well in Japanese education follow:

  1. The nation is almost universally literate, with a high level of fluency and with a large amount of shared cultural knowledge among the populace.
  2. About 96 percent of students who complete the nine years of compulsory education proceed on to the optional three years of upper secondary school.
  3. Students completing high school enjoy a wide range of education options that include universities, junior colleges, technical colleges, and special training schools.
  4. The organization overseeing the system, the Ministry of Education, has helped to promote a fairly high level of student standards and achievement, teacher training, and educational funding over the years.
  5. The nation has remained reflective enough to recognize the problems in its education system and thus to initiate reform movements at critical periods in its history.

There are many nations throughout the world that are envious of the educational achievements in Japan. Japan's success seems especially remarkable in light of the huge efforts that had to be mounted at two particularly significant historical junctures: after the "opening" of Japan in 1853, when the country raced to modernize following over 200 years of virtual cultural isolation; and after World War II, when much of the countries' infrastructure lay in ruins.

Its overall success in education notwithstanding, Japan now confronts a number of heady challenges that will once again require the nation to overcome major obstacles. Here are five needs that are most prominent:

  1. Need to Reduce Regimentation: The very quality that helped Japan's educational system take its part in the technological success of the country has come under criticism. One main result of recent reform movements has been to introduce more creativity and critical thinking skills into the curriculum. But the nation still has challenges ahead in reducing the emphasis on memorized learning, entrance exams, and outside "cram" schools.
  2. Need to Reduce Rebelliousness and Related Problems: Figures from 1999 show some downturn in the bullying cases that were a large problem in the 1980s. However, statistics from 1999 also reveal troubling numbers of cases that involve problems such as general acts of violence, truancy, and violence against teachersat least when compared with early data. Violence against teachers increased markedly in the last 15 years of the 1900s, a fact of particular concern in a culture with a history of Confucian respect for teachers and others in authority.
  3. Need to Respond to Issues of Minority Communities: Some minority communities feel that the overwhelming sense of homogeneity in the Japanese culture affects the culture of the classroom as well. More sensitivity to the linguistic, social and intellectual needs of minority children is needed.
  4. Need to Enhance the Intellectual Atmosphere in Universities: Although there have been some positive changes in the academic and social structure of universities, many of them still fail to challenge students intellectually. The system needs to rid itself of the perception, and in some cases reality, that a university education is more a reward for the hard work of completing high school and scoring well on entrance exams than it is a chance to take advantage of a stimulating intellectual environment.
  5. Need to Increase Opportunities for Women Students: There have been significant advances in Japanese culture in general, and education in particular, with regard to gender equity. But work remains in ensuring that women are not expected, by their families or by the culture, to attend a certain type of postsecondary school or to enter a certain type of profession.

These needs notwithstanding, Japan has an enviable education system that has served the culture and its people quite well. If its history and the industry of its people are any indication, then one should expect that Japan will continue to reform its educational system to meet the needs of the future.


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Minoru Moriguchi and William Sanborn Pfeiffer

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Japan, an island nation in east Asia, is an archipelago (large group of islands) located east of the Korean peninsula. It has an area of 377,835 square kilometers (145,882 square miles), which makes it slightly smaller than the state of California. Japan is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the north and east, by the Philippine Sea and the East China Sea to the south, and by the Sea of Japan on the west. It has a coastline of 29,751 kilometers (18,487 miles). Japan's major cities, including Tokyo, its capital, and Yokohama, its major port, are located in the southeastern part of the country, on the main island of Honshu. Kyoto, Nagoya, and Osaka are in the southern part of Honshu. Sapporo is located on the northern island of Hokkaido. The other 2 main islands in the Japanese archipelago are Kyushu and Shikoku, to the southwest.


Japan's population was estimated at 126,549,976 in July 2000. The population grew from 115,000,000 in 1975 to 126,300,000 in 1998, indicating a growth rate of 0.5 percent. With Japan in a state of near zero population growth, this total is expected to decline to 126,000,000 by 2015. In 2000, the estimated birth rate was 9.96 per 1,000 population, and the estimated death rate was 8.15 per 1,000. In the same year, the net migration rate was 0 percent.

The Japanese population is very old. According to the 2000 estimation, 17 percent of the population is 65 years old and over, a proportion that is expected to rise to 24.6 percent by 2015. In 2000, 15 percent of the population was under 14, and 68 percent was between 15 and 64.

Japan's population is very homogenous, with ethnic Japanese constituting 99.4 percent of the total. Ethnic minorities, which account for 0.6 percent of the total population, include about 24,000 indigenous Ainu people in Hokkaido and about 690,000 Koreans, mostly citizens of North or South Korea. There are much smaller groups of Chinese and Caucasians.

The population is highly urbanized, with about 78.5 percent of the population living in urban areas in 1998, a very small increase from 1975, when they accounted for 75.7 percent. The urban population is expected to increase to 82 percent by 2015. Based on 1999 statistics, Tokyo, the capital, is the largest urban center, with a population of 8,049,000. Other major urban areas are Yokohama (3,393,000), Osaka (2,594,000), Nagoya (2,167,000), Sapporo (1,811,000), and Kyoto (1,460,000).


Once a predominantly agrarian society, Japan began its industrialization in the second half of the 19th century by adopting Western technology, and developed itself into a major industrial power by the first decade of the 20th century. Its economic and military power continued to grow in the following decades, enabling it to emerge as an expanding global power in the 1930s. The Japanese entry into World War II (1939-45) led to a devastating defeat marked by the U.S. atomic bombing of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Apart from the destruction caused by the atomic bombs, the war devastated the Japanese economy and destroyed most of its industrial base and infrastructure .

Thanks in part to U.S. support during the postwar occupation, Japan began restoring its free-enterprise economy and industries in the 1940s. The Japanese economy began to expand in the 1950s and continued its impressive growth as a highly modern mature industrial economy until the early 1990s, when it slowed considerably. By the 1980s, it ranked as the world's second largest economic power after the United States. In 1999, Japan's GDP was 45 percent of that of the United States, but larger than the combined GDP of France and Germany. By the first decade of the 21st century, Japan had established itself as a major exporter of industrial products.

On average, Japan's annual GDP growth was about 10 percent from the 1950s until the 1970s. The growth rate began to fall in the 1970s for external and internal reasons. The first "oil shock" in the early 1970s pushed up oil prices and significantly increased imported fuel costs. Since Japan's economy depends heavily on imported fuel, this development slowed economic growth. In 1974, the economy contracted by about 1.2 percent of total GDP. The second oil crisis of the late 1970s and the early 1980s slowed the economy to a smaller extent, causing a 0.4 percent annual shrinkage of GDP from 1980 to 1985. The situation worsened in the mid-1980s when an increase in the value of the yen increased the price of Japanese exports, leading to a decrease in global market demand. As a result, GDP growth dropped from 4.4 percent in 1985 to 2.9 percent in 1986. The damaged export industries sought to regain their competitiveness in international markets through massive relocation of their production to facilities abroad, notably in southeast Asian countries, where the cost of production was much lower than in Japan.

To offset the negative impact of the stronger yen on the economy and to stimulate growth in the domestic market, the Japanese government adopted a financial policy in the late 1980s to bolster the real estate and financial sectors. During this period, which came to be known as the "bubble economy," the Bank of Japan reduced its lending interest rate and the government increased its spending dramatically, which raised the value of stocks and inflated the price of land. This in turn stimulated spending and investment by both businesses and consumers. By 1991, stock speculation and large investments in real estate pushed prices up so much that the Bank of Japan was forced to intervene. This burst the bubble economy, and contributed to a decline in the Japanese economy during the 1990s. During that decade, Japanese products became less competitive in domestic and international markets because of higher prices.

The end of the bubble era initiated a period of sluggish growth and a loss of public confidence in the economy, both of which have continued into 2001. Although the government's deflationary measures (policies to reduce prices) triggered a decline in the Japanese economy in the 1990s, they did succeed in keeping inflation very low throughout the decade; annual rates were 1.8 percent in 1997,-0.3 percent in 1999, and-0.6 percent in 2000. The declines in the financial sector have resulted in higher unemployment through layoffs, once considered unthinkable in Japan. From its near-zero levels before 1991, the unemployment rate jumped to 2.2 percent in 1992, 3.2 percent in 1995, and 4.7 percent in 1999. The rate reached a record high of 4.9 percent in March 2000. Compared with many other developed economies such as Canada's, with an average unemployment rate of about 10 percent in the 1990s, Japan's unemployment rates since 1991 have not been very high. Yet they have been very high for a country which long prided itself on its traditions of "lifetime employment" for selected workers and strong employee loyalty. To avoid massive layoffs, many companies initiated a policy of reducing salaries, wages, and bonuses, thus lowering the living standards of many employees and decreasing spending, which, in turn, has prolonged the economic decline. Aimed at boosting the declining economy, Japan tried to restructure the financial sector in 1996 by introducing the so-called "Big Bang" reform measures. Its near zero-percent interest rate contributed to a short-lived increase in GDP (5.1 percent), but it failed to make growth sustainable.

The 1997 Asian financial crisis (which affected South Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore) was the major external factor responsible for Japan's economic downturn. It affected many markets of importance to Japan and worsened the Japanese economy by reducing export demand. The collapse of 3 major Japanese banks and a decrease in consumption further damaged the Japanese economy, which registered a 2.5 percent GDP decline in 1998, though it increased slightly, by 0.2 percent, in 1999 and about 1 percent in 2000.

Japan has benefited from continuous trade surpluses since the 1980s, amounting to $107 billion in 1999 and $95 billion in 2000. As a result, it has the world's largest foreign reserves, equal to $288 billion that same year. Four factors are responsible for these trade surpluses. First, Japan has a highly diversified advanced manufacturing sector capable of producing high-quality exportable products, and total exports were valued at $450 billion in 2000. Second, Japan's protected economy puts restrictions on foreign competition, including barriers to large-scale imports of foreign products. This situation has been gradually changing since the early 1990s, and the main barriers to foreign consumer goods , for instance, have been removed. Nevertheless, many restrictions have limited the flow of imports, which totaled $355 billion in 2000. Third, Japan's poor economic performance since the early 1990s has decreased demands for the import of various products, including fuel and raw material for commercial purposes, while also decreasing demand for many consumer products by a public concerned about unemployment and wage/salary cuts. Finally, Japan's aging population has, since the 1980s, gradually been spending less money on consumer products. If the population decreases as predicted, the shrinkage of the domestic market will have a severe economic impact on the Japanese economy.

Still, Japan is the world's second largest economic power and the second most technologically advanced economy after the United States. The most important sector of the Japanese economy is industry, which includes manufacturing, construction, and mining. Manufacturing is highly diversified and includes light industry, heavy industry, and high-tech. Manufacturing is the largest contributor to exports, but it is heavily dependent on imported raw materials and fuels. Industry is the second largest sector in terms of contribution to GDP (35 percent in 1999) and to the workforce (30 percent in 1999). Like other mature industrial economies, services form the largest economic sector, accounting for the largest contribution to GDP (63 percent in 1999) and to the work-force (65 percent in 1999). The growing service sector consists of many services such as financial, retail , and tourism. At the beginning of the 21st century, agriculture, including fishing and forestry, is its smallest sector, accounting for the smallest share of GDP (2 percent in 1999) and of the workforce (5 percent in 1999). However, this sector is highly developed and produces all of Japan's rice, but it does not supply all its agricultural needs, which makes Japan dependent on large imports of agricultural products, including foodstuffs. Being a major industry, fishing has expanded into the world's most highly modernized and efficient fishing industry, accounting for 15 percent of the globe's annual catch. Nevertheless, its products meet only a portion of domestic needs, making large imports of fishery products a necessity. Japan is also dependent on large forestry product imports, because its forestry industry can only satisfy a fraction of needs.

The Japanese economy consists of a large private sector and a small public sector . The economy benefits from a very dedicated and disciplined workforce whose members are known for their strong work ethic and loyalty to their corporations. It also enjoys advanced technology, which makes it capable of producing state-ofthe-art products. Close cooperation among suppliers, manufacturers, and distributors in close-knit groups called keiretsu also helps the economy grow fast. Such cooperation has received credit for the rapid rebuilding of the devastated Japanese economy in the post-World War II period. However, the economy lacks adequate domestic production of raw materials, fuel, and agricultural products; consequently, it is extremely sensitive to fluctuations in world prices for these items.

The Japanese economy is highly regulated. In the postwar period, this turned it into a well-protected economy practically closed to foreign competition by tariffs , restrictions, and quotas. Pressures by its trading partners and competitors (mainly the United States and the European Union) forced it to begin opening its market to foreign competition (goods and investments) in the 1980s. The economic decline of the 1990s inclined the Japanese government to encourage foreign investment by further liberalizing the economy. Since the early 1990s, the government has sought to reduce its role in the economy by initiating deregulation reforms that removed an enormous number of restrictive government regulations.

The Japanese government has not implemented the deregulation reforms evenly. The consumer-goods market is now open to foreign imports, while many restrictions on the financial sector have been removed. Deregulation in the air transport industry has increased foreign flights to Japan, especially from the United States, which now has an "open skies" pact with Japan. However, the reforms have been quite limited in the manufacturing sector due to a fear of massive unemployment caused by an extensive foreign presence in this sector. The increased competition will likely force domestic manufacturers to downsize their operations while bankrupting others, resulting in layoffs and unemployment. In short, the ongoing deregulation reforms have gradually contributed to a more open Japanese economy, although there are still many restrictions on economic activities.

History and geography have made an impact on the shaping of the Japanese economy. Japan's close proximity to the Asian Pacific countries (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia), all among the world's fastest-developing economies, has helped it expand its trade with them. These countries have been emerging as Japan's largest group of trading partners, accounting for 37.2 percent of its exports and 39.6 percent of its imports in 1999. These economies address some of Japan's major needs for fuel, minerals, and agricultural products, for example, while being large markets for its industrial products. Japan recognizes South Korea as the only legitimate Korean government, and its growing economic ties with South Korea have worsened Japan's relations with North Korea. North Korea's strong military force remains a security threat to Japan, a justification for spending $42.9 billion on defense (0.9 percent of its GDP) in the fiscal year of 1998-99. This is a small amount, with no major negative impact on Japan, but symbolically reflects concern about North Korea's military power. Russia's continued occupation of the Kurile Islands, captured by the Soviet Union in 1945, has prevented the conclusion of an official peace treaty between the 2 countries, and has limited their economic relations.


Defeated in World War II, Japan began its postwar political life as an occupied country. The Allied military occupation, which aimed to democratize the nation, continued until 1952 when Japan regained its full sovereignty. Japan began political, economic, and social reforms in the second half of the 1940s, which paved the way for its future economic growth. In 1947, its new constitution provided for a democratic multi-party political system based on a free-enterprise economy. The emperor remains as a ceremonial head of state, but political power rests with the prime minister as head of government. The parliament consists of a 480-seat House of Representatives (Shugi-in) and a 252-seat House of Councilors (Sangi-in). Members of parliament are elected through regular free and fair parliamentary elections held every 4 years. In practice, the leader of a party, or coalition of parties, with the majority of seats in the House of Rep- resentatives becomes the prime minister. The central government in Tokyo makes all major policies and decisions, which are implemented by the regional and municipal governments.

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has dominated the Japanese political system for most of the postwar era, either as the ruling party or as the leading member of a coalition government. In the June 2000 parliamentary elections, the ruling coalition of the LDP, the New Komeito, and the Conservative Party maintained its parliamentary majority and remained in power. These 3 parties favor a free-enterprise economy with a strong private sector in which the state also plays a role.

The Japanese government has a great influence in the economy. It is extensively involved in the development and operation of the nation's infrastructure (roads, airports, power generation, and telecommunications services). The government's regulatory power enables it to exert control over economic sectors and activities. It uses its resources and power to develop domestic industries through direct financial assistance to emerging or ailing industries and by setting various regulations to protect industries from foreign competition. The worsening of the economic situation in 1991 resulted in a demand by business for the deregulation of the Japanese economy to enable it to cope with the economic downturn. Deregulation reforms have resulted in a smaller state role in the economy, although it still exercises great influence.

With the exception of the Japan Communist Party, the opposition political parties of Japan support a free-enterprise economy led by a strong private sector with a varying degree of state involvement. Among them, the most important ones are the Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Party, the Reform Club, and the Social Democratic Party.


Japan has a relatively complicated tax system. There are a variety of tax rates for corporations depending on their size, revenue, and location, and for individuals based on their income, location, and personal status. In 1999, tax rates ranged between 5 percent and 30 percent. Tax rates for Japanese and foreign corporations are the same. Foreign corporations operating in Japan are only liable for their income generated in that country. There are various tax breaks for businesses to stimulate economic activities. Corporate taxes accounted for 40.87 percent of total collected taxes in 1999, while other taxes, including personal income taxes and indirect taxes , accounted for the rest.

Taxes and stamp revenues form the bulk of government revenues (92.6 percent in 1999). Non-tax revenues (e.g., tariffs and various government fees) account for the remainder of government revenues (7.4 percent in 1999). Budget deficits are common, since government expenditures are always much larger than government revenues. There are 3 major reasons for this: tax rates are generally low; the aging Japanese population provides limited tax revenues, especially from the growing retired population, and consequently requires more government spending on health-care services; and the government spends large sums to stimulate economic growth. In the 1999-2000 fiscal year, total government revenues from tax and non-tax sources were about $446 billion while expenditures were $718 billion. The government finances budget deficits by issuing bonds, equal to $272 billion in 1999-2000. This reflects a substantial increase in budget deficit from the fiscal year of 1996-97. The Japanese government has tried to avoid raising taxes because of the reductions in consumer purchasing power caused by the economic decline of the 1990s.

The Japanese government's annual issuance of bonds to finance its deficits has created a huge debt. In 2000, the outstanding government bonds were estimated at about $3.5 trillion. The government also engages in off-budget spending (equal to 70 percent of its annual spending) under its Fiscal Investment and Loan Program (FILP), which funds large projects such as housing and road building. The source of this spending is the savings of individuals deposited in the state-run postal savings system. In 1999, the government paid $174 billion in service charges on its debt. This is a huge financial burden on the economy, though it has not yet created a crisis. Still, if the economy does not grow significantly in the next few years and the debt continues to increase, the debt burden will have a major negative impact on the Japanese economy between 2005 and 2010.


Japan has a very advanced and well-maintained infrastructure, which undergoes regular upgrading and expansion. Both the private and public sectors undertake various infrastructural projects and operate their respective services.

Japan has a very extensive and modern road network. It consists of 1,152,207 kilometers (715,981 miles) of highways, of which 863,003 kilometers (536,270 miles) are paved. They include 6,114 kilometers (3,799 miles) of expressways. The number of motor vehicles increased from 70,106,536 in 1995 to 73,688,389 in 1999. Major development projects to expand the Japanese highway network include a $32-billion project for the construction of a second Tomei-Meishin Expressway, connecting Tokyo and Kobe via Nagoya. The length of Japan's railways is 23,670 kilometers (14,708 miles), more than half of which is electrified. Japan is famous for its high-speed trains.

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Japan 578 955 707 114.8 374 126.8 237.2 163.75 27,060
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
China N/A 333 272 40.0 19 1.6 8.9 0.50 8,900
South Korea 393 1,033 346 138.3 302 N/A 156.8 55.53 10,860
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

As a country surrounded by water, Japan has developed a very extensive and modern sea transportation system. It includes many ports and harbors such as Akita, Amagasaki, Chiba, Hachinohe, Hakodate, Higashi-Harima, Himeji, Hiroshima, Kawasaki, Kinuura, Kobe, Kushiro, Mizushima, Moji, Nagoya, Osaka, Saki, Sakaide, Shimizu, Tokyo, Tomakomai, and Yokohama. Japan has a very large merchant-marine fleet, which is a necessity for its international trade and for ensuring an uninterrupted arrival of raw material, fuel, foodstuffs, and other necessary products. The fleet comprises 662 ships with a total capacity of 13,039,488 tons.

Japan benefits from a modern and extensive air transportation system. In 1999, there were 171 airports, of which 140 have paved runways, and 14 heliports. Airports in Tokyo, Kagoshima, Osaka, and Kansai provide international services. The major international airports are Narita, which serves Tokyo; Kansai, which serves Kobe, Kyoto, and Osaka; and Chitose (Sapporo) and Sendai in Northern Japan, which serve many northern cities. Major airport construction projects include a second runway for Kansai International Airport, a $7.2 billion-project for Central Japan International Airport in Ise Bay, and the New Kitakyushu Airport in the Kyushu region located in the western part of Japan. Japan has a large air passenger fleet consisting of private and public airlines.

Japan's telecommunication system is very advanced. It consists of private and public service providers, but a public company, Nippon Telephone and Telegraph (NTT), is the largest provider, controlling about 95 percent of fixed telephone lines. In 1997 there were 60.3 million fixed telephone lines in use. By 1999, there were 30.6 million cellular phones in operation, a 260 percent increase in 2 years, and 6.3 million personal handphone systems (PHS), cheaper versions of cellular phones with limited signal coverage. Personal computer ownership is high: 237 PCs per 1,000 population, in 1998, compared to 459 per 1,000 population in the United States, which has the world's highest rate of PC use. In 1999, there were 357 Internet service providers in Japan. The rate of Internet use is low: 13.34 per 1,000 population in 1999, as compared with 112.77 in the United States. Japan has a very large television and radio industry operated by private and public sectors. In 1997, there were 86.5 million television sets and 120.5 million radios in use.

The Japanese power-generation industry includes both private and public companies, though in 1999, only 5 percent of the nation's power was created by the private sector, a proportion that is expected to increase with industry deregulation (a lessening of government controls). Japan's electricity is derived from 4 major methods: thermal (using oil, liquefied natural gas, and coal), nuclear, hydro (water power), and non-conventional (geothermal, solar, and wind). In 1998, the proportion of electricity generated from these sources was 57 percent, 32 percent, 9 percent, and 2 percent, respectively. In that year, total electricity produced amounted to 995.982 billion kWh, well above the consumption of 926.263 billion kWh. In anticipation of large increases in consumption in the 21st century, Japan is planning to increase its output to 1,280 billion kWh by 2020.

Since its thermal generators depend heavily on large imports of fuel, Japan is planning to decrease its dependency on this method and increase its dependence on nuclear power, although that method is more costly. Accordingly, 9 new nuclear reactors are planned to become operational by 2008, providing an additional 11.3 gigawatts (GW) of electricity. Japan is also encouraging the expansion of generators using renewable energy, such as hydropower and geothermal energy.


Japan rebuilt its economy in the late 1940s and the 1950s to establish itself as the world's second largest economy in the 1980s, a position it still holds as it enters the 21st century. As a result, its 3 main economic sectors are technologically advanced. Agriculture, the smallest sector, is capable of meeting some domestic needs, though most foodstuffs must be imported. Industry, the second largest sector, has a highly advanced and efficient manufacturing branch that has been the engine of growth for Japan since the 1960s. Its state-of-the art products have captured many markets to ensure healthy annual trade surpluses for Japan. As in all matured industrial economies, services constitute Japan's largest economic sector, and this sector has been growing since the 1980s.


Agriculture, including fishery and forestry, is Japan's smallest economic sector. Its contribution to GDP has decreased substantially since 1945. It represented 6.1 percent of GDP in the 1970s, but fell to about 2 percent in 1999. Its share of the workforce has remained stable since the 1980s; totaling 5 percent (about 3.38 million workers) in 1999.


Production of agricultural products, including rice for domestic consumption, is declining due to the scarcity of farming land, which makes large-scale and efficient cultivation rather difficult. High input costs push up the prices of domestic products, as do restrictions on production, pricing, and marketing imposed by the government and agricultural cooperatives. As a result, expensive domestic products are less attractive to consumers than cheaper imported goods.

As an indicator of its declining economic importance, the growth rate of agriculture has been mainly negative over the last 2 decades, even with direct government support, such as heavy tariffs on imported rice (300 percent in 2000). In 1999, the growth rate was 1 percent, a slight improvement from 1996 and 1998 when the growth rates were-6.8 percent and-4.5 percent, respectively.

The agriculture sector is technologically advanced and completely mechanized, but it does not satisfy the essential agricultural needs of the country. Major agricultural products include foodstuffs (wheat, barley, maize, potatoes, rice, soybeans, sugar beets, and sugar cane), fruits, meat products (beef, veal, chicken, horse, lamb, pork, and turkey), fishery products, and forestry products (timber). Export items include fish, prepared foods, cigarettes, crude organic materials, and husked rice. Major imports are fish products, grains, and fruits. In 1998, for example, the values of agricultural exports and imports were about $2.2678 billion and $51.7805 billion, respectively, revealing Japan's dependency on agricultural imports.

In 1999, total agricultural production was 21,177,737 tons, down from 23,016,800 tons in 1995. Rice production met domestic needs, but total output fell from 13,435,000 tons in 1995 to 11,468,800 tons in 1999. Production of potatoes and wheat showed slight increases during this period.


Forests cover about 70 percent of Japan, of which 40 percent are human-made. Reforestation is a necessity in a land that is endangered by systematic soil erosion caused by heavy rainfalls. Forestry products meet only a small portion of domestic needs (about 20 percent in 2000), while the rest has to be imported, mainly from such sources as the United States and Indonesia. The value of forestry imports was $5.7 billion in 1999, a sharp decrease from 1995 when it was $10 billion. Japan's economic downturn was responsible for this decline.


Japan has a large fishing industry. Despite the fact that its large annual catch accounted for 15 percent of the world's total for 1999, the industry is unable to meet Japan's domestic needs. Japan is therefore the world's largest importer of fishery products, consuming 30 percent of such imports in 1996. In 1999, 2,924,000 tons of fishery products were imported, a relatively large increase from the 1995 levels of 2,803,000 tons. The annual catch in the post-World War II era, which had always been above 10 million tons before 1990, dropped to 7.4 million in 1997. This decline is attributed to several factors, notably coastal-water pollution and disputes over fishing in international waters.


Industry, including manufacturing, construction, and mining, has been the engine of growth for Japan since the end of World War II. As happens in all mature industrial economies, the expansion of the service sector has surpassed that of industry, which has been reduced to the second largest sector. In 1999, industry's contribution to GDP was about 35 percent, a decrease from the 1970s when it was more than 40 percent. In 1999, industry employed about 30 percent of the labor force (20.34 million workers), a decrease from 1995 when it accounted for 31.7 percent (21.2 million).


Japan has a highly advanced and diversified manufacturing branch that has been the heart of the Japanese economy in the postwar era. It helped the Japanese rebuild their shattered industrial sector after the end of World War II while enabling them to emerge as a global exporter of a variety of products. It is the reason for the high-value of exports from Japan ($450 billion in 2000). Manufacturing is the most important reason for its constant trade surpluses ($95 billion in 2000), despite the poor performance of the Japanese economy since the early 1990s. Its share of GDP increased from 24.5 percent in 1995 to 25 percent in 1999, registering a limited growth. Its share of workforce dropped from 14.6 percent to 13.4 percent in the same period.

The high cost of labor and the high value of the yen encouraged the relocation of manufacturing to other countries, especially in Southeast Asia and the Pacific region, since the 1980s. This trend has continued through 2001. Japan's direct investment abroad increased from $40.8 billion in 1998 to $66.7 billion in 1999.

Manufacturing consists of light industry (textiles and processed foods), heavy industry (chemicals, automobiles, shipbuilding, machine tools, steel, and nonferrous metals) and high-tech industry (electronics, telecommunications, and computers). Japan is one of the world's largest and most technologically advanced producers of a wide range of light and consumer products such as semiconductors and electronic devices, as well as cars, ships, and steel. Manufacturing includes small, medium, and large enterprises, of which the first 2 groups account for the overwhelming majority, 99 percent in 1997.

The 3 largest contributors to exports are industries involved in high-tech transport equipment and non-electrical machinery. In 1999, the value of high-tech exports, including computer devices and semiconductors, was $101.5 billion, a decline from the 1995 figure of $113.5 billion but a significant increase from 1998, when it was $89.7 billion. The transport-equipment industry had 1999 exports valued at $94.8 billion, a substantial increase from the 1995 figure of $89.7 billion. Exports of motor vehicles were the largest segment of this industry, totaling $54.7 billion in 1999, an increase from 1995 and 1998 levels, when they totaled $53.1 billion and $50 billion, respectively. In 1999, the non-electrical machinery industry exported $89.1 billion in various products, such as office machinery, a decline from its 1995 exports of $106.5 billion.

A major weakness of the Japanese manufacturing sector is its heavy dependency on imported raw materials and fuel. For example, its iron and steel industry needs to import almost all of its iron ore requirements, which totaled 119.2 million tons in 1996.


The construction industry accounted for about 9 percent of Japan's GDP in 1999, against a 10.8 percent share in 1995. It employed 9.7 percent of the Japanese workforce (6.57 million workers) in 1999, a small decrease from 1995, when its share was 9.8 percent (6.6 million).

The deflationary policies of the Japanese government since the 1990s had a negative impact on the construction industry, as demonstrated in a 1.8 percent loss in GDP between 1995 and 1999. Construction projects declined along with the economy. These economic policies accelerated the process of relocation of many manufacturing units abroad, resulting in a decline in large construction projects at home. The Japanese government has tried to assist this industry by implementing large infrastructural projects. In 1999, the total value of construction projects was $136.3 billion, a sharp decline from its 1995 level of $206.8 billion.

Many new, major projects after 2000 will help the industry survive until the economy begins to grow again. There is a $400-billion project by the Kansai local government to build complexes for commercial, industrial, and research facilities. There are also 2 multibillion dollar airport projects: one to construct a second runway at Kansai International Airport, and another to build a new airport in Ise Bay; as well as road projects such as the $32-billion Tomei-Meishin Expressway, connecting Tokyo and Kobe via Nagoya.


Japan's lack of adequate minerals and fossil energy (oil, gas, and coal) forces it to rely extensively on imports. For example, domestic production of copper ore, lead ore, zinc ore, and iron ore met only 0.1 percent, 4.8 percent, 2.2 percent, and almost 0 percent of annual needs in 1999, respectively. This greatly handicaps the Japanese economy, since this situation makes it highly sensitive to any interruption of imported supplies. The mining industry makes a very insignificant contribution to Japan's GDP, 0.2 percent in the period 1995 to 1999, with about the same contribution to the workforce.

Japan's small mining industry is in decline because of the depletion of the country's small mineral and fossil energy resources. The production of copper ore dropped from 6,043,000 tons in 1994 to 1,070,000 tons in 1998. Likewise, lead-ore production fell from 9,946,000 tons in 1994 to 6,198,000 tons in 1998, and coal production declined from 6,932,000 tons in 1994 to 3,663,000 tons in 1998. Iron-ore output dropped from 3,000 tons in 1994 to 2,000 tons in 1998, and zinc from 101,000 to 68,000 tons during the same period.

Japan has no significant energy reserves other than a small deposit of coal equal to 865 million tons. Most of its major deposits were consumed in the 1960s during the period of rapid economic growth, at which time the annual production was about 61 million tons. The existing deposits are not economically viable because of high labor costs and strict environmental regulations. In 2000, there were only 2 operating mines with a total annual production of 3 million tons. These mines operated with government subsidies , and the Japanese government will end these subsidies in 2003. This will make their continued operation unprofitable, since domestic coal is priced 3 times higher than imported coal. Domestic production accounted for only 2.8 percent of supplies in 1998 and 1999, a drastic decrease from 1960, when it accounted for 86 percent. In 1999, coal imports totaled 109,263,000 tons, while domestic production totaled 3,286,999 tons. This marked a decline from 1995 levels of 128,978,000 tons and 6,263,000 tons, respectively.

Consuming 5.5 million barrels of oil per day in 1999, Japan is the world's second largest oil consumer after the United States, but has practically no oil reserves, as its proven stock is equal to only 59 million barrels. This consumption will likely increase significantly when the Japanese economy begins to grow again. Japan's oil consumption has declined since 1996 because of poor economic performance. In 1999, Japan imported over 228,927,000 tons of crude oil, while producing only 604,000 tons, a decline from 1996 when their respective shares were 266,921,000 tons and 861,000 tons.

Japan's natural gas reserves are about 1.4 trillion cubic feet. Its domestic production is limited, which makes it rely on large imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG), mostly from Indonesia and Malaysia. In 1999, such imports equaled about 97 percent of its needs and reflected a 200-percent increase from 1991 levels, while domestic production remained almost the same.


The service sector (financial, retail, tourism, and transportation) has been growing since the 1970s and now forms Japan's largest economic sector. In 1999, services accounted for 63 percent of GDP and 65 percent of the workforce (44.07 million workers). Both figures indicate a significant growth from 1995, when they accounted for 54 percent and 63.2 percent, respectively.


Japan has one of the world's largest financial sectors, a necessity for its large economy. Among the most important are banks, securities companies, the postal savings system, and insurance companies. Financial services contributed 18.9 percent of GDP in 1999, an increase from its share of 17.9 percent in 1995. The entire financial system is highly regulated, making financial activities more difficult in Japan than in other mature industrial economies. The system is controlled and regulated by the Ministry of Treasury (formerly known as the Ministry of Finance), the Bank of Japan, which is the central bank, the Financial Supervisory Agency (FSA), and the Financial Reconstruction Commission (FRC). The Japanese financial system includes other institutions such as venture-capital firms, financial leasing, and asset-management firms.

Despite the deregulating reforms of the Japanese government since the 1990s, the financial system is still extensively regulated. Of these, the "Big Bang" reform has been the most comprehensive one. Launched in 1996, it was aimed at liberalizing the financial system to address the demand of domestic institutions for the removal of various government restrictions and also to open the financial sector to foreign competition. A new governmental entity, the Financial Supervisory Agency, was created to oversee the reforms. A major beneficiary has been foreign financial institutions, which are now faced with less restrictive regulations, and can extend their operations in areas previously closed to them, such as the mutual-fund business. They can also engage in alliances with Japanese firms or take them over. In 2000, for instance, Ripplewood Holdings, an American firm, took over the Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan.

Based on 1999 statistics, the Japanese banking system consists of 9 city banks, 1 long-term credit bank, 7 trust banks, 121 regional banks, 396 credit associations, and 322 credit cooperatives, with total assets valued at $6.74 trillion. City banks are large financial institutions that provide nationwide services while having extensive operations abroad. The largest of these have their headquarters in major cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya, where their principal activity is in serving large corporations, though they are gradually undertaking other types of activities including serving small corporations. Smaller regional banks, with total assets of $1.7 trillion in 2001, operate mainly in a particular region and provide services to small and medium-size companies. Credit banks, with 2000 assets valued at $570 billion, supply long-term industrial capital to large and small firms. Except for the Industrial Bank of Japan, all credit banks collapsed in the late 1990s. Credit associations, with estimated assets of $900 billion in 2000, function like credit unions in that they receive deposits from the general public and lend only to their members. Credit cooperatives, which provide financing to small- and medium-size businesses in urban areas, had assets of $172 billion in 2000. Like the credit associations, they receive deposits from, and lend to, their members only.

The Japanese banking system also includes public banks, such as the Development Bank of Japan (DBJ), the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), and the National Life Finance Corporation (NLFC). Their mandate is to supplement the activities of commercial banks. The JBIC is mainly involved in international financial operations such as export/import and overseas investment loans. The DBJ provides Japanese and foreign companies operating in Japan with services such as long-term financing. The NLFC provides financial assistance to small businesses such as retailers, restaurants, and small construction companies.

There are also 89 foreign banks in Japan, of which 14 are American, 30 Asian, and 35 European. Owing to the financial reforms of the late 1990s, these banks can be involved in all types of banking operations, such as retail and investment banking and international business. They are also permitted to have branches and provide services to large corporations. As a matter of practice, they provide services mostly to foreign firms and joint ventures , while offering banking services to individuals.


Securities companies, which are active in investment services, have the combined role of underwriters, dealers, and brokers. In 2000, there were 291 securities companies, of which the 3 largestNomura Securities, Daiwa Securities, and Nikko Securitiescontrolled most of the industry. Some 59 are foreign companies, such as 2 American giants, Merrill Lynch and Salomon Smith Barney.

With assets valued at $2.27 trillion in 1999, the Japanese postal savings system is the world's largest. It consists of about 24,000 post office branches that accept savings deposits and offer insurance activities and annuities. The system provides an inexpensive source of funds for government projects.

As part of Japan's financial system, the insurance industry has reformed many of its restricted activities since the late 1990s, such as non-life premiums. The industry consists of 46 life and 34 non-life insurance companies with total assets of $1.9 trillion, making it the world's largest insurance industry. Foreign insurance companies are small (44 life and non-life companies), but they are growing. Joint ventures between foreign and domestic firms are also increasing.


The Japanese retail industry is very large, consisting of a wide range of retailers capable of distributing goods and services throughout the country. In 1999, its share of GDP was 14.4 percent, an increase from its 12.7 percent share in 1995. The industry includes restaurants of various sizes, which also includes franchised restaurants of Japanese and foreign origin. Most retail stores are small (less than 500 square meters), although there are large supermarkets and department stores. High land prices and various regulations restrict the number of large stores, while regulatory laws seeking to protect small businesses from competition create a major barrier to the expansion of large stores. Regulations such as those limiting store space and business hours have contributed to high retail prices, though these have recently been relaxed to some extent. Laws also discourage the establishment of discount retailers and shopping malls.

The distribution system in Japan is complex, tightly controlled, and labor-intensive, making the sector difficult for foreign retailers to enter. As a rule, imported products are usually sold at large stores, department stores, and discount stores, while about half of all consumer purchases are made at small neighborhood stores with fewer than 5 employees.


Japan has a very large and well-developed tourist industry, which generated $4.3 billion in 1997. It provides an insignificant contribution to GDP, equal to 0.1 percent in 1997, no change from its share in 1993. The country's mild temperatures and long coastlines, together with its numerous historical sites, make the country an attractive destination. Foreign tourists mostly visit Tokyo and Kyoto on the main island of Honshu, while domestic tourists are also attracted to the northern island of Hokkaido and the southern islands of Okinawa, Miyako, and Ishigaki. Still, only 4.2 million tourists visited Japan in 1997, a significant increase of 24 percent from 1993, but still far below other Asia-Pacific tourist destinations, such as the 9 million who visited Hong Kong in 1997, bringing $9 billion in revenues. This is mainly due to the high cost of living in Japan, one of the highest among the industrialized economies, and to its remote location. Events such as the 2002 soccer World Cup, which will be co-hosted by Japan and South Korea, will uplift the Japanese tourist industry. If successful, Japan's efforts to host the 2008 Olympics in Osaka will be a major boost for its tourist industry. In anticipation of an increase in tourism, many hotel projects are underway all over the country, including a 780-room Marriott hotel in Nagoya.


Japan has amassed large trade surpluses since the early 1980s because of 2 factors. Its diversified manufacturing sector has produced high-quality products such as electronics and cars, which are much in demand in many international markets. Also, the post-war Japanese economy was largely closed to foreign competition through restrictive regulations and high tariffs aimed at protecting domestic industries. Under heavy pressure of its trading partners and competitors such as the United States, Japan began to open its economy to foreign competition late in the 1980s. That resulted in a higher rate of imports, which lowered trade surpluses until early in the 1990s. The economic decline following the bubble economy era significantly reduced demands for imports, resulting in the return of large trade surpluses in the 1990s, which reached $144.2 billion in 1994 before falling to $131.8 billion in 1995 and $83.6 billion in 1996. By 1998, with the economic slowdown, the trade surplus had risen to $122.4 billion, but it declined again to $95 billion in 2000.

The return of large trade surpluses in the 1990s has restarted trade disputes between Japan and its main trading partners, including the United States and the European Union (EU). Two major trading partners of Japan the United States and the EUhave negotiated with Japan since the 1980s to remove barriers preventing their extensive access to the Japanese market. These negotiations have resulted in relaxed regulations on the imports of foreign consumer goods, like foodstuffs, by Japan, but

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Japan
Exports Imports
1975 55.819 57.860
1980 130.441 141.296
1985 177.164 130.488
1990 287.581 235.368
1995 443.116 335.882
1998 387.927 280.484
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

they have failed to remove barriers in many other areas. Nevertheless, the Japanese government's economic deregulation policy has made the Japanese market more open to foreign imports, especially in the field of consumer goods.

In 2000, the values of Japan's exports and imports were $450 billion and $355 billion, respectively. This registered a significant increase in both exports and imports from 1998, when their respective values were $374 billion and $251 billion.

Major exports of Japan include electrical equipment and machinery, electronics, telecommunication and computer devices and parts, transport equipment and motor vehicles, non-electrical machinery, chemicals, and metals. Its imports are mainly machinery and equipment, raw materials, including minerals and fuel (oil, liquefied natural gas, and coal), agricultural products, and fishery products.

Japan's major trading partners are the Asian Pacific countries, the United States, the EU, and the Persian Gulf countries. The United States is Japan's largest single trading partner. In 1999, it accounted for 30.7 percent of Japan's exports, an increase from its share of 27.3 percent in 1995, and 21.7 percent of its imports, a decrease from its 1995 share of 22.4 percent. As a group of countries, the Asian Pacific countries (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia) form the largest collective trading partner of Japan. In 1999, they accounted for 37.2 percent of its exports, a decrease from their 1995 share of 43.2 percent, and 39.6 percent of its imports, an increase from their 1995 share of 36 percent. The Asian financial crisis of the 1990s resulted in a decline in Japan's exports to these countries. The slowdown in the Japanese economy was the main factor in lowering the share of imports from the United States and the EU. The EU (especially Germany and the United Kingdom) is Japan's third largest trading partner, accounting for a 17.8 percent share of Japan's exports and 13.8 percent of its imports in 1999, compared to its 1995 shares of 15.9 percent and 14.5 percent, respectively. As the main oil suppliers to Japan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia accounted for 5.5 percent of Japan's imports in 1999, a small decrease from their share of 5.9 percent in 1995. Japan's economic slowdown of the 1990s reduced its fuel requirements and therefore lowered its imports.


Japan has a free- floating exchange rate system against foreign currencies (one in which the exchange market determines exchange rates ). The rates fluctuate with the Japanese economy and those of its major trading partners, though the Bank of Japan intervenes in the

Exchange rates: Japan
yen per US$1
Jan 2001 117.10
2000 107.77
1999 113.91
1998 130.91
1997 120.99
1996 108.78
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

market to ensure that fluctuations do not damage the Japanese economy. Tokyo is the Japanese main foreign-exchange market where about 99 percent of all foreign-exchange transactions are conducted.

Japan has not experienced sharp and sudden fluctuations in its exchange rates since the late 1970s, even with the economic decline of the early 1990s. The rate of exchange of the yen against the U.S. dollar was ¥94.06:$1 in 1995; it rose to ¥130.91 in 1998, and then began to decrease, to ¥113.91 in 1999 and to ¥108 in 2000. As a result of the foreign-exchange liberalization program, which began in the 1980s, and the deregulatory reforms in the 1990s, various restrictions on foreign-exchange transactions have been removed. The 1998 Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law eliminated almost all remaining government restrictions and controls over foreign-exchange transactions. Consequently, companies are now allowed to trade foreign currencies and individuals can open bank accounts in foreign countries without requiring government authorization.

Japan has a stock market of global significance. The market capitalization of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, the largest in Asia, was $4 trillion in 1999, an increase from the 1995 level of $3.2 trillion.


Since the end of World War II, Japan has developed a highly efficient infrastructure capable of meeting the essential needs of its population in various services. This capability ensures the availability of safe water, sanitation, and health services to all citizens in urban and rural areas alike.

Japan spends a significant amount of its GDP on a modern and efficient health-care service. Spending equaled 7.3 percent of GDP in 1997, about half the level in the United States. The health insurance system introduced in 1961 ensures the availability of health-care services to everyone. Coverage is provided by 2 major insurers: the national health insurance scheme (NHIS) and the employee health insurance scheme (EHIS). Since all

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Japan 23,296 27,672 31,588 38,713 42,081
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
China 138 168 261 349 727
South Korea 2,894 3,766 5,190 7,967 11,123
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

Japanese must take part in a public or a semi-public heath insurance plan, there are few private insurance plans. Depending on the case, the insurance programs cover 70 to 80 percent of the cost services, while the insured covers the rest. The health-care system has contributed to Japan's achievement of the world's highest life expectancy, which was 80 years in 1998.

Japan also has one of the world's highest literacy rates, 99 percent. The Japanese government provides free public schooling for 6 years of primary school and 3 years of junior-high school. In 2000, about 95.9 percent of eligible students attended 3-year senior-high schools, a huge increase from 1960 when only 57.7 percent of the students did so. In 1999, almost 90 percent of the Japanese population completed high school. The quality of the schooling up to grade 12 is very high. The schooling system has been given credit for training an educated and highly disciplined workforce. In 1998, about 45 percent of the population between the ages of 18 and 22 participated in post-secondary education.

Japan is an affluent society where extreme poverty does not exist, although extreme wealth does. High wages and salaries guarantee high living standards, reflected in the high percentage of ownership of electronic devices and home appliances, for instance. In 1999, a color TV, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, and re-

Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Japan
Lowest 10% 4.8
Lowest 20% 10.6
Second 20% 14.2
Third 20% 17.6
Fourth 20% 22.0
Highest 20% 35.7
Highest 10% 21.7
Survey year: 1993
Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].
Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Japan 12 7 7 2 22 13 37
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
China N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
South Korea 18 3 7 5 14 6 48
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

frigerator were found in 98 percent of Japan's households. The standard of living has fallen somewhat due to rising unemployment and reductions in wages, salaries, and bonuses in the 1990s. Heavy government spending on Japan's social safety net, including its unemployment and welfare benefits, prevents extreme poverty. Such spending accounted for $141 billion in 1999, equal to 8.4 percent of GDP.


The Japanese workforce is well-educated and mostly skilled, thanks to the Japanese educational system. It grew from 66.7 million workers in 1995 to 67.8 million in 1999, of whom about 95 percent worked in urban enterprises. The rural workforce involved in farming, fishing, and forestry forms only 5 percent of the total work-force, or about 3.39 million workers. In 1999, 4.7 percent of the workforce (3.18 million workers) was unemployed, a significant increase from its 1995 rate of 3.2 percent (2.13 million).

Japan is a signatory to the International Labor Organization's conventions on workers' rights and freedoms. The Japanese Constitution also guarantees the right to form and join trade unions. Its labor laws recognize the right to organize and bargain collectively. With the exception of the military, police officers, and firefighters, all employees have the right to join unions, to bargain collectively, and to strike. Public employees may join unions, but do not have the right to strike, and their collective bargaining rights are also limited. The government determines their pay according to the recommendations of an independent body called the National Personnel Authority.

There are many unions in Japan, which operate freely. The largest is the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (JTUC), formed when several trade unions merged in 1989. In 2000, it had a membership of about 7.6 million. In 2000, about 22 percent of the workforce (12 million workers) were union members.

Japanese labor law provides for a 40-hour workweek, but the law is not usually enforced in small enterprises. It also prohibits forced or compulsory labor as well as child labor. Children under the age of 15 may not work; children over the age of 15 may be employed for non-hazardous jobs only.

Based on the recommendation of tripartite advisory councils (formed by workers, employers, and public authorities), minimum wages are set that vary from region to region and from industry to industry. On average, minimum wages range between $46 and $53 per day, which are adequate for a decent living standard for a worker and family. Generally speaking, employers usually consult with their respective unions on wage-related issues.

The labor law forbids discrimination in the work-force, though it exists in practice. The Burakumin, who are ethnically Japanese but are the offspring of the so-called outcasts of the feudal era, experience both social and employment discrimination. The labor law provides for equal pay for equal work and the right of women to work. Still, women receive less compensation than men in the same age and work groups. They are also poorly represented in managerial positions, accounting for about 9.2 percent of such jobs in 2000. Also, they form a very small portion of local government positions. Unemployment is disproportionately higher among women and foreign workers, especially undocumented ones coming from the Asian Pacific countries like China, South Korea, and Thailand, who are usually denied their labor rights and are subject to abuses. Work-related safety and health regulations are enforced by government inspectors.


300 B.C. Jomon, an ancient hunting and fishing culture, begins to be displaced by Yayoi migration. Rice cultivation begins.

300 A.D. The Yamato state consolidates its power.

592. Prince Shotoku encourages the adoption of Chinese political and religious practices.

1543. First Europeans visit Japan in the form of Portuguese traders and Jesuit missionaries.

1573-1603. The Momoyama period begins as Oda Nobunaga assumes power.

1603-1867. The Edo period begins as Ieyasu establishes the Tokugawa shogunate, which closes Japan to foreign contact and expels European traders and missionaries. Rise of the merchant class in Osaka and Edo (Tokyo).

1853. Arrival of U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry in Japan leads to "opening" of Japan to the West after 2 centuries of relative isolation.

1868-1912. The Meiji period begins, initiating a period of Westernization. The power of the shoguns is curbed and the emperor is restored as a constitutional monarch.

1894-1895. Japan and China engage in Sino-Japanese War; Japan wins many decisive military victories.

1904-1905. Japan and Russia engage in Russo-Japanese War; Japan wins many decisive military victories.

1910. Japan annexes Korea and retains it as a colony until the end of World War II in 1945.

1912-1926. The Taisho period begins with accession of Emperor Yoshihito.

1923. The Great Kanto Earthquake levels much of Tokyo.

1926-1989. The Showa period begins with accession of Emperor Hirohito.

1931-1932. Japan invades Manchuria and annexes it to its empire as Manchukuo.

1937. Japan and China go to war.

1938. Military leaders in Japan call for "new order" in Asia, which leads to the Pacific War.

1941-1945. During World War II, Japan engages U.S., British, and other Allied troops in the Pacific, Philippines, and throughout Southeast Asia. The war ends with the American atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, forcing Japan's surrender. U.S. occupation continues through 1951.

1947. Japan adopts a postwar Constitution largely drafted by U.S. legal experts during the occupation period.

LATE 1940s. Japan begins the reconstruction of its industry and infrastructure, which were devastated during World War II.

1952. Japan regains full sovereignty upon signing a peace treaty with the United States and 45 other Allied nations.

1955. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is formed by the merger of Japan's 2 main conservative parties, the Democratic Party and the Liberal Party.

1960s. Japan becomes a major global producer of electronics.

1973. The first oil crisis damages the Japanese economy and reduces GDP growth.

1979. The second oil crisis has a less drastic impact on Japan's economy than the first, in 1973.

1985. The yen appreciates against foreign currencies, increasing the cost of Japanese exports, and leading to the relocations of some manufacturing activities abroad.

1980s. Japan emerges as the world's second largest economy, and this era sees the beginning of the "bubble economy." Under foreign pressure, the Japanese government begins its economic liberalization program.

1989. Death of Showa Emperor (Hirohito). The Heisei period begins with the accession of Emperor Akihito.

1990s. The bubble economy ends with the intervention of the Japanese government, whose deflationary policy contributes to a period of economic decline and rising unemployment which lasts throughout the decade.

1995. In January, an earthquake kills more than 5,000 people in the Kobe area; in March, the Aum Shinrikyo cult attacks Tokyo's subway system with nerve gas.

1996. Prime Minister Murayama resigns and is succeeded by Ryutaro Hashimoto. Japan's economy experiences a significant growth rate (5.1 percent) after years of sluggish growth.

1998. Prime Minister Hashimoto resigns and is succeeded by Keizo Obuchi. The Financial Supervisory Agency is established.

2000. Prime Minister Obuchi suffers a fatal stroke and is succeeded by Yoshiro Mori.

2001. Prime Minister Mori resigns and is succeeded by Junichiro Koizumi.


At the beginning of the 21st century, Japan has a very technologically advanced and mature industrialized economy. Even after a long period of sluggish and neg- ative growth in the 1990s, its economy is still the world's second largest and most technologically advanced one. While the prospect for long-term growth is assured, certain internal and external factors will impede or slow down its growth in the short run.

The external factors include the poor economic performance of the major trading partners of Japan. After about a decade of healthy growth, the American economy is entering a period of low growth and quite possibly decline and recession . With the exception of Taiwan, all other Asian Pacific countries are still suffering from the devastating blow of the 1997 financial crisis. Some of them, such as South Korea, are showing recovery, but their heavy foreign debt could easily prevent their full recovery and growth. As the major trading partners of Japan, the poor economic performance of these countries will damage the Japanese recovery and prolong its economic stagnation. External barriers also include the toughening competition among and between Japan, the United States, and the Asian Pacific countries over world markets, especially for motor vehicles and high-tech products like personal computers and semiconductors. More intensive competition will reduce Japan's share of these markets and negatively affect its economic recovery.

Internally, Japan will be faced with continued pressure to liberalize its economy and make it open to foreign competition. Economic liberalization carried out under the deregulation reforms has encouraged foreign investment in Japan, which is a positive stimulus to the economy in the short run. However, in the long run, extensive foreign competition will likely lead to downsizing, bankruptcies, and takeovers. The Japanese government has restricted much deregulation in the manufacturing sector, but it is not clear how long it can resist foreign pressure to do so, mainly from the United States and the European Union. Japan faces a dilemma here: its refusal to comply with their demands could lead to restrictions on Japanese exports to other markets, while its full compliance could damage its manufacturing industry.

Japan's aging population is another major long-term factor. Any future economic recovery will encourage spending by the Japanese, which will further contribute to the recovery, but an aging population has a lower demand for goods and services than a young one and tends to spend less and more cautiously even when the economy is booming. The gradual shrinkage of the domestic market will hamper Japan's economic growth in the short run, and could create major problems in the long run as Japanese enterprises face tough competition in foreign markets while suffering a decline in domestic demand.With an aging population, Japan will face a reduction in tax revenues and an increase in spending for health care and other components of the social safety net.

If the post-war history of Japan is of any indication, the Liberal Democratic Party will remain a leading political party in the foreseeable future. Though a reduction in its popularity has denied it a majority of parliamentary seats necessary for its forming governments on its own, it has proven quite capable of forging coalition governments and will likely remain a determining factor in future elections.


Japan has no territories or colonies.


Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Japan. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

Embassy of Japan, Washington, D.C. <>.Accessed October 2001.

Farrell, William Regis. Crisis and Opportunity in a Changing Japan. Westport, CT: Quorum, 1999.

Flath, David. The Japanese Economy. Oxford and New York:Oxford University Press, 2000.

Japan Information Network Statistics. <>. Accessed October 2001.

JETRO: Japan External Trade Organization. <>. Accessed October 2001.

Katz, Richard. Japan, the System that Soured: The Rise and Fall of the Japanese Economic Miracle. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1998.

Posen, Adam. Restoring Japan's Economic Growth. Washington, DC: Institute for International Economics, 1993.

Richardson, Bradley. Japanese Democracy. London: YaleUniversity Press, 1997.

Statistics Bureau & Statistics Center: Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications. <>. Accessed October 2001.

UNDP. Human Development Report 2000. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <http://>. Accessed September 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Japan. <>. Accessed October 2001.

Wood, Christopher. The Bubble Economy: Japan's Extraordinary Speculative Boom of the 1980s and the Dramatic Bust of the 1990s. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1992.

Hooman Peimani




Yen (¥). One yen equals 100 sen. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500 yen. There are notes of 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 yen.


Motor vehicles, semiconductors, office machinery, chemicals.


Fuels, foodstuffs, chemicals, textiles, office machinery.


US$3.15 trillion (2000 est.).


Exports: US$450 billion (2000 est.). Imports: US$355 billion (2000 est.).

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Japan
Region (Map name): East & South Asia
Population: 126,771,662
Language(s): Japanese
Literacy rate: 99.0%
Area: 377,835 sq km
GDP: 4,841,584 (US$ millions)
Number of Daily Newspapers: 110
Total Circulation: 71,896,000
Circulation per 1,000: 669
Newspaper Consumption (minutes per day): 28
Total Newspaper Ad Receipts: 1,247 (Yen billions)
As % of All Ad Expenditures: 27.60
Number of Television Stations: 7108
Number of Television Sets: 86,500,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 682.3
Television Consumption (minutes per day):
Number of Cable Subscribers: 18,705,060
Cable Subscribers per 1,000: 147.4
Number of Satellite Subscribers: 10,620,000
Satellite Subscribers per 1,000: 83.8
Number of Radio Stations: 305
Number of Radio Receivers: 120,500,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 950.5
Number of Individuals with Computers: 40,000,000
Computers per 1,000: 315.5
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 47,080,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 371.4

Background & General Characteristics

The Japanese media presents some startling differences when compared with the press in other leading industrial countries of the world. At first glance, the condition of the Japanese press seems to be parallel to that found in the United States. There are major national daily newspapers, a prestigious financial newspaper, and many regional and local newspapers. The level of reporting is quite good. There is a vigorous and increasing use not only of television for the dissemination of news, but also of the Internet. The population is highly literate; indeed, Japan has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, at over 90 percent. The vast majority of Japanese people read at least one newspaper every day.

Just five newspapers are "national" papers, and their circulation (in both morning and evening editions) accounts for half of the country's total newspaper circulation. These are (with 1996 circulation figures in millions, combining morning and evening editions) the Asahi Shimbun (12.7), the Mainichi Shimbun (5.8), Nihon Keizai Shimbun(4.6), Sankei Shimbun (2.9), and the Yomiuri Shimbun (14.55).

A closer examination of editorial style and content shows a considerable uniformity among these newspapers. It is almost impossible to characterize one or another of them as predictably and regularly representing a specific political position, as, by way of example, the New York Times can be assumed to take a liberal standpoint, while the Wall Street Journal 's editorial page usually is conservative. Part of this uniformity in editorial posture is due, of course, to the overwhelming dominance of the Liberal Democratic Party, with its six or so internal political clans but a broad consensus on policy.

To understand this condition, it is useful to take a brief excursion into the history of Japanese journalism. Newspapers as we know them came late to Japan, and were not much present until the very end of the era of feudalism, which was precipitated by the arrival in 1853 of an American armada. Initially, they seem to have been crudely printed gossipy broadsheets (yomiuri, literally "for sale to read"). The Shogunate made many efforts to control the dissemination of information and opinion, although with the proliferation of lending libraries it was not possible to make any tight controls effective. It was not until the modernizing reforms of the Meiji Restoration (1868-1912) that a formal press was permitted.

Historical Stages in the Modern Era (since 1868): An Overview

The development of this modern system has gone through several distinct phases, some of which are discussed in more detail below. Even before the early days of that 1868 revolution known as the Meiji Restoration, the transitional period between the arrival of American ships (1853) and the actual removal of the Shogunate (1868) saw the development of a number of news outlets. The first of these was the Nagasaki Shipping List and Advertiser, an English paper published in 1861. Since many Japanese products contained satirical comments on the crumbling central government, they were unpopular with the leading officials. But early Japanese travelers to the west, within two years of the arrival of the Americans, immediately saw the utility of accurate and widely available national news and pressed for change in Japan's newspaper policies. In response, the Shogunate reorganized the Office for Studying Barbarian Writings so as to facilitate the acquisition and dissemination of foreign news inside Japan. A further reorganization in 1863 led to the inclusion of domestic news in the mix, also ironically derived from foreign newspapers (since the Tokugawa developments in the popular development and dissemination of news had not matured to any level of reliability).

Once the Meiji Restoration was accomplished in 1868 and solidified in the next several years, the development of a national press became a priority for the national government. In the early years of the twentieth century, the "people's rights" movement gave further impetus to the growth of a professional press tradition. These positive developments were even accelerated in the period of so-called "Taisho Democracy" (1912-1926) as Japan seemed to be considering the development of a mature and liberal form of social organization. However, the descent into militarism, which accelerated after the later 1920s, put Japanese newspapers into a difficult position relative to the government and national policy from which only the end of the war and the beginning of the American Occupation was able to deliver them.

Clearly a new phase in Japanese press history began with the surrender on August 15, 1945. General MacArthur's policies mandated a free press but paradoxically controlled what could be reported about the Occupation. After a change in direction in Occupation policies caused by the emerging tensions of the Cold War ("the Reverse Course"), left-leaning publications were censored and put out of business by the Americans. By the early 1950s, however, Japan was on its own, and the current party system and press tradition entered into a phase of rapid development. Many of the restrictions put in place during the Occupation period were lifted.

The system of government that emerged after the Occupation seems at first glance to be based on the western model, but major commentators have noted that highest priority is given to consensus and cooperation. In journalism, the most salient example of this tendency is the continued existence and prominence of the press clubs. Consequently, one can look in vain in Japan for a western-style adversarial relationship between the government and the mainstream press, between commentators in the press and corrupt businesses, and even to quite a fair degree between and among the various leading newspapers themselves.

Challenges From the Script System

The mechanical challenges of printing a daily newspaper anywhere in the world should not be underestimated. In Japan, as elsewhere, hand set moveable type was one option. Since the runs of Tokugawa broadsheets were limited to as few as dozens or the low hundreds of copies, crude materials such as rice cakes were used for inking the paper with the appropriate marks, and some publishers even resorted to the use of blocks of a hard, taffy-like sweetening material called mochi. If the Japanese newspaper world was to come of age in the Meiji period (after 1868), with high volume and multi-page runs issued daily, however, it would need to adopt modern machinery.

However, there are significant complexities in the Japanese script system that precluded the development of linotype machines in Japan until 1920. (Rotary drum presses were beginning to enter Japanese usage as early as about 1900.) The Japanese use a great number of Chinese characters (kanji ), and to read a newspaper requires knowledge of at least 2,000 of these characters. Obviously, a keyboard is difficult to devise or to operate which would allow for these thousands of kanji.

However, since the Japanese language (unlike Chinese) is highly inflected, in order to express Japanese in writing at all a supplementary script is required (hiragana ). Derived from stylized and simplified elements of the Chinese characters, this is a basic collection of forty-eight characters which, when combined with simple diacritical marks, allows for the representation of all 104 sounds that one can make in Japanese. A second and parallel syllabic system was later also developed, calledkatakana. Although the characters are similar in their essentials, this is a much more angular script in appearance than the rounded hiragana, and has been preferred in modern times for the written representation of foreign words and phrases.

Finally, it is possible to take the entire Japanese language and write it down in western style characters (romaji ). It was briefly proposed after the Second World War that Japan be required to shift to western-style writing (as happened in Vietnam in 1906), but this idea died quickly.

In this most cumbersome of all the world's script systems, all four of these scripts are used in regular daily contexts, including in newspapers. The symbols of three of the four (hiragana, katakana, and romaji ) tell the reader how to pronounce the word, but pronunciation of the kanji is not self-evident, and must be memorized. It is not uncommon to see a small-print pronunciation clue written above a kanji character in hiragana, and increasingly, signs in Japan are presented in two or more script systems simultaneously.

Adding additional complexity, the Japanese language is fairly "sound-poor" while nonetheless being "symbol-rich", which means that there are an extraordinary number of homonyms. For example, out of the 35 characters that can be vocally rendered by the sound rin, the meanings vary all the way from "morals" to "a female Chinese unicorn" to "luring fish with a bonfire." Finally, each character has both a classical Chinese pronunciation and a Japanese language pronunciation.

Therefore, we may come to three conclusions. It is very difficult even for native speakers to become truly and fully literate in their own language. It is a high challenge to achieve exclusive precision of meaning either in speech or in writing. It is also a major undertaking to devise a keyboard that will enable its user efficiently to write the Japanese language in the form that most closely approximates that which Japanese eyes and ears would find comfortable and familiar. As to this last problem, modern computers have helped greatly to mitigate the difficulties of typing in Japanese, since they can fairly easily supply pull-down scrolls and menus, listing options both for meanings and characters.

Economic Framework

The Convoy System

Japanese businesses, banks, and other public institutions generally have tended to utilize what has been nicknamed "the convoy system." In this approach, the entire convoy moves at the speed of the slowest ship. The penalty for deviating is vulnerability to opponents; the deficiency in the strategy is that the entire group moves very slowly. Metaphorically, it is very difficult to innovate or take any kind of financial or strategic chance when one is constrained by a strong and subtly enforced need to stick with the other "ships" in the convoy.

One effect of the "convoy approach" is to diminish forces of raw economic self-interest. Two places in the press world where one might expect that monetary forces and personal ambition would find strong expression are between and among newspapers, and in the competition between and among individual reporters.

Case Study Number One: Newspaper Holidays

Despite competition to gain circulation share, until 2002 all major newspapers in Japan cooperated in setting aside twelve days a year when they did not publish. Ostensibly, the newspapers declared these holidays, one per month, in order to give time off to the delivery personnel. Almost all daily newspapers in Japan are home delivered through a network mainly comprised of students, and about 90 percent of homes in Japan are serviced in this way. Two of the largest newspaper conglomerates, the Asahi and the Mainichi, by tradition have published on January 1 a list of twelve days during the year when they would not produce a newspaper, and other major newspapers would fall into line.

This system began to come unglued in the winter of 2002, when the smallest of the national newspapers (Sankei Shimbun ) published on February 12, one of those pre-set holidays. The larger national papers then also broke the holiday with "special editions," explaining they were making an exception because they wanted to cover the Winter Olympics. On the following month's pre-designated holiday, the Sankei Shimbun published but restricted its distribution to newsstand sales. However, some of the other national dailies not only printed but also activated their home delivery network. In explanation, the Asahi spokesperson explained that their breach of the voluntary holiday arrangement was part of "our customer-satisfaction efforts," while Mainichi defended its shift in policy by noting that there were too many newspaper holidays (Wall Street Journal A21).

This incident suggests that Japanese newspapers may be feeling pressure from at least three sources: (1) Increasing competition arising from inside Japan (especially web-based electronic publication); (2) Mounting broadcast pressure from outside (e.g., CNN, MSNBC, etc.); (3) Widely available print competition from newsstand publications as the International Herald Tribune and the Asian Wall Street Journal, not to mention nearby international papers of some excellence such as the South China Post. Perhaps in combination, these pressures are finally serving to break down one strand of the historically tight financial affiliations among those media conglomerates that, logically, should be at each other's throats.

Case Study Number Two: The Press Clubs

Although the very first press club was formed in 1890 by newspapermen trying to get clearance to cover the initial meeting of the new Diet, following the Meiji Constitution that was promulgated the year before, most remaining press clubs were originally formed in the waiting rooms of governmental ministries. In the period 1906-1910, two approaches emerged, associated with two prime ministers, for the influence and control of these groups of newsmen. Okuma encouraged journalists to visit his party's headquarters, and brought reporters into the stories early. Obviously, those who were physically proximate were more likely to get the "scoops." Katsura, on the other hand, used money, liquor, and women to try to influence journalists' coverage of his policies. Either of these approaches, whether Okuma's "softer" technique or Katsura's virtual bribery, served to reinforce the tendency to pass along reports issued by the government without too much addition or challenge. Journalists either did not want to cut off access, or did not want to dry up the various attractive perquisites.

There are now about one thousand clubs, with about twelve thousand members. Their internal structures privilege a few reporters, who get the hottest tips and leads. Only a foolhardy modern reporter would jeopardize his access. For example, there was highly limited coverage in the Japanese news media of some insensitive 1986 remarks by Prime Minister Nakasone. The howls of protest from America were settled only by a formal and written apology, but the matter received scant attention in the Japanese media.

Furthermore, the "lecture system" akin to a daily briefing, but without questions allowed, prevails for passing information from the government to the press. By contrast with "investigative journalism" or "question and answer" press conferences, this approach gives great control to the government's purveyors of the news. Additionally, the agencies of government establish the rules for transmitting and publishing the news beyond the familiar "off the record" approach used worldwide. The penalties for publishing remarks unauthorized for printing are administered by the Japanese Newspaper Association, but in practice reflect the interests of the agencies of government.

One result of the press club environment is that the general public is generally kept in ignorance of any political reality or view that threatens the status quo. Another result is that reporters who might be assumed to be in competition with each other are in actuality all feeding from the same trough. The term "freedom of the press" therefore has a very specific and somewhat limited meaning in Japan.


Japan's history involving press laws is unusually complex, even considering its long march toward the twenty-first century. It is most coherent to approach the topic somewhat chronologically, noting the cumulative effect from era to era.

Transition to Constitutional Monarchy (1856-1889)

In an attempt to gain some familiarity with the news of the world, the struggling Shogunate established the "Barbarian Literature Research Department" in 1856. Initially comprising fifteen men, it rather quickly grew into an academic institute, was renamed the "Development Institute" in 1863, then progressed into the kernel that finally matured as Japan's great Tokyo University.

In 1868, as the anti-Shogun revolution proceeded, the triumphant "restorationists," who were going to "re-store" the Emperor to his "rightful position" at the head of the government, banned all pro-Shogun newspapers and sent publishers to jail. Newspapers in the future must have a publication license, obviously issued by the restorationists. Consequently, one of the first acts of the new government, in February, 1869, was to issue a Newspaper Publishing Ordinance, encompassing the key provisions that there would be no prepublication censorship, that editors' names and addresses must be carried in the newspapers, and that they would be responsible personally for newspaper contents.

Under this new law, the first true daily newspaper began on December 1, 1870, as the Yokohama Mainichi Shimbun (Daily News). However, the early days of the new government were marked by considerable unrest (as many as thirty riots per year), and so in 1873, the fundamental press law was revised as the Newspaper Stipulations. To the original eight articles of the 1869 Ordinance were now added ten additional articles. Their general tendency was to make it harder to publish editorial opinion that could be construed as unsympathetic to the authorities. The very next year, however, saw a major crisis, a revolt of a conservative wing of the 1868 restorationists, and there was a significant amount of political commentary in the newspapers. This opinion could roughly be divided into a pro-government and a pro-rights section; in response, the authorities issued and withdrew the status of "newspaper by appointment" quite freely.

The revolt of the conservative samurai having been contained, on June 28, 1875, a new "Press Ordinance" was issued, consisting of 16 articles. Its most startling bias was that any form of criticism of the state could lead to fines and imprisonment. Later that same year, on July 6, a Libel Law strengthened this tendency, and a year later, on July 5, 1876, the Home Affairs ministry gained the power to enforce a press ban for disturbance of the national security.

Nonetheless, a people's rights movement continued to emerge, so that there remained a number of relatively liberal newspapers in print. This led the government to issue a new Press Ordinance in 1883. Its forty-two new provisions allowed suppression of a newspaper if its editorial approach threatened "public peace or morals." The enforcement of this ordinance was devastating to independent partisan newspapers. Finally, on December 25, 1887, the Peace Preservation Law further supported tight control of the press.

Constitutionalism and Initial Imperialism (1889-1912)

After long discussion and negotiation, the Meiji Constitution was promulgated on February 11, 1889. This fundamental document in Japanese modern history had three articles that directly impacted the press. Article Eight allowed that extraordinary imperial ordinances could override any laws. Article Twenty-nine promised the citizenry that they "shall within the confines of the law, enjoy the liberty of speech, writing, publication, assembly, and association." "The confines of the law" was not, however, defined. Article Seventy-six established that all existing press laws as well as the Law on Public Meetings and Associations were to go into effect as part of the new constitution.

What these constitutional guarantees really meant can easily be measured. Between 1892 and 1895, 490 publications were suspended. National unity apparently over-rode all other considerations, as Japan entered an era of increasingly overt expansion. However, the introduction in this period of the rotary press method of printing had the effect of radically increasing the circulation of those newspapers still allowed to print. Circulations during this period of the leading papers were up to the 75,000-90,000 range, with a top figure of 140,000.

In these major newspapers in the 1890s, the nature of imperialism was openly debated, for instance the advisability of war with Russia. However, since Japan won both of its wars in this period (against the Chinese in 1895, and the Russians in 1905), this discussion was somewhat truncated by the passage of events. Nonetheless, the compromising nature of the resolution to the war with Russia led to widespread opposition to government policy, one result of which was that most Tokyo newspapers were shut down by the government, and there was considerable consolidation among the survivors.

Yet another new Press Law dated May 5, 1909, was issued to try to control criticism of the government. Legal responsibility now was extended even to proofreaders. Half of Japan's newspapers were out of business within a year.

Liberalism and Democracy (1912-1926)

Historians frequently and energetically debate whether or not there was a period that can properly be called "Taisho Democracy." Far from being a sterile or arcane argument among academics, the debate over the nature of Taisho democracy provides a central touchstone.

Before 1912, most of the institutions of government were in the hands of a collection of non-democratic power groups, including the institution of the Emperor, the remains of the restorationists, a collection of senior statesmen, the upper house of the parliament, the Privy Council, and the military leadership. Among those who felt that there should be more democracy as an abstract goal and those who worried that Japan could never really catch up to the West unless it went beyond superficial imitation, there was much frustration.

The catastrophic personal weakness of the Taisho emperor himself opened the door to a pro-democracy effort. Yoshihito, the Taisho Emperor (1879-1926), had suffered from meningitis as an infant. He was physically frail, hyperactive, and may have had some problems with mental stability. He was never able to exert public authority on behalf of the imperial institution, and had none of his father's genius for public symbolism.

An affiliated ingredient was the continuing concern that Japan had reached a kind of glass ceiling in its efforts to be a player on the world stage. Some felt that Japan had adopted the externals of western culture without buying into its essence of individualism. They saw liberalization as key.

The old Popular Rights movement resurfaced, this time in the form of a movement to encourage the development of political parties. These reformers emphasized that the only available route for the emergence of any true democracy was to control the government and its policies through the lower House of Representatives. Then, they hoped, public opinion, expressed both through the media and through elections, could be brought to bear on policy formation and the control of the various oligarchic factions might be diminished, if not entirely broken. Hence there occurred a long struggle to see if it might be possible to set up disciplined, policy-making political parties which were responsive to the electorate. Freedom of the press had the potential to play a central role in this effort. Debate has continued as to whether the Taisho democracy was a step on the way to true democracy or a tripping point.

Freedom of the Press in the Taisho Period

During the first half of the period, the central issue was whether or not cabinets could be made responsible to the Diets. With the restoration oligarchs aging but still struggling to control politics, the editorial policies of the Osaka Asahi Shimbun (Morning Sun) emerged as a key focus for the people's rights movement. In 1918 there were major rice riots, leading to martial law and a press blackout. The Osaka Asahi Shimbun responded defiantly by publishing with blank spaces where the censored articles originally would have appeared. The government, incensed, threatened to close the paper, whereupon the paper's editorial leadership resigned. Their successors published an apology on October 14, 1918 (as quoted in de Lange, 126-127): "in recent years our arguments have greatly lacked in moderation, and we realize we have been given to favouritism." Osaka Asahi Shimbun next announced it would in future be "free from party affiliations," and the movement for constitutional government and universal suffrage thus was damaged. In a highly ironic twist, the new prime minister to emerge in this crisis period was Takashi Hara, who had been president of the rival newspaper the Osaka Mainichi Shimbun.

Surpassing even this elaborate shuffle being carried out by the two great Osaka newspapers in 1918, 1923 brought a further element of drama. The great earthquake and fire of September 1, 1923, devastated Tokyo's newspapers, opening the door for the Osaka-based Asahi and Mainichi to become national newspapers with circulations of over one million per day. But by this time, with the 1918 humiliation of the Asahi fresh in mind, neither one was likely to become a partisan opponent of the government, especially since the mildly reformist Hara was assassinated in 1921 by a rightist.

If one of the hallmarks of a free and democratic society is a free and unfettered press, it is clear that the Taisho period, while marking the emergence of Asahi andMainichi, hardly saw the parallel development of an uncensored press. Censorship was self-imposed, unless there was a public crisis of any description, at which time the government moved in forcibly.

The Age of Militarism (1931-1945)

Although there were minor incidents earlier, most historians would date the rise of militarism from the 1931 Mukden Incident. Yomiuri Shimbun had migrated from a small-circulation literate and literary paper, through a period of post-earthquake populism, to nonetheless losing ground to Asahi and Mainichi as these two papers moved into a commanding position as the nation's serious providers of hard news. Its relative market share dropping steadily from 15 percent down to 5 percent, after the Mukden Incident Yomiuri made yet another lurch in style, still seeking to locate a viable marketplace niche. In the early 1930s, it took on an editorial stance favorable to aggressive action on the mainland, notably in Korea, Manchuria, and China. Thereby becoming a leading force for public support of aggressive militarism, it was able to increase its circulation and at the same time immunize itself from hostile government action.

After the assassination of Prime Minister Inukai and an attempted coup by militarists on May 15, 1932, the now openly military government established a formal system of "thought police," supported informally by groups of right wing extremists, and bookstores and newspapers were raided and closed across the country. In February 1936 an even more extreme set of militarists attempted a coup but failed, resulting in a massive purge of the most radical militarists, but this had little impact on freedom of the press, since that liberal entitlement had already been drastically curtailed. However, on July 7, 1937, the Marco Polo Bridge Incident opened the China war, and on April 1, 1938, a National General Mobilization Law included articles giving sweeping powers under Article Sixteen and Twenty to limit newspaper coverage, restrict or confiscate papers, and capture original plates.

By 1940, as the crisis deepened, the government created a single national press agency. A first step was to reduce the number of newspapers nationally from about 1,500 to 300. Later that year, the information departments of all key ministries were merged, further centralizing news flow. Paper was in short supply, with the result that the number of pages per issue was reduced, columns were crowded, and print made smaller. After the formation of "The Newspaper League" in May of 1941, the number of papers continued to shrink so that by the time of Pearl Harbor, there were only fifty-four papers remaining. The contents of the surviving papers increasingly were slanted toward the prevailing military ideology, with emphasis on State Shinto, Emperor worship, the way of the warrior, and the divine origins of the Japanese race.

The war did not go well, despite the creation of a "National Spiritual Mobilization Movement" which rhapsodized on the beauty of the shattered jewel and the solidarity of one million hearts beating as one. By March 23, 1944, Mainichi Shimbun was emboldened to criticize the war plans ("Of what use are bamboo spears against airplanes?"). However, it seems actually to be the case that most of the Japanese public was uninformed about the negative progression of the war and was genuinely stunned by the surrender.

The Occupation (1945-1952) and Beyond

One of the early acts of the Occupation government was to issue a "Memorandum on Freedom of Speech and Newspapers," a Press Code, and an order removing all legal constrictions on the press. The Press Code was the most important. Its ten articles emphasized adherence to the truth, but there were limits on the coverage of the Occupation itself. Not only could the Occupation government carry out pre-publication censorship, but also there could be no reference to such activity. In fact, there was more censorship over the Occupation government than over the old militaristic ideologies.

Under the tutelage of the Occupation, a new constitution was drawn on November 3, 1946, which included an apparently absolute statement about freedom of the press (Article Twenty-one). However, as the Cold War began and then deepened, American policy toward Japan entered into a period of change ("the Reverse Course"), through which Japan increasingly would be built up as an ally against the various socialist and communist forces of the world. This meant that there would be less and finally no tolerance at all for leftist newspapers, such as Yomiuri had become, and on June 26, 1950, the day after the invasion of South Korea, a "red purge" was carried out. However, the signing of a general peace treaty on April 28, 1952, allowed the Japanese left wing press to re-emerge.

Since that time, Japan has had an ostensibly free press system. However, this openness has been severely restricted by the existence of the press club system.

State-Press Relations

Relations between the Japanese press and the state have gone through rather dramatic changes since the Occupation. As long as the economy and attendant issues of statecraft were working well, it seemed to matter very little if the Japanese media gave the government a "free pass." But it also meant that underlying difficulties in the system were not publicly debated, alternate arrangements were not explored, and corrupt practices were slow to be exposed. Superficially, this criticism might seem hard to sustain, since leading newspapers have been sharp on occasion in denunciation of a particularly inept politician. However, the underlying national economic and political system remains essentially unchallenged. In other advanced countries, the press might be expected to play a substantive role in the search for new approaches to national problems.

The Era of "The Bubble"

In the 1980s, one would have anticipated a highly laudatory attitude by the Japanese press toward the national government. Within the span of a single generation, the Liberal Democratic Party had led Japan from a condition of partial recovery from the war, to a position where Japan seemed to possess the leading economy of the world. Indeed, in the years between 1985 and 1990, Japan was emerging as the world's most dynamic country. Scholarly and popular bookstores in the western world were filled with studies predicting the consequences, presumed to be undesirable, of Japanese domination of most of the leading-edge industries of the world.

This progression from humiliation and profound defeat in 1945 to world prominence by 1985 was widely attributed to the development and implementation of a single national industrial policy. The setting of such a standard was almost universally credited to two agencies of government, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). In conjunction, these two bureaucracies set the course for successful collaboration among the Japanese government, industrial giants, and bureaucracy.

Only much later was it observed that those setting industrial and national policy would have to predict with great accuracy what would be the future needs and trends. Especially, this would be the case if market conditions were not allowed easily to correct errors of judgment (e.g., 64K DRAM computer chips, Beta VCRs, and high definition TV). One study completed in the late 1990s concluded that MITI had predicted future business opportunities in its area of expertise with an accuracy rate of barely more than 50 percent. In retrospect, it may very well be true that the lightly regulated marketplace provides efficiencies competitive with any "industrial policy" worked out at the national level by governmental agencies. However, none of this would have been heard from Japan's journalists, even after the "bubble" had burst. One could more easily go to The Wall Street Journal to read a leading Japanese thinker such as Kenichi Ohmae, and a minority voice in MITI itself, belonging to Taichi Sakaiya, found his popular audience in the west with books such as The Knowledge-Value Revolution.

Journalism and Scandals

Little in the way of constructive analysis let alone criticism appeared in Japanese popular journalism at the time, although one could argue that deeper and underlying problems in the Japanese system pointed the way of the biggest story of the period 1985-1995. Foreign journalists long based in Japan wrote such critiques, but were quickly dismissed as "Japanbashers." In a curious echo of the Tokugawa era, Dutch journalists, led by Karel van Wolferen, provided most of the initial intellectual firepower.

Among the Japanese journalists, what negative attention was given to government once again was lavished on more scandalous breaches of the public trust, similar to coverage of the Lockheed scandal in 1976 that had exposed actual bribery of former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka. Even in those instances, however, the initial energy for investigating Tanaka's "money politics" in 1974 and the Lockheed payoff in 1976 had come from American sources. In the first instance, it was a Los Angeles Times reporter, and in the second an American Senate investigating committee that asked all the difficult early questions and pressed the issue to the level of public consciousness in Japan.

The Recruit Scandal

In the period after 1985, while the Japanese economy still seemed to be ascending, the biggest newspaper story concerned the Recruit Cosmos Company. In a complex affair involving bribery, stock trades, and influence peddling, the first symptom was that this company had tried to corrupt the deputy mayor of Yokohama. By the time the story had ended, the toll could be measured by the resignation of thirty-one leading political and business leaders, thirteen indictments, and one suicide.

Worse, it appeared as if the entire establishment at the top of government and public information services might be involved. Asahi Shimbun, whose cub reporter had initially uncovered the Yokohama angle, only tentatively dealt with the story, keeping it off the front page for quite a while and appearing to be willing to suppress the coverage. Then, one of the resignations was by a Yomiuri Shimbun vice president, while another involved the president of Nihon Keizai Shimbun. Only after careful investigation to be sure that none of its employees was directly involved, did Asahi Shimbun actually begin to press ahead with more vigorous coverage and presentation of the story.

Once Asahi decided to give prominent play to the scandalous story, its coverage quickly was removed from the original investigative team in Yokohama and turned over to the more senior Tokyo office. In the Tokyo office, Asahi 's press club reporters could more effectively manage the coverage, and limit damage to allies among the politicians, businessmen, and publishers. Then, as a fitting coda to the whole matter, the prestigious journalistic award that honored the breaking of this story went to reporters from Mainichi Shimbun. The Mainichi reporters at best had been tertiary initiators and investigators.

Corruption Involving the MOF?

In 1991, another scandal opened up the gap between independent journalism and the government when a story was leaked to the Yomiuri Shimbun to the effect that the leading securities trading houses had been manipulating stocks while guaranteeing good results to their major investors. The Ministry of Finance ordered the practice stopped, and, when it continued, someone in the middle ranks of the MOF leaked the story to the Yomiuri. Interestingly, when inquiries were made about the leak, MOF sources stated that it was the "turn" of Yomiuri. Apparently, the commentmeant that since Mainichi and Asahi had benefited from the coverage of earlier scandals, the rotational system this time led to Yomiuri.

In such a world, clearly there would strong incentives in place for reporters both to keep their "leak lines" open, and also for them to give gentler coverage to miscreants in the governmental bureaucracies in anticipation of future tips. A subsequent article in the weekly magazine Shukan Themis tried to expose the collusion of MOF in this scandal. Issues of that magazine were recalled from distributors the day prior to official publication, and the magazine then reported that it was suspending publication due to pressure from a branch of government handling taxation of magazines.

Shin Kanemaru

A last example from this "bubble" period finally resulted in the "fall of the Don," Shin Kanemaru. Kanemaru was head of several shadow political assemblages, and arguably was the most important back-door politician in Japan by the early 1990s. The accusations in this scandal involved gangland payoffs (in cash) by a delivery company to leading politicians. Although lists of the recipients and their illegal receipts had long circulated within the mainstream newspaper world, the story was broken only in July 1991 by the weekly Shukan Shincho, while the major newspapers continued merely to report the press releases of the Tokyo prosecutor's office.

No mainstream reporters investigated who received money or whether it influenced important public policy decisions. As the scandal unfolded and threatened the foundations of the most important branch of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, newspaper coverage continued to be very restrained. Kanemaru was punished with a fine of $2,000 (about $600,000,000 had been siphoned to various politicians, and he himself was found to be holding a huge quantity of cash and gold in his home, presumably for the purpose of making further unsupervised and unreported bribes). Only with public outcry over the disparity between the penalty and the violation did the mainstream newspapers begin to criticize the outcome, forcing Kane-maru to resign from the Diet.

"Revisionism" and "Japan-bashing"

These incidents show that the Japanese newspapers were not likely to be vigorous in keeping the government honest, and that their deeply ingrained system of caution and restraint served to protect the ruling factions of the government from independent scrutiny. Indeed, Japanese journalists essentially missed the biggest story of these decades. That story should have been an attempt to disclose to the Japanese public that their vaunted policy-making machinery was failing to keep pace with the incredible advances in information technology and with the emergence of a global economy.

American and European fans of Japanese industrial policy were also slow to catch on to the limitations of the Japanese economic practice and tradition. For a number of years, they continued to hold up Japan as a model for the other advanced industrial societies of the world. The name given to supporters of the Japanese approach was "revisionists," and most of them came from the world of foreign journalists observing Japan.

Revisionism got its name originally because its proponents were thought to be advocating a change in United States domestic economic and labor policy, namely toward the more managed model associated with MOF and MITI. The trouble in the United States, they seemed to be saying especially in the middle and later parts of the 1980s, was due to the laissez-faire approach associated with the policies of President Ronald Reagan. The United States needed an "industrial policy" like other grown-up nations. Revisionism furthermore depended on a view that Japan's various institutions were unique and therefore differed fundamentally from institutions in the United States. Even prevailing macro-economic theories, derived as they were from western history, would not be applicable. Consequently, as a kind of perverse byproduct, Japan's exceptional quality could be held significantly responsible for US-Japan trade friction.

In reaction, the Japanese journalistic world interpreted revisionism as if it were just another way of blaming Japan for disagreements with the United States over trade issues ("Japan bashing"). By this curious alchemy, the "big three" among the revisionists, Karel van Wolferen, Clyde Prestowitz, and James Fallows, quickly became labeled in Japan as "Japan bashers." All of them were well-informed and essentially friendly admirers of Japan. However, the counter-reaction in Japan even to their carefully researched and reasoned commentary in the days of Japan's "bubble economy" was strident as well as condescending. They were not eager to be criticized by writers they perceived as hostile observers most of whom lived in a country whose golden age they believed was in the 1950s and that now was in decline. Unfortunately, the thoughtful commentary by "the big three," supplemented by Robert Reich in many essays arguing for imitation of Japan's approach to the formulation of industrial policy, was soon pushed aside by cruder works such as Meredith Lebard's The Coming War with Japan, Bill Emmot's Japanophobia, Pat Choate's Agents of Influence, and Michael Crichton's novel Rising Sun. Thus, initial Japanese sensitivity toward the original revisionist arguments could quite easily be demonstrated to be valid, as American journalists and popular writers poured out material that many thoughtful readers in America legitimately could call racist, "Japan bashing" yellow journalism.

By retreating early into victimology, the Japanese press had immunized itself against consideration of moderate reform. One cost for Japan was not that the bubble burst (as all do), but that Japan was not able to make adjustments in its political and economic system. Japan's hopes of being the leading economy of the world were lost in a full decade of off-and-on recession, in a progressive "hollowing-out" of its industries as leading corporations moved manufacturing overseas, and in the paralysis of a banking and financial structure that seems to have concealed many trillion dollars worth of bad loans. Revisionism died a fairly quiet death, increasingly ignored in the west and hated in Japan.

The Japanese Media and Its Role in Setting the National Agenda

Therefore, finally, how should we characterize the relationship between the media and the state in Japan? Harvard's Susan J. Pharr has offered an exceptionally interesting and powerful metaphor in an essay published in 1996: "Media as Trickster in Japan: A Comparative Perspective" in the book edited by she and Ellis Krauss. In this essay, and in others that fellow scholars have written for her book, evidence and argument are provided both from theoretical assessments and from case studies, leading to a mildly more hopeful view of the Japanese media.

In addition to the many occasions on which the press has over-focused on scandal and avoided alienating government "handlers," there have also been moments of achievement. Environmental pollution, a surprisingly severe problem in Japan, is on the national agenda thanks to journalistic coverage. Twice at least a ten-year period, something resembling a moment of potential political reform has surfaced (in 1993, and again with the emergence of Prime Minister Koizumi in 2001), both significantly helped along by the media. The government's weak handling of the crisis presented by the 1995 Kobe earthquake certainly also was highlighted in news coverage. Furthermore, Pharr points out that the media in Japan should not be confined to the five national papers. The weekly publications as well as anti-mainstream papers seem freer to deviate from the "press club" and "lecture" systems of gathering news. Finally, it is probable that Japanese public opinion, informed and encouraged by newspapers and other forms of media, is much more sophisticated than the national political leadership in understanding what needs to be done. This certainly is the view of a leading American observer who has lived in Japan for decades (Alex Kerr, in his two important books Lost Japan and Dogs and Demons ).

After reviewing the standard social-utility positions traditionally assigned to the media in Japan (spectator, watchdog, and servant of the state), Pharr concludes that none of these are fully satisfactory in explaining the relationship. She borrows from symbolic anthropology the notion of "stranger-outsiders" living in an "unfixed social position." Pharr approvingly cites the work of Barbara Babcock-Abrahams in interpreting the tricksters as "active mediators who are independent and both creative and destructive simultaneously, and who ultimately alter or stretch social and political boundaries and prevailing arrangements of authority" (25).

What does a "trickster" actually do? The trickster "provides release" by bringing ridicule and defiance to bear on the structures and institutions of public life. It also "evaluates," often rather harshly, with the result that the national community must confront some of its own mythologies. Third, the trickster "horrifies" by making sure that the public must look at the outlandish aspects of modern society. Additionally, the trickster "induces reflection," and finally it forces the wider community to "bond."

This application of anthropological theory to mass communications reality provides a tool for deeper understanding of the potential role of the Japanese media, and goes far beyond the surface issues raised by such terms as "liberal," "conservative," "national," "regional," "self-censorship" and "free democratic press." When studied closely in Pharr's article and accompanying essays, the notion leads toward an approach with improved texture and nuance. It also requires that we distinguish (at the very least) between the media conglomerates and their front-line practitioners, a few of whom are able and willing to "secure a measure of autonomy and space." In such a view, without denying the problems that exist, Pharr and her fellow authors find good hope that Japanese conformism will not entirely overwhelm clear and free thinking in the media about the future needs of the land and its people.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

Given the high level of readership of newspapers in Japan, the main utility of foreign and foreign-language media is to serve the international community. Many Japanese who are involved professionally with the wider world, however, can read English well. Consequently, it is not at all unusual when using the bullet trains to see Japanese individuals reading The International Herald Tribuneor The Japan Times either to the exclusion of or in preference to Japanese language newspapers. English language versions of Asahi, MainichiYomiuri, and The Asian Wall Street Journal are also widely available.

The Japan Times mines the major international news services for articles and often reprints them whole and unedited. In this way, it serves somewhat as an anthology of world reporting, easily available inside Japan to those who can read English.

However, those five national Japanese newspapers publishing in the Japanese language and producing half of the daily copies available in the whole country rely much more heavily on their own reportage system for their information and texts. Perhaps this is why the business and intellectual leadership in Japan turns to the English-language press to the degree that it does. Just as in the 1850s, if one really wants to know what is going on in the outside world, one needs to seek information and interpretation from that world, and not rely solely on sources internal to Japan.

News Agencies

As in other areas of media history, Japan's first news agency (1871) was associated with an external power, Denmark. Mitsui established its first native agency in 1888, with the active support of the Japanese government. By 1926, there were thirty-three news agencies based in Tokyo alone. However, as the age of militarism set in, centralization took place rapidly, and by 1936, the government permitted only the Domei News Agency to exist. After the war, Domei broke into two units (Kyodo and Jiji), still the largest in Japan.

Kyodo is a cooperative, comprising sixty-three newspapers and Nippon Hoso Kyokai's radio and TV. It is linked to international news agencies, and maintains thirty foreign bureaus. Daily, it provides about 150-200 articles, of which about 75 percent originate with its own writers.

Jiji in its earlier years emphasized the delivery of news to corporations, businesses, and government agencies, but after 1959 broadened its scope to compete with Kyodo in providing general news coverage.

The Radio Press specializes in translating foreign short wave broadcast information.

The major trading conglomerates maintain their own internal news agencies. Mitsui, for example, has about 1,600 agents in over 500 overseas locations, transmitting about 65,000 bulletins of information daily. The leading foreign news agencies have also made considerable penetration in Japan, usually operating through annual contracts and set fee structures.

Broadcast Media

NHK (Nippon Hoso Kyokai) is the public broadcasting system of the country. TV users pay reception fees which produce 98 percent of NHK's revenues. In the mid-twenties, NHK was founded as the sole radio broadcaster, and remained so until 1945. The Broadcasting Law of 1950 allowed commercial competition, which began in the following year on radio and in 1953 on TV.

Early in the twenty-first century, NHK used two television channels, and for radio employed one FM and two AM channels. In 1987, NHK introduced twenty-four-hour satellite broadcasting, and as of 2002 was using twenty-two languages to send broadcasts around the world.

Commercial broadcasting dates from 1951, first of course on radio and after 1953 on TV as well. By 1990, there were 83 radio stations of all varieties, and 109 TV stations. Radio stations collaborate in cooperatives led by Nippon Cultural Broadcasting, Nippon Broadcasting System, and the Japan Radio Network. Prominent television networks are the Japan News Network, the Nippon News Network, the All Nippon News Network, and the Fuji News Network. One prominent station leads each of these networks.

The central enabling legislation, nicknamed "The Three Radio Wave Laws," passed in 1950, requires that broadcast media be independent of the government, but also that it maintains neutrality in politics. The same dynamic seen in other industrialized countries operates in Japan. Commercial TV news, heavy budgets for advertising, and continuous broadcasting all have given televised programming more weight in Japanese society than can now be assigned to the print media. Approximately 95 percent of Japanese people watch television daily for an average of three and one half-hours. In a country of 127 million people, there were 87 million TV sets (1997), and 121 million radios. Counting every station, Japan had 7,108 broadcasters in 1999 (CIA World Factbook).

Electronic News Media

Internet communications have surged in Japan, with about 47 million people using the Internet in 2000. There are more than seventy Internet service providers, almost all having the potential to connect with customers through telephone lines. However, wireless Internet services are growing explosively, so that at least one third of the users opt for that form of connection.

A number of the leading newspapers have now developed web capability both in English and in Japanese. English-language versions of papers such as Asahi Shimbun, Chubu WeeklyChunichi Shimbun (Nagoya) and twenty-eight other papers ranging from the national to the local are all available online. Additionally, the Nippon Television network, a leading commercial TV organization, maintains its own web site, as does a site associated with the Nikkei stock market. A simple web search, using intuitive categories, reveals a rich world of electronic media. The full impact of this new form of news dissemination remains to be seen, but it is safe to assume that over the next few years, the entire information industry will be transformed.

Education & TRAINING

In the early days of Japanese news history, the status of reporters was generally without much glamour or prestige, and lower middle class citizens filled most of the positions. Until 1950, the census grouped reporters together with dancers, clerical workers, teachers, and medical technicians. However, since the Occupation, the educational level of reporters has improved considerably, reflected since 1950 in their census classification with physicians, professors, and other professional workers.

However, perhaps because of the limited use of the Japanese language in the world as well as limits on the nature of Japanese reporting, there are no international press superstars of the sort the world has found in some other countries. The work is not particularly glamorous, the hours are long and late, the pay unspectacular, and the chances are very low for a major breakthrough story.

On television, as in many other countries, stations display newsreaders with generically attractive facial features, often nearly Caucasian in appearance. Newsreaders on TV fairly strictly follow Japanese gender stereotypes, with the males always senior and serious, and the women submissive and assigned to handling softer topics.


Japan indeed has a complex news media industry and history. Although Japan has almost all the elements of a world-leading press, both its media history and its customs have combined to create a situation wherein its greater potential seems unlikely to be realized. In this view, Japan's media reflects most simplistic assessments of the prospects for the country as a whole.

On the other hand, Japan is open to almost all the forces lumped together under the rubric "globalization." Further, Japan has shown remarkable resilience in the past 150 years. It has a highly educated and energetic population, one of the most literate in the world despite the challenges of its language, and a long tradition of innovation and adaptation. Only the most foolhardy or willfully pessimistic would suggest that Japan has anything but a bright future, led by its public opinion and its news media. Japan will develop in its own way and on its own schedule.


The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). World Factbook 2001. Available from

de Lange, William. A History of Japanese Journalism: Japan's Press Club as the Last Obstacle to a Mature Press. Richmond, England: Japan Library, 1998.

Frederic, Louis. Japan Encyclopedia. Cambridge: Harvard, 2002.

Huffman, James. Creating a Public: People and Press in Meiji Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii, 1997.

. Politics of the Meiji Press: The Life of Fukuchi Gen'ichiro. Honolulu: University of Hawaii, 1980.

Japan: Profile of a Nation. Revised Edition. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1999.

Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Two volumes. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993.

Kasza, Gregory J. The State and the Mass Media in Japan, 1918-1945. Berkeley: University of California, 1988.

Kerr, Alex. Lost Japan. Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet, 1996.

. Dogs and Demons: Tales from the Dark Side of Japan. New York: Hill and Wang, 2001.

Landers, Peter. "Read All About It-and More Often: Japanese Newspapers Spike a Tradition." The Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2002.

Pharr, Susan J. and Ellis S. Krauss, editors. Media and Politics in Japan. Honolulu: The University of Hawaii, 1996.

van Wolferen, Karel. The Enigma of Japanese Power. New York: Vintage, 1990.

Richard B. Lyman, Jr.

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Japan (jəpăn´), Jap. Nihon or Nippon, country (2005 est. pop. 127,417,000), 145,833 sq mi (377,835 sq km), occupying an archipelago off the coast of E Asia. The capital is Tokyo, which, along with neighboring Yokohama, forms the world's most populous metropolitan region.


Japan proper has four main islands, which are (from north to south) Hokkaido, Honshu (the largest island, where the capital and most major cities are located), Shikoku, and Kyushu. There are also many smaller islands stretched in an arc between the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea and the Pacific proper. Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu enclose the Inland Sea. The general features of the four main islands are shapely mountains, sometimes snowcapped, the highest and most famous of which is sacred Mt. Fuji; short rushing rivers; forested slopes; irregular and lovely lakes; and small, rich plains. Mountains, many of them volcanoes, cover two thirds of Japan's surface, hampering transportation and limiting agriculture.

On the arable land, which is only 11% of Japan's total land area, the population density is among the highest in the world. The climate ranges from chilly humid continental to humid subtropical. Rainfall is abundant, and typhoons and earthquakes are frequent. (For a more detailed description of geography, see separate articles on the individual islands.) Mineral resources are meager, except for coal, which is an important source of industrial energy. The rapid streams supply plentiful hydroelectric power. Imported oil, however, is the major source of energy. One third of Japan's electricity comes from nuclear power, but following the 2011 post-tsunami cooling failures at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant all reactors were gradually brought offline for maintenance and safety testing. The rivers are generally unsuited for navigation (only two, the Ishikari and the Shinano, are over 200 mi/322 km long), and railroads and ships along the coast are the chief means of transportation. The Shinkansen "bullet train," the second-fastest train system in the world after France's TGV, was inaugurated in 1964 between Tokyo and Osaka and later extended.

Japanese Society

Japan is an extremely homogeneous society with non-Japanese, mostly Koreans and Chinese, making up only about 1% of the population. 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 offical 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.

Japan's principal religions are Shinto and Buddhism; most Japanese practice both faiths. While the development of Shinto was radically altered by the influence of Buddhism, which was brought from China in the 6th cent., Jodo, Shingon, Nichiren, and other Japanese varieties of Buddhism also developed. Numerous "new religions" formed after World War II and attracted many members. One of these, the Soka Gakkai, a Buddhist sect, grew rapidly in the 1950s and 60s and became a strong social and political force. Less than 1% of the population are Christians. Confucianism has deeply affected Japanese thought and was part of the generally significant influence that Chinese culture wielded on the formation of Japanese civilization (see Japanese architecture; Japanese art; Japanese literature).


Japan's farming population has been declining steadily and was less than 5% of the total population in 2004; agriculture accounted for less than 2% of the gross domestic product. Arable land is intensively cultivated; farmers use irrigation, terracing, and multiple cropping to coax rich crops from the soil. Rice and other cereals, sugar beets, vegetables, and fruit are the main crops; some industrial crops, such as mulberry trees (for feeding silkworms), are also grown, and livestock is raised. Fishing is highly developed, and the annual catch is one of the largest in the world. The decision by many nations to extend economic zones 200 mi (322 km) offshore has forced Japan to concentrate on more efficiently exploiting its own coastal and inland waters.

In the late 19th cent. Japan was rapidly and thoroughly industrialized. Textiles were a leading item; vast quantities of light manufactures were also produced, and in the 1920s and 1930s heavy industries were greatly expanded, principally to support Japan's growing imperialistic ambitions. Japan's economy collapsed after the defeat in World War II, and its merchant marine, one of the world's largest in the 1930s, was almost totally destroyed. In the late 1950s, however, the nation reemerged as a major industrial power. By the 1970s it had become the most industrialized country in Asia, and in the early 21st cent. it was the third greatest economic power in the world after the United States and a rapidly developing China.

Japanese industry is concentrated mainly in S Honshu and N Kyushu, with centers at Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Kobe, and Nagoya. In the 1950s and 1960s textiles became less important in Japanese industry while the production of heavy machinery expanded. Japanese industry depends heavily on imported raw materials and fuels, which make up a large share of the country's imports. Japan receives all of its bauxite, phosphate, steel scrap, and iron ore from imports, as well as virtually all of its crude oil and copper ore. Manufactured goods make up the vast majority of the nation's exports. Japan became one of the world's leading producers of machinery, transportation equipment, motor vehicles, steel, and ships, and by the 1980s it had become a leading exporter of high-technology goods, including semiconductors and electrical and electronic appliances.

Japan has increasingly shifted some of its industries overseas through outsourcing and has made massive capital investments abroad, especially in the United States and the Pacific Rim. With the recession of 2001, the closing of manufacturing plants in Japan accelerated, as did the opening of plants abroad, particularly in China, but the economy remains export-driven. Since the late 1960s Japan's economy has been marked by a large trade surplus, with China, the United States, and South Korea being its largest trading partners. Japan has also become a global leader in financial services, with some of the world's largest banks, but for many years after the collapse of the stock and real estate markets in the early 1990s many of Japan's banks were burdened with high numbers of nonperforming loans.

Government and Politics

Japan is governed under the constitution of 1947, drafted by the Allied occupation authorities and approved by the Japanese Diet. It declares that the emperor is the symbol of the state but that sovereignty rests with the people. Executive power is vested in a cabinet appointed and headed by the prime minister, who is elected by the Diet and is usually the leader of the majority party in that body. Japan's bicameral Diet has sole legislative power. The House of Representatives has 480 members, who are popularly elected for four-year terms; approximately three fifths of them are chosen by single-seat constituencies and the rest proportionally. The House of Councilors has 242 members; they are elected for six-year terms. A supreme court heads an independent judiciary. Administratively, Japan is divided into 47 prefectures, each governed by a popularly elected governor and unicameral legislature.


Early History to the Ashikaga Shoguns

Japan's early history is lost in legend. The divine design of the empire—supposedly founded in 660 BC by the emperor Jimmu, a lineal descendant of the sun goddess and ancestor of the present emperor—was held as official dogma until 1945. Actually, reliable records date back only to about AD 400. In the first centuries of the Christian era the country was inhabited by numerous clans or tribal kingdoms ruled by priest-chiefs. Contacts with Korea were close, and bronze and iron implements were probably introduced by invaders from Korea around the 1st cent. By the 5th cent. the Yamato clan, whose original home was apparently in Kyushu, had settled in the vicinity of modern Kyoto and had established a loose control over the other clans of central and W Japan, laying the foundation of the Japanese state.

From the 6th to the 8th cent. the rapidly developing society gained much in the arts of civilization under the strong cultural influence of China, then flourishing in the splendor of the T'ang dynasty. Buddhism was introduced, and the Japanese upper classes assiduously studied Chinese language, literature, philosophy, art, science, and government, creating their own forms adapted from Chinese models. A partially successful attempt was made to set up a centralized, bureaucratic government like that of imperial China. The Yamato priest-chief assumed the dignity of an emperor, and an imposing capital city, modeled on the T'ang capital, was erected at Nara, to be succeeded by an equally imposing capital at Kyoto.

By the 9th cent., however, the powerful Fujiwara family had established a firm control over the imperial court. The Fujiwara influence and the power of the Buddhist priesthood undermined the authority of the imperial government. Provincial gentry—particularly the great clans who opposed the Fujiwara—evaded imperial taxes and grew strong. A feudal system developed. Civil warfare was almost continuous in the 12th cent.

The Minamoto family defeated their rivals, the Taira, and became masters of Japan. Their great leader, Yoritomo, took the title of shogun, established his capital at Kamakura, and set up a military dictatorship. For the next 700 years Japan was ruled by warriors. The old civil administration was not abolished, but gradually decayed, and the imperial court at Kyoto fell into obscurity. The Minamoto soon gave way to the Hojo, who managed the Kamakura administration as regents for puppet shoguns, much as the Fujiwara had controlled the imperial court.

In 1274 and again in 1281 the Mongols under Kublai Khan tried unsuccessfully to invade the country (see kamikaze). In 1331 the emperor Daigo II attempted to restore imperial rule. He failed, but the revolt brought about the downfall of the Kamakura regime. The Ashikaga family took over the shogunate in 1338 and settled at Kyoto, but were unable to consolidate their power. The next 250 years were marked by civil wars, during which the feudal barons (the daimyo) and the Buddhist monasteries built up local domains and private armies. Nevertheless, in the midst of incessant wars there was a brisk development of manufacturing and trade, typified by the rise of Sakai (later Osaka) as a free city not subject to feudal control. This period saw the birth of a middle class. Extensive maritime commerce was carried on with the continent and with SE Asia; Japanese traders and pirates dominated East Asian waters until the arrival of the Europeans in the 16th cent.

The Tokugawa Shoguns and the Meiji Restoration

The first European contact with Japan was made by Portuguese sailors in 1542. A small trade with the West developed. Christianity was introduced by St. Francis Xavier, who reached Japan in 1549. In the late 16th cent. three warriors, Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu, established military control over the whole country and succeeded one another in the dictatorship. Hideyoshi unsuccessfully invaded Korea in 1592 and 1596 in an effort to conquer China. After Hideyoshi's death, Ieyasu took the title of shogun, and his family ruled Japan for over 250 years. They set up at Yedo (later Tokyo) a centralized, efficient, but repressive system of feudal government (see Tokugawa). Stability and internal peace were secured, but social progress was stifled. Christianity was suppressed, and all intercourse with foreign countries was prohibited except for a Dutch trading post at Nagasaki.

Tokugawa society was rigidly divided into the daimyo, samurai, peasants, artisans, and merchants, in that order. The system was imbued with Confucian ideas of loyalty to superiors, and military virtues were cultivated by the ruling aristocracy (see bushido). Oppression of the peasants led to many sporadic uprisings. Yet despite feudal restrictions, production and trade expanded, the use of money and credit increased, flourishing cities grew up, and the rising merchant class acquired great wealth and economic power. Japan was in fact moving toward a capitalist system.

By the middle of the 19th cent. the country was ripe for change. Most daimyo were in debt to the merchants, and discontent was rife among impoverished but ambitious samurai. The great clans of W Japan, notably Choshu and Satsuma, had long been impatient of Tokugawa control. In 1854 an American naval officer, Matthew C. Perry, forced the opening of trade with the West. Japan was compelled to admit foreign merchants and to sign unequal treaties. Attacks on foreigners were answered by the bombardment of Kagoshima and Shimonoseki. Threatened from within and without, the shogunate collapsed. In 1867 a conspiracy engineered by the western clans and imperial court nobles forced the shogun's resignation. After brief fighting, the boy emperor Meiji was "restored" to power in the Meiji restoration (1868), and the imperial capital was transferred from Kyoto to Tokyo.

Industrial and Military Expansion

Although the Meiji restoration was originally inspired by antiforeign sentiment, Japan's new rulers quickly realized the impossibility of expelling the foreigners. Instead they strove to strengthen Japan by adopting the techniques of Western civilization. Under the leadership of an exceptionally able group of statesmen (who were chiefly samurai of the western clans) Japan was rapidly transformed into a modern industrial state and a great military power.

Feudalism was abolished in 1871. The defeat of the Satsuma rebellion in 1877 marked the end of opposition to the new regime. Emissaries were sent abroad to study Western military science, industrial technology, and political institutions. The administration was reorganized on Western lines. An efficient modern army and navy were created, and military conscription was introduced. Industrial development was actively fostered by the state, working in close cooperation with the great merchant houses. A new currency and banking system were established. New law codes were enacted. Primary education was made compulsory.

In 1889 the emperor granted a constitution, modeled in part on that of Prussia. Supreme authority was vested in the emperor, who in practice was largely a figurehead controlled by the clan oligarchy. Subordinate organs of government included a privy council, a cabinet, and a diet consisting of a partially elected house of peers and a fully elected house of representatives. Universal manhood suffrage was not granted until 1925.

After the Meiji restoration nationalistic feeling ran high. The old myths of imperial and racial divinity, rediscovered by scholars in the Tokugawa period, were revived, and the sentiment of loyalty to the emperor was actively propagated by the new government. Feudal glorification of the warrior and belief in the unique virtues of Japan's "Imperial Way" combined with the expansive drives of modern industrialism to produce a vigorous imperialism. At first concerned with defending Japanese independence against the Western powers, Japan soon joined them in the competition for an Asian empire. By 1899, Japan cast off the shackles of extraterritoriality, which allowed foreign powers to exempt themselves from Japanese law, thus avoiding taxes and tariffs. It was not until 1911 that full tariff autonomy was gained.

The First Sino-Japanese War (1894–95) marked the real emergence of imperial Japan, with acquisition of Taiwan and the Pescadores and also of the Liao-tung peninsula in Manchuria, which the great powers forced it to relinquish. An alliance with Great Britain in 1902 increased Japanese prestige, which reached a peak as a result of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904–5. Unexpectedly the Japanese smashed the might of Russia with speed and efficiency. The treaty of Portsmouth (see Portsmouth, Treaty of), ending the war, recognized Japan as a world power. A territorial foothold had been gained in Manchuria. In 1910, Japan was able to officially annex Korea, which they had controlled de facto since 1905. During World War I the Japanese secured the German interests in Shandong (later restored to China) and received the German-owned islands in the Pacific as mandates. In 1915, Japan presented the Twenty-one Demands designed to reduce China to a protectorate. The other world powers opposed those items that would have given Japan policy control in Chinese affairs, but China accepted the rest of the demands.

In 1918, Japan took the lead in Allied military intervention in Siberia, and Japanese troops remained there until 1922. These moves, together with an intensive program of naval armament, led to some friction with the United States, which was temporarily adjusted by the Washington Conference of 1921–22 (see naval conferences).

During the next decade the expansionist drive abated in Japan, and liberal and democratic forces gained ground. The power of the diet increased, party cabinets were formed (see Seiyukai), and despite police repression, labor and peasant unions attained some strength. Liberal and radical ideas became popular among students and intellectuals. Politics was dominated by big business (see zaibatsu), and businessmen were more interested in economic than in military expansion. Trade and industry, stimulated by World War I, continued to expand, though interrupted by the earthquake of 1923, which destroyed much of Tokyo and Yokohama. Agriculture, in contrast, remained depressed. Japan pursued a moderate policy toward China, relying chiefly on economic penetration and diplomacy to advance Japanese interests.

Militarism and War

The moderate stance regarding China as well as other foreign policies pursued by the government displeased more extreme militarist and nationalist elements developing in Japan, some of whom disliked capitalism and advocated state socialism. Chief among these groups were the Kwantung army in Manchuria, young army and navy officers, and various organizations such as the Amur River Society, which included many prominent men. Militarist propaganda was aided by the depression of 1929, which ruined Japan's silk trade. In 1931 the Kwantung army precipitated an incident at Shenyang (Mukden) and promptly overran all of Manchuria, which was detached from China and set up as the puppet state of Manchukuo. When the League of Nations criticized Japan's action, Japan withdrew from the organization.

During the 1930s the military party gradually extended its control over the government, brought about an increase in armaments, and reached a working agreement with the zaibatsu. Military extremists instigated the assassination of Prime Minister Inukai in 1932 and an attempted coup in 1936. At the same time Japan was experiencing a great export boom, due largely to currency depreciation. From 1932 to 1937, Japan engaged in gradual economic and political penetration of N China. In July, 1937, after an incident at Beijing, Japanese troops invaded the northern provinces. Chinese resistance led to full-scale though undeclared war (see Sino-Japanese War, Second). A puppet Chinese government was installed at Nanjing in 1940.

Meanwhile relations with the Soviet Union were tense and worsened after Japan and Germany joined together against the Soviet Union in the Anti-Comintern Pact of 1936 (see Comintern). In 1938 and 1939 armed clashes took place on the Manchurian border. Japan then stepped up an armament program, extended state control over industry through the National Mobilization Act (1938), and intensified police repression of dissident elements. In 1940 all political parties were dissolved and were replaced by the state-sponsored Imperial Rule Assistance Association.

After World War II erupted (1939) in Europe, Japan signed a military alliance with Germany and Italy, sent troops to Indochina (1940), and announced the intention of creating a "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" under Japan's leadership. In Apr., 1941, a neutrality treaty with Russia was triumphantly concluded. In Oct., 1941, the militarists achieved complete control in Japan, when Gen. Hideki Tojo succeeded a civilian, Prince Fumimaro Konoye, as prime minister.

Unable to neutralize U.S. opposition to its actions in SE Asia, Japan opened hostilities against the United States and Great Britain on Dec. 7, 1941, by striking at Pearl Harbor, Singapore, and other Pacific possessions. The fortunes of war at first ran in favor of Japan, and by the end of 1942 the spread of Japanese military might over the Pacific to the doors of India and of Alaska was prodigious (see World War II). Then the tide turned; territory was lost to the Allies island by island; warfare reached Japan itself with intensive bombing; and finally in 1945, following the explosion of atomic bombs by the United States over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan surrendered on Aug. 14, the formal surrender being on the U.S. battleship Missouri in Tokyo Harbor on Sept. 2, 1945.

Surrender and Occupation

The Japanese surrender at the end of World War II was unconditional, but the terms for Allied treatment of the conquered power had been laid down at the Potsdam Conference. The empire was dissolved, and Japan was deprived of all territories it had seized by force. The Japanese Empire at its height had included the southern half of Sakhalin, the Kuril Islands, the Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan, the Pescadores, Korea, the Bonin Islands, the Kwantung protectorate in Manchuria, and the island groups held as mandates from the League of Nations (the Caroline Islands, Marshall Islands, and Mariana Islands (see Northern Mariana Islands). In the early years of the war, Japan had conquered vast new territories, including a large part of China, SE Asia, the Philippines, and the Dutch East Indies. With defeat, Japan was reduced to its size before the imperialist adventure began.

The country was demilitarized, and steps were taken to bring forth "a peacefully inclined and responsible government." Industry was to be adequate for peacetime needs, but war-potential industries were forbidden. Until these conditions were fulfilled Japan was to be under Allied military occupation. The occupation began immediately under the command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. A Far Eastern Commission, representing 11 Allied nations and an Allied council in Tokyo, was to supervise general policy. The commission, however, suffered from the rising tension between the USSR and the Western nations and did not function effectively, leaving the U.S. occupation forces in virtual control.

The occupation force controlled Japan through the existing machinery of Japanese government. A new constitution was adopted in 1946 and went into effect in 1947; the emperor publicly disclaimed his divinity. The general conservative trend in politics was tempered by the elections of 1947, which made the Social Democratic party headed by Tetsu Katayama the dominant force in a two-party coalition government. In 1948 the Social Democrats slipped to a secondary position in the coalition, and in 1949 they lost power completely when the conservatives took full charge under Shigeru Yoshida.

Many of the militarist leaders and generals were tried as war criminals and in 1948 many were convicted and executed, and an attempt was made to break up the zaibatsu. Economic revival proceeded slowly with much unemployment and a low level of production, which improved only gradually. In 1949, however, MacArthur loosened the bonds of military government, and many responsibilities were restored to local authorities. At San Francisco in Sept., 1951, a peace treaty was signed between Japan and most of its opponents in World War II. India and Burma (Myanmar) refused to attend the conference, and the USSR, Czechoslovakia, and Poland refused to sign the treaty. It nevertheless went into effect on Apr. 28, 1952, and Japan again assumed full sovereignty.

Postwar Japan

The elections in 1952 kept the conservative Liberal party and Premier Shigeru Yoshida in power. In Nov., 1954, the Japan Democratic party was founded. This new group attacked governmental corruption and advocated stable relations with the USSR and Communist China. In Dec., 1954, Yoshida resigned, and Ichiro Hatoyama, leader of the opposition, succeeded him. The Liberal and Japan Democratic parties merged in 1955 to become the Liberal Democratic party (LDP). Hatoyama resigned because of illness in 1956 and was succeeded by Tanzan Ishibashi of the LDP. Ishibashi was also forced to resign because of illness and was followed by fellow party member Nobusuke Kishi in 1957.

In the 1950s Japan signed peace treaties with Taiwan, India, Burma (Myanmar), the Philippines, and Indonesia. Reparations agreements were concluded with Burma (Myanmar), the Philippines, Indonesia, and South Vietnam, with reparations to be paid in the form of goods and services to stimulate Asian economic development. In 1951, Japan signed a security treaty with the United States, providing for U.S. defense of Japan against external attack and allowing the United States to station troops in the country. New security treaties with the United States were negotiated in 1960 and 1970. Many Japanese felt that military ties with the United States would draw them into another war. Student groups and labor unions, often led by Communists, demonstrated during the 1950s and 1960s against military alliances and nuclear testing.

Prime Minister Kishi was forced to resign in 1960 following the diet's acceptance, under pressure, of the U.S.-Japanese security treaty. He was succeeded by Hayato Ikeda, also of the LDP. Ikeda led his party to two resounding victories in 1960 and 1963. He resigned in 1964 because of illness and was replaced by Eisaku Sato, also of the LDP. Sato overcame strong opposition to his policies and managed to keep himself and his party in firm control of the government throughout the 1960s.

Opposition to the government because of its U.S. ties abated somewhat in the early 1970s when the United States agreed to relinquish its control of the Ryukyu Islands, including Okinawa, which had come under U.S. administration after World War II. All of the Ryukyus formally reverted to Japanese control in 1972. In that same year, Sato resigned and was succeeded by Kakuei Tanaka, also a Liberal Democrat. For his efforts in opposing the development of nuclear weapons in Japan, Sato was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974. Later that year, Tanaka resigned and was replaced as prime minister by Takeo Miki, another Liberal Democrat. Miki, who became embroiled in a scandal over his personal finances, was replaced by Takeo Fukuda. Though Fukuda was considered to be an expert in economic policy, he had difficulty in combating the economic downturn of the late 1970s. He was replaced by Masayoshi Ohira, who died in office in 1980 and was replaced by Zenko Suzuki.

In 1982, the more outspoken Yasuhiro Nakasone took office. He argued for an increase in Japan's defensive capability, extended his second term by an extra year, and appointed his own successor, Noboru Takeshita. The terms of both Takeshita and his replacement, Sosuke Uno, were cut short by influence-peddling and other scandals that shook the LDP and caused a public outcry for governmental reform. In the general election of 1989, the LDP lost in the upper house of the parliament for the first time in 35 years; nonetheless, LDP president Toshiki Kaifu became prime minister later that year. He drew much criticism for pledging $9 million to the United States for military operations in the Persian Gulf, and in 1991 he was succeeded as prime minister by Kiichi Miyazawa.

After the LDP split over the issue of political reforms in 1993, the Miyazawa government fell. None of Japan's political parties managed to win a majority in the subsequent elections. An opposition coalition formed a government and Morihiro Hosokawa became prime minister. Hosokawa resigned in 1994 and was succeeded by fellow coalition member Tsutomi Hata, who resigned after just two months in office. In June, 1994, Tomiichi Murayama was named prime minister of an unlikely coalition of Socialists (who later became the Social Democrats) and Liberal Democrats, thus becoming the nation's first Socialist leader since 1948.

During 1995, Japan was shaken by two major disasters. The worst earthquake in Japan in more than 70 years struck the Kobe region on Jan. 17, killing more than 6,400 people. On Mar. 20, lethal nerve gas was released through plastic bags left in the Tokyo subway system by members of the Aum Shinrikyo religious group; 12 people were killed, and about 5,000 others suffered ill effects.

Murayama resigned as prime minister early in 1996 and was succeeded by LDP leader Ryutaro Hashimoto. In 1997, Japan suffered a major economic crisis resulting from the failure of stock brokerage firms and banks. The financial industry was rocked by scandals, leading to a number of prosecutions and, in early 1998, the resignation of the finance minister and the governor of the Bank of Japan, the nation's central bank. Although Prime Minister Hashimoto announced a program of tax cuts and spending to spur the economy, Japan slipped into its deepest recession since the end of World War II. The country's bad debt was estimated at near $1 trillion when Keizo Obuchi was elected head of the LDP and succeeded Hashimoto as prime minister in mid-1998. In Oct., 1998, the parliament approved legislation to allow the government to nationalize failing banks and to commit more than $500 billion to rescue the nation's banking system. By the time Japan's economy began to revive somewhat in 1999, the government had spent more than $1 trillion in a series of economic stimulus packages that included numerous public works projects.

In Jan., 1999, the LDP agreed to form a coalition government with the Liberal party, and the New Komeito party (a Buddhist-influenced party) later joined the coalition. The Liberals withdrew from the government in Apr., 2000. Shortly afterward, Obuchi was incapacitated by a severe stroke and was replaced as prime minister by Yoshiro Mori, secretary-general of the LDP. lower-house elections the LDP-led coalition lost seats, but it retained control of the house and Mori remained prime minister. A series of political blunders undermined Mori, who was replaced by Junichiro Koizumi, an insurgent supported by the LDP rank and file, in Apr., 2001; the same month the New Conservative party joined the governing coalition. An LDP victory in upper-house elections in July, which the party had earlier been expected to lose, was regarded by Koizumi as a mandate for his government. Reform was resisted, however, by entrenched government bureaucrats as well as by LDP factions that would be affected by it, and Koizumi's government has tended to avoid difficult choices and largely has continued the status quo.

Despite that mandate and his initial popularity, Koizumi had difficulty passing more than superficial economic reforms, as powerful and entrenched bureaucratic and LDP interests resisted change. The stagnant economy, hindered by a domestic deflationary spiral that began in the early 1990s and did not clearly end until 2006 and by contraction overseas, experienced its fourth recession in 10 years in 2001. In November unemployment reached 5.5%, a postwar high. In part because of already high levels of government debt, Koizumi's government adopted a 2002 budget that reduced expenditures, instead of increasing spending to stimulate the economy. The economy improved beginning in 2002, but the government continued to fail to make any significant economic reforms. Also in 2002, Koizumi made a landmark visit to North Korea, which led to an agreement to establish diplomatic relations between Japan and North Korea.

Elections in 2003 resulted in large gains for the opposition Democratic party of Japan (DPJ), but the LDP-led coalition retained a significant majority in parliament. Following the election, the New Conservatives merged with the LDP. The LDP and New Komeito party largely held onto their majority in the July, 2004, upper house elections, but the DPJ made solid gains at the expense of smaller parties.

In 2005, Koizumi sought to win passage of a plan to privatize Japan Post, which includes Japan's largest savings and insurance systems in addition to the postal system, but failed to win support for it in the upper house when a sizable number of LDP members voted against it. Calling a snap lower-house election, Koizumi gained (Sept., 2005) a huge victory in which the LDP took 60% of the seats, and the following month secured passage of legislation to privatize Japan Post over the decade beginning in 2007. A 2006 proposal by Koizumi to allow women, and children through the maternal line, to succeed to the Japanese throne (because the current emperor has no grandsons) brought protests from Japanese conservatives. That opposition and the birth of a son to the emperor's younger son led the prime minister to shelve the proposed change.

Koizumi retired as prime minister in Sept., 2006; newly elected LDP-leader Shinzo Abe succeeded him in the post. The agency responsible for overseeing Japan's self-defense forces was upgraded to a ministry in Dec., 2006, and the forces' mandate was expanded to include international peacekeeping and relief. At the same time the Abe government enacted legislation designed to promote patriotism in Japanese schools. A series of financial scandals involving cabinet officials and electoral losses (July, 2007) that ended the LDP's control of the Diet's upper house led to Abe's resignation as prime minister in Sept., 2007. Liberal Democrat Yasuo Fukuda, a former chief cabinet secretary and the son of former Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda, was chosen as Abe's successor.

Fukuda's term in office turned out to be as brief as his predecessor's. An economic downturn and series of scandals hurt undermined his prime ministership, although there was an improvement in Japan's relations with China, including the first visit to Japan by a Chinese head of state (May, 2008) and an agreement (June, 2008) to develop jointly a contested natural gas field in the East China Sea. However, the opposition's control of the Diet's upper house enabled it to stymie the passage of significant legislation, including an economic stimulus package, and Fukuda resigned in Sept., 2008.

Taro Aso, an outspoken conservative and former foreign minister, became LDP party leader and prime minister. A series of stumbles and Japan's slide into recession in 2008 soon undermined Aso's government as well. The recession, which developed into the worst downturn since World War II as demand for Japanese exports plunged, led the government to propose stimulus packages cumulatively worth $27.4 trillion yen by Apr., 2009. Beginning in Mar., 2009, Japan also experienced a new round of deflation. Also that year, Japan joined the antipiracy forces off the Somali coast and in June expanded the powers of the self-defense forces to allow them to protect vessels of any nation from piracy.

After the LDP suffered losses in local elections in Tokyo in July, Aso moved to call parliamentary elections for late August. The DPJ subsequently won control of the Diet's lower house in a landslide, ending the LDP's postwar dominance of Japan's government; DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama became prime minister. The DPJ assured control of the upper house as well by forming a coalition with two smaller parties, but one of the parties quit the coalition in May, 2010, after the government agreed to continue basing U.S. forces on Okinawa despite DPJ campaign promises to the contrary. Hatoyama subsequently resigned as DPJ leader and prime minister, and in June Naoto Kan, the finance minister, succeeded him; the new government did not change Hatoyama's decision concerning Okinawa. The DPJ subsequently lost control of the Diet's upper house in the July, 2010, elections, but in September Kan survived a DPJ leadership challenge from Ichiro Ozawa.

Funding scandals involving Ozawa and the foreign minister led (Mar., 2011) to calls for Kan to step down, but that was soon eclipsed by the effects of a 9.0 offshore earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which devastated many areas of the NE Honshu coast on March 11. Some 18,500 were killed or missing, mainly as a result of the tsunami, which overtopped many seawalls and reached as far as 5 mi (8 km) inland in some places. Damage was estimated at $210 billion, and the nation's economy suffered a slowdown as a result. Japan's worst natural disaster since the 1923 Tokyo earthquake also led to cooling failures at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima that resulted in meltdowns and the release of radioactive material into the air and sea.

In June, Kan, who had become to be regarded as indecisive in the aftermath of the disaster, survived a no-confidence vote and a rebellion by members of his own party by promising to step down after the worst of the nuclear crisis had passed. When he resigned in August, Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda succeeded him as DPJ leader and prime minister. Passage of an increase in the sales tax in June, 2012, led Ichiro Ozawa and his faction to quit the DPJ.

In the elections of Dec., 2012, the LDP won a resounding victory, winning a sizable majority and, with its coalition partner New Komeito, securing two thirds of the lower house seats. Shinzo Abe, who had led Japan in 2006–7, again became prime minister. In 2013, the new government subsequently adopted a stimulus package, and the Bank of Japan eased its monetary policy and undertook other measures to spur growth. In the July, 2013, the governing coalition also won control of the upper house, in an election marked by light turnout and a fragmented opposition vote. Abe called early elections for Dec., 2014, and the LDP-led coalition again won a landslide victory in the lower house.

Postwar International Relations

As the world's second largest national economy, Japan has struggled to define its international role. Its postwar foreign policy was aimed at the maintenance and expansion of foreign markets, and the United States became its chief ally and trade partner. In the early 1970s, however, U.S.-Japanese relations became strained after the United States pressured Japan to revalue the yen, and again when it began talks with Communist China without prior consultation with Japan. Partly in response, the Tanaka government established (1972) diplomatic relations with Communist China and announced plans for negotiation of a peace treaty. Relations also became strained with South Korea and Taiwan. Japan did not sign a peace treaty with the USSR because of a dispute over territory in the Kuril Islands formerly held by Japan but occupied by the USSR after the war. The two countries did, however, sign (1956) a peace declaration and establish fishing and trading agreements. The unresolved issue of the Kuril Islands remained a source of friction in Japan-Russia relations into the 21st cent.

Beginning in late 1973, when Arab nations initiated a cutback in oil exports, Japan faced a grave economic situation that threatened to reduce power and industrial production. In addition, a high annual inflation rate (19% in 1973), a price freeze, and the instability of the yen on the international money markets slowed Japan's economy; in the late 1970s, however, the continued growth of foreign markets brought Japan out of its slump.

In the 1980s many Japanese firms invested heavily in other countries, and Japan had a surplus with virtually every nation with which it traded. The high level of government involvement in banking and industry led many other countries to accuse Japan of protectionism. The United States in particular sought to reduce its huge trade deficit with Japan. Japan also had to deal with growing economic competition within its own region from such countries as South Korea, Taiwan, and (beginning in the 1990s) China. Japan's emphasis on exports also caused it to neglect its domestic markets.

In addition to these economic pressures, great political pressure was put on Japan to assume a larger role in world affairs. Although its constitution forbids the maintenance of armed forces, Japan has a sizable military capability for defensive warfare. The United States has increasingly pressed Japan to assume a larger share of responsibility for the defense of its region. The first Persian Gulf War caused great dissension in Japan. The government, which felt tremendous pressure to contribute to the UN effort in accordance with its economic power, also had to address the decidedly antimilitaristic bias of the Japanese people. In 2001, Japan provided refueling support in the Indian Ocean to U.S. naval forces involved in the invasion of Afghanistan. After the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Japan also contributed (2004–6) forces to reconstruction efforts. That deployment was opposed by most Japanese, despite its noncombat nature.

Meanwhile, by 2003 concern over North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons and missiles and over China's growing power led to the removal of some legal restrictions on the government's ability to respond militarily to an attack, and the Liberal Democrats proposed amending the constitution's limits on its defense forces. Late in 2004 relations with North Korea became especially strained when Japan suspended food aid to it after the remains it returned to Japan of a woman who had been kidnapped by Korea turned out to be not hers. The issues of North Korean missile development and the abduction of Japanese citizens increasingly worsened bilateral relations into 2006.

Relations with South Korea and China soured in the spring of 2005. Both nations were upset by school history textbooks that minimized aspects of Japan's role in World War II. In addition, South Koreans objected to the reassertion of Japanese claims to the Liancourt Rocks, which Korea occupies, while Chinese demonstrated against a plan that called for giving Japan a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and both nations contested the ownership of an exclusive economic zone in the East China Sea. The annual visits of the Prime Minister Koizumi to the Tokyo shrine honoring Japan's war dead also strained relations with South Korea and China, as did Prime Minister Abe's remarks (early 2007) denying that Japan's military had forced Asian women to serve in its brothels during World War II. Abe nonetheless managed to improve relations with China, in part by not visiting the Tokyo shrine.

North Korea's announcement of a nuclear weapons test in Oct., 2006, brought a quick and strong response from Japan, which imposed new, much tighter sanctions on North Korea. All trade with North Korea was banned, and most travel from the North was was as well. Japan also pushed for strong UN sanctions to be imposed on the North. Although Japan supported the Jan., 2007, six-party agreement that called for closure of North Korea's reactor, it maintained a harder line in its bilateral relations with the North, concerned over unresolved abduction issues and North Korean missiles (which led to the installation of ballistic missile interceptors in 2007). Relations with North Korea remained difficult in subsequent years.

When DPJ came to power in 2009, it adopted a more assertive relationship with the United States, especially with respect to U.S. bases in Japan, and sought to improve relations with South Korea and China. The new government reviewed the proposed realignment of U.S. forces on Okinawa, which was opposed by elements within the DPJ-led government and on Okinawa that preferred to see U.S. forces there reduced even further, but in May, 2010, the government announced it would honor the 2006 relocation agreement. That decision catalyzed the resignation of Prime Minister Hatoyama. Japan also ended its naval refueling mission in support of U.S. forces in the Indian Ocean.

In Sept., 2010, relations with China were strained after a Chinese trawler collided with Japanese patrol boats near the Senkaku Islands, an island group controlled by Japan but claimed by China. Japan accused the captain of intentionally crashing into the Japanese vessels, and when he was not released when his ship and crew was, China demanded his release, canceled high-level intergovernmental meetings with Japan, and was reported to have halted the export of industrially important rare earths to Japan. The captain subsequently was released, but the events undermined public support for the Japanese government, and frictions between the two nations remained. A revised agreement on the realignment of U.S. forces on Okinawa was reached in Apr., 2012; it did not change the number of U.S. forces that would remain after the realignment. Tensions over the Senkaku Islands, with both China and Taiwan, flared up again in the second half of 2012 and continued into 2013, and affected sales of Japanese products in China. The Liancourt Rocks have continued to be a source of difficulty in relations with South Korea. In July, 2014, the Japanese cabinet adopted an interpretation of the self-defense clause in the constitution that would allow its military to engage in collective self-defense, such as might be involved in protecting an ally.


See W. K. Bunce, ed., Religions in Japan (1955, repr. 1962); G. B. Sansom, A History of Japan (3 vol., 1958–63); D. Keene, Living Japan (1959); J. M. Maki, Government and Politics in Japan (1962); S. Yoshida, Japan's Decisive Century, 1867–1967 (1967); H. Borton, Japan's Modern Century (2d ed. 1970); R. H. P. Mason and J. G. Caiger, A History of Japan (1973); H. Passin, Society and Education in Japan (1983); W. S. Morton, Japan (1984); P. G. O'Neal, Tradition and Modern Japan (1985); M. A. Barnhart, Japan Prepares for Total War: The Search for Economic Security, 1919–1941 (1987); W. G. Beasley, Japanese Imperialism 1894–1945 (1987); R. E. Ward and Y. Sakamoto, Democratizing Japan: The Allied Occupation (1987); T. Inoguchi and D. I. Okimoto, The Political Economy of Japan (Vol. II, 1988); P. Duus, ed., The Cambridge History of Japan (6 vol., 1989); T. Ishida, Japanese Political Culture (1989); E. O. Reischauer, Japan (4th ed. 1970, repr. 1990); D. Irokawa, The Age of Hirohito (1995); R. Edgerton, Warriors of the Rising Sun: A History of the Japanese Military (1997); J. Schlesinger, Shadow Shoguns: The Rise and Fall of Japan's Postwar Political Machine (1997); P. Smith, Japan: A Reinterpretation (1997); J. W. Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II (1999); R. B. Frank, Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire (1999); H. P. Bix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan (2001); J. L. McClain, Japan, A Modern History (2001); I. Buruma, Inventing Japan, 1853–1964 (2003); M. Hastings, Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944–45 (2008); E. Hotta, Japan 1941 (2013).

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Magical concepts can be found among the Japanese in their traditional religious beliefs and rites and in their conception of nature. According to such beliefs, all forms and objects, both animate and inanimate, possess, equally with man, a soul with good or evil tendencies. These forms and objects, either of their own volition or by evocation, come into close touch with humans either to their advantage or detriment. Much of Japanese folklore and tradition is permeated with a belief in the supernatural.

Shinto Religion and Ancestor-Worship

A prominent feature of the Japanese religion Shintoism is the worship of ancestors, allied to the worship of nature. Each of the main sects of Shintoism includes the veneration of one's ancestors as a cardinal principle. According to that belief, the disembodied spirits acquire the powers of deities and possess supernatural attributes. They become potential for good or evil and exercise their potentialities in the same mundane sphere upon which their interests and affections centered during life. Consequently they become guardian divinities and the object of ceremonies to honor them, to show gratitude for their services while upon earth, and to solicit a continuance of these services beyond the grave.

On this point, Lafcadio Hearn writes:

An intimate sense of relation between the visible and invisible worlds is the special religious characteristic of Japan among all civilized countries. To Japanese thought the dead are not less real than the living. They take part in the daily life of the peoplesharing the humblest sorrows and the humblest joys. They attend the family repasts, watch over the well-being of the household, assist and rejoice in the prosperity of their descendants. They are present at the public pageants, at all the sacred festivals of Shinto, at the military games, and at all the entertainments especially provided for them. And they are universally thought of as finding pleasure in the offerings made to them or the honors conferred upon them.

Every morning, while ancient prayers are repeated, one member of the family places flowers and food-emblems as offerings of pious affection before the shrine to be found in most Japanese homes. On the shrine, beside the symbols of the sun-goddess and the tutelary god of the family, one finds the memorial tablets containing names, ages, and dates of death of members of the household. Stories circulate through the villages of the souls of ancestors taking material form and remaining visible through centuries.

In the month of July three days are set apart for the celebration of the Festival of the Dead. At this time it is thought that the disembodied souls return from the dismal region of the Shades to gaze for a while upon the beauty of their country and to visit their people. On the first morning, new mats are placed upon all altars and on the household shrine, while in the homes, tiny meals are prepared in readiness for the ghostly guests. The streets at night are brilliant with many torches. In front of the houses gaily-colored lanterns are lit in welcome. Those who have recently lost a relative go to the cemeteries to pray, burn incense, and leave offerings of water and flowers set in bamboo vases.

On the third day, the souls of those who are undergoing penance are fed, as are the souls of those who have no friends among the living to care for them. The evening of this day is the time of the ghosts' departure, and for this, thousands of little boats are fashioned and laden with food-offerings and tender messages of farewell. When the night falls, tiny lanterns are lit and hung at the miniature prows and the ghosts are supposed to step aboard. Then the craft are set free upon rivers, lakes, and seas, the water gleaming with the glow of thousands of lights. On this day no sailor dreams of going out to seafor this one night belongs to the dead. It was believed that if a ship failed to come to port before the sailing of the ghost-fleet the dead arose from the deep and the sailors could hear their mournful whispering, while the white breakers were dead hands clutching the shores, vainly trying to return.

For the Japanese, land and life is sacred. In the Shinto pantheon, deities represent almost everything in heaven and earth, from the mountain of Fujiyama to the household kitchen. When infants were a week old they were taken to the temple and placed under the protection of some god chosen by the parents. In later years the child might choose a patron god for him or herself beside the tutelary one.

In remote parts of Japan traces may be found of an older form of Shinto in which phallic symbols represented life-giving power and therefore were used as a magical exorcism of evil influences, especially that of disease. In this connection a dwarf-god appears who is said to have first taught humankind the art of magic and medicine.

In Shinto there are no idols, their place being taken by shintia, god-bodies, concrete objects in which the divine spirit is supposed to dwell, such as the mirror, jewel, and sword of the sun-goddess, worshiped at the famous Ise shrine. Pilgrims from all parts of Japan made their way to this shrine, acquiring merit and purification thereby. These pilgrims received from the priests objects of talismanic properties called harai that also served as evidence of having been at the holy place. In former days they were recognized as passports.

The term harai signifies to "drive out" or "sweep away," and had reference to the purification of the individual from his sins. These objects were in the form of small envelopes or paper boxes, each containing shavings of the wands used by the Ise priests at the festivals held twice a year to purify the nation in general from the consequences of the sins of the preceding six months. The list of sins included witchcraft, wounding, and homicide, these latter being regarded more as uncleanness than as a moral stigma. On the pilgrim's return home, the harai were placed upon the "god's-shelf."

On certain festival days the ancient ordeals were practiced. These were three in number: the Kugadachi, in which priests, wrought to ecstatic frenzy by participation in a rhythmic dance, poured boiling water upon their bodies without receiving harm from the process; the Hiwatari, a fire ordeal consisting of walking barefoot over a bed of live coals in which both priests and people alike participated; and Tsurugiwatari, the climbing of a ladder of sword-blades. The tests were regarded as tests of purity of character-purity thought to confer an immunity from hurt in these ordeals. The attendant rites consisted of exorcism of evil spirits by the waving of wands and magical finger-knots, and invocation of the gods who were then believed to be actually present.

Possession by Divinities

In connection with some of the Shinto sects, occult rites were practiced to bring about possession of a selected person by the actual spirits of the gods. Priests and laymen alike developed and practiced this art, undergoing a period of purification by means of various austerities. Prophecy, divination, and the cure of disease were the objects of these rites. The ceremony took place in a temple or ordinary house where the "gods' shelf" made the shrine. In the rites, the gohei, Shinto symbols of consecration, were used; the pendant form was utilized for purification and exorcism of evil influences; an upright gohei affixed to a wand signifying the shintai, or god-body, was the central object.

The medium, called nakaza, took his seat in the midst. Next to him in importance was the functionary, the maeza, who presided over the ceremony. It was he who built the magical pyre in a brass bowl and burned in the flames strips of paper inscribed with characters, effigies of disease and trouble. There was a clapping of hands to call attention to the gods, and chants were intoned, accompanied by the shaking of metal-ringed crosiers and the tinkle of pilgrim bells.

After the fire burned out, the bowl was removed and sheets of paper placed in symbolic form, upon which was then put the upright gohei wand. There was further chanting. The medium closed his eyes and clasped his hands, into which the maeza thrust the wand. All awaited the advent of the god, which was indicated by the violent shaking of the wand and convulsive throes on the part of the medium, who was now considered to have become the god. The maeza reverently prostrated himself before the entranced nakaza, and asked the name of the god who had deigned to come. This done and answered, he next offered his petitions, to which the god replied. The ceremony concluded with a prayer and the medium was awakened by beating his back and massaging his limbs out of their cataleptic contraction. These possession rites were also conducted by the pilgrims who ascended the mountain of Ontaké.

Buddhist Sects

Buddhism shared with Shinto the devotions of Japan, enjoining meditation as a means of attaining supernatural knowledge and occult power. It was said that to those who in truth and constancy put into force the doctrines of Buddha the following ten powers would be granted: (1) They know the thoughts of others. (2) Their sight, piercing as that of the celestials, beholds without mist all that happens in the Earth. (3) They know the past and present. (4) They perceive the uninterrupted succession of the ages of the world. (5) Their hearing is so fine that they perceive and can interpret all the harmonies of the three worlds and the ten divisions of the universe. (6) They are not subject to bodily conditions and can assume any appearance at will. (7) They distinguish the shadowing of lucky or unlucky words, whether they are near or far away. (8) They possess the knowledge of all forms, and knowing that form is void, they can assume every sort or form; and knowing that vacancy is form, they can annihilate and render nought all forms. (9) They possess a knowledge of all laws. (10) They possess the perfect science of contemplation.

Methods were known by which it was possible to so radically change the psychological condition of the individual that he or she would be enabled to recognize the character of the opposition between subjective and objective. These two extremes were reconciled in a higher condition of consciousness, a higher form of life, and a more profound and complete activity that concerns the inmost depths of the self. Such beliefs parallel Hindu yoga philosophy, and may have been imported into Japan from India by Buddhist influence during the twelfth and fourteenth centuries C.E. Early Buddhist influence in Japan from the sixth century on was from China.

Zen Buddhism in Japan belongs to the later period of the twelfth century. Zen monasteries were instituted where anyone so inclined could retire for temporary meditation and for the development of special faculties. These were produced by entering a calm mental state, not exactly passive, but in which the attention is not devoted to any one thing, distributed in all directions, producing a sort of void and detachment. The spirit thus obtains entire repose and a satisfaction of the thirst for the ideal. This mystical retirement was sought by politicians and generals, by business, scientific, and professional people, and it was believed that the force that accumulated within them by practicing the Zen was effective even in practical life.

Customs and Occult Lore

Many of the customs of the Japanese have a magical significance. At the Festival of the New Year, extending over three days, it is considered the highest importance to ensure good luck and happiness for the coming year by means of many traditional observances. Houses are thoroughly cleansed materially and spiritually, and evil spirits are expelled by throwing beans and peas out the open slides of the houses. The gateways are decorated with straw ropes made to represent the lucky Chinese numbers of three, five, and seven. Mirror cakes, associated with the sun-goddess, are eaten, as are lobsters, longevity being symbolized by their bent and ancient appearance. The pine-tree branches used for decoration at this time also signify long life.

Divination was performed by various methods: by divining-rods, by the reading of lines and cracks in the shoulder-blade of a deer, and by the classical form taken from the Confucian I Ching or Book of Changes, this involving the use of eight trigrams and sixty-four diagrams.

One method of "raising spirits" used by the Japanese, especially by girls who had lost their lovers by death, was to put into a paper lantern a hundred rushlights and repeat an incantation of a hundred lines. One of these rushlights was taken out at the end of each line and the would-be ghost-seer then went out in the dark with one light still burning and blew it out when the ghost ought to appear.

Charms used to be popular, fashioned of all substances and in all forms, such as strips of paper bearing magical inscriptions to avert evil, fragments of temples, carved rice grains representing the gods of luck, sutras (sacred texts) to frighten the demons, and copies of Buddha's footprint. Paper tickets bearing the name of a god were often affixed outside the doors of houses to combat the god of poverty.

Nature and her manifestations are the result of indwelling soul-life. The Japanese mind, imbued with this belief, peopled nature with multiform shapes. There were dragons with lairs in ocean and river that could fly abroad in the air, while from their panting breath came clouds of rain and tempests of lightning. In the mountains and forests were bird-like gnomes who often beset wayfaring men and women and stole away their wits. There were also mountain men, huge hairy monkeys, who helped the woodcutters in return for food, and mountain-women, ogres with bodies grown over with long white hair, who flitted like evil moths in search of human flesh.

Legend also told of the Senrim, hermits of the mountains, who knew all the secrets of magic. They were attended by wise toads and flying tortoises, could conjure magical animals out of gourds, and could project their souls into space.

Supernatural powers were also ascribed to animals. The fox was believed to possess such gifts to an almost limitless extent, for the animal had miraculous vision and hearing, could read the innermost human thoughts, and could be transformed, assuming any shape at will. He loved to delude humans and work destruction, often taking the form of a beautiful and seductive woman whose embrace meant madness and death. This animal was attributed demoniacal possession.

The cat was not regarded with any kindly feeling by the Japanese, because this animal and the serpent were the only creatures who did not weep at Buddha's death. Cats also had the power of bewitchment and possessed vampire proclivities. Yet among sailors the cat was held in high estimation, for it was thought to possess the power of warding off the evil spirits that haunt the sea.

The images of animals were also thought to be endowed with life. There are tales of bronze horses and deer, huge carved dragons, and stone tortoises wandering abroad at night, terrorizing the people and only laid to rest by decapitation. Butterflies were thought to be the wandering souls of the living who might be dreaming or sunk in reverie; white butterflies were the souls of the dead. Fireflies kept evil spirits afar, and an ointment compounded of their delicate bodies defied any poison.

Trees occupied a foremost place in the tradition and legends of Japan. The people regarded them with great affection, and there are stories of men who, seeing a tree they loved withering and dying, committed suicide before it, praying to the gods that their life so given might pass into the tree and give it renewed vigor. The willow is one of the most eerie of trees; the willow-spirit often became a beautiful maiden and wedded a human lover. The pine tree brought good fortune, especially in the matter of happy marriage. It was also a token of longevity. Tree spirits could sometimes be inimical to man and it is recorded that to stay the disturbing wanderings of one it was necessary to cut it down, at which time a stream of blood flowed from the stump.

The element of fire figured large in the Japanese world of marvels. It was worshiped in connection with the rites of the sun-goddess and even the kitchen furnace became the object of a sort of cult. There is the lamp of Buddha. Messages from Hades came to this world in the shape of fire wheels, phantom fires flickered about, flames burnt in the cemeteries, and there were demon-lights, fox-flames, and dragon-torches. From the eyes and mouths of certain birds such as the blue heron, fire darted forth in white flames. Globes of fire, enshrining human faces and forms, sometimes hung like fruit in the branches of the trees.

The dolls of Japanese children were believed to be endowed with life, deriving a soul from the love expended upon them by their human possessors. Some of these dolls were credited with supernatural powers. They could confer maternity upon a childless woman, and they could bring misfortune upon any who ill-treated them. When old and faded these dolls were dedicated to Kojin the many-armed who dwelt in the enokie tree, and they were reverently laid upon his shrine, bodies which once held a tiny soul.

New Religions in Japan

The ancient beliefs and superstitions confronted the tremendous pressures changing Japan in the decades following World War II. Although Shinto and Buddhist religions still predominate, an astonishing number of new religions, most variations of the older religions, have arisen. Many combine original Shinto and/or Buddhist beliefs with elements of Christianity. The defeat of Japan in the war was a crushing blow to national morale and weakened belief in traditional religion, especially Shintoism. Again, the post-war arrival of high technology and the intensification of industrialization created further receptivity to new directions in religious life. Many saw a need for updating and streamlining religious belief and practice. In modern times, hundreds of new religions have been registered officially, two-thirds of them developments of Shinto or Buddhism, with a combined following in the millions.

Among these sects is a group known as Omoto (Teaching of the Great Origin), which originally began in 1892 as a Messianic sect, founded by a farmer woman named Deguchi Nao. The sect was developed by Deguchi Onisaburo and featured the healing of diseases by mystical power. By 1934, it had some 2.5 million followers. Then in 1935, the Japanese government turned on the group and imprisoned the founders and leading followers; their headquarters were dynamited and for all practical purposes the group was destroyed. Not until after World War II was Omoto revived, now under the name of Aizen-en (Garden of Divine Love). Onisaburo died in 1948, but the movement continued to flourish and also gave rise to various splinter sects.

Counted in the unrelated new religions is Tensho Kotai Jingu Kyo, more generally known as Odoru Shukyo (The Dancing Religion) founded by Kitamura Sayo, a farmer's wife regarded by followers as divinely inspired. She is addressed as "Goddess" and her son as "Young God." She is believed to have prophetic insight and power to heal diseases.

Psychical Research & Parapsychology

Although little has been published in Western countries about Japan in relation to paranormal phenomena, Japanese interest in the subject goes back to the last century. As already mentioned, shamanistic techniques and mediumistic faculty were characteristic of some Japanese religions, and from the middle of the nineteenth century on, such phenomena began to be studied objectively. One early investigator was Atsutane Hirat (1776-1843) who was a pioneer in drawing attention to reported cases of reincarnation and poltergeists.

Chikaatsu Honda (1823-1889) studied the techniques of Chinkon, a method of meditation involving revelation through divine possession, becoming mediumistic himself. His techniques were later developed by Deguchi Onisaburo (1871-1948), the leading figure of Omoto. The Chinkon Kishin technique involved spirit communication, and Wasaburo Asano, then a member of Omoto, perceived that this had much in common with European Spiritualism. He subsequently became independent of Omoto and promoted the study of Spiritualism.

A pioneer of psychical research was Enryo Inoue (1858-1919) who founded Fushigi Kenkyukai (the Society for Anomalous Phenomena) at the University of Tokyo in 1888. Another early investigator was Toranosuke Oguma of Meiji University, who studied abnormal psychology, hypnosis, and dreams, and who began to make Western psychical research known in Japan. Oguma published several books on psychical science.

Another pioneer was Tomobichi Fukurai (1869-1952) of the University of Tokyo, whose experiments on clairvoyance and psychic photography (which he called "thoughtography") commenced in 1910. An English translation of his book Clairvoyance and Thoughtography (1913) was published in 1921. His experiments in thoughtography were a remarkable anticipation of the phenomena of Ted Serios in modern times, investigated by Jule Eisenbud. Unfortunately Fukurai's experiments caused dissension at Tokyo University, and he was obliged to resign. He went to the Buddhist University of Kohyassan where he became president of The Psychical Institute of Japan. He also published a second book, Spirit and Mysterious World (1932), in which he attempted to reconcile psychical phenomena with Buddhism. Today, the Fukurai Institute of Psychology that studies paranormal phenomena pursues their work in his name. Fukurai died in 1952.

In 1923, the Japanese Society for Psychic Science was founded at Tokyo, under the presidency of W. Asano. Progress in psychical research was slow. After the war, J. B. Rhine 's book The Reach of the Mind (1947) was translated into Japanese and stimulated investigation of ESP. Meanwhile Fukurai, who had removed to Sendai in Honshu, organized a research group of psychologists and engineers for the study of parapsychology. Another organization formed for the purpose of investigating psychical research was the Institute for Religious Psychology, founded by Hiroshi Motoyama.

After a visit to Japan by J. G. Pratt of Duke University Parapsychology Laboratory in 1963, a Japanese Society for Parapsychology was officially foudned in 1968 through the initiative of Soji Otani, who visited Duke University and studied the techniques of the researchers there. The previous year, in 1967, the society held a conference of parapsychologists in Tokyo, when Oguma lectured on the history of parapsychology in Japan. Parapsychology has since become a recognized area for research at various Japanese universities.

The showing of a program featuring psychic Uri Geller on Japanese television stimulated interest in the phenomena of psychokinesis. In 1977, experiments were reported with a 17-year-old boy, Masuaki Kiyota, who claimed unusual faculties in metal bending and in thoughtography (now investigated as "nengraphy"). Some of these experiments were filmed and shown on American television in 1977. Kiyota has since confessed that he produced the results by fraud.

Addresses for Japanese organizations concerned with parapsychological investigations are as follows:

International Association for Religion & Parapsychology, 4-11-7 Inokashira, Mitaka, Tokyo 181.

Japan Nengraphy Association, Awiji-cho 2-25, Kannda, Chioda, Tokyo.

Japan Association for Psychotronic Research, c/o 284-6 Anagawa-cho. Chiba-shi.

Japanese Society for Parapsychology, 26-14 Chuo 4-chrome, Nakano, Tokyo 164.

Psi Science Institute of Japan, Shibuya Business Hotel 6F, 12-5 Shibuya 1-chrome, Shinjuki-ku, Tokyo 150.


Anesaki, Masaharu. History of Japanese Religion. London: Kegan Paul, 1930.

Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House, 1991.

Davis, F. Hadland. Myths and Legends of Japan. London: Harrap, 1912.

Deguchi, Onisaburo. Memoirs. Japan: Kameoka, 1957.

Fukurai, Tomokichi. Clairvoyance and Thoughtography. London: Rider, 1931. Reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1975.

Hearn, Lafcadio. Kokoro: Hints & Echoes of Japanese Inner Life. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1906.

International Society of Life Information Science, Tokyo. June 6, 2000.

Japanese Society for Parapsychology. June 6, 2000.

Lowell, Percival. Occult Japan. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1895.

Offner, C. B., and H. van Straelen. Modern Japanese Religions. Leyden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1963.

Thomsen, Harry. The New Religions of Japan. Rutland, Vt.: Charles E. Tuttle, 1963.

Uphoff, Walter, and Mary Jo Uphoff. Mind Over Matter: Implications of Masuaki Kiyota's PK Feats with Metal and Film. Ore. : New Frontiers Center; London: Colin Smythe, 1980.

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Gohan (Boiled Rice) .................................................. 155
Sushi......................................................................... 155
Onigiri (Rice Ball) ...................................................... 156
Miso Soup................................................................. 156
Beef Sukiyaki ............................................................. 157
Chicken Teriyaki........................................................ 157
Yaki-Soba (Fried Noodles) ......................................... 158
Ozoni (New Year's Soup) .......................................... 159
Sweet Peanut Mochi (Rice Cakes).............................. 159
Yakitori (Grilled Chicken on Skewers) ........................ 161
Ramen (Noodle Soup)............................................... 161
Broiled Salmon.......................................................... 162


Japan is an archipelago (chain of islands) made up of about 3,000 islands. About twothirds of the land is too mountainous for development, so almost all the people live in cities, most of which were built on the country's flat land (plains area). The country sometimes experiences natural disasters, such as typhoons (huge storms originating over the ocean) and earthquakes.

Some mountainous areas have been terraced (had step-like areas cut into them) to allow farmers to grow rice and other crops. The climate is good for farming, with rice being the chief crop. About half of Japan's arable land (land able to be farmed) is devoted to growing rice. From the 1970s to the 1990s, the production of Japan's livestock farmers doubled.

Japan accounts for about 8 percent of all the fish caught in the world. Japanese people consume large amounts of fish. Each person in Japan eats more than 150 pounds of fish per year, or around three pounds of fish per week.


Japanese cuisine has been influenced by the food customs of other nations, but has adopted and refined them to create its own unique cooking style and eating habits.

The first foreign influence on Japan was China around 300 b.c., when the Japanese learned to cultivate rice. The use of chopsticks and the consumption of soy sauce and soybean curd (tofu) also came from China.

The Buddhist religion, one of the two major religions in Japan today (the other is Shintoism), was another important influence on the Japanese diet. In the a.d. 700s, the rise of Buddhism led to a ban on eating meat. The popular dish, sushi (raw fish with rice) came about as a result of this ban. In the 1800s, cooking styles became simpler. A wide variety of vegetarian (meatless) foods were served in small portions, using one of five standard cooking techniques. All foods were divided into five color groups (green, red, yellow, white, and black-purple) and six tastes (bitter, sour, sweet, hot, salty, and delicate). The Japanese continue to use this cooking system.

Beginning in the early 1200s, trade with other countries began bringing Western-style influences to Japan. The Dutch introduced corn, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. The Portuguese introduced tempura (batter frying).

After a ban of more than one thousand years, beef returned to Japan during the Meiji Period (18681912). Western foods, such as bread, coffee, and ice cream, become popular during the late twentieth century. Another Western influence has been the introduction of timesaving cooking methods. These include the electric rice cooker, packaged foods such as instant noodles, instant miso (fermented soybean paste) soup, and instant pickling mixes. However, the Japanese are still devoted to their classic cooking traditions.


Rice and noodles are the two primary staples of the Japanese diet. Rice, either boiled or steamed, is served at every meal. Noodles come in many varieties. Among the most popular are soba, thin brown noodles made from buckwheat flour; udon, thick white noodles made from wheat flour; and ramen, thin, curly noodles, also made from wheat flour. Soy sauce and other soybean products are also staples in Japan. These include miso (fermented soybean paste) and tofu (a soybean curd that resembles custard). Other common ingredients in Japanese food include bamboo shoots, daikon (a giant white radish), ginger, seaweed, and sesame seed products. Japanese pickles called tsukemono are served at every meal. Seafood is also plentiful in this island nation. Green tea is the national beverage of Japan, although black tea is also available. Sake (SAH-kee, wine made from rice, usually served warm) and beer are also very popular.

Two uniquely Japanese foods are sushi (fresh raw seafood with rice) and sashimi (fresh raw seafood with soy sauce); both rely on freshly caught fish or seafood. Dishes prepared in a single pot (nabemeno ) are popular throughout Japan. Sukiyaki is a dish made up of paper-thin slices of beef (or sometimes chicken), vegetables, and cubes of tofu cooked in broth. Shabu-shabu is beef and vegetables, also cooked in broth but then dipped in flavorful sauces. Each region has its own selection of favorite foods. People living on the cold northern island of Hokkaido enjoy potatoes, corn, and barbecued meats. Foods in western Japan tend to be more delicately flavored than those in the east.

The Japanese are known for using very fresh ingredients in their cooking. They prefer using fresh, seasonal foods for their meals, buying it the same day it will be cooked. The Japanese are also famous for their skill in arranging food so that it looks beautiful. The people of Japan live long lives and have a low rate of heart disease because of healthy eating habits.

Gohan (Boiled Rice)


  • 1 cup Japanese short-grain rice, uncooked (available at most supermarkets and Asian food stores)
  • 1¼ cups water


  1. Wash the rice and allow it to soak in a saucepan for about 30 minutes; let drain.
  2. Return the rice to the saucepan, add water, and bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer, cooking about 15 minutes more until water has been absorbed by the rice.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium and keep covered, allowing rice to steam for about 15 minutes.
  5. Serve in individual bowls with chopsticks (optional).

Serves 4. To eat rice, the rice bowl is held in the left hand, close to the mouth. The chopsticks are used to push the rice into the mouth as the bowl is slowly rotated in the hand.



  • Small bamboo mat(makisu) for preparing sushi
  • Dry seaweed sheets(nori)
  • Bowl of water to which 1 Tablespoon vinegar has been added
  • Wasabi (dried horseradish powder)
  • Strips of avocado, cucumber, carrot, or other vegetable
  • Cooked shrimp or crab meat (or frozen imitation crabmeat, thawed)


  1. Place a sheet of nori (dry seaweed), shiny side down, on the makisu (bamboo mat).
  2. Wet your right hand (or left hand, if you are left-handed) in the bowl of vinegar water, and use it to scoop up a ball of rice.
  3. Spread the rice out in an even layer on one side of the nori.
  4. Sprinkle a line of wasabi (horseradish powder) down the center of the rice.
  5. Arrange the strips of vegetables and seafood over the line of wasabi.
  6. Using the mat to support the nori, lift one end of the mat to gently roll the nori over the rice and other ingredients.
  7. Use gentle pressure to compact the rice and other ingredients so that they hold together.
  8. Continue rolling until a long cylinder is formed, completely encased in nori.
  9. Carefully slice through the nori and other ingredients to make the bites of sushi.
  10. Serve immediately so the nori will still be crispy.

Onigiri (Rice Ball)


  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • Salt
  • Pickled plums, cut into small, bite-sized pieces
  • Cooked salmon, cut into small, bite-sized pieces
  • Dry seaweed sheets (nori), cut into strips


  1. Cook rice according to directions on package. Allow to cool slightly.
  2. Have a bowl of lukewarm water handy.
  3. Dip clean hands into water, and then sprinkle salt on wet hands.
  4. Place a small mound of rice (about 2 Tablespoons) in the palm of your hand.
  5. Press a piece of pickled plum or cooked salmon into the mound of rice.
  6. Toss the mound back and forth between wet, salted hands to form a triangular mound, with the filling item in the center.
  7. Wrap mound in a dry seaweed strip.

Serves 10 to 12.

Miso Soup


  • 2 scallions
  • ¼ pound tofu
  • 1¼ cups dashi (Japanese fish stock) or 1 chicken bouillon cube, dissolved in 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 Tablespoons red miso


  1. Wash the scallions and cut the green parts into 1½-inch lengths.
  2. Cut the tofu into small cubes and place the scallions and tofu in soup bowls.
  3. Boil the dashi (broth) in a saucepan.
  4. Put a little of the boiling liquid in a bowl and mix with the miso.
  5. Pour back into the saucepan, then ladle into the soup bowls.
  6. Serve immediately.

Makes one serving.

Beef Sukiyaki


  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup dashi or beef broth
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound beef tenderloin, sliced into thin strips
  • 10 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces (both and green and white parts)
  • 4 stalks celery, sliced on an angle, in ½-inch pieces
  • 12 mushroom caps, sliced
  • 8 ounces tofu or bean curd, cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 1 can bamboo shoots (8½-ounce), drained
  • 4 cups rice, cooked


  1. Mix soy sauce, sugar, and dashi or broth in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Arrange beef and vegetables on a large platter.
  3. Heat an electric skillet 300°F; or heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add oil and heat.
  4. Add the meat and brown for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the vegetables and the tofu, including the bamboo shoots, placing each on its own part of the skillet.
  6. Add the sauce and cook mixture for 6 to 7 minutes, turning gently to prevent burning and keeping all ingredients separate from each other. Serve at once over rice.

Serves 4 to 6.

Chicken Teriyaki


  • ½ cup soy sauce (preferably Japanese-style)
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh gingerroot, grated
  • 3 Tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1½ to 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into small serving pieces


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Combine soy sauce, sugar, gingerroot, and sesame seeds in a large bowl.
  3. Place chicken in a baking dish and pour sauce over it.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes. Turn chicken about every 15 minutes, coating with sauce in the process.

Serves 6.

Doll Festival Menu

Pork and cabbage dumplings


Peach tofu

Vegetables with vinegar lemon dressing


Harvest Moon Menu

Miso soup



Deep-fried oysters

Daikon salad

Red bean jelly

New Year's Menu

Miso soup with grilled rice cakes

Sashimi shaped into roses

Sushi canapés

Beef and onion rolls

Smoked salmon and daikon rolls

Persimmon and daikon salad

Spicy braised gobo (burdock root)

Yaki-Soba (Fried Noodles)


  • 2 to 3 medium-size shiitake mushrooms
  • 8 ounces fresh ramen or 6 ounces dried noodles
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small to medium-size onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons gingerroot, minced
  • 2 cups green cabbage leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine)
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 to 3 dashes black pepper
  • Salt, to taste


  1. Soak mushrooms in a bowl of warm water for 30 minutes.
  2. Dry mushrooms. Cut off stems and discard. Slice mushrooms thinly.
  3. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and add ramen. Cook 1 to 2 minutes or until tender yet firm.
  4. Rinse ramen ; drain well. Toss with 1 Tablespoon of the oil; set aside.
  5. Heat remaining 2 Tablespoons oil in a wok or large skillet over medium to high heat.
  6. Add onion and gingerroot and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
  7. Add cabbage and mushrooms; stir-fry 3 minutes. Sprinkle with mirin. Stir-fry 1 minute more.
  8. Add ramen ; toss until hot. Season with soy sauce, pepper, onions, and salt.
  9. Shrimp, ham, chicken, or other tempura can be added.

Serves 6.


The most important holiday in Japan is the New Year, Shogatsu. Special holiday foods, called osechi, are prepared in beautifully decorated stackable boxes called jubako. Each layer of the box has compartments for several different foods. Glazed sardines, bamboo shoots, sweet black beans, and chestnuts in sweet potato paste are just a few of the many holiday foods. New Year foods are also eaten because they are believed to represent good fortune or long life. At New Year's, children are especially fond of hot rice cakes dipped in sweet soybean powder.

The Girls' Festival (or Doll Festival) is held in March. Dolls are dressed in traditional Japanese dresses called kimonos and are offered rice crackers, colored rice cakes, and a sweet rice drink called amazake. Everyone in the family eats the foods. Festive foods for Children's Day (May 5) include rice dumplings stuffed with sweet bean paste.

The tea ceremony (cha-no-yu ) is an important Japanese ritual that can be held on a holiday or other special occasion. Developed over several centuries, it plays an important role in Japanese life and culture.

Ozoni (New Year's Soup)


  • 4 mochi (rice cakes)
  • 2 boned chicken breasts, trimmed and sliced into thin strips
  • 2 thin leeks, sliced very finely on the diagonal
  • 4 cups dashi
  • 3 Tablespoons white miso


  1. Broil the mochi cakes under a hot broiler on all sides until the cake is crisp and brown, but not burnt.
  2. Remove from heat, piece with a fork, and set aside.
  3. Dip the chicken slices into salted boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain.
  4. Bring the dashi to a boil in a saucepan, then add chicken pieces and simmer until tender.
  5. Ladle ½ cup of dashi into the miso and whisk until blended.
  6. Pour back into the soup and bring just to a boil, then remove from heat.
  7. Place a cooked rice cake in the bottom of each of 4 bowls, then ladle the soup over them, distributing the chicken pieces evenly. Top with slivered leek.
  8. Place tops on the bowls, and serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8.

Sweet Peanut Mochi (Rice Cakes)

Rice cakes are a popular dessert for both New Year's and Children's Day. These may sometimes be purchased at Asian markets or specialty grocery stores.


  • 1 cup sweet glutinous-rice flour (mochiko )
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • cup cocktail peanuts, unsalted
  • ½ cup water
  • Potato starch or cornstarch
  • Orange blossom honey, rice syrup, or molasses
  • ½ cup roasted soybean powder (kinako ) (optional)


  1. In a medium-size bowl, combine rice flour, salt, and brown sugar.
  2. In a blender or food processor, grind peanuts until they form a paste.
  3. Add the water; process until blended, scraping sides of container once or twice.
  4. Pour peanut mixture into rice-flour mixture. Stir to form a stiff dough.
  5. Lightly knead dough about 30 seconds.
  6. In a wok or deep pot, bring 4 cups of water to a boil.
  7. Spread a piece of dampened and unbleached muslin or several layers of cheesecloth over a steamer tray.
  8. Spread the dough evenly over the cloth, about ½-inch thick.
  9. Place the steamer into the pot, over the boiling water. Cover and steam for 20 minutes.
  10. Remove tray from pan and lift out cloth with dough.
  11. Pull away cloth, dropping dough onto a flat surface dusted with potato starch or cornstarch. Cool 2 minutes.
  12. Knead 1 minute or until smooth and shiny.
  13. Roll dough into an 8-inch long sausage roll and cut into 8 equal pieces.
  14. Dust lightly with cornstarch to prevent sticking. Form into smooth, round shapes.
  15. Drizzle rice cakes with honey and roll in soybean powder.
  16. Serve on small plates with cups of hot green tea.


The Japanese eat three main meals a day. The main ingredient in all three, however, is rice (or sometimes noodles). Miso soup and pickles are always served as well. Meals eaten early in the day tend to be the simplest. A typical breakfast consists of rice, miso soup, and a side dish, such as an egg or grilled fish.

Noodles are very popular for lunch (and as a snack), and a restaurant or take-out stand referred to as a noodle house is a popular spot for lunch. A typical lunch would be a bowl of broth with vegetables, seaweed, or fish. The bento is a traditional box lunch packed in a small, flat box with dividers. It includes small portions of rice, meat, fish, and vegetables. Stores sell ready-made bento for take out and some even have Western-style ingredients like spaghetti or sausages. A favorite among young people, and as a take-out food, is a stuffed rice ball called onigiri.

Many Japanese have turned to Western-style food for breakfast and lunch, especially in the cities. However, traditional dinners are still eaten by most people in Japan, such as rice, soup, pickles, and fish. Seasonal fresh fruit makes a great dessert. Sweets are more likely to be served with green tea in the afternoon.

Food is grasped between chopsticks and lifted to one's mouth. Chopsticks should never be stuck into a piece of food or used to pass food back and forth. It is not considered impolite to sip one's soup directly from the bowl. At a Japanese meal, people at the table fill each other's drinking glasses but never their own.

The Japanese do not eat while they are doing other things, such as walking or driving. A Japanese car company once claimed that some of its seatbelts didn't work properly in the United States because Americans spilled so much food in their cars. They believe people should not eat and drive cars at the same time.

Yakitori (Grilled Chicken on Skewers)


  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 small leeks
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • Bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes prior to using


  1. Cut chicken into bite-sized chunks.
  2. Wash leeks, remove the roots, and cut into ¾-inch lengths.
  3. Slide the chicken and leeks onto bamboo skewers.
  4. In a bowl, mix the sugar and soy sauce together.
  5. Spoon a little of this mixture over the chicken skewers.
  6. Broil for 5 minutes.
  7. Turn the skewers over, spoon on some more sauce, and cook for 5 more minutes.
  8. Serve hot and eat with your fingers.

Ramen (Noodle Soup)


  • 1 package ramen noodle soup
  • Vegetables to add to soup (choose up to four, such as chopped celery)
  • 1 carrot, cut into very thin sticks, about 2 inches long
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • Daikon radish, cut into very thin sticks, about 2 inches long
  • 1 mushroom, sliced thin
  • 3 snow pea pods
  • 1 Chinese cabbage leaf, shredded


  1. Make soup according to package directions.
  2. Place up to four of the add-ins into a large soup bowl.
  3. Carefully pour hot broth and noodles over vegetables.
  4. Use chopsticks to eat the vegetables and noodles, and drink the broth from the bowl.

Serves 4.

Broiled Salmon


  • 4 salmon steaks (8-ounces each)
  • ¼ cup white soybean paste (shiromiso )
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons sake (or rice wine vinegar)
  • 2 green onions, thinly-sliced


  1. Place salmon under broiler for 5 minutes each side.
  2. Mix soybean paste, sugar, soy sauce, and sake (or vinegar) together in a bowl.
  3. Spread mixture on salmon steaks and broil another 2 minutes per side.
  4. Garnish with the sliced green onions and serve immediately.

Serves 4.


Because Japanese people like to eat a lot of fish, one of the major issues facing the Japanese government relates to fishing privileges. For example, Japan, Canada, and the United States have argued over the rights to fish for salmon. Japan has had conflicts with neighboring Asian nations, including the Republic of Korea, China, Indonesia, and Australia, over fishing rights to waters around those countries.

More than 80 countries, including the United States, have adopted laws that restrict other countries from fishing within 200 miles of their coastlines. This has resulted in Japan being forced to pay fees for the privilege of fishing in many ocean areas around the world.



Albyn, Carole Lisa, and Lois Webb. The Multicultural Cookbook for Students. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1993.

Beatty, Theresa M. Food and Recipes of Japan. New York: PowerKids Press, 1999.

Bremzen, Anya von, and John Welchman. Terrific Pacific Cookbook. New York: Workman Publishing, 1995.

Cook, Deanna F. The Kids' Multicultural Cookbook: Food and Fun Around the World. Charlotte, VT: Williamson Publishing, 1995.

Halvorsen, Francine. Eating Around the World in Your Neighborhood. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998.

Ridgwell, Jenny. A Taste of Japan. New York: Thomson Learning, 1993.

Slack, Susan Fuller. Japanese Cooking for the American Table. New York: Berkeley Publishing, 1996.

Weston, Reiko. Cooking the Japanese Way. Minneapolis: Lerner, 2001.

Web Sites

Schauwecker's Guide to Japan. [Online] Available (accessed August 17, 2001).

Tokyo Food Page. [Online] Available (accessed August 17, 2001).

Specialty Ingredients

Asia Foods [Online] Available (accessed August 17, 2001).

The Oriental Pantry 423 Great Road (2A) Acton, MA 01720 (978) 264-4576 [Online] Available (accessed August 17, 2001).

Specialty Orient Foods, Inc. 43-30 38th Street Long Island City, NY 11101 Toll free: 1-800-758-7634 [Online] Available (accessed August 17, 2001).

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Official name: Japan

Area: 377,835 square kilometers (145,883 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Fuji (Fujiyama) (3,776 meters/12,388 feet)

Lowest point on land: Hachiro-gata (4 meters/13.1 feet below sea level)

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 9 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 3,008 kilometers (1,869 miles) from northeast to southwest; 1,645 kilometers (1,022 miles) from southeast to northwest

Land boundaries: None

Coastline: 29,751 kilometers (18,486 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


The country of Jah2n is a crescent-shaped island chain in eastern Asia, bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Sea of Japan to the west. With a total area of about 377,835 square kilometers (145,883 square miles), the country is slightly smaller than the state of California, and consists of forty-seven prefectures.


Japan has no territories or dependencies.


Most of Japan is in the temperate zone, with the exception of the subtropical southern island chains. There are four distinct seasons: winter (December through February), spring (March through May), summer (June through August), and autumn (September through November.) The average annual temperature is 15°C (59°F) with a winter range of -9°C to 16° C (15°F to 61°F) and a summer range of 20°C to 28°C (68°F to 82°F). Humidity is high, ranging from 50 percent to 75 percent.

The peak rainy season is from May to October, with some regional variations. Yearly rainfall averages 100 to 250 centimeters (39 to 98 inches). Southern Shikoku Island is particularly vulnerable to typhoons, which are violent cyclonic storms from the Pacific. In regions bordering the Sea of Japan, the winter monsoon, laden with snow, can be destructive. Snowfall is generally heavy along the western coast, where it covers the ground for almost four months.

Floods are common, especially in the Pacific coastal areas. Because this land is sinking, large embankments and dikes have been erected against rivers that flow at a level well above the surrounding plains. During periods of heavy rains, waters bearing great quantities of alluvium can break through the embankments, inundating adjacent fields and covering them with a thick carpet of gravel and sand. Sometimes typhoons, bringing fresh torrents of water to the rivers, convert whole plains into vast lakes and sweep away roads and railroads.


Japan has four principal islands. From north to south, they are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyūshū. The four major islands are separated only by narrow straits and form a natural geographic entity. The nation also has more than three thousand smaller islands, including the Ryukyu archipelago, which extends far to the southwest of the main islands.

The terrain on all of the major islands is primarily mountainous. The lowland areas that exist are mainly along the shore and are densely populated. The mountains remain largely covered by forest. Japan lies along the boundary between the Eurasian, North American, and Pacific Tectonic Plates. As a result, earthquakes are common throughout the islands, as are volcanoes.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

The islands of Japan are so narrow that no point in the country lies more than 150 kilometers (93 miles) from sea waters. To the west, the Sea of Japan separates Japan from the Asian mainland. To the north lies the Sea of Okhotsk, and the East China Sea is to the south. All of these seas are extensions of the Pacific Ocean, which lies to the east of Japan. Another extension of the Pacific, the Philippine Sea, lies to the far southeast, along the coast of the Ryukyu archipelago. Warm and cold ocean currents blend in the waters surrounding Japan.

Undersea earthquakes often expose the Japanese coastline to dangerous tidal waves, known as tsunamis. Japan's coral reefs have been severely damaged by sedimentation from construction and agricultural activity, and by over-fishing. Environmentalists continue to try to protect the remaining intact reefs around southern islands such as Okinawa, where land development poses a threat.

Sea Inlets and Straits

The islands of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyūshū enclose Japan's narrow Inland Sea. The Korean Strait, approximately 200 kilometers (124 miles) across, separates southwest Japan from South Korea and links the East China Sea to the Sea of Japan. The Sōya Strait (La Perouse Strait) runs between northern Japan and Russia's Sakhalin Island; this strait links the Sea of Japan to the Sea of Okhotsk. Tsugaru Strait separates Hokkaido and Honshu Islands, linking the Sea of Japan to the Pacific Ocean.

Islands and Archipelagos

The northern island of Hokkaido (78,719 square kilometers/30,394 square miles) was long looked upon as a remote frontier area because of its forests and rugged climate. Hokkaido is divided along a line extending from Cape Sōya to Cape Erimo. The eastern half includes the Daisetsu Mountains, at the foot of which lie the plains of Tokachi and Konsen. The western half is milder and less mountainous.

Honshu, Japan's largest island (225,800 square kilometers/87,182 square miles), curves south to southwest between Hokkaido and Kyūshū. Tohoku, the northern region of Honshu, has flat, well-drained alluvial plains. In the center of Honshu is the Kanto region, which includes the Tokyo-Yokohama metropolis.

The Chubu region, lying west of Kanto, has three distinct districts: Hokuriku, a "snow country" coastal strip on the Sea of Japan with stormy winters; Tosan, the central highlands, including the Japanese Alps; and Tokai, a narrow corridor lying along the Pacific coast.

The Kinki region of Honshu lies to the southwest and consists of a narrow area stretching from the Sea of Japan on the north to the Pacific Ocean on the south. It includes Japan's second-largest commercial-industrial complex, centered on Osaka and Kobe, and the two former imperial cities of Nara and Kyoto.

The Chugoku region occupies the western end of Honshu and is divided into two distinct districts by mountains running through it. The northern, somewhat narrower, part is called "San'in" (shady side), and the southern part, "San'yo" (sunny side.)

The Inland Sea separates western Honshu from Shikoku Island (18,545 square kilometers/7,160 square miles). Mountains divide the island into a northern sub-region on the Inland Sea and a southern part on the Pacific Ocean. Most of the population lives in the northern zone. The southern part is mostly mountainous and sparsely populated.

Kyūshū (37,437 square kilometers/14,454 square miles), the southernmost of the main islands, is divided by the Kyūshū Mountains, which run diagonally across the middle of the island. The northern part is one of Japan's most industrialized regions.

There are thousands of other small islands in Japan's possession. Some of the largest located near the main islands are Tsushima, Sado, Rishiri, and Awaji Islands, as well as the Gotō, Oki, and Amakusa Islands.

Japan also has many islands located further out in the Pacific Ocean. These include the Nanpo Chain, the Bonin (Ogasawara) Islands, Iwo Jima, and the Volcano Islands; the latter are located some 1,100 kilometers (683 miles) south of central Honshu.

The Ryukyu Archipelago includes over two hundred islands and islets, of which fewer than half are populated. They extend in a chain from southeast of Kyūshū to within 193 kilometers (120 miles) of Taiwan. Okinawa (1,256 square kilometers/485 square miles) is the largest and most populated of the Ryukyu Islands.

Japan in engaged in a territorial dispute with Russia concerning several small islands north of Hokkaido: Etorofu, Kunashir and the Shikotan and Habomai Island groups.

Coastal Features

Japan's coastline has been highly modified by projects such as land reclamation, port construction, and sea wall erection. At the head of most of the bays where Japan's major cities are located the land is subsiding (sinking), causing buildings to sink up to 4.5 centimeters (1.5 inches) annually. Since 1935, the port area of Osaka has subsided as much as 3 meters (10 feet). Global warming, which is a general increase in the average temperature worldwide, also threatens the beaches of Japan. An estimated 90 percent of Japan's coast would disappear with a 1-meter (3.4-feet) rise in the sea level.

The coastline of Hokkaido Island has a rough diamond shape, with the capes of Sōya in the north, Shiretoko-Masakai in the east, Erimo in the south, and Kamui in the west forming its corners. Oshima, a southwestern peninsula of Hokkaido, curves around Uchira Bay and ends in the promontories of Shiragami and Esan.

Honshu has large indentations along its Pacific coast, such as the Bōsō, Izu, and Kii peninsulas, and the bays of Ishinomaki, Tokyo and Ise (Nagoya). On the Pacific side, flat shores are found at the head of the principal bays where the major cities are situated. North of Tokyo Bay is a type of landscape called suigo ("land of water"), where the plain is exactly at sea level, protected by levees and locks and by a system of pumps. In contrast to the Pacific coast, Honshu's Sea of Japan shoreline is less indented, with the central Noto Peninsula and Wakasa Bay serving as exceptions to long curves of flat shoreline.

Shikoku Island has a violin shape, with the Inland Sea on the north and Tosa Bay curving into the south. The southern and western coasts of Kyūshū Island, including Kagoshima Bay, are deeply fragmented and fractured.


The landscape of Japan contains numerous and varied lakes. The largest is Lake Biwa, 673 square kilometers (260 square miles) in area, which fills a fault basin on Honshu. Lake Biwa is affected by pollution as well as the demand for fresh water from the cities of Osaka and Kyoto. The second-largest lake is Kasumiga (168 square kilometers/65 square miles) near Tokyo. These are followed by Saroma (150 square kilometers/58 square miles) on Hokkaido, Inawashiro (103 square kilometers/40 square miles) in Bandai-Asahi National Park of northern Honshu, and Nakaumi (89 square kilometers/56 square miles)

Eleven areas in Japan have been designated as Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar International Convention on Wetlands. Those on Honshu include Lake Biwa and its surrounding marshes; Izu-numa and Uchi-numa lakes and peat swamps; Katano-kamoike pond/marsh, a major bird habitat; and Yatsu-higata, a mudflat shorebird habitat near Tokyo. The Hokkaido sites are Akkeshiko and Bekambeushi-shitsugen, a lake and saltmarsh complex; Kiritappu-shitsugen, a peat bog; Kushiro-shitsugen, a wildlife habitat containing reedbeds; Kutcharo-ko, a reed swamp; and Utonai-ko, a lake with surrounding swamps. There are also wetland sites on Okinawa and Niigata Islands. Japan's wetlands are threatened by pollution, reclamation of land for development, and extraction of water.


Although the country is exceptionally well watered, the absence of large plains has prevented the formation of a major river system. The longest river, the Shinano, is only 367 kilometers (228 miles) long and the second longest is the Tone, 322 kilometers (200 miles). Both are in central Honshu. The third longest is Hokkaido's Ishikari River (268 kilometers/166 miles). Japan's rivers tend to flow swiftly and thus most are unsuitable for navigation. The mountainous terrain and the absence of glaciers make the river flow highly irregular. Early summer rains account for a large part of the annual precipitation and can turn slow streams into raging torrents. In winter, the riverbeds are transformed into wide stretches of gravel furrowed by thin trickles of water. Rivers are used mostly for hydroelectric production and for irrigation. Extensive dams have been built for flood control, hydropower, and irrigation diversion, disrupting natural river ecosystems.


There are no desert regions on Japan.


Japan has few regions of level, open, land. Most of those that exist are areas in which masses of river-borne soil have accumulated. Accordingly, most of the plains are located along the coasts. The largest is Kanto, where Tokyo is located. Others include the Nobi plain that surrounds Nagoya, the Kinki plain in the Osaka-Kyoto area, the Sendai plain in northeastern Honshu, and the Ishikarai and Tokachi Plains on Hokkaido. Japan's plains are almost completely urbanized, so that little of the natural ground cover remains.

About 67 percent of Japan's land is forested. This percentage includes plantations of cedar and cypress species that replaced natural forests during the twentieth century, as well as secondary forest and stands of old-growth trees. Most of Japan's forest consists of temperate tree species, including conifer, deciduous, and alpine types. There are also subtropical forests on the Ryukyu Islands. Nearly all of Japan's remaining forests are situated in mountainous areas. Many are under official protection as national parks and Forest Ecosystem Reserves. Continuing threats to the forests include construction of dams, roads, and recreational areas.

Foothills border the coastal plains of Japan. Away from the coasts, ascending terraces mark the foothills, which provide a transition from these plains to the mountain ranges. On the approaches to the mountains, the slopes become steeper and are laced by numerous watercourses, isolating groups of hills. The Hakone hills, in central Honshu, are typical of this type of terrain.


The Japanese islands are essentially the summits of submerged mountain ridges that have been uplifted near the outer edge of the Asian continental shelf. Consequently, mountains take up some 75 percent of the land. A long spine of mountain ranges runs roughly north to south down the middle of the archipelago, dividing it into two halves.

Although the mountains are steep, most of them are not very high. Central Honshu Island, however, has a convergence of three mountain chains, the Akaishi, Kiso, and Hida, forming the Japanese Alps, which include many peaks that exceed 3,048 meters (10,000 feet). Other ranges include the Ōu, Chūgoku, Daisetsu, and the Kitami Mountains. Snow lingers late into spring on the Japanese Alps, but there are no true glaciers in Japan.

The highest point in the country is the renowned Mount Fuji (Fujiyama), a symmetrical dormant volcano that rises to 3,776 meters (12,388 feet) in central Honshu, outside of the Japanese Alps. The second-highest peak is Kitadake (3,192 meters/10,472 feet) and the third-highest is Hotakadake (3,190 meters/10,466 feet). Both are in central Honshu.

Ten percent of the world's volcanoes are found in Japan. Of Japan's 265 known volcanoes, 20 have been active since the beginning of the twentieth century. They are particularly numerous in Hokkaido, the Fossa Magna region of central Honshu, and Kyūshū. The mountainous areas of Japan contain wide craters and cones of every form, ranging from the ash cone of Mount Fuji on Honshu to the volcanic dome of Daisetsu on Hokkaido. Recent eruptions have included Mount Unzen, on Kyūshū Island, during 1991-93; Mount Usu on Hokkaido in March 2000; and Mount Oyama on Miyako Island, south of Tokyo, during September and October 2000.

Landslides that shake loose entire mountainsides are generally composed of clay and may reach depths of 6 to 23 meters (20 to 75 feet), widths of several hundred feet, and lengths up to 4 kilometers (2.5 miles). Such landslides are especially frequent on the Sea of Japan side of Honshu.


Japan's rivers have cut deep gorges through the mountain ranges. Suwa, Minakami, and Momiji Canyons on the Tone River in the Japanese Alps are known for their whitewater rapids. Kurobe Gorge, in central Honshu, is Japan's deepest, plunging 1,500 to 2,000 meters (4,921 to 6,562 feet). It has a dam at its south end. Dakigaeri Gorge is a national park in northern Honshu. The Oobako and Kobako Canyons on Hokkaido feature rocky terrain and waterfalls, as does Soun-kyo Gorge. Noteworthy river gorges on the other islands include Oboke Gorge on Shikoku Island, and Takachiho and Yabakei Gorges on Kyūshū Island.


Volcanic activity has shaped many of Japan's plateaus, while others consist of ancient limestone. The Shiga Highlands, in Jo-Shin-Etsu National Park, central Honshu, is a lava plateau 1,400 to 1,700 meters (4593 to 5,577 feet) in height. The Hachimantai Plateau, volcanic in origin, in northern Honshu, is 1,400 to 1,600 meters (4,593 to 5,249 feet) above sea level. The Akiyoshi-dai Plateau of western Honshu is a limestone platform that is riddled with 420 caves. The Atetsu Plateau, in the same region, is also limestone-based. Northern Honshū's Bandai Plateau contains lakes and marshes. Other plateaus on Honshu include Nihon Daira near Mount Fuji; Midagahara in the Japanese Alps; and the Musashino Plateau, near Tokyo.

The Ebino Plateau, 1,200 meters (3,937 feet) above sea level, stands within Japan's first national park, Kirishima Yaku, on Kyūshū island. The Takachihokyo Plateau, near Kyūshū's Mount Aso, is lava-based with a river-eroded valley and rock formations.


Mount Bandai (1,819 meters/6,003 feet) is a volcano that lies 240 kilometers (150 miles) northeast of Tokyo in one of the most popular tourist areas in Japan. Mount Bandai forms part of the Bandai-Asahi National Park.


Tsujunkyo Bridge is Japan's largest stone-arch aqueduct bridge. Located in the Shiroito Plateau of Kyūshū, the bridge has a width of about 6 meters (20 feet) and a length of about 76 meters (249 feet). The bridge has been used since 1854 to bring water into Yabe town from the Shiroito Plateau over the deep ravine formed by the Todoroki River. The aqueduct is a vital source of drinking water and of irrigation waters for rice farms.

The Seikan Submarine Tunnel, completed in March 1988, is the longest tunnel in the world. The tunnel runs beneath the Tsugaru Strait, connecting Hokkaido and Honshu Islands. It is a part of the railway that runs between Aomori City on Honshu and Hako-date City on Hokkaido. The length of the tunnel is 53.85 kilometers (33.5 miles), with 23.3 kilometers (14.5 miles) of it underwater. The railway track also runs 240 meters (787 feet) below the sea surface, making it the deepest rail track in the world.

The Tokyo Bay Aqualine Expressway, completed in 1997, includes the fourth-longest vehicular tunnel in the world. The 15-kilometer (9.3-mile) expressway spans the Tokyo Bay, connecting the cities of Kisarazu and Kawasaki. The expressway includes a 4.4-kilometer (2.7-mile) bridge from Kisarazu and a 9.5-kilometer (5.9-mile) undersea tunnel from the Kawasaki side, which is world's longest undersea tunnel, running 60 meters (197 feet) deep under the surface of the water. The bridge and tunnel areas meet at the artificial island of Umi-hotaru, lying in Tokyo Bay.

The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge that links the city of Kobe with Awaji-shima Island is currently the world's longest suspension bridge. Two main towers suspend two thick cables to create the 1,991-meter- (6,529-feet-) long bridge. Italy expects to complete construction of a larger suspension bridge in 2005.


Japan is very prone to earthquakes, with more than fifteen hundred of them recorded annually. Most of these are minor tremors, but the occasional major earthquake can result in thousands of deaths. The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 was one of the most destructive of all time, causing powerful tremors and resulting in fires that destroyed most of Tokyo and Yokohama, with a loss of more than one hundred thousand lives. More recently, the Kobe earthquake on January 17, 1995, which measured 7.2 on the Richter scale, killed more than five thousand people and destroyed over one hundred thousand buildings. Japan has become a world leader in researching the causes and prediction of earthquakes, as well as in the construction of earthquake-proof buildings.



Booth, Alan. The Roads to Sata: A 2,000-Mile Walk through Japan. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1997.

Bornoff, Nicholas. The National Geographic Traveler: Japan. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 2000.

Sutherland, Mary. National Parks of Japan. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1995.


Zick, Arthur. "Japan's Sun Rises Over the Pacific." National Geographic, November 1991, 36-67.

Web Sites

Japan Atlas. (accessed April 24, 2003).

"Japan's Secret Garden, Lake Biwa." NOVA Online. (accessed April 24, 2003).

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The concept of the modern family—one in which biological parents give birth to, love, and nurture children—was introduced in Japan in the early twentieth century, after the nation opened itself up to international diplomacy under Emperor Meiji in 1868. A nationwide registration system was established at the end of the nineteenth century under the Meiji government. Until that time, people who did not belong to aristocratic, warrior, or landlord families did not register with the state or regional legal systems. Most of the people who did not fall in these categories were registered in the Buddhist temples of the local area.

Before the Meiji government, the term family did not include only biologically related people, but was far broader. Workers who lived in and subsisted on their labor in one village were regarded as one family. This changed after Japan entered the international scene; the Japanese Imperial Constitution of 1889 legally defined family in a written law as formed by blood lineage, with a father as head of the household.

Until 1945, when Japan was defeated in World War II and a new constitution was promulgated, polygamy was still legal. Multiple wives, their children by one father, and their relatives were regarded as one family. After World War II, a reconstruction of Japanese society occurred under the new constitution, and a nationwide family registration system was established. The concept of family was understood in a modern way. However, the registration system that existed since the nineteenth century was preserved as koseki (family registration), with the individual registered under the family line headed by the father. Koseki still functions in the same way as the previous feudalistic system. People's origins can be traced back to the late nineteenth century. In this patriarchal system, a woman is supposed to enter the husband's family line and separate from her original family.

Under the democratic constitution, marriage was supposed to be based on equal relations between the man and woman. Polygamy was prohibited, and a family was formed under the father as a head of household. The contemporary Japanese family, however, is changing rapidly because of lower birth rates, longer life expectancies, an increase in the number of one-person households, and later age at marriage. In 2000, the average number of children for women in their reproductive years was 1.35. The average life expectancy in 1999 was 84 for women and 77 for men. The second most predominant household (after household with parents and unmarried children) is the single household. The percentage of single households among total households increased from 18.2 percent in 1975 to 24.1 percent in 2000. Among one-person households, those made up of older women and unmarried youths are increasing in number. The average age of first marriage for women in 2000 was 27 years, for men 28.8 years; the age of marriage in general, including second and third marriages, was 28.2 for women and 30.4 for men (White Paper on Women 2001).

Mating and Marriage

The typical ways in which marriage partners first meet are at work, through introduction by friends and siblings, and through marriage arrangement agencies. Since 1965, there have been more marriages based on love than arranged marriages. Women consider personality, economic stability, and occupation important characteristics in a potential mate. Men seek good personality, physical attractiveness, and shared hobbies.

Many people pay large amounts of money to have luxurious wedding ceremonies. The cost can range from 3,000,000 to 10,000,000 yen (US $30,000–$100,000). Typically, 100 to 200 guests will be invited to hotel ballrooms. Both Shinto-style weddings and more Western-style ceremonies are popular. A Shinto-style wedding is held in a shrine with traditional Japanese wedding costumes; a Western-style ceremony is held in a church, and the bride typically wears a white wedding dress, but wears both a traditional Japanese kimono and Western-style dress for the party after the ceremony. Most hotels in Japan have facilities for both. Newly married couples often honeymoon in Europe or North America, paying 1,500,000 yen (US $15,000) for a week or so.

According to research by the National Institute for Population and Social Welfare (1998), premarital sexual relations are increasing among the younger generation. The research shows that 80 percent of people, especially in urban areas, think it acceptable to have sex outside of marriage, if the partners love each other. The rate of premarital sex for women in 1987 was 30.2 percent; in 1992, 38.2 percent; and in 1997, 50.5 percent. The rate for men in 1987 was 53.0 percent; in 1992, 54.9 percent; and in 1997, 60.1 percent. Reports by the popular media suggest that young people get married when the woman gets pregnant, although there is no concrete research on this issue.

Legal marriage accounts for more than 85 percent of adult relationships. Jijitsukon, defined as a situation in which the partners live together for more than a few months essentially as a married couple but without a formal marriage procedure, is not common. If the couple lives this way for two years or more, they are given the same rights as if they were legally married. Ninety-five percent of women take their husbands' family name upon marriage and are registered under the men's family name and lineage under the koseki system. More and more women, however, are keeping their maiden family names to continue their careers. The use of different family names among married couples is practiced in daily life, but legal registration still only permits the same family name for a married couple.

Gender Roles

The traditional gender roles—men as breadwinners and women as homemakers—are only supported by only 40 to 50 percent of people (NHK 1994; Ministry of Public Management 1995). Among younger couples, more flexible gender roles are becoming popular. Although attitudes are changing, actual behaviors are not: Japanese men do only twenty to thirty minutes' worth of domestic work per day, while women spend three and a half hours in household chores.

Husbands and wives report very little communication and conversation, as little as ten to fifteen minutes per day. The writer Iku Hayashi first coined the term kateinai rikon (domestic divorce) in 1983 to describe this situation. It means that there is no conversation, communication, and sexual relations between a husband and wife, but they do not divorce.

Roles for mothers and fathers are segregated. Childcare is regarded as the mother's responsibility; the father's domestic role is limited to small household repairs and playing with children on weekends. Full-time working wives also have the burden of housekeeping without help. Domestic help is not popular in Japan. When women need help in housekeeping work and childcare, their mothers help them, and working mothers prefer living close to their mothers' house for this reason. Husbands and wives call each other father and mother, even when children are not around. Japanese couples regard parental roles as more important than couple roles when they have children.

Masculinity and Men's Suicide

Data from the daily time budget survey (1990) suggest that men perform very limited housekeeping work and women spend seven times as much as men spend on housekeeping on weekdays. The data show that men work seven-and-a-half hours per day outside the home, although actual working hours may be longer than nine hours and commuting time one to two hours. Wives do almost 90 percent of chores such as cooking, shopping, cleaning, and laundry. Young men seem willing to take part in domestic tasks, yet the data reveal that they do so for only thirty minutes or less per day.

Because of the economic stagnation that has began in 1995, Japanese employment customs such as lifelong employment and seniority have been abolished. More middle-aged men are unemployed in a society that is highly geared towards information technology. The suicide rate among these men is increasing. There is a deep preconception that men should be strong, reliable breadwinners for family. If they cannot take this role and responsibility, men think they are less than men and lose the traditional identity of fathers. This loss is large enough to cause some men to commit suicide. If the man has insurance, family members can receive a settlement after his death, depending on the case. Recent scholarship has focused on children who have lost fathers by suicide, as the number is increasing.

Decreasing Number of Children

On average, Japanese women have 1.35 children, one of the lowest birth rates in the world, as of 2000. The decline in birth rates has brought a drastic decrease in the younger population. The major reasons that women do not have children are financial: the high cost of childcare, education, and housing of an adequate size. Another factor has to do with the isolation women feel from the outside society once they are mothers. They are expected to quit their jobs to bring up children. In Japanese society, childcare, especially for children under six, is considered the mother's role. This social norm is called Bosei shinwa. The increase of child abuse by parents (more often by mothers) is a sign of this isolation. Social services for children are not sufficient, and the sole responsibility for childcare is a heavy burden by women.

Many women have only one or two children, few enough so that they are able to stay home to nurture and educate them adequately. Many parents want their children to excel in academic endeavors and pass the rigorous examinations to get into distinguished universities.

Adult children often continue to live with their parents even after they have completed their education. Those adults who stay with parents as dependents are called parasite singles, a phrase coined by Masahiro Yamaguchi of Tokyo Metropolitan University. They are supported by their parents and given a place to live and money for food, clothes, and entertainment. Eighty percent of women and 60 percent of men in their twenties fit this category. Parents prefer children to live at home; because they have a small number of children, they are uneasy to about living by themselves, and children can take care of them when they get sick.


The increase in the number of older people is another important trend in Japanese society. According to the 2000 census, the number of people aged sixty-five or over is 21,860,000, or 17.4 percent of the total population. The number of older women above sixty-five who are living by themselves is 1,922,000; the number of men older than sixty-five who are living single is 556,000. The majority of older women (80 percent) live by themselves. The heavy burden of seniors' care is on women. The eldest son's wife is expected to take care of older parents at home in the traditional Japanese manner. Elder abuse by family members occurs in some households. As elders are taken care of in a private space by family members, the abuse is hidden and not discovered until the situation becomes serious.

Public services for seniors are not sufficient. In 1998, The Ministry of Labor and Health established a new senior care management system and the qualifying examination. Senior care service in Japan is family based. Seniors are taken care of at private homes. The national senior care system produced many caregivers for older people, but the working conditions and wages are not good enough to obtain high-quality professional services.


Compared with other developed countries, the rate of divorce in Japan is still very low. Among 1,000 people, 20 (2%) are divorced, according to a study conducted by the Ministry of Labor and Welfare, Statistics and Information Division in 2000. The rate has been slowly increasing—in 1997 it was 1.78 percent, and in 1998 it was 1.94 percent. The divorce rate is higher in urban areas such as Osaka, Japan's second largest city, which had a 2.42 percent divorce rate in 1998. The divorce rate increased up to 4.6 times from 1965 to 1995.

Divorce is not a serious stigma among young people. But in general, especially in when a divorced couple lives in a local area with close neighborhood relations, divorce is viewed as detrimental to the family and a tragedy for children. The discriminatory attitude is often seen in communities and in schools. Divorced mothers find it hard to support themselves. Middle-aged divorced women have problems finding stable jobs. Single fathers find that the childcare role and housekeeping chores that they have to assume are heavy burdens.

Women's Vulnerable Economic Base

The younger generation is more likely to divorce than the older one. Couples divorce for various reason. The most common is mismatched personalities and values; the second is inadequate support by the husband; and the third is violence by the husband. Wives propose the majority (70%) of divorces. The primary reason for the low divorce rate in Japan compared to other developed countries is that women lack an economic base to live by themselves: 75 percent of middle-aged married women have no job or are unstable part-time workers. The second reason is that the Japanese wage system is based on a family wage system, and the major income earner is the husband. Men get additional fringe benefits for supporting wives and children; women who are full-time workers only get their wages. A woman can require the employer to pay fringe benefit to support children only when she makes more money than her husband and is approved by a local government to be head of the household. The third reason for the low divorce rate is the expectation that women should stay home with children combined with the long working hours typical in Japan. These factors make it too heavy a burden for a woman to both work full time and take care of children. Thus, most of women leave the workplace when they have children. When women's economic base is provided by her husband, divorce means that she has no way to support herself and her children.

Single Mothers at the Poverty Level

The rate of single-mother households was 1 percent in 1999—that is, among the total of 44,923,000 households, there were 448,000 single-mother households. Among all single mothers, 85.1 percent are widows, 7.5 percent are divorced, and 1.6 percent have never been married.

The standard of living for single mothers is lower than that of two-parent households. Average annual income decreases by almost one-third to 2,150,000 yen (approximately US $21,500), compared to a household with both husband and wife at an annual income of 6,480,000 (approximately US $64,800). Given the high cost of living in Japan, many single mothers need social welfare support.

Family Wage System

The Japanese wage system is base on family wage. When a man has a wife and children, he receives additional payment to support them. The family wage is paid only when the wife has no income or income less than 1,030,000 yen (about US $10,300) per year. If she earns this amount or less, she need not pay state tax and local government tax, and she is also exempted from the pension reserve fund. In addition, she can get 70 percent of husband's estate, if he had any fortune, after his death. Although the system was originally gender neutral, in almost all cases, women have lower wages or no income. This system eventually supports full-time housewives with no income. The taxation and wage system strengthens the attitude that women need not work full-time or at all because their husbands should support them. This system is based on the recognition of women's role in the family and their nonpaid work at home. The results are a wider gender gap in wage and fixed social roles for women and men. This system also rationalizes the lower wage for women in workforce.

Domestic Violence

In April 2001, an antidomestic-violence law was promulgated in Japan. Since 1995, spousal violence by husbands became a social issue. In 1997, the Tokyo metropolitan office did research on the situation of domestic violence in the Japanese family. Women who suffered any kind of violence by their husbands constituted 33 percent of the sample. This rate was unexpectedly high. The kinds of violence vary greatly and include physical and psychological violence and verbal dehumanization. Forced sexual relations and nonuse of condoms are common forms of domestic violence. Complaining about the way housekeeping is done another way that it manifests itself.

Japan lacks sufficient counseling services and shelters for the women who have experienced domestic violence. As of 1999, there were only thirty private women's shelters available in Japan. (At the local government level, each prefecture established an anti-prostitution facility in the late 1950s, but these are not for married women who are victims of domestic violence.) Public service by local governments does not show an understanding that women are vulnerable when they are not economically independent. Even if women are sheltered from abusive husbands for several weeks, they have no house to return to other than their husbands'.

Birth Control and Abortion

Abortion is legal in Japan as long as it is done within twenty-two weeks of conception. In 1997, a total of 337,799 abortions were reported. Among these, 23.8 percent were among women between the ages of twenty and twenty-four, and 20.4 percent were among twenty-five- to thirty-year-olds. The number of abortions overall has decreased since the 1960s, but the teenage abortion rate is increasing. This increase is occurring because teenage girls lack knowledge of birth control and their reproductive function and rights. When women have abortions, they have strong feelings of guilt and fear of taking a life.

In Buddhist temples there is a special way of mourning an aborted baby's soul, called mizukojizou. Often temples ask women to donate a large amount of money to mourn her aborted baby, claiming that otherwise, the women will be possessed by the evil spirits of aborted babies. This kind of superstition is still alive in some rural and urban areas. Some temples profit greatly from this superstition.

The most common method of birth control is the condom (77.8% in 1998). Use of the birth control pill (1.1%) is not widespread because it is available only through gynecologists and can not be purchased without a prescription.

Leave for Working Parents

In 1998, the revised Equal Employment Opportunity Law included parental leave for one year for fathers and mothers. Mother can take paid maternal leave for childbirth, but leave for childcare is not covered and wages are not paid by the employer. In 99 percent of the cases, mothers take parental leave to stay home for the children. Fathers rarely take parental leave.


The Japanese family is changing rapidly. More women want to be economically independent. Men are showing some flexibility toward taking part in domestic activities. In the twenty-first century, the Japanese family is developing into a more individualistic, gender-equal family.

See also:Ancestor Worship; Asian-American Families; Buddhism; Confucianism; Ethnic Variation/Ethnicity


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junko kuninobu

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In studying the history of children in Japan, as in studying the history of children in other parts of the world, it is possible to distinguish between the history of childhood and the history of children. Investigating the history of childhood involves tracing the history of the idea, or rather, ideas, about children. Mothers, fathers, relatives, and religious, political, and other leaders, in addition to children themselves, have held ideas about what a child is and how children should behave. These ideas have been spoken and also written in pamphlets, magazines, newspapers, and books and have appeared in plays, films, and radio and TV programs. On the other hand, the history of children can be defined as the history of children's attitudes and experiences. In other words, the history of childhood is a history of norms, a history of notions of what a child should be, while the history of children attempts to grasp the lived experience of children. Because family, children, and childhood are cherished ideals for many people, there is sometimes resistance to the idea that childhood and children's experience have varied across space and time. Although the history of childhood and children in Japan is in its early stages, a survey of existing data and research presents solid evidence of changing ideas of childhood and changing children's experiences in Japan since roughly the seventeenth century.

Although Japanese prehistory shades into history around the sixth to eighth centuries c.e., this article focuses on childhood in Japan from the seventeenth to the early twenty-first centuries. These four hundred years span three historical periods: the early modern (or Tokugawa) period, from 1600 to 1868; the modern (or preWorld War II) period, from 1868 to 1945; and the contemporary (or postwar) period, from 1945 to the present. The history of childhood or children in earlier eras is not included due to limitations of space and the scarcity of existing research.

Like other historical projects, the history of children in Japan requires sources. As in other countries, it is easier to find material about Japanese children than by Japanese children. The difficulty of finding sources is one of the limiting factors for research on children's attitudes. On the other hand, adult observations on the situation of children are not hard to find, and many youths and adults have recorded memories of their childhoods. Therefore, material on the history of childhood is easier to find than sources for the history of children.

Five major issues are crucial to a basic understanding of the history of Japanese childhood and children over the past several centuries: (1) shifting definitions of childhood; (2) continuity and change in Japanese lifecycle rituals; (3) the changing importance of children in Japanese families (or households); (4) substantial continuity in Japanese child-rearing techniques; (5) the modern proliferation of schools and other children's institutions. The emphasis here is on the history of Japanese childhood because the history of children has been much more difficult to uncover.

Definitions of Childhood

Probing the history of childhood in Japan leads to a very basic question: What is a child? In advanced industrial societies today, children are economically dependent on their parents, and many are expected to be students until their early twenties. Legally, children may be required to live with their parents, attend school, and stay out of the labor force. However, in early modern Japan, most children were workers rather than dependents, and many children never attended school. Children in poor and ordinary families labored in peasant, merchant, and artisan households. They were valued for their contribution to the family livelihood as workers, especially in farm households. Despite increasing enrollment in schools of various types in the early modern period, most children were not students. Formal education was generally required for samurai sons who would inherit official positions in the warrior hierarchy, and it was highly useful for children working in merchant households and for the sons of peasant leaders. Tutoring or school education also functioned as a marker of status for the sons and daughters in the families of samurai and wealthy peasants and merchants. Yet the majority of children learned necessary social and vocational skills in householdsin their natal households if they resided at home, in their adoptive households if they had been taken in by another family as successors, or in their masters' households if they had been placed out as servants or apprentices.

The transition to modern notions of the child as an economically dependent student took place in Japan's modern period with the implementation of a national school system and laws requiring four, then six, and finally nine years of compulsory education. Leaving home to attend school for many hours each day greatly reduced children's labor in the home at both economically productive and housekeeping chores. Today, according to the 1997 Japan Almanac, although only nine years of education are required, high school graduation rates are 96 percent of eligible children, while 45 percent of high school graduates go on to attend two- or four-year colleges.

Lifecycle Rituals

Rites of passage mark various stages of Japanese childhood. They have not been extensively studied by Western scholars, but the available evidence indicates that since the early modern period these ceremonies have varied by region, social status, and economic status. Lifecycle rituals have changed over time as well; much of the information presented here is from the modern and contemporary periods. In general, naming ceremonies involving household members or the larger community took place within about a week after birth. Thereafter, the newborn was presented to the guardian deity, or ujigami, at the local shrine, often thirty-one days after birth for boys and thirty-three days after birth for girls, but sometimes as long as fifty to a hundred days after birth. Midwives, neighbors who breast-fed an infant, wet nurses, nannies, or a couple in another household sometimes became lifelong ritual parents to a child. In some regions, the first full birthday was celebrated, but not later birthdays, or a feast with decorations was held on sekku, the doll festival on the third day of the third month for girls, or the carp kite festival on the fifth day of the fifth month for boys. May 5 is now a national holiday known as Children's Day, or kodomo no hi. On November 15, the shichi-go-san, or Seven-Five-Three Celebration, children of these ages are dressed in their best clothes, usually in traditional costumes, and taken to shrines. In the early modern period, a major rite for children, especially boys, was coming of age. This generally occurred around age fifteen. In some regions, not age but the ability to perform work tasks was the main qualification for attaining adult status. Upon entering adulthood, children might change names, clothes, and hairstyles. In the modern period, eligibility for conscription at age twenty also became a marker of adulthood, although conscription ended when the armed forces were abolished in 1945. In the contemporary or postwar period, children are often taken to shrines after birth and for the Seven-Five-Three Celebration, ceremonies mark the entry and exit from preschool and elementary, middle, and high school. The legal age for voting and drinking is twenty, although the marriage age is lower, eighteen for boys and sixteen for girls. On January 15, Adults Day, or seijin no hi young women reaching age twenty may visit shrines wearing kimono.

The Changing Importance of Children in the Household and Family

In Japan household goals and structure are closely related to conceptions of childhood and the treatment of children. Both children's experiences and notions of childhood have shifted as the goals and structure of Japanese households changed over the centuries. In the early modern and modern periods, when the overriding goal was the eternal continuity of the ie, or stem family (one couple from each generation in a household), children were essential to households as future heirs and heads of households. Lineal, or blood, continuity was not required; Japanese households could be carried on by adoption of kin or nonkinfor example by adoption of a boy, or of a daughter's husband, or even of a married couple. Occupations were hereditary, so children born to or adopted into a household, or brought in as servants or apprentices, were valued as successors, heirs, and laborers for samurai, peasant, artisan, and merchant families. The treatment of children varied according to their status as permanent or temporary household residents. The heir often received more attention and better food and clothing than non-inheriting sons and daughters, who were destined to leave the household for employment, adoption, or marriage.

From the end of the nineteenth century, as the ideal of a companionate family, stressing affective relations between husband and wife and parents and children, began to replace the household goal of everlasting continuity, the importance of children decreased in the home. As workplace and home separated and state bureaucracies and corporations replaced family enterprises from the early twentieth century, the need for children as heirs, successors, and laborers declined. At the same time, children came to be defined primarily by their role as students rather than as productive workers. The government aimed to mold children into loyal, self-sacrificing citizens of a modern, powerful nation-state. But in Japan's advanced industrial society of the contemporary period, the main life goal, or ikigai, of many Japanese, especially of the younger generations, is shifting from continuing the stem family or self-sacrifice for the company to consumption, leisure, or self-fulfillment. As the age at marriage increases, divorce rises, the proportion of women who never marry increases, and the birthrate falls, Japanese society is becoming less family- and child-centered. Despite politicians' laments about national decline, demographic analysis shows Japan to be an aging society, with a corresponding fall in the proportion of children in the population.

Child-Rearing Methods

Despite changes in family and individual goals, and in family structure, there has been significant continuity in child-rearing techniques. True, some early modern and modern physical punishments, such as locking children in storehouses and moxibustion (igniting a powder on the skin), have fallen into disuse, but patterns of indulgence of infants and toddlers followed by steadily tightening behavioral expectations for older children and youths remain. Babies still sleep with (or even between) their parents, are breast-fed on demand, are carried on the backs of their caregiver with head facing forward, and are toilet trained by following the child's natural elimination schedule. Cultivating the child's dependence on the mother's affection, approval, and care is still a major means of controlling older children, as opposed to scolding, physical punishment, or withdrawal of privileges. In general, children focus on their homework, extracurricular lessons, or play, and do little household or remunerative work.

Schools and Other Children's Institutions

A fifth major issue in the history of childhood is the proliferation of children's institutions. In the early modern period, children were born, cared for, and educated in households. In that period, many types of schools developed in both rural and urban areas. The number of schools and the social range of children attending school expanded. Not only the children of the ruling warrior and commoner elites, but increasingly the children of lower-ranking warrior families and the children of merchant and farm households also attended schools. In the upper ranks of society, girls as well as boys received educations through tutoring, formal schooling, or household service. Ronald Dore estimates that at the end of the early modern period, overall literacy rates were around forty percent. Children were even more likely to attend school in the modern and contemporary period. According to a 1997 Asahi Shinbun almanac, in 1960, 58 percent of children advanced to high school, but the rate was 96 percent in 1995. In that year, 13 percent of high school graduates (2 percent of males and 25 percent of females) went on to junior colleges, and 32 percent (41 percent of males and 23 percent of females) to four-year colleges. The corresponding 1960 figures were 2 percent and 8 percent. Furthermore, in the modern and contemporary periods children live and are cared for in households, but they are increasingly educated in various types of schools rather than at home. In addition, especially from the modern period, specialized institutions such as orphanages, reformatories, clubs, camps, mother-child shelters, mother-child guidance centers, milk depots, and day care centers have developed to care for children.

The history of childhood in Japan exhibits a fascinating combination of change and continuity. Prepared by prior interest in schooling, particularly in the early modern period, the Japanese made the transition to mass compulsory schooling quickly after 1872. Work obligations for children declined, particularly as emphasis not only on schooling but on school success expanded. By the 1950s, conversion to a low birth rate also shaped childhood. From the late 1970s, the spread of consumerism also had a strong impact on children, with participation in international musical fads and leadership in the development of electronic games for children. Yet Japan has preserved both continuity in child-rearing methods and considerable emphasis on group norms for children, as opposed to the more individualistic socialization that is standard in the United States. From day care and pre-school onward, education tends to emphasize the importance of links with other children and of conforming to peer standards and achievement of national and corporate norms.

See also: China; Comparative History of Childhood; India and South Asia.


Asahi Shinbun. 1996. Japan Almanac 1997. Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha.

Beardsley, Richard K., John W. Hall, and Robert E. Ward. 1959. Village Japan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Doi, Takeo. 1973. Anatomy of Dependence. New York: Kodansha International.

Dore, Ronald P. 1965. Education in Tokugawa Japan. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Early Childhood Education Association of Japan, ed. 1979. Early Childhood Education and Care in Japan. Tokyo: Child Honsha.

Embree, John. 1935. Suye Mura: A Japanese Village. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Goodman, Roger. 1990. Japan's "International Youth": The Emergence of a New Class of School children. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press.

Hendry, Joy. 1986. Becoming Japanese: The World of the Pre-School Child. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.

Jolivet, Muriel. 1997. Japan: The Childless Society? Trans. Anne-Marie Glasheen. New York: Routledge.

Katsu, Kokichi. 1988. Musui's Story: the Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai. Trans. Teruko Craig. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Lewis, Catherine. 1995. Educating Hearts and Minds: Reflections on Japanese Preschool and Elementary Education. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Marshall, Byron. 1994. Learning to Be Modern. Boulder, CO: West-view Press.

Nakane, Chie. 1972. "An Interpretation of the Size and Structure of the Household in Japan Over Three Centuries." In Household and Family in Past Time: Comparative History in the Size of the Domestic Group Over the Last Three Centuries, ed. Peter Laslett, pp. 517543. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Ochiai, Emiko. 1996. The Japanese Family System in Transition: A Sociological Analysis of Family Change in Postwar Japan. Tokyo: LTCB International Library Foundation.

Rohlen, Thomas. 1983. Japan's High Schools. Berkley: University of California Press.

Smith, Robert J., and Ella Lury Wiswell. 1982. The Women of Suye Mura. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Smith, Thomas C. 1977. Nakahara: Family Farming and Population in a Japanese Village, 17171830. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Tonomura, Hitomi. 1990. "Women and Inheritance in Japan's Early Warrior Society." Comparative Studies in Society and History 32: 592623.

Uno, Kathleen. 1991. "Women and Changes in the Household Division of Labor." In Recreating Japanese Women: 16001945, ed. Gail Lee Bernstein, pp. 1741. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Uno, Kathleen. 1999. Passages to Modernity: Motherhood, Childhood, and Social Reform in Early Twentieth-Century Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.

White, Merry. 1994. The Material Child: Coming of Age in Japan and America. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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Kathleen Uno

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At the start of the twenty-first century, 17 percent of the Japanese population was age sixty-five or oldera proportion matched only by Belgium, Greece, Italy, and Sweden, and surpassed by Monaco with 22 percent. What sets Japan even further apart from the rest of the world is the speed with which this aging has occurred. For example, it took Sweden eighty-five years to increase from 7 percent to 14 percent sixty-five and older, whereas in Japan it took only twenty-six years. The reason for the extraordinary pace of aging in Japan is the much shorter period during which Japanese women shifted from having five or more children to fewer than two and the dramatic improvements in survival, especially after World War II. In response to the rapid pace of aging in Japan, public and political attention there has become more focused on the issue of aging perhaps than in other developed countries. This entry will review the demographic factors influencing past and future aging in Japan, the circumstances of today's elderly population, and the challenges of developing policies to accommodate the rapid change in age structure.

Demographic determinants of aging

In its earliest stages, population aging is most influenced by fertility decline rather than by mortality decline, which tends to be concentrated at the youngest ages as the importance of infectious, parasitic diseases declines and that of chronic, degenerative diseases increases. In 1925, Japanese women gave birth to an average of 5.1 children each, but by 1950 fertility had fallen to 3.7 children and by 1960 to below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman (the number of children needed to just replace a couple in the population). Japan did not experience the long postwar baby boom that the United States did.

In 2000, Japanese women were having on average fewer than 1.4 children each. Although fertility within marriage and ideal family size declined very little in the last two decades of the twentieth century, increases in educational and work opportunities for women in that period were associated with later ages of marriage, and thus with reduced overall fertility. Such low fertility, even combined with lower mortality, means that the absolute size of the Japanese population will likely begin to decline between 2005 and 2010; the size of the cohort of twenty to twenty-four year olds who might be expected to enter the labor force has already begun to decline.

Now that Japan has progressed so far in its demographic transition, mortality decline is the primary force behind aging. Life expectancy at birth increased from about forty-five years in 1925 to sixty years in 1950 and to eighty-one years in 2000, the highest on earth. As in all richer countries, women outlive men; their life expectancies are eighty-four and seventy-seven years, respectively. A major contributor to increased survival in Japan has been the significant decline since 1970 in the death rate from cerebrovascular disease, which until 1980 was the leading cause of death. In the late 1990s, Japan was atypical of richer countries in that cancer was the number one cause of death instead of heart disease.

This rapid increase of survival means that the coming decades will see even greater aging in Japan. In its 1998 update, the United Nations projected that in 2050 the proportion of individuals age sixty-five and over would be 36 percent, assuming that life expectancy increased to eighty-four years and fertility remained at 1.4 children per woman. A fertility rebound to 1.8 children would result in only 32 percent sixty-five and over; an even greater increase to replacement-level fertility would result in 29 percent of the population age sixty-five and over. The proportion of people age eighty and over would increase from less than 4 percent in 2000 to 10, 12, or 13 percent in 2050, depending on the fertility scenario. Thus, the stage is set for continued dramatic aging of the Japanese population. Other countries in Asia, especially those in East and Southeast Asia, will also experience significant aging in the first half of the twenty-first century, but Japan has a substantial head start due to its earlier fertility decline and its remarkable success in reducing mortality.

Characteristics of the older population

The older Japanese population is similar to other older populations around the world in that it is predominantly female, and older men are more likely to be married than older women both patterns that are influenced by the sex differences in life expectancy. But Japan differs in two important respectsin patterns of labor force participation and of living arrangements.

In their late fifties and their sixties, Japanese men are much more likely to be working than their counterparts in other rich countries. In 1998, 85 percent of men ages fifty-five to sixty-four and 36 percent of men age sixty-five and over were in the labor force. The percentages for women were 50 and 15, respectively. In the United States, similar proportions of older women work, but older men are less likely to be in the labor force. In 1998, participation rates were only 68 percent for those ages fifty-five to sixty-four and 17 percent for those sixty-five and over. Labor force participation at older ages in most European countries is even lower. There are several possible reasons for the higher rates in Japan. Some have pointed to Japan's strong work ethic and work-group orientation. Others have emphasized the relative immaturity of the Japanese pension system until the last part of the twentieth century. Gruber and Wise have highlighted the relatively low penalty in terms of reduced pension benefits associated with continued work in Japan.

Labor force participation of the sixty-five and over population declined in Japan from 1980 to 1998, as it did in other richer countries, but the trend for the fifty-five to sixty-four population has been flat for Japanese males and upward for females. These time trends around the prime retirement ages likely reflect increases in the age of eligibility for public pensions and the efforts by the Japanese government to encourage firms to retain older workers or hire them anew.

The second significant characteristic of older Japanese is that they are much more likely to be living with their adult children than are their peers in other more developed countries. In 1990, 59 percent of the sixty-five and older population coresided with children, while 25 percent lived with spouses only, 4 percent with others, and 11 percent alone. Although the percentage coresiding is high by Western standards, it is low for Asia, where in recent decades roughly 75 percent coresidence has been the pattern. In fact, the figure for Japan in 1990 represents an 18 percentage point drop from 1970, when Japan was more typical of Asian societies. This decline in Japan likely reflects the increased survival of spouses, a change in preferences among family members for coresidence, and perhaps increased resources that allow the actualization of a preference for living apart from children. Not surprisingly, cross-sectional analysis based on Japanese data from 1988 indicate that older people with more education and a surviving spouse are less likely to live with their children than are people with less education and those who are widowed.

Hirosima's projections of living arrangements based on past trends in population, marital status, and propensity to coreside indicate that living with children will likely continue to decline to about 40 percent in 2010 with 36 percent of males coresiding and 43 percent of females doing so. The proportion living alone is expected to increase from 5 to 8 percent among males over the same period and from 15 to 16 percent among females. The biggest changes will likely be in the category of living with spouse only: from 36 to 50 percent for males and from 17 to 32 percent for females. Although coresidence is not necessary or sufficient for intergenerational support, these projections are consistent with the decline in the proportion of women of reproductive ages who expect to depend on their children once they reach old age, from 65 percent in 1950 to 18 percent in 1990.

Moreover, it would appear that on average older Japanese in the early 1990s were relatively well-off financially in comparison to younger Japanese and similar in circumstance to older people in other developed countries. As a result of a greater number of years of working and saving, it is not surprising that the net worth of older Japanese is larger than that of younger Japanese. Home ownership is an important component of wealth among older Japanese. Data from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development indicate that rates of home ownership among Japan's older population are over 75 percent, which is comparable to or even higher than some European countries. Of course, there is some decline in income with retirement. Even so, the ratio of income at age sixty-seven to income at age fifty-five in Japan is similar to the ratios in many European countries, about 75 to 80 percent. Public pension benefits are an important component of income for older Japanese. It remains to be seen how the bursting of the so-called bubble economy and the subsequent economic slowdown in the 1990s will ultimately affect the overall economic well-being of older Japanese, especially those at the low ends of the income and wealth distributions. Furthermore, serious questions about the future of the public pension system are a source of concern.

Policy challenges

Like other more developed countries, Japan is facing the prospect of increasing costs of its public pension and health systems, and it is considering what response, if any, is appropriate to the coming declines in population and work force.

There has been particular concern that the increased ratio of retirees to workers would require unbearably high contribution rates to maintain the fiscal viability of the public pension systems. At the same time, the government has recognized the importance of pensions to older people. The options for pension reform are basically to increase contributions, decrease benefits, or increase the age of eligibility for benefits, and the Japanese government used all three mechanisms in a series of reforms in the 1980s and 1990s.

In March 2000, the Japanese parliament passed legislation that is forecasted to limit the increase in premiums from 17.4 percent of monthly pay (shared equally by employee and employer) in 2000 to 25.2 percent in 2025, as opposed to 34.5 percent if the law had not been changed. To accomplish this goal, benefits for new retirees are being cut by 5 percent, and it is estimated that lifetime retirement benefits will be cut by about 20 percent for a typical worker who is forty years old in 2000. The age of eligibility is being gradually increased from sixty to sixty-five, semiannual bonuses received by workers will for the first time be included in the pay used to calculate their contributions, and the adjustment of benefits for inflation will be based on consumer prices instead of wages. Some critics have argued that even these significant changes are not enough and that the government forecasts of the viability of the system are based on fertility assumptions that are too high.

In 2000, the Japanese government also implemented a new long-term care insurance system that requires monthly contributions of roughly $20 to $30 from persons age forty and over. Those who are already retired pay at the upper end of that range. Also a copayment of 10 percent is paid by all but the lowest-income beneficiaries of services. In 2000, the government was also considering adjusting its broader medical insurance system and requiring older people to pay a percentage of their costs of care (up to a limit), as opposed to the current system of nominal fees.

Increasing the size of the working-age population relative to the retired population would help improve the fiscal health of the pension and medical insurance systems. Possible mechanisms include allowing more immigration, increasing the labor force participation of older people and women, andover the long runincreasing fertility. Japanese society has not been nearly so open to newcomers as the United States, so unless there is major social change, immigration is unlikely to make much difference. Although Japan's older population is already relatively active in the labor force, improvements in health combined with financial need and job opportunities might well lead to even greater participation. Women are truly in the middle, since they are typically the caretakers of those in the older and younger generations who may need assistance, and many young women are choosing to opt out of this role or at least delay it. Making work more compatible with family responsibilities for both men and women will be a key element of accommodating the dramatic changes in age structure that are to come in Japan.

Linda G. Martin

See also China; South Asia.


Gendell, M. "Trends in Retirement Age in Four Countries, 19651995." Monthly Labor Review 121 (August 1998): 2030.

Gruber, J., and Wise, D., eds. International Comparison of Social Security Systems. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Hirosima, K. "Projection of Living Arrangements of the Elderly in Japan: 19902010." Genus 53, no. 12 (1997): 79111.

Martin, L. G. "The Graying of Japan." Population Bulletin 44 (July 1989): 141.

Retherford, R. D.; Ogawa, N.; and Sakamoto, S. "Values and Fertility Change in Japan," In Dynamics of Values in Fertility Change. Edited by R. Letee. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1999. Pages 121147.

Tsuya, N. O., and Martin, L. G. "Living Arrangements of Elderly Japanese and Attitudes Toward Inheritance." Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences 47 (March 1992): S45S54.

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JAPAN An island nation of East Asia. Language: Japanese (Nippongo or Nihongo).