|STATE STRUCTURE||A constitutional monarchy|
|INTERNAL DIVISION||Prefecture. Japan has 47 top-level administrative divisions – prefectures. Each prefecture has its own legislative and administrative apparatus.|
|CLIMATE||From subtropical in the south (Ryukyu Islands) to low temperature zone (Hokkaido Island). It is divided into 6 climatic zones.|
|NATIONAL COMPOSITION||Almost 98% of the population of the islands are Japanese, the remaining two percent are divided between the indigenous and social minorities of the archipelago: Ryukyus, Ainu and Burakumin.|
|TIMEZONE||UTC +9 / MSK +6|
The flag of Japan (Jap. 日章旗 nissho: ki, “solar flag”), in its homeland it is also called hinomaru (Japanese 日 の丸, “solar circle”), is a white canvas with a large red circle in the middle, personifying the rising sun.
According to legend, the tradition of this flag dates back to the 13th century, from the time of the Mongol invasion of Japan.
The flag began to be considered as a state flag in the era of national restoration after 1868.
The flag has an aspect ratio of 2:3 and is the state and civil flag of Japan, as well as the state and civil pennant (sign).
There is no official coat of arms in Japan. Instead, the Imperial Seal of Japan (菊の御紋 kiku-no hubbub) is used.
This is a symbol in the form of a yellow or orange 16-petal chrysanthemum.
Since the Kamakura period, it has been considered the emblem of Japanese emperors and members of the Japanese imperial family.
The image of the imperial seal consists of a central circle surrounded by sixteen petals, outside they are surrounded by a second row of petals.
During the Meiji Restoration, according to an 1871 decree, no one but the Emperor of Japan was allowed to use this seal.
After World War II, this ban was lifted.
Japan – Parallel Universe
According to Franciscogardening.com, Japan is an island nation located in East Asia, on a large archipelago that is part of the Pacific volcanic ring of fire. The Japanese islands are washed by the waters of the Pacific Ocean, as well as the East China and Japan Seas. The first sea separates Japan from China and Taiwan, and the second from Korea. To the north is the Russian Far East.
For many Europeans, Japan is a mysterious and unusual country. Its official name is Nihon Koku or Nippon Koku. That is, “the place where the sun rises.” But more often Japan is called the Land of the Rising Sun. The Russian word “Japan” is an exonym. It is believed that the name came from the German language (the word Japan).
The origin of the Japanese is a matter of debate. Historical and geographical studies suggest that the Japanese ethnic group was formed as a result of a mixture of peoples who, in ancient times, came to the islands from various parts of Asia.
There are really a lot of islands belonging to Japan – 6852, of which only 430 are inhabited. Currently, about 127 million people live in the country. The main and largest islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku. They make up 97% of the total area of the archipelago.
Japan is often referred to as the land of volcanoes. The most famous and highest is Mount Fuji volcano (3776 meters). It has long become a national shrine, pride and one of the symbols of the country.
The inhabitants of the island of Honshu have deified Fuji since ancient times. They say that the ancient Ainu called it that – the people who settled on the islands long before the mass “Asian invasion”. The Ainu language is mostly spoken today on the island of Hokkaido, but it is an endangered language spoken by older people. The younger descendants of the Ainu now predominantly use Japanese. The Japanese believe that it was the Ainu who named Mount Fuji – in honor of the goddess of fire, which they worshiped.
Contemplating Fuji, the Japanese experience a sense of harmony, unity with nature and orderliness of the universe, it is considered one of the shrines of Shintoism – the main religion in Japan. There are a little less fans of Buddhism in the country. The Japanese are adherents of old traditions, so the pilgrimage to Fuji for them is about the same as the hajj to Mecca for Muslims. It is believed that every Japanese at least once in his life must make a pilgrimage to this mountain. A trail equipped with special places for rest leads to its top. In total there are 10 such “parking places”.
Almost at the very top of Fujiyama, a Shinto shrine was built – the main center of pilgrimage. Approximately 5 million people come to Mount Fuji every year. Someone makes an ascent to the volcano, but most people prefer not to go uphill, confining themselves to contemplating the giant from below.
The volcano is considered active. Its crater, which is 500 meters in diameter and 200 meters deep, has jagged edges: inside it are eight rocky ridges. The Japanese, often expressed in poetic language, called them Yaksula-Fuji (“Fuji’s Eight Petals”). In winter, the mountain is covered with snow, but it becomes especially beautiful in spring, when the sakura blossoms. While Fuji is dozing, only rare wisps of smoke coming from somewhere deep remind that the giant’s strength has not dried up.
Interesting fact: There are over 100 active volcanoes in Japan.
Presumably, the settlement of the Japanese islands by people occurred in the Paleolithic era, about 40 thousand years ago. About 500 BC. e. rice was cultivated on the archipelago, a potter’s wheel and a loom appeared. Gradually, people switched to the processing of metals – copper, bronze and iron. The formation of the first settlements also belongs to this period. According to scientists, immigrants from China and Korea played a big role in the development of a new way of life for the Japanese. For the first time Japan is mentioned in one of the historical chronicles of the Celestial Empire – Hanshu.
Japan is located in various climatic zones. So, for example, the subtropics are the Ryukyu Islands, the low temperature zone is the island of Hokkaido, which is considered in Japan to be the “harsh North”. In the regions of Chugoku and Shikoku, located in the zone of the Inland Sea of Japan, the climate is temperate. The average annual temperature in Hokkaido is +8°C, sunny days here, especially during the long winter period, are extremely rare. In some areas, it is very humid, cold and windy in winter, but also quite cool and rainy in summer. In late summer – early autumn, devastating typhoons occur, when the wind reaches speeds of over 40 m / s, sweeping away everything in its path, there are endless heavy rains.
Many Japanese islands are characterized by lush and lush vegetation – forests cover most of the entire territory. More than 270 species of mammals, about 800 species of birds and 100 species of reptiles live on the territory of the country. The flora is also rich and varied. The slopes of the hills are covered with dense thickets of bamboo; oak, ash, spruce, maple, camphor, cypress, as well as magnolia, eleutherococcus, lemongrass are common. Spicy bright red berries of the latter are successfully used to treat various ailments – peptic ulcer, dysentery, myopia and many others. Many unique medicinal herbs grow, as well as wild berries – cloudberries, lingonberries, blueberries and others.
Interesting fact: Chrysanthemum is the oldest sign of imperial power in Japan. Until recently, only members of the emperor’s family could use the image of this flower. True, now his image in the country can be found everywhere – on postage stamps, coins and even on the passport of a citizen of Japan. The very first and honorary order of the country, the Order of the Chrysanthemum, is also named after this flower.
The fauna of Japan is still poorer than on the mainland – this is due to island isolation. Some animal species are smaller than their mainland counterparts. Japanese badgers, sables, raccoon dogs and even moles differ from the mainland. In Hokkaido and Honshu, you can meet a brown bear, weasel, ermine, fox, badger, raccoon dog and wolf. Currently, wild animals in the Land of the Rising Sun live mainly in nature reserves and national parks.
The Japanese have a special relationship with the animal world. Some provinces of the country even have their own sacred representatives: for example, in Nara, this is a sika deer, and in some sea regions, a petrel or a three-toed woodpecker. The green pheasant, which is called “kiji”, is revered everywhere – the Japanese recognized it as a national treasure. Such a pheasant is not seen anywhere else in the world.
Endemic and relict species have survived: white-breasted bears and the Japanese macaque. Many residents of the country and tourists like to watch Japanese macaques that live on Honshu in deciduous and mountainous subtropical forests. They feed mainly on plant foods, although they do not disdain small insects. In winter, fleeing from frost, monkeys like to bask in hot springs.
Interesting fact: Macaques living in other parts of the world categorically ignore water. And Japanese monkeys, on the contrary, take baths with pleasure.
The formation of statehood in Japan, as elsewhere in the world, had a multi-stage character. In the XII century, the class of feudal warriors – samurai – strengthened in the country, the shogunate became the institution of government.
The history of the samurai is full of legends and legends. Most of them are beautiful fairy tales, but some are based on real events. Samurai played a significant role, having a great influence on the formation of the Japanese way of life. In the VIII century, when the country was just beginning to acquire the features of a more or less stable centralized state with an emperor at the head, it was the samurai who began to be recruited into law enforcement agencies. They spent their lives in military campaigns and skirmishes with the rebels. These people, having received a special status, served the emperor faithfully for a long time.
In the X-XII centuries, as a result of constant feudal strife, influential samurai clans finally formed. Each had its own military unit, which was formally listed in the imperial service, but in fact ensured the interests of its master. At the same time, the foundations of the moral code of the samurai began to take shape, which later turned into the “Way of the Warrior” (“Bushi-do”) – a sacred set of commandments, which described in great detail the behavior and lifestyle of the military class.
The principles of the samurai were severely tested during the protracted war between the Minamoto and Taira dynasties (1180-1185). As a result of violent clashes, in which one side or the other prevailed, the Minamoto clan won the final victory. Along with the Taira, the old imperial court collapsed. Minamoto was in power. The imperial dynasty lost real power for hundreds of years, and for the same amount of time the samurai occupied a prominent position in the court. In 1192, Minamoto no Yoritomo became the first shogun, or military ruler, of Japan. Thus, all power was concentrated in the hands of the institution of executive power – the shogunate and the samurai class supporting it. The imperial court remained in Kyoto for the sake of formality, and the capital of the country moved to the city of Kamakura.
Yoritomo managed to subdue almost all the samurai clans, pacifying some and bribing others. From the vassals were required loyalty and observance of the laws of honor. Cowardice, betrayal and self-will were punishable by death. Fortitude and courage in battle, diligence and modesty were generously rewarded.
Intrigues in the samurai environment went on in a continuous series: someone’s authority was instantly destroyed, someone, on the contrary, took off to the skies. Every now and then local wars were unleashed. Many military leaders no longer wanted to obey the shogun. Some samurai, having concentrated enormous power in their hands, began to be called daimyo. These sovereign princes felt like little emperors in their territories. Protracted internecine wars more and more often arose between individual daimyo, who sought to increase their land holdings.
The finest hour of the samurai came with the coming to power of the last dynasty of the Tokugawa shoguns (1603-1867), which ruled for almost three centuries. At that time, all the forces of professional warriors were thrown not at the destruction of each other, but at external expansion. Although the “development” of the Korean Peninsula twice suffered a complete fiasco, these campaigns consolidated clan squads under the banner of the shogun’s central authority. The ideas of national unity on a solid estate-hierarchical basis took root deeper and deeper.
Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616) defeated numerous rivals and became the ruler of the country. One after another, the Spaniards, Portuguese, and British were expelled from the country, who had already discovered Japan by that time.
Christianity, which began to take root on Japanese soil, was almost completely eradicated. The Japanese were forbidden to travel to other countries. Large ships that could reach the mainland were destroyed. Only small fishing boats were left for the locals. For more than two hundred years, Japan was isolated. But the long-awaited peace came to the country, and the national culture at that time experienced the greatest flowering.
The isolationist period in the country ended in 1854. Then the American military flotilla of Commander Matthew Perry arrived on the shores of Japan, and a little later the frigate Pallada, commanded by Russian Admiral Efim Vasilyevich Putyatin, also moored. In February 1855, the first treaty of friendship and trade was signed between Russia and Japan.
In 1869, the institution of shoguns in the country was abolished. Power completely passed into the hands of the emperor. In Japanese history, this period became known as the Meiji Restoration period. The Western model of governance increasingly penetrated into the Land of the Rising Sun. Soon the first Japanese Constitution and the first parliament appeared. Japan gradually turned into a powerful industrial power, where militaristic moods played an important role. After victory in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), Japan secured dominance in the Japanese and Yellow Seas.
During the First World War (1914-1918), the Empire of Japan was on the side of the Entente, and during the Second World War, on the side of Germany. In December 1941, Japan, after bombing the American Pearl Harbor, declared war on the United States and Great Britain. During the period of hostilities, the Japanese army conquered Hong Kong, the Philippines and some other territories. However, in 1942, the defeat in the Coral Sea deprived the Empire of Japan of advantage at sea. After the defeat of Nazi Germany, the war for Japan did not end – on August 6 and 9, 1945, the United States dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, “Fat Man” and “Kid”. Japan became the first and only country against which this deadly weapon was used. The USSR joined the military operations against Japan, in particular, the Soviet troops defeated the Kwantung Army in Manchuria.
In 1947, a new Constitution was adopted in the country, the ninth article of which forbids Japan to have its own army and participate in military conflicts. Today, the country’s armed forces are called the Self-Defense Forces and participate in peacekeeping international military missions.
An interesting fact: In 2013, about 250,000 Japanese volunteered in the ground forces, aviation and navy.
After World War II, Japan’s previously militarized economy gradually shifted to a peaceful economy. Quite quickly, the country made a powerful technological breakthrough, becoming a great economic power.
Many of the literary works of Japan that have come down to us have a long history. Thus, the text of the current Japanese hymn Kimi ga yo (“The Emperor’s Reign”) was written in the Heian era (794-1185).
Japan is a sports country that is proud of its success. Such types of Japanese martial arts as karate, judo, kendo, sumo are well known all over the world. Some of them formed the basis of hand-to-hand combat systems that are used in various armies of the world. The most popular professional sport in the Land of the Rising Sun is sumo wrestling. Japanese athletes have competed in the Winter and Summer Olympics since 1912. Only in 1948, Japan was not invited to the games, and in 1980, when the Olympics were held in Moscow, the country joined the boycott of the USSR, which was organized by some Western countries. The Summer Olympics were held in Japan in 1964, and the Winter Olympics in 1972 and 1998. In total, by 2018, Japanese athletes have won 484 medals at the Olympics.
Interesting fact: Black in Japan symbolizes nobility, age and experience, white – youth and youth. Usually black is used to classify the highest rank of an athlete in a particular type of combat sports.
In Japan, about 95% of schools have the status of municipal schools and are financed from city budgets. The remaining 5% of educational institutions are private. The situation with higher education is different: only 20% of universities are state-owned, the rest are private. The most prestigious institutions of higher education are considered to be universities in Kyoto, Tokyo, Keio and Waseda.
Japan’s healthcare system is one of the best in Asia. Over 80% of all medical institutions are private. The provision of medical services to the population is regulated by the state through a universal insurance system. In 2009, life expectancy in Japan was 82.12 years, one of the highest in the world.
According to some experts, Japan has achieved a high level of longevity thanks to its diet, which involves eating a lot of seafood. Fat in food is practically absent. The sequence of serving dishes in Japan is consistent with European canons. First, light cold appetizers are served – sushi, sashimi and rolls. Then hot appetizers follow, such as the famous gyoza – dumplings with shrimp or meat and salads made from seafood, vegetables and tofu bean curd. Along with hot appetizers, soup is served – miso (on meat or bean broth) and suimono (base – fish broth).
Interesting fact: In Japanese writing, the same character is used to denote the words “food” and “boiled rice”.
A good gift from the Land of the Rising Sun, in addition to high-quality electronics and household appliances, will be women’s and men’s kimono, elegant Japanese porcelain. So, a gift in the form of a porcelain cat with a raised paw – maneki-neko – means a wish for good luck to a person.
The tourism potential of Japan is huge. The country has numerous reserves and historical monuments, zoos and botanical gardens, museums and entertainment complexes. For example, 400 kilometers northeast of Tokyo is the famous Toshogu Temple, the main Buddhist sanctuary. It was built in the 8th century, and in 1636 it was significantly expanded due to a whole complex of religious buildings. The main shrine of the temple is the tomb of the shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa. Every spring, a grandiose festival unfolds around it.
The Japanese love not only to work, but also to celebrate holidays. There are many of them – these are national, religious and secular celebrations. There are 16 public holidays, which are called shukujitsu. On these days, the Japanese do not work. There are also unofficial festive celebrations – matsuri. Such, for example, as cherry blossoms, is celebrated everywhere in Japan.