japan

Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the...

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Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south. The characters that make up Japan's name mean "sun-origin", which is why Japan is sometimes referred to as the "Land of the Rising Sun".

Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands. The four largest islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku, which together comprise about ninety-seven percent of Japan's land area. Japan has the world's tenth-largest population, with over 127 million people. Honshū's Greater Tokyo Area, which includes the de facto capital city of Tokyo and several surrounding prefectures, is the largest metropolitan area in the world, with over 30 million residents.

Archaeological research indicates that people lived in Japan as early as the Upper Paleolithic period. The first written mention of Japan is in Chinese history texts from the 1st century AD. Influence from other nations followed by long periods of isolation has characterized Japan's history. From the 12th century until 1868, Japan was ruled by successive feudal military dictatorships in the name of the Emperor. Japan entered into a long period of isolation in the early 17th century, which was only ended in 1853 when a United States fleet pressured Japan to open to the West. Nearly two decades of internal conflict and insurrection followed before the Meiji Emperor was restored as head of state in 1868 and the Empire of Japan was proclaimed, with the Emperor as a divine symbol of the nation. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, victory in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War and World War I allowed Japan to expand its empire during a period of increasing militarism. The Second Sino-Japanese War of 1937 expanded into part of World War II in 1941, which came to an end in 1945 following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since adopting its revised constitution in 1947, Japan has maintained a unitary constitutional monarchy with an emperor and an elected legislature called the Diet.

A major economic power, Japan has the world's third-largest economy by nominal GDP and by purchasing power parity. It is also the world's fourth-largest exporter and fourth-largest importer. Although Japan has officially renounced its right to declare war, it maintains a modern military with the sixth largest military budget, used for self-defense and peacekeeping roles. After Singapore, Japan has the lowest homicide rate in the world. According to Japan's health ministry, Japanese women have the second highest life expectancy of any country in the world. According to the United Nations, Japan also has the third lowest infant mortality rate.

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experiences (8)

have you spent time in japan? share your experiences

6

japan - anonymous' reflections after years there in their 20s

posted by anonymous on 10/08/13.

How much time have you spent in Japan?

I am currently on my 7th year of living in Japan

Which best describes how old you are/were while in Japan?

I moved to Japan after college, and have been living in Japan since, minus a year where I moved back to the United States.

What brought you to Japan?

While in college I was studying martial arts and developed an interest in Japanese culture. So when it came time to study abroad, I chose to study abroad in Japan and see what the country was all about. While on my study abroad, I was introduced to a teaching English in Japan program called the JET program. I like to call this a snowball effect, as I slowly fell down the rabbit hole and decided to do a year abroad after college…. 7 years later, and I am still here.

Describe the city you live in in Japan.

I currently live in a small city in Gunma prefecture about 2 hours outside of Tokyo, and have been living there for a little over a year. Because of my current proximity to Tokyo, I feel it might be better to talk about where I originally lived when I came to Japan.

When I originally moved to Japan, I was living in Kanazawa, in Ishikawa prefecture which is on the Japan Sea...

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6

japan - anonymous' reflections after spending decades there

posted by anonymous on 10/16/13.

How much time have you spent in Japan?

17 years.

Which best describes how old you are?

20's, 30's, oh fuck it. 40's.

What brought you to Japan? Where were you before?

A girl, I was chasing a girl. I was in Korea, but I went to Korea because I thought it would be like Japan and I planned on chasing girls.

Describe the city you live in in Japan and your impressions of it.

Nagoya - It's a big, modern, industrial city. The foreign community is small enough to be friendly but large enough to be interesting. It's not very pretty.

How does the city you live in compare to other cities in Japan?

Nagoya has a good location and it is nearby some very nice places. However not many people really like Nagoya, it's just "ok". I'd never heard of Nagoya before moving here. I came here because I was chasing a girl and she was from this area.

What makes Japanese people unique?

Japanese people are not unique, they are just like everyone else with assholes and saints all mixed in. However, the culture values a more extreme form of social etiquette than my home culture (USA) which make it seem very polite from my perspective. This makes it very easy to get along with nearly...

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4

japan - anonymous' reflections after years there in their 20s

posted by anonymous on 10/08/13.

What brought you to Japan? Where were you before?

As an undergraduate student, I felt a desire to "see the world" as it were, but my parents were helping pay for my education and I therefore I felt a responsibility to finish on time. I decided that after I finished my degree, I would try to fulfill this desire.

I had the fortune of taking Modern Japanese Literature with a really great professor my Junior year, at which time Japan took a particular focus. I would subsequently take Japanese Cinema and Japanese 101 before graduating, in part to prepare myself for living there.

As for where I was before, I went to school in Upstate NY.

Describe the city you lived in and your impressions of it.

I lived in a small town of a few thousand people called Mino, which was pretty rural and quiet. It joined together with 6 other local towns to form a city called "Mitoyo", which had decent geographic size but was sparsely populated (at least for Japan).

This town was actually located on the smallest of the four major islands of Japan, called Shikoku, and thus was somewhat disconnected from what a lot of people think of Japan, which is like Tokyo or Osaka.

Personally, I had actually...

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4

japan - anonymous' reflections after years there in their 20s

posted by anonymous on 10/08/13.

What brought you to Japan? Where were you before?

Work and my (then)girlfriend/(now)wife. I was in America before coming here.

Describe the city you live in in Japan and your thoughts on it.

I live about 3 hours out from Tokyo in another prefecture. The pace of life isn't as fast as Tokyo and it's not as crowded so that's nice. It gets very hot and humid in the summer and very cold and dry in the winter.

What makes the people of Japan unique? In what ways are they different than people in other places you've lived?

Group harmony is a huge driving force in culture and behavior here. It can be a cause for incredible altruism, kindness, and warmth. But it can also cause a lot of stress, self-sacrifice, and shunning of people who aren't in the group. Things which might seem simple in other countries can be very complicated because the implications for the feelings and respect of everyone in a group must be considered. For a tourist, the Japanese can be very kind and well-mannered. For an expat, the Japanese can be very complicated and layered.

Was making friends and meeting people in Japan in general easy or difficult? How did your social life evolve? What did you do to...

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3

japan - anonymous' reflections after years there in their 20s

posted by anonymous on 10/24/13.

How much time have you spent in Japan?

I lived there for 5 years. I did a couple of exchanges in high school as well.

How old were you when you came to Japan? Where were you before?

I graduated from uni in Australia, 8 months before heading over. I had just finished my BA of primary education with an ESL major, and a BA of International and global studies with a major in Japanese. I was 21 when I arrived in Japan.

What brought you to Japan? What made you choose Japan over any other place you could've gone?

I had been studying Japanese since grade 8 in High School. I'd had to choose between studying either Japanese or German, and I though Japanese would be a bit more interesting. I actually really hated it but at the end of grade ten, when I'd made up my mind to drop it, my mum had a conference in Chiba and took me along with her to practice Japanese. Totally blew my mind, so I signed up for another 2 years. Around this time I got introduced to serious kanji and keigo and decided fuck that, I'm wasn't going to study Japanese in uni. At the start of grade 12 I had chicken pox, and missed the exchange trip that my school did to Japan. My mum and my teacher talked about...

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3

japan - anonymous' reflections after years there in their 20s

posted by anonymous on 10/29/13.

How much time have you spent in Japan?

My wife and I lived in Japan for 18 months. From January 2003 to July 2004.

How old were you when you came to Japan? Where were you before?

We were both 25 when we moved there. We had just ended a 3 month backpacking trip around Europe and got news that we were accepted as teachers while we were in London. We are both from Los Angeles.

What brought you to Japan? What made you choose Japan over any other place you could’ve gone?

We wanted to live somewhere that was safe, a place where we could earn decent money and a place we could use as a travel hub. Everyone has heard of teaching English in Japan, so we just went that route.

Describe the city you lived in in Japan and your impressions of it.

I lived in a small mountain village named Suzaka (not to be confused with the famous auto racing city, Suzuka), just north of Nagano. My wife lived in Nagano proper. The English school, AEON, already has apartments set up for the teachers so we didn’t have a say in where we lived. They also selected the two schools in close proximity for us, as a married couple. It was a short train ride between our places, shorter than our commutes in...

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2

japan - anonymous' reflections after years there in their teens

posted by anonymous on 10/29/13.

How much time have you spent in Japan?

2 years, many times, but the longest visits where 1 year in the 90s and 1 year in the 00s.

How old were you when you came to Japan? Where were you before?

I’m from Sweden, went as an exchange student right after (the equivalent of) junior high at 16. The second time I went there I was 25.

What brought you to Japan? What made you choose Japan over any other place you could've gone?

I wanted to go to a place that was very different, but with a sense of equality, i.e. no walled communities, white fences, but with a dominant middle class.

Describe the city you lived in in Japan and your impressions of it.

I first went to a smallish city in the north of Japan. It was slightly larger than the town I’m from, but not everyone in Japan knows where it is. Friendly, but not that much to do, besides bowling and karaoke. The area has cool places to visit within 2-3 hours by car.

How does the city you lived in compare to other cities in Japan? What drew you to the city you lived in over other cities in Japan?

It’s a small city by Japanese standards, but the shopping center of the area. From other exchange students I heard that schools...

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1

japan - anonymous' reflections after years there in their 20s

posted by anonymous on 10/29/13.

I moved to Japan about 2 and a half years ago. When I came to Japan, I was just 22 years old, pretty much straight out of university. Since I was a kid, I've been fascinated by Japanese culture in a big way. I loved watching anime as a kid, played hundreds of Japanese video games, and thought it was a technological wonderland. the job I took (English teacher) was also a steady paycheck and a ticket to travel.

I live in a small town about 3 hours north of Tokyo. When I first moved here, I was disappointed that I wasn't put in a big city like Tokyo, but now, I wouldn't change it for anything. The small-town life in Japan is so peaceful, the people are so friendly, and the countryside is beautiful. There is so much of the country I get to explore, and I feel like if I was in a big city, I wouldn't have experienced half the things I have experienced living out here.

I lived in a fairly small town in the suburbs of Australia, so my town here feels very similar.

People here are exceptionally polite which is kind of a double-edged sword. It's fantastic when you are lost, or need help, completely strangers will go completely out of their way to give you a hand. But, on the other...

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demographics

population

127,368,088 (July 2012 est.)

ethnic groups

Japanese 98.5%, Koreans 0.5%, Chinese 0.4%, other 0.6%

languages

Japanese

religions

Shintoism 83.9%, Buddhism 71.4%, Christianity 2%, other 7.8%

age structure

0-14: 0-14 years: 13.5% (male 8,927,803/ female 8,268,937)

15-64: 15-64 years: 62.6% (male 39,850,531/ female 39,909,944)

65+: 65 years and over: 23.9% (male 13,097,558/ female 17,313,315) (2012 est.)

urbanization

67% of total population (2010)

life expectancy

83.91 years

obesity rate

3.1% (2000)

literacy rate

99%

average years of education

15 years

economics

cost of living

9/10 (high)

economic overview

In the years following World War II, government-industry cooperation, a strong work ethic, mastery of high technology, and a comparatively small defense allocation (1% of...

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In the years following World War II, government-industry cooperation, a strong work ethic, mastery of high technology, and a comparatively small defense allocation (1% of GDP) helped Japan develop a technologically advanced economy. Two notable characteristics of the post-war economy were the close interlocking structures of manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors, known as keiretsu, and the guarantee of lifetime employment for a substantial portion of the urban labor force. Both features are now eroding under the dual pressures of global competition and domestic demographic change. Japan's industrial sector is heavily dependent on imported raw materials and fuels. A tiny agricultural sector is highly subsidized and protected, with crop yields among the highest in the world. Usually self-sufficient in rice, Japan imports about 60% of its food on a caloric basis. Japan maintains one of the world's largest fishing fleets and accounts for nearly 15% of the global catch. For three decades, overall real economic growth had been spectacular - a 10% average in the 1960s, a 5% average in the 1970s, and a 4% average in the 1980s. Growth slowed markedly in the 1990s, averaging just 1.7%, largely because of the after effects of inefficient investment and an asset price bubble in the late 1980s that required a protracted period of time for firms to reduce excess debt, capital, and labor. Measured on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis that adjusts for price differences, Japan in 2011 stood as the third-largest economy in the world after second-place China, which surpassed Japan in 2001, and in a virtual tie with India. A sharp downturn in business investment and global demand for Japan's exports in late 2008 pushed Japan further into recession. Government stimulus spending helped the economy recover in late 2009 and 2010, but the economy contracted again in 2011 as the massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake in March disrupted manufacturing. Electricity supplies remain tight because Japan has temporarily shut down almost all of its nuclear power plants after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors were crippled by the earthquake and resulting tsunami. Estimates of the direct costs of the damage - rebuilding homes, factories, and infrastructure - range from $235 billion to $310 billion, and GDP declined almost 0.5% in 2011. Prime Minister Yoshihiko NODA has proposed opening the agricultural and services sectors to greater foreign competition and boosting exports through membership in the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks and by pursuing free-trade agreements with the EU and others, but debate continues on restructuring the economy and reining in Japan's huge government debt, which exceeds 200% of GDP. Persistent deflation, reliance on exports to drive growth, and an aging and shrinking population are other major long-term challenges for the economy.

major industries

among world's largest and technologically advanced producers of motor vehicles, electronic equipment, machine tools, steel and nonferrous metals, ships, chemicals,...

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among world's largest and technologically advanced producers of motor vehicles, electronic equipment, machine tools, steel and nonferrous metals, ships, chemicals, textiles, processed foods

gdp per capita

$34,700 (2011 est.)

gdp growth rate

-0.8% (2011 est.)

gdp composition by sector

agriculture: 1.2% industry: 27.3% services: 71.6% (2011 est.)

unemployment rate

4.6% (2011 est.)

population below poverty line

16% (2007) note: Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) press release, 20 October 2009 (2010)

gini index

37.6 (2008) country comparison to the world: 75 24.9 (1993)