Japans viability When we think of Japan, the first things that come in mind are the red circle of Japans national flag, an ancient civilization with its own traditions, samurai and The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise, yen and Japanese economy, one of the most powerful in the world, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, destroyed with the first atom bombs, Tokyo and the Kyoto treaty, Emperor and Prime Minister of Japan. The list could be long. Therefore, we understand that Japan is very old and interesting country. Its past is rich but the aim of our work is different from it: we need to know Japans future. However, as there is no Cassandra to prophesy Japans future, we will have to analyze the past and the present in order to understand the future. As we know, viability is the ability to grow and to develop adequately, the ability to function and to survive in the cause of history.
Up to now, Japan has proved its viability in many ways. It has survived many historic events, like wars, international pressure, natural cataclysms and atom bombs. Being once a feudal country, now Japan is the fully developed economic power with the GNP that is the second in the world after the USA. Nevertheless, there are some controversial facts about Japan that incline us to think that its future may be not so bright. Before we come to any conclusions, we try to analyze Japan in all possible ways. Here is general information about Japan.
1. Geographical position Japan consists of several thousands of islands, of which Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku are the four largest. Japan’s closest neighbors are Korea, Russia and China. The Sea of Japan separates the Asian continent from the Japanese archipelago. Japan’s area is larger than, for example, Germany’s and comparable to the one of Italy or California. Japan’s northernmost islands are located approximately on same geographical latitude as Milan or Portland while her southernmost islands are about on the same latitude as the Bahamas. In other words, Japan’s North South extension equals about the distance from Oslo to Naples.
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More than 50% of the area of Japan is mountainous and covered by forests. Japan is politically structured in 8 regions and 47 prefectures. The population of Japan is about 125,000,000. Almost the whole population is Japanese. More than half of the non-Japanese population is Korean. There are many volcanoes in Japan because the country lies in an area where several continental plates meet.
A positive side effect is a large number of hot springs. The most famous volcano is Mt.Fuji, which is the highest point of Japan and one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. It can be seen from Tokyo when the weather is clear. Japan lies in one of the most earthquake active regions of the world. This fact is very important and we will yet return to it. But now we continue. Due to the large North South extension of the country, the climate varies strongly in different regions.
The climate in most of the major cities, including Tokyo, is temperate to subtropical and consists of four seasons. The winter is mild and the summer is hot and humid. There is a rainy season in early summer, and typhoons hit parts of the country every year during late summer. The climate of the northern island of Hokkaido is colder, and snowstorms occur frequently during winter. In Okinawa, on the other hand, the mean temperature of January is a warm 16 degrees Celsius. 2. History Japans history is long and rich in events but we do not want to list here all the events. You can find the most significant events in Figure 1.
Figure 1 Period Name Description -300 BC Jomon The early Japanese were gatherers, hunters and fishers. 300 BC-300 Yayoi The introduction of rice agriculture evokes the development of a social hierarchy and hundreds of small countries that started to unify into larger countries. 300-538 Kofun 300 Japan is for the first time more or less united. Large tombs (kofun) were built for the deceased leaders. 538-710 Asuka 538/552 Introduction of Buddhism. 604 Prince Shotoku’s Constitution of seventeen articles is promulgated. 645 The Taika reform is introduced. The Fujiwara era starts.
... of interests in Korea between China and Japan led to the Sino-Japanese War in 1894-95. Japan defeated China, received Taiwan, but was ... 1929 intensified the crisis. During the 1930 s, the military established almost complete control over the government. Many political enemies were ... was restored. The emperor Meiji was moved from Kyoto to Tokyo, which became the new capital. The actual political power ...
710-784 Nara 710 Nara becomes the first permanent capital. 784 The capital moves to Nagaoka. 794-1185 Heian 794 The capital moves to Heian (Kyoto).
1016 Fujiwara Michinaga becomes regent. 1159 The Taira clan under Taira Kiyomori takes over the power after the Heiji war. 1175 The Buddhist Jodo sect (Pure land sect) is introduced.
1180-85 In the Gempei War, the Minamoto clan puts an end to Taira supremacy. 1192-1333 Kamakura 1191 The Zen sect is introduced. 1192 Minamoto Yoritomo is appointed shogun and establishes the Kamakura government. 1221 The Jokyu Disturbance ends a struggle between Kamakura and Kyoto resulting in the supremacy of the Hojo regents in Kamakura. 1232 A legal code, the Joei Shikimoku, is promulgated. 1274 and 1281 The Mongols try to invade Japan twice, but fail mainly because of bad weather conditions. 1333 The Kamakura bakufu falls.
1338-1573 Muromachi 1334 Kemmu restoration: the emperor restores power over Japan. 1336 Ashikaga Takauji captures Kyoto. 1337 The emperor flees and establishes the Southern court in Yoshino. 1338 Takauji establishes the Muromachi government and a second emperor in Kyoto (Northern court).
1392 Unification of the Southern and Northern courts. 1467-1477 Onin war.
1542 Portuguese introduce firearms and Christianity to Japan. 1568 Nobunaga enters Kyoto. 1573 The Muromachi Bakufu falls. 1573-1603 Azuchi Momoyama 1575 The Takeda clan is defeated in the battle of Nagashino. 1582 Nobunaga is murdered and succeeded by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. 1588 Hideyoshi confiscates the weapons of farmers and religious institutions in the “Sword Hunt”.
1590 Japan is reunited after the fall of Odawara (Hojo).
1592-98 Unsuccessful invasion of Korea. 1598 Death of Hideyoshi. 1600 Tokugawa Ieyasu defeats his rivals in the battle of Sekigahara. 1603 – 1867 Edo 1603 Ieyasu is appointed shogun and establishes the Tokugawa government in Edo (Tokyo).
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1614 Ieyasu intensifies persecution of Christianity. 1615 The Toyotomi clan is destroyed after Ieyasu captures Osaka Castle.
1639 Almost complete isolation of Japan from the rest of the world. 1688-1703 Genroku era: popular culture flourishes. 1792 The Russians unsuccessfully try to establish trade relations with Japan. 1854 Commodore Matthew Perry forces the Japanese government to open a limited number of ports for trade. 1868-1912 Meiji 1868 Meiji restoration. 1872 First railway line between Tokyo and Yokohama. 1889 The Meiji Constitution is promulgated. 1894-95 Sino-Japanese War.
1904-05 Russo-Japanese War. 1910 Annexion of Korea. 1912 Death of emperor Meiji. 1912-1926 Taisho 1914-18 Japan joins allied forces in WW1. 1923 The Great Kanto Earthquake devastates Tokyo and Yokohama. 1926-1989 Showa 1931 Manchurian Incident. 1937 Second Sino-Japanese War starts. 1941 Pacific War starts.
1945 Japan surrenders after two atomic bombs are dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 1946 The new constitution is promulgated. 1952 The Allied Occupation of Japan ends. 1956 Japan becomes member of the UN. 1972 Normalization of relations to China. 1973 Oil crisis.
1989- Heisei 1993 The LDP loses its majority in the diet. 1995 The Great Hanshin Earthquake hits Kobe. Sarin Gas attack in the Tokyo subway by AUM sect. 3. Political system The Japanese parliament is called the diet. It consists of the House of Representatives (500 members) and the House of Councilors (252 members).
The members of the diet are elected by the Japanese people. The cabinet is headed by the Prime Minister. Current prime minister is Junichiro Koizumi. The cabinet further consists of the ministers, which are appointed by the prime minister and are usually members of the diet. The prime minister is elected by the diet. The highest court is the Supreme Court.
Other courts are district courts, high courts, family courts, and summary courts. Judges are appointed by the cabinet. The minimum voting age is 20 years. Women received the right to vote in the new constitution. Elections for the House of Representatives are carried out every four years, and half of the House of Councilors is elected every three years. Beside the national elections, there are prefectural and municipal elections.
The emperor does not have any effective power but is only the symbol of the state. The postwar constitution of 1946 states that the emperor has only a symbolic function. He now mainly participates at ceremonies and diplomatic meetings, but has no effective political power. In 1989, Emperor Akihito became Japan’s 125th emperor. He is married to Empress Michiko, the first empress who did not come from the nobility. Their eldest son is Crown Prince Naruhito. The imperial family resides in the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
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4. Economy The Japanese economy is one of the strongest in the world. Only the USA has a higher GNP. The Japanese currency is the Yen. Japan’s main export goods are cars, electronic devices and computers. Most important single trade partner is the USA, which imports more than one quarter of all Japanese exports. Other major export countries are Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, China and Singapore.
Japan has a large surplus in its export/import balance. The most important import goods are raw materials such as oil, foodstuffs, and wood. Major suppliers are the USA, China, Indonesia, South Korea, and Australia. Manufacturing, construction, distribution, real estate, services, and communication are Japan’s major industries today. Agriculture makes up only about 2% of the GNP. Most important agricultural product is rice. Resources of raw materials are very limited and the mining industry rather small. Now, when we possess all this useful information, let us highlight some most important moments, which, in our opinion, are decisive in making a conclusion as to Japans viability in the future. First, we can observe exceptional ability of Japans people to survive even in most severe situations.
Neither atom bombs nor horrible earthquakes could prevent Japanese from living and rebuilding their homeland. Like a legendary bird, Phoenix, Japan was burnt and then it rose again. This requires a strong spirit and capacity for work. This makes us think that among all other nations, Japan will always hold its position of a leader. Then we see Japans ability to grow and to develop like no other country in the world. This ability may be characterized as the ability to imitate and to copy the best from what other nations have. They have borrowed much from the West and still they were able to retain most of their original culture and traditions.
Therefore, they are able not only to imitate but also to learn. This shows their wisdom. This makes us believe that with years to come Japan will acquire a greater political and economic power. Even now, it is the second country in the world in economic terms. Big corporations and an extremely industrious character of Japanese people will further Japans economic growth. The Japanese past reveals us the warlike character of Japans nation. Sometimes it took the aggressive forms.
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They are all warriors and samurai in their souls. All those centuries of great battles, victories and defeats cannot be erased with the touch of civilization. Their swords, now being just an interesting sight for tourists, once were glorious and dangerous. The day may come, when these swords will fight again. Therefore, this factor is also important. The armaments in Japan should be under control. We do not want a new Pearl Harbor. The last factor is the most important, in our opinion, for Japans future. Therefore, we will dwell on it.
This factor is Japans unfavorable geographical position. The country depends much on imports of raw materials. If the countries supplying Japan with oil, foodstuffs and wood reject to supply Japan with all this, it will have either to die or to find some other way to get it. As we see from the historical examples, once there was a time when in 1940, Japan occupied French Indochina (Vietnam) upon agreement with the French Vichy government, and joined the Axis powers Germany and Italy. These actions intensified Japan’s conflict with the United States and Great Britain, which reacted with an oil boycott. The resulting oil shortage and failures to solve the conflict diplomatically made Japan decide to capture the oil rich Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) and to start a war with the US and Great Britain.
One more factor can become fatal for Japans future. It is also connected with the countrys unfavorable geographical position. This factor is earthquakes. The Japanese archipelago is located in an area where several continental and oceanic plates meet. This is the cause for frequent earthquakes and the presence of many volcanoes and hot springs across Japan. If earthquakes occur below or close to the ocean, they may trigger tidal waves (tsunami).
Many parts of the country have experienced devastating earthquakes and tidal waves in the past. The worst earthquake in Japanese history hit the Kanto plain around Tokyo in the year 1923, when over 140,000 people died in the Great Kanto Earthquake. In January 1995, a strong earthquake hit the city of Kobe and surroundings.
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The Southern Hyogo Earthquake (also called Great Hanshin Earthquake) killed 6,000 and injured 415,000 people. 100,000 houses were completely and 185,000 partially destroyed. Every household in Japan keeps a survival kit consisting of water and food for a few days, a flashlight, a radio and a first aid kit. People should avoid placing heavy objects into places where they could easily fall during an earthquake and cause injury or block exits. Everybody should have a fire extinguisher. Certainly, Japan was able to overcome the earthquakes and tsunamis in the past. However, the seismic zones are very dangerous.
There are volcanoes in Japan. Imagine that one day they may erupt. Just recall what happened to Pompeii. Now and then, Japan has seismic disasters. The science helps people to predict the disasters but nobody will rescue their houses, their plants and power stations. There are 16 nuclear power stations in Japan.
Many of them can be destroyed during earthquakes or tsunamis. For example, Tomari power station is located, along the Coast of Japan Sea, in Tomari Village, 70 km to the west of Sapporo City. Tsunamis, sometimes incorrectly called tidal waves, occur when the epicenter is undersea or very near the ocean and travel as a shock wave from the epicenter. Tsunamis can travel at speeds up to 1000 km/h (620 mph) and as they reach shore, they can mount up forming waves 15 m (49 ft) tall and cause severe damage to coastal regions. Just imagine what will become of this Tomari power station when the tsunami wave will reach it! To summarize it all, we see Japans viability as a strong feature that will help this country to establish its position in the world. However, we must not forget about the geographical factor, which may lead to a decline or even disappearance of Japan from the worlds map.
Works Cited “Japan.”Encyclop?dia Britannica. 2004. Encyclop?dia Britannica Premium Service. 1 May 2004 . Japan A-Z. 30 April 2004 . Earthquake Research Institute, University of Tokyo.
30 April 2004 . Immigrants the key to Japan’s future security 14.02.2004 The New Zealand Herald. 30 April 2004 . Nuclear Power Stations in Japan. 30 April 2004 ..