Japan: Land of the Rising Sun Politics and Culture
Japan’s population is 124 million people. Japan ranks seventh among the world’s most populous nations Japan has a population density of 859 people per square mile. Japanese comprise 99% of the population of Japan. The small remainder includes Koreans, Chinese and the Ainu. The Ainu are believed to be the aborigines of Japan.
In terms of culture, language, and ethnicity, Japan is one the world’s most homogeneous nations. The spoken language is unique to Japan, but the written language was borrowed from China. Japan’s religions are Buddhism and Shinto. After the Meiji Restoration in the nineteenth century, Shinto became the state religion. Shinto was taught in the schools, and all Japanese were required to belong to a state Shinto shrine. State religion was abolished after Japan’s defeat in World War II, but Shintoism remains an important part of Japanese culture. Buddhism is often considered Japan’s most important religion. It was introduced from China and Korea in the 6th century and spread rapidly throughout the country.
Buddhism Founder: Siddhartha Gautama “The Enlightened One” Daibutsu (Great Buddha) figure at Kamakura, Japan, was cast in bronze in 1252. The figure depicts Amida Buddha in perfect repose and passionless calm. Buddhist Monks
The Shinto Myth The Japanese islands are a special creation of the gods. After the primal chaos had in the course of events separated into heaven and ocean, various gods appeared in the heavenly drift-mist, only to disappear without event, until finally there came upon the scene two deities who produced the Japanese islands and their inhabitants. Izanagi and Izanami were summoned to “make, consolidate, and give birth to” the Japanese islands. These two beings descended the Floating Bridge of Heaven and created the first island of Japan. Stepping down on the island, they came together, and Izanami bore from her womb the eight great islandsof Japan. After that they brought into being a populace of thirty-five deities... The Shinto religion is uniquely Japanese and has never sought converts outside of Japan.
Tokyo- The capital city of Japan One of the most heavily populated metropolises in the world
Asakusa Temple - Kannon Hibiya Tokyo
The Sumida River The Meiji Shrine Japanese Kimonos
Sumo wrestling is a popular spectator sport in Japan dating back hundreds of years. Size is an advantage in Sumo wrestling so the athletes strive to gain weight.
Mount Fuji, Japan- this dormant volcano is Japan’s highest mountain.
Political Setting • The origins of Modern Japan • Opening to the world • Japan’s bid for hegemony in Asia • The 1947 Constitution
The Origins of Modern Japan • Mythology holds that Japan’s emperors descend from the Sun Goddess • The present emperor of Japan is a direct descendant of the House of Yamato, which established hegemony over Japan during the first centuries A.D. • The Japanese copied most of their culture from the Chinese
The Japanese imitated or adopted the Chinese industrial arts, script, medical tests, and calendar; they even embraced Buddhism. Japanese rulers also copied China’s political administration. During the 12th century, powerful military clans arose. In 1192, the first Shogun assumes power. Japan’s first Shogun
A feudal form of government based on hereditary land ownership, vassalage, and military prowess. Prevailed for 700 years. Rival feudal lords, daimyo, kept the nation in perpetual Civil War. Samurai- Japanese professional warrior class 1543- Portuguese traders arrived in southern Japan Civil warfare finally ended in 1590. Tokugawa Shogunate ruled Japan until 1868. The Japanese Shogunate
1853- Japan began an Open Door Policy, striking up treaties with the U.S., Russia, Netherlands, and Great Britain A decade of turmoil followed Meiji Restoration- Japan’s modernization drive Japan industrialized rapidly and abolished feudalism 1889, bicameral legislation formed, the Diet Opening to the World
The reforms created a parliamentary system in theory but not in practice: the new civilian cabinet, headed by a prime minister, was made responsible only to the emperor. Japanese ascended to power through a series of impressive military victories over China in 1895 and then Russia in 1904- 1905. An empire begins to take shape with the acquisition of Formosa (Taiwan), part of Sakhalin Island, and railway and port rights in Manchuria. Also important to Japan was China’s recognition of Korea’s independence. Japan was one of the five chief powers at the treaty signing in Versailles. In 1922, the Washington Naval Conference recognized as the third-ranked naval power in the world.
In 1925, universal male suffrage introduced democracy, and political parties arose for the first time. But when Emperor Hirohito ascended the throne the following year, the military seized the initiative and swept the political parties aside. In 1931, the Japanese army invaded Manchuria. Japan’s course of military adventurism and empire-building had begun. Emperor Hirohito ruled 1926-1989 The last ruler to uphold (at least for the first part of his reign) the Shinto idea of imperial divinity.
Eve of WWII- Japan joins infamous Axis alliance Dec. 7, 1941- Japan launched surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Simultaneously attacked U.S. forces in Philippines Also attacked British forces in Hong Kong and Malaya Japan sought to create a Japan-ruled “co-prosperity sphere” Japan’s bid for Hegemony in Asia
December 7, 1941 USS Arizona
The 1947 Constitution was crafted by the U.S. Framers sought to construct an elaborate system of representative government for Japan Provides wide range of civil liberties Article 9 says that Japan can maintain a defensive military only, offensive military power is forbidden. Less than 1% of GNP is spend on defense The 1947 Constitution
The American influence on the Japanese constitution is especially apparent in its preamble: We, the Japanese people, acting through our duly elected represent- atives in the National Diet, determined that we shall secure for our selves and our posterity the fruits of peaceful cooperation with all nations and the blessings of liberty throughout this land, and re- solved that never again shall we be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government, do proclaim that sovereign power resides with the people and do firmly establish this Constitution… Government is a sacred trust of the people, the authority for which is derived from the people, the powers of which are exercised by representatives of the people, and the benefits of which are enjoyed by the people.
Take a Look at some of Japan’s historical sites...
Golden Hall of Chusonji Temple- 12th Century culture on display Motsuji Temple Jodo Garden 800 year old aesthetics
Usuki Stone Buddhas carved during the 12th- 14th centuries
Yamagata Castle Yamagata is the capital city of the Yamagata Prefecture