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Essay/Term paper: Japan, its culture

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Geography

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Japanese Assignment

Geographical Setting
Japan is an island country in the North Pacific Ocean. It lies off the northeast coast of
mainland Asia and faces Russia,Korea, and China. Four large islands and thousands of
smaller ones make up Japan. The four major islands-Hokkaido,Honshu,Kyushu and
Shikoku form a curve that extends for about 1,900 kilometres.

Japan is a land of great natural beauty. mountains and hills cover about 70% of the
country. IN fact, Japanese islands consist of the rugged upper part of a great mountain
range that rises from the floor of the North Pacific Ocean. Jagged peaks, rocky gorges,
and thundering mountain waterfalls provide some of the country's most spectacular
scenery. Thick forests thrive on mountansides, adding to the scenic beauty of the
Japanese islands. Forests cover about 68% of the country's land.
Japan lies on an extremely unstable part of the earth's crust. As a result, the land is
constantly shifting. This shifting causes two of Japan's most striking features--
earthquakes and volcanoes. The Japanese islands have about 1500 earthquakes a year.
Most of them are minor tremors that cause little damage, but severe earthqaukes occur
every few years. Underseaquakes sometimes cause huge, destructive tidal waves, called
tsunami, along Japan's Pacific coast. The Japanese islands have more than 150 major
volcanoes. Over 60 of these volcanoes are active.
Numerous short, swift rivers cross Japan's rugged surface. most of the rivers are too
shallow and steep to be navigated. Their waters are used to irrigate farmland, and their
rapids and falls supply power for hydroelectric plants. Many lakes nestle among the
Japanese mountains. Some lie in the craters of extinct volcanoes. A large number of hot
springs gush from the ground throughout the country.
The Japanese islands have a total land area of about 337,708 sqkm. The islands , in
order of size, are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku. The sea of Japan washes
the country's west coast and the Pacific ocean lies to the east.

Regional climates in Japan can be compared to those of the East Coast of the United
States. Kyushu and Shikoku have a climate much like that of Perth. They have long hot
summers and mild winters. The island Honshu's generally has warm,humid summers.
Winters are mild in the south and cold and snowy in the north. Honshu has balmy,
sunny autumns and springs. Hokkaido has cool summers and cold winters much like
Two Pacific Ocean currents--the Japan Current and the Oyashio Current--influence
Japan's climate. The warm, dark-blue Japan Current flows northward along the
country's south coast and along the east coast as far north as Tokyo. The Japan current
has a warming effect on the climate of theses regions. The cold Oyashio Current flows
southward along the east coasts of Hokkaido and northern Honshu, cooling these
Seasonal winds called monsoons also affect Japan's climate. In winter, monsoons from
the northwest bring cold air to northern Japan. These winds, which gather moisture as
they cross the Sea of Japan, deposit heavy snows on the country's northwest coast.
During the summer, monsoons blow from the southeast , carrying warm, moist air from
the pacific ocean. Summer monsoons cause hot, humid weather in central and southern
Rain is abundant through most of Japan. All the areas of the country--except eastern
Hokkaido--recieve at least 100 centimetres of rain yearly. Japan has two major rainy
seasons--from mid-June to early July and from September to October. Several
typhoons strike the country each year, mainly in late summer and early Autumn. The
heavy rains and violent winds of these storms often do great damage to houses and

The Extended Family
Family life has always been important in Japan. Before 1945, many Japanese lived in
large family units that included grandparents, parents, children, and sometimes uncles
and their families. Japanese families were bound together by a strict set of customs.
Husbands had complete authority over their wives, and children were expected to show
unquestioning obedience to their parents.
Marriage and Courtship-When a child was old enough to marry, the parents selected
a suitable marraige partner. In some cases, the bride and groom had never met before
the wedding.
The Nuclear Family
Today most of the Japanese live in the style of a nuclear family. These consist of only
parents and children. The Japanese still have strong family ties and a deep respect for
authority. But since WW2 relationships with families have become a little less formal,
and more democratic.
Marriage and Courtship-Most young people now select their own marraige partners
on the basis of shared interests and mutual attraction.
Parental Roles
The parents still sometimes decide the marraige partner for their child to marry.
Female and Male roles

Role in Society
Japanese law requires children to complete six years of elementary school, and three
years of junior high school. Education at public schools is free during these nine years
for children aged from 6 through 14 years of age. Almost all Japanese children
complete the education requirments. Completing these compulsory years of schooling
gives children the basic knowledge in a wide range of areas to succeed in adult life.
Further education builds on this basic knowledge to prepare people for more
intellectual jobs.

Primary Education
Japanese elementary and junior high school students study such subjects as art,
homemaking, the japanese language, mathematics, moral education, music, physical
education, science and social studies. In addition, many junior high school students
study English or another foreign language. Students spend much time learning to read
and write japanese because the language is so difficult.

Secondary Education
Senior high school runs for three years. To enter senior high school the students must
pass an entrance examination. Classes include many of the same subjects studied in
junior high school. Senior schools also offer courses to prepare students for college or
to train them for jobs. About 95% of junior high school leavers go to senior high

Higher Education
Japan has about 460 Universities and about 600 junior and technical colleges. The
largest University is Nihon (Japan) University in Tokyo, which has about 80, 000
students. The country has 90 National Universities, which are supported by the
government. Some of these universities--such as the University of Tokyo and the
University of Kyoto--have exceptionally high reputations. Highly regarded private
universities include Doshisha University in Kyoto and Keio University and Waseda
University in Tokyo

Senior high school graduates who want to attend a college or university must pass the
entrance examination given by the school of their choice. Large numbers of students
compete for admission to the top Japanese universities. About 38% of senior high
school graduates go to an institution of higher learning.

Political System

Political Structure
Japan's parliment, makes the country's laws. it consists of two houses. The house of
Representatives has 511 members. They are elected to four-year terms from electoral
districts. The House of Councillors has 252 members. Half the councillors are elected
every three years to six-year terms. Of the councillors, 100 are elected from the country
as a whole, and 152 are chosen from 47 political divisions called prefectures.

Political Parties
Japan has several political parties. The most successful is the Liberal-Democratic Party
(LDP), a conservative party which has more seats in the Government than any other
since 1955. In 1993, a coallition of other important parties was formed to oppose the
LDP. The largest members of the coallition include the Social Democratic Party of
Japan, the Japan Renewal Party, the Komeito (Clean Government Party), and the Japan
New Party.

Stability of Government
Although the Government itself is stable, within the parties there is much disruption
and complaint

Role of Local Government
The municipalities have fairly broad powers; they control public education and may
levy taxes.

Legal System
Organisation of judiciary system
The Japanese judicial system is entirely separate from and independent of the executive
authority. Except for reasons of health, judges may be removed only by public
impeachment. The highest court in the nation is the Supreme Court, established by the
constitution and consisting of a chief justice appointed by the emperor upon the
recommendation of the cabinet and 14 associate justices appointed by the cabinet. Four
types of lower courts are prescribed by the constitution: high courts, district courts,
family courts, and summary courts. The Supreme Court is the tribunal of final appeal in
all civil and criminal cases and has authority to decide on the constitutionality of any act
of the legislature or executive. High courts hear appeals in civil and criminal cases from
lower courts. District courts have both appellate and original jurisdiction. Family and
summary courts are exclusively courts of first instance.

Type of Law
The Japanese do not have a law as such, the citizens have codes to abide by.

Social Organisations
Group Behaviour
The Japanese in general are very polite and well mannered people.

Race, ethnicity and subcultures
There are may Chinese in Japan as well as Koreans. The original race of Japan are the
Inu people.

Religon and Asthetics

Religon and other belief systems
As below

Relationship with the people
Just about every single person is a Shinto and three quarters of people are also
buddhists. This shows that religon is very important to their everyday life.

Which religons are prominent
Buddhism and Shinto are the two most prominent religons in Japan by a long way.

Membership of each religon
Most Japanese observe both Shinto and Buddhist rites so the percentages add to more
than 100%



Visual Arts
The major Japanese visual arts are Sculpture and painting.

Traditional Japanese music may sound thin compared with the rich harmonies of
Western music. Most forms of Japanese music feature one instrument or voice or a
group of instruments that follows the same melodic line instead of blending in harmony.
Japanese instruments include the lutelike biwa; the zitherlike koto; and the three
stringed banjolike samisen, or shamisen. Traditional music also features drums, flutes,
and gongs. Performances of traditional music draw large crowds in Japan. Most types
of Western music are also popular. Many Japanese cities have their own proffesional
symphony orchestras that specialize in Western music

Drama, Ballet and other performing Arts
The oldest form of traditional Japanese performing arts is a type of drama called the 'no
play', which developed in the 1300's. 'No plays' are serious treatments of history and
legend. Masked actors perform the story with carefully controlled gestures and
movements. A chorus chants most of the important lines in the play.
Two other forms of traditional Japanese drama, the puppet theater and the kabuki play,
developed during the late 1600's. In the puppet theater, a narrator recites the story,
which is acted out by large, lifelike puppets. The puppet handlers work silently on stage
in view of the audience. Kabuki plays are melodramatic representations of historical or
domestic events. Kabuki features colourful costumes and makeup, spectacular scenery,
and a lively and exaggerated style.

The traditional types of theater remain popular in Japan. The people also enjoy new
dramas by Japanese playwrights, as well as Western plays.

The Tale of Genji, a long novel written in the 1000's is generally considered the
greatest work of Japanese fiction.

Living Conditions

Diet and Nutrition, Meat and Vegetable Consumption and Foods availible
The main food of the japanese people is rice. It is served at almost every meal.
Fish provides the chief source of protein in the Japanese diet.. Favourite Japanese
snacks include various kinds of noodles in broth and yakitori, charcoal-grilled pieces of
poultry on a skewer.
Soybeans are another major source of protein in the Japanese diet. The Japanese also
eat a wide variety of fruits and varieties of seaweed.

The Japanese would eat a lot more vegetables than meat because meat is incredibly

Typical meals
A popular Japanese dish called sushi consists of rice flavoured with vinegar and topped
with raw fish, sliced vegetables, shellfish, foods wrapped in seeweed and other
ingredients. Other traditional dishes include sukiyaki (beef cooked with vegetables) and
tempura (fish and vegetables fried in batter)


Types of Houses availible
There are two major types of housing availible in Japan, modern apartment buildings
and traditional Japanese houses.

Renters or Home Owners
Due to short supply of land for sale, most Japanese can not afford to buy land for a
house and therefore a large number, especially in the crowded cities rent apartments.


National Dress
The kimono

Types of clothing worn at work
The types of clothing worn to work are just the same as in the western world. Men
wear suits with smart ties and women wear conservative tailored attire


Types and Demand
The Japanese people enjoy a wide variety of sports, hobbies, and other leisure time
activities. Their favourite spectator sports are baseball and sumo wrestling. other
popular sports include bowling, golf, ice skating, skiing, table tennis, tennis and
volleyball. Many Japanese practice aikido, judo, and karate. Kendo is also popular.
Japanese also enjoy fishing, hunting, jogging and mountain climbing.

Percentage of Income spent on leisure activities
The Japanese would probably spend around % of their income on leisure activities.

Social Security and Health Care
In the early 1990s about 18 percent of the annual national budget was allocated for
social security purposes. A medical insurance system has been in effect in Japan since
1927. Self-employed people and employees in the private and public sectors are
included under the medical plan.
Social welfare services have greatly expanded since World War II; legislation enacted
or amended in the postwar years includes the Livelihood Security Law for Needy
Persons, the Law for the Welfare of Disabled Persons, the National Health Insurance
Law, the Welfare Pension Insurance Law, Old Age Welfare Law, and the Maternal and
Child Welfare Law. The entire population is covered by various insurance systems.
Most working people once retired at the age of 55, but an increasing life expectancy
and government encouragement has extended the average age of retirement to 65.
Health conditions are generally excellent. In the mid-1990s life expectancy at birth was
76 years for men and 82 years for women; the infant mortality rate was a very low 4.3
per 1000 live births. Japan has about 211,800 physicians and 1.7 million hospital beds.

Official Language
The official language of Japan is Japanese.

Spoken Versus written language
Spoken Japanese is much easier than written japanese to master. Written Japanese
consists katakana, hiragana and thousands of chinese symbols called 'Kanji'.
Considering how hard these characters are to remember, especially the chinese ones, its
no wonder people can speak more than they can write.

Japan comprises numerous mountainous islands, and this geography limited contact
between the Japanese peoples living in different regions of the country. As a result,
people in the various regions of Japan developed differing varieties, or dialects, of the
Japanese language. Japanese has also developed separate varieties of the language for
use in different social contexts; these varieties are called social styles of speech.
A large number of dialects are spoken throughout Japan's four main islands (Hokkaido,
Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu), as well as on the smaller islands, such as the Ryukyu
Islands. Some dialects-for instance, those spoken in the southern parts of Japan,
notably on the islands of Kyushu and Okinawa-are virtually incomprehensible to the
speakers of other dialects. As a result of this diversity of dialects, the Japanese use a
standard, or common, dialect to facilitate communication throughout the country. The
two dialect families with the largest number of speakers are the dialect spoken in and
around Tokyo, which is the common dialect, and the dialects of the Kansai region in
western Japan, spoken in cities such as Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe. Due to the spread of
the common dialect through television and radio, most people outside the Tokyo region
speak the common dialect as well as a local dialect.

World Book Encyclopedia (Cd Rom)
Grolier Encyclopedia (Cd Rom)
Encarta 96 Encyclopedia (Cd Rom)
JETRO (Internet Site)
CIA World Factbook (Internet Site)

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