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Contents General information


History 6 Nature 26 People 38 Economy and Transportation


Culture 58

Japan Personalities Oda Nobunaga


Ieyasu Tokugawa


Emperor Hirohito


Miyamoto Musashi


Morihei Ueshiba


Emperor Meiji


Haruki Murakami


Yoko Ono


Kohei Uchimura


Konosuke Matsushita




Japan Cuisine


Sushi (with Wasabi)


Onigiri 105 Tempura 106 Okonomiyaki 107 Ramen 108 Udon 109 Tonkatsu 110 Miso Soup


Shabu Shabu


Wagashi 112 Sake 113

Japan Travel


Tokyo 115 Kyoto 124 Nara 134 Hiroshima 138 Other places


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General information Japan is a country located in East Asia. As this sovereign state from the Pacific Ocean is formed out of 4 main islands and many other smaller ones, it doesn’t have any continental neighbours. It has access to the Pacific Ocean to the east, the Sea of Japan to the west and north-west, the Okhotsk Sea to the north, the East China Sea to the south-west and the Philippine Sea to the south and south-east. Japan covers an area of 377.972 km2, has a density of about 336 persons/km2 and its capital is located in the city of Tokyo, which hosts about 14.000.000 people (metropolis level). Japan’s national anthem is called “Kimigayo”, which translates to “His Imperial Majesty’s Reign” and was written by Yoshiisa Oku, Akimori Hayashi and Franz Eckert in 1880. Japan is organized as a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy and is divided into 47 prefectures, out of which one holds the status of metropolis, 2 hold the status of urban provinces and another one the status of circuit or territory. The country’s total population reaches up to about 127.000.000 people. Other important Japanese citizens living abroad can be found in countries like: Brazil (1.600.000), United States of America (1.400.000), China (130.000), Philippines (120.000) or Canada (110.000). The national day of Japan is celebrated on 11 February every year. The country benefits from a highly skilled


The Japanese Yen (¥) is the official currency of the country

workforce and is among the most highly educated countries in the world, with one of the highest percentages of its citizens holding a tertiary education degree. Although Japan has officially renounced its right to declare war, it maintains a modern military with the world’s 8th largest military budget, used for selfdefense and peacekeeping roles. Japan is a developed country with a very high standard of living and Human Development Index. Its population enjoys the highest life expectancy and the 3rd lowest infant mortality rate in the world. Japan is well known internationally for its major contributions to science and modern-day technology.


The Hinomaru flag with the sun-disc, also known as Nisshōki, was introduced on 5 August 1854. It was regarded as a national flag even in the time of the Meiji restoration in 1868. Although the design of the sun-disc was officially introduced for flags at sea in 1870, it was formally declared the national flag of Japan on 13 August 1999. Up to this point, there was no stateowned national flag, although the Hinomaru flag was widely regarded as a synonym for Japan both at home and abroad. In 1999, the aspect ratio was changed from 7:10 to 2:3. In addition, according to the proclamation of 1870, the sun-disc was slightly offset by 1/100 to the mast. In nowadays version the disc was moved in the center. The symbolism of the sun-disc permeates the entire history of Japan. The red circle in the center is said to represent the rising sun (brightness, sincerity and warmth), while the white colour stands for honesty and purity. It was supposedly the emblem of Monmu, the 42nd Japanese Emperor. The oldest surviving flag is kept in the Unpo-ji Temple in Yamanashi. It is assumed that it was established long before the 16th century and was passed on from dynasty to dynasty. Other Japanese


Coat of Arms

Since 1870, flags have been created for the Japanese Emperor (at the time Meiji), the Empress, and other members of the imperial family. Initially, that of the emperor was decorated with a sun arranged in the center of an artistic motive. He had flags that served on land, at sea, and when he was in a vehicle. The imperial family has also received it for use at sea and on land (one on foot and one for vehicles). The vehicle flags display a monochrome chrysanthemum with 16 petals, placed in the center of a plain background. They The Japanese flag were banned in 1889 when the Emperor decided to use chrysanthemum on a red background as an emblem. myths lead the Hinomaru symbolism back to an event With minor changes in colors and proportions, the from the 13th century. According to legend, a Buddhist flags adopted in 1889 are still used by the imperial priest named Nichiren had given the emperor a sun- family. flag to honor Amaterasu, the sun goddess and ancestor The Emperor’s current flag is a 16-petalled of the Shintō faith. In the time of the Meiji Restoration, golden chrysanthemum centered on a red background in which the empire was renewed, the iconic Hinomaru of 2:3 ratio. The Empress uses the same, with the sun-flag and the sunrise flag of the Imperial Japanese exception of the swallow tail form. The Crown Prince Navy became widespread. The Japanese occupied and Princess have almost the same flag, with a smaller the previously independent kingdom of Ryūkyū, chrysanthemum and a white border in the middle. which encompassed today’s Okinawa and Kagoshima Chrysanthemum has been associated with the imperial prefectures. throne since the rule of Emperor Go-Toba in the 12th Other Japanese flags were developed under century, but it only became the exclusive symbol of the similar aesthetic aspects to consolidate the idea of a​​ imperial throne in 1868. united Japanese empire. The coat of arms of the Japanese Emperor is a classic example of this. The coat of arms has a central golden disk on a red background decorated with chrysanthemums, the symbol of the Japanese emperor since the 12th century. Propaganda posters, textbooks and films represented the flag as a source of national pride in order to strengthen the citizen’s patriotic sense of identity. According to the authorities, the flag had to be hoisted at national holidays, as well as at parties and other events mentioned by the government. The version with the 16 red rays (Kyokujitsuki) was used by the Japanese forces until the end of the Second World War. Since 1954, it has been reused for the Japanese Navy. In the surrounding Asian countries, which were occupied by Japan, this flag still evokes negative associations. This is all the more true since this flag is still used today by right-wing conservative groups in Japan. The coat of arms (Kiku no Gomon ) of Emperor Akihito shows a golden 16leaf chrysanthemum bloom (in stylized form), which is located in the center of a red flag. The aspect ratio is Imperial Seal of Japan 5

History Paleolithic Period (8.000 BC)

The Kyūsekki Jidai period, also known as the preceramic period, is characterized by material remains, especially stone-molding tools dating back to 10.000 BC. There is a great controversy in specialty literature regarding the beginning date of this period, more exactly regarding the moment when people occupied the Japanese islands for the first time. The end of this period is marked by the first elements of Neolithic pottery. Geological and natural factors form an important background for the study of the cultures from the Japanese Pleistocene. Firstly, the chronological ordering of the remains from the Japanese Paleolithic is based on information regarding soil stratification. Secondly, climate change and declining sea levels dramatically altered the appearance and shape of the country, thus necessitating the interpretation of archaeological evidence. Throughout the late Pleistocene, the island of Hokkaidō from northern Japan was affected by the


Siberian cold climate, while climate change was less felt in southern Japan. Declining sea levels exposed the reefs on the west coast of Japan, especially between 20.000 and 18.000 BC. This provided regular links between the Korean peninsula and the Kyūshū Island from southern Japan, as well as the west of the Honshū Island from central Japan. The climatic difference in these areas and the fact that they were linked to different parts of the Asian continent were the main reasons for the separate spheres of culture that formed in the north and south of Japan during the Paleolithic. The first artifacts of the Japanese Paleolithic were first discovered by amateur archeologist Aizawa Tadahiro in 1946. Since then, more than 1.000 archaeological sites dating back to Pleistocene have been discovered in Japan. The vast majority of these sites provide only an overview of the period, but recently there have been some archaeological remains that brought new evidences about this period. In several sites bone tools or animal remains that can help reconstruct the Paleolithic landscape were discovered, but little is known about the way of life of the archipelago inhabitants. Sites in which the soil layering of the Paleolithic period is clear, such as that from Nogawa in the Kantō region, are rare, and it is difficult to date these sites by the carbon method. The establishment of culture chronology therefore tends to

Elements of the Japanese Paleolithic Period at the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Archaeology

Zhokoudian Upper Cave

be based on the analysis of the details and typologies of stone artifacts attributed to this period. The “Early Paleolithic” was the name given to a small number of non-polished tools (most of them being more than 30.000 years old), some of them dating from the last interglacial period (100.000-70.000 BC). Discovered in the Fukui Cave and Sozudai in Kyūshū, as well as in the north of the Kantō Plain, these rough tools were compared to those found in Zhoukoudian Cave (Choukoutien) and other sites from northern China. “Land bridges” brought to surface by the decline of the

sea level could have allowed human contact between China and Japan, but researchers have not yet agreed on the period when the Japanese islands were inhabited for the first time. Many Japanese and foreign archaeologists have vehemently denied the age of the tools, established by assimilation with those from the Asian continent. The remains of the late Paleolithic (about 28.000 to about 10.000 BC) are dramatically different from those of the early Paleolithic. Approximately after 28.000 BC there was a rapid increase in the number of archaeological cultures. Stone tools in northern Japan were manufactured using a new grinding technique based on the use of sharp tools similar to those used by Eurasian people in the Paleolithic. However, small differences exist in the processing technique and the significance of these differences is interpreted differently by scientists, thus resulting in opposing points of view regarding Japan’s relations with the continent during the Paleolithic. One theory interprets the new type of tools as a product of development, suggesting that Japan has formed a particular culture, although it has not been isolated from the continent. Other scientists see this innovation in the manufacture of tools as an infusion from the outside through the link with the continent. There have been unquestionable links between

Agricultural Japanese society during the Paleolithic Period at the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Archaeology


coming from long distances. For instance, the volcanic rock or the obsidian that could’ve been found in the Nagano prefecture was processed by groups located on the outskirts of nowadays Tokyo. It seems that a feature of this period was the uniformity of cultures on broad areas. The Paleolithic period was therefore characterized by three elements: the decrease of the sea level and the formation of settlements on the coasts of Japan, the link between the archipelago and the continent and last but nonetheless, the improvement of the stone tools.

Jōmon Period (8.000 BC – 300 BC)

Hunting and harvesting were the main occupations of the people living in this period, and as a feature of the Japanese archipelago, the frequent use of marine resources. From a literal point of view, the name of this period comes from the words Jō (braiding) and mon (ornament). The indigenous population still living nowadays is called Ainu. Their current number is not certainly known, but on the Hokkaidō Island there are about 24.000 inhabitants. Besides the north-west of the Hokkaidō Island, the Ainu people also live in the south of the Sakhalin Island and in the Kuril Islands. They possessed a patriarchal and polygamous social organization and had a religion based on the cult of the bear. The origins of Japanese civilization got lost in the darkness of time. Traditionally, Japan is believed to have Jōmon Dogū Figurine at the Guimet Museum been founded by Emperor Jimmu on 11 February 660 BC. This is only the Japanese history version dating back Hokkaidō and Siberia, and the similarities between to the first written records of the 6th and 8th centuries discovered artifacts suggest that southern Japan has had contacts with the areas from North China and Manchuria. Evidently, there has also been an independent development from outside influences, and the relative poor archaeological data for continental regions makes it difficult to study the similarities between material remains in the archipelago and those from the continent. There can be little said about the way of life of the people who lived during this period on the current territory of Japan. The Paleolithic people probably occupied large areas on the coasts of Japan, which were exposed to the decline in sea level during the last Pleistocene period. However, nowadays sea level has flooded these areas, limiting researchers’ access to archaeological cultures that have survived up to nowadays. These cultures seem to have been created by small migratory groups that had different activities based especially on hunting and harvesting. The quality stone tools were exchanged with others 8

Jōmon Pottery at the British Museum

Emperor Jimmu (center, holding a bow) - Founder of Japan

when the country adopted the Chinese alphabet. During this period, many emperors fought for power. In order to legitimize their claims to the throne, they ordered the court poets to write collections of poems in which they were claiming that the emperors have inherited their power directly from the sun goddess Amaterasu (who still is the most revered goddess of the Shintoism Pantheon) with the mediation of her nephew, Ninigino-Mikoto. Eventually, Emperor Jimmu, who is said to be one of the Japanese imperial family’s ancestors, has conquered all power. This propaganda myth was adopted by historians from the 19th century and became a fundamental pillar of the Japanese nationalist ideology known as Kokutai. More credible Chinese sources describe a Wa country run by several families, each having its own deities. Recent anthropology studies prove that the ancestors of the Japanese seem to have emigrated from Siberia or Polynesia.

Yayoi Period (300 BC – 300 AD)

This period marks the moment when agriculture greatly developed, culminating in the emergence of the first forms of political organization in some areas of the archipelago. Also, the use of bronze and then of iron contributed a lot to the development of the Japanese society. These new technologies had been brought to Japan from Korea and have spread towards the east only to the city of Nagoya. Eastern Japan continued to rely more on hunting because the land was not very suitable DĹ?taku (bell-shaped bronze) dating from the Yayoi Period


Hilts of Japanese straight swords dating back to the Kofun Period

for agriculture. The Yayoi period was named after the archaeological site in Tokyo where the Japanese pottery products were first discovered. The predominant chromatics of these potteries had pale orange tones. This period is followed by the Kofun or Yamato period, thus moving on into a new period of history, protohistory.

Kofun Period (300 – 552)

The Japanese court officially adopted the Chinese writing system in 405 AD. In the 6th century Buddhism penetrated the country, being brought by Korean immigrants. These two events revolutionized Japanese culture and marked the beginning of a long period of Chinese cultural influence. Since the establishment of the first capital at Nara in 710 until 1867, the emperors reigned only by name as they only had symbolic value, for the true power belonged to the nobles from the court, the regents or the Shoguns (military governors of Japanese provinces).

Asuka Period (552 – 710)

Japanese culture and civilization was influenced by the Chinese. The Chinese ideographic writing was brought from China in 552. In the same year, a diplomatic mission arrived from Korea and brought images of Buddha (paintings on flags, valances and even sculptures). The new religion captivated the 10

imperial court and the noble class and Buddhism was adopted in the 6th century then became state religion since the year 594. The Chinese arts and sciences, as well as the Chinese calendar were also adopted. The religion that had a considerable influence in medieval Japan was Buddhism of Indian origins. The word “Zen” derived from the Sanskrit word Dhyāna and means “contemplation”. This branch of Buddhism proposed the contemplative attitude that puts man in contact with the absolute substance of the world (nature) instead of the sacred texts. Following the Taika reform promulgated in 645, the country’s rural organization, family, and Chinese tax system started being applied. Also during this period, the study of Chinese classics and teachings was encouraged. In the 9th century, Chinese influence started diminishing. Japan’s first constitutional act was the “17 Articles Constitution” (Jūshichijō Kenpō). It was promulgated in the early period of consolidation of the centralized Japanese state, that is, in 604, by Prince Shōtoku. This constitution (kenpō) wasn’t in fact a set of laws, but rather a collection of moral and religious precepts addressed to government officials. Through this constitution, Prince Shōtoku wanted and managed to create a centralized state and put an end to the power struggles in the archipelago. The Jūshichijō Kenpō established the social hierarchies of the age and placed the Emperor on top of the whole society. The intention of Prince Shōtoku was to create a centralized power in which both the land and the people that worked it could


Work of Art depicting AmitÄ bha and two servants - Asuka Period

Prince Shōtoku directing an attack on Moriya’s castle

be placed under the direct control of the Emperor so he could obtain revenues from clans (uji) under the form of tributes. In the year 670, six governmental departments were organized: population, crimes, finances, military, legal and administrative ones. The population department supervised the collection of taxes and, together with the other departments, administered the imperial property and state organization. It can be said that the formation of the Japanese tributary state ended in the 8th century through the organization of eight departments belonging to the central government, which were subsequently abolished. The name of this

period was given by the name of the city in which the Imperial Court was located, namely Asuka. It is an extremely important era in the history of Japan due to the penetration of Buddhism, which has produced essential changes in the civilization of the times. In the near future, many artists, scribes, artisans and monks were sent to the Imperial Court of Japan from China and Korea as it was easier to send people to perform artwork than to send the products. A significant event of the Asuka period was the appearance of written texts, which until then did not exist in the archipelago. They offered the possibility of keeping valuable information. Man’yōshū and Kojiki were the first books that appeared and were written with Chinese characters. Painting, a perishable art due to its fragile materials, was preserved only on religious panels. The style of the works is very abstract and the two-dimensional space is similar to the Chinese painting of the Six Dynasties.

Nara Period (710 – 794)

Heijō-kyō (Nara) was the first permanent capital of Japan (the previous one was Fujiwara-kyō until 710), but was moved to Heian-kyō (Kyoto) in 794 after the city had fallen under the domination of the 12

Detail of Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves (Man’yōshū)

Fujiwara no Mitsuyoshi

rich Buddhist temples starting with the year 750. Both Nara and Heian-kyō were built with the intersection of the streets at 90°, following the model of the Chinese city of Chang’an (currently Xi’an). This period includes the ten years when the capital was moved at Nagaokakyō (784-794). From a political point of view, the period can be seen as a power struggle between the Fujiwara clan and factions composed of the Tachibana and Ōtomo clans. The mighty Fujiwara clan has controlled the political life of Japan during this period. Each emperor married a daughter of the Fujiwara clan and the emperor would then abdicate as soon as he had a son, thereafter retiring to a monastery. Thus, the leader of the Fujiwara clan was always the father-in-law of the emperor and the tutelary authority of the legal heir.

Heian Period (794 – 1185)

This period began when Emperor Kanmu moved the capital to Heian-kyō (Kyoto) and ended when Minamoto no Yoritomo’s forces defeat those of the Taira family. The name of the period means “peace and silence”. The Heian period can be divided into an early and a late one, the delimitation being about at the middle of the 10th century. The early period is

Emperor Kanmu

characterized by an attempt to revive the so-called Ritsuryō system, a system in which the emperor had the political power and the rice fields were controlled by the state administration. In the late period, systemic contradictions allowed the Fujiwara regents to dominate the political system and the so-called Shōen system (estate) became the main form of land ownership.

Kamakura Period (1185 – 1333)

After the forces of Minamoto no Yoritomo defeated the Taira clan in the Battle of Dan-no-ura in 1185, Yoritoma gave himself heirloom title and has set the capital to Kamakura. The Emperor remained at Heian-kyō, but reigned only by name. In the 13th century, Japan has confronted with the only invasion of its medieval history. The Mongols, who conquered parts of China and Korea, built a strong fleet and headed towards the Japanese Islands in 1274. They were rejected, but in 1281, the Mongols resumed their attacks with a larger and more powerful fleet. However, they are once more defeated due to the unexpected climatic 13

Great artwork depicting the Mongol invasion of Japan

conditions. A typhoon destroyed the Mongol fleet and thus Japan was saved from conquest. This typhoon was called by the Japanese people kamikaze, meaning “divine wind”.

Muromachi (Ashikaga) Period (1333 – 1573)

The great Imperial schism began in 1336 and lasted until 1392. It is also known as the Nanbokuchō Period (Two Courts). Emperor Go-daigo installed a permanent court at Yoshino (South Court), while Ashikaga Takauji, the founder and first shogun of the Ashikaga Shogunate recognized Kōmyō as Emperor in Kyoto (North Court). Shortly after, Takauji took the title of Shogun and passes it to his descendants until 1573. Meanwhile, the civil war continues in the country. From 1350 to 1450, the No lyrical drama and the golden age of Zen aesthetics (floral arrangement, garden art, tea ceremony) start flowering. After Takauji’s death, Ashikaga Yoshiakira and then Ashikaga Yoshimitsu assumed the title of Shogun and started developing diplomatic relations with China. The latter interceded for the reunification of the imperial dynasties and Go-Komatsu became the only emperor. Yoshimitsu governed the country from the Golden Pavilion until his death in 1408. Officially, Yoshimochi assumed the title of Shogun afterwards. In 1449, the country was led by Yoshimasa, the 8th Shogun of the Ashikaga dynasty, until 1474. The famous stone garden at the Ryōan-ji Temple in Kyoto was created just one year after Yoshimasa assumed the leadership of the country. The Ōnin Civil War took place between 1467 and 1477 and was marked by feudal fighting and impoverishment of the imperial 14

Mongols being repulsed by the Japanese with the help of a sudden typhoon (kamikaze)

Golden Pavilion

family. After the end of the war, the Silver Pavilion would finally be completed and the tea ceremony ritual (chanoyu) would be instated. In 1543, Portuguese ships arrived in Tanegashima Island near Kyūshū and European firearms started being introduced in Japan. Shortly after, missionary Francois Xavier arrived in Kyushu with the first Jesuit religious missions and started preaching Christianity. In 1560, Ōgimachi was crowned Emperor and eight years later, famous

warrior Oda Nobunaga became Shogun. In 1571, the port of Nagasaki opens trade with foreigners under the patronage of the local Daimyō, Ōmura Sumitada, who converted to Christianity in 1562. Meanwhile, Oda Nobunaga destroyed the monastery at Hieizan after having numerous issues with the Christians. In 1573, the first Christian church was established in Kyoto. Oda Nobunaga puts Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki to jail and thus the Ashikaga Shogunate finally came to an end.

Ōnin Civil War (1467-1477)


Battle of Sekigahara

Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1573 - 1603)

The feudal period of Japanese history was dominated by two powerful regional families (Daimyō) and military domination of warriors. It spanned between the 12th and 19th centuries. All of these centuries are divided into small periods of time that bear the name of the Shoguns that dominated the era. The first contact with the West world took place in 1542 when a Portuguese vessel was deflected by a typhoon from its itinerary to China and landed on the coasts of Japan. The firearms introduced by the Portuguese have greatly changed the art of war in the Sengoku Period, culminating in the Battle of Nagashino where Nobunaga Oda used about 3.000 harquebusiers (teppō ashigaru), which greatly reduced the power of the samurai. In the following century, traders from Portugal, the

Netherlands, England and Spain arrived in Japan, as well as Jesuit, Dominicans or Franciscans missionaries, many of whom were martyred and became saints. To sum up, a succession of three conquering daimyō between 1573 and 1603 allowed Japan to definitively regain its political unity. These three unifiers of Japan were successively: Oda Nobunaga (1573-1582), Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1583-1598) and finally Tokugawa Ieyasu who imposed himself at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 to found in 1603 a Shogunate government. The Tokugawa Shogunate moved the capital of Japan to Edo (Tokyo) and ruled the archipelago for the following two centuries and a half. During the first part of the 17th century, the Tokugawa Shogunate feared that the Portuguese missionaries would be the source of perils similar to those suffered by its neighbors or even annihilation. The Christian religion was formally forbidden in 1635.

Edo Period (1603 - 1868)

In the early part of the 17th century, the Tokugawa Shogun suspected that all traders or missionaries were spies of European powers. This was the reason why their entry into Japan was strictly controlled by the personal order of the Shogun. An English sailor named William Adams, who was traveling on a Dutch ship, stranded on the coasts of Japan in 1600. He managed to impress Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa by teaching him the art of navigation, astronomy and mathematics. He eventually became an honorary samurai and received a considerable estate. When the East India Company arrived in Japan in 1616, they asked for Adams help, as he was a favourite of the Shogun, to build the first factory in the country and a kind of trade agency. Eventually, in 1639, Japan forced all strangers to leave and blocked all relations with the outside world, except for limited trade relations with Dutch and Chinese merchants in Nagasaki. Several clashes with Russia allowed the Shogun 16

Battle of Nagashino

Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa

to expand his power over the Hokkaidō and Sakhalin Island in 1807, but the exclusion policy still continued. Japan’s isolation lasted about 200 more years until 8 July 1853, when Commander Matthew Perry of the US four-ship fleet (Mississippi, Plymouth, Saratoga, and Susquehanna) entered the bay of Edo (Tokyo) and demonstrated the destruction power of his cannons. He urged Japan to renounce at its isolation policy and start trading with the West. These vessels were named kurofune (black ships). The following year, Perry returned with seven battle ships and through the Kanagawa Convention signed on 31 March 1854, he urged the Shogun to sign the peace and neutrality treaty between Japan and the United States. In just five years, Japan would also sign such treaties with the other Western powers. The Harris Treaty, agreement that secured commercial and diplomatic privileges for the United States in Japan, was signed on 29 July 1858. In the Japanese Middle Ages society there were two major categories of social categories: a dominant one and a subordinate to the former. Each of these categories had the system of social pyramid as a principle of internal organization. Thus, in the case of the dominant society, we can acknowledge that the fighters named samurai are at the base of the pyramid. These were the ones who defended the other members

of the dominant society: the noblemen, the shogun and the emperor. It is interesting to note the connection that existed between these societies since we can’t speak of a noble without considering him a samurai or a shogun, excluding the fact that he was an important feudal noble. On the top of the pyramid there was the emperor, a spiritual authority never questioned, but often constrained to remain outside of political life. The country was theoretically led by the emperor, but in fact it was governed by the shogun or strong noble families. In both cases, they exercised their power with the help of the samurai. The pyramid of the subordinate society was made up of peasants, who represented the productive category of the entire Japanese medieval society. Although they were in the category of subordinate society, artisans and craftsmen, through the mastery of their art, were able to assert themselves both in their social status and in their state of dominance. Merchants and moneylenders were a social category made up of wealthy people, but who never enjoyed higher honors than their affiliation to the subordinate societies. Later, it was the townspeople that managed to create an urban civilization that was in contrast to the rural civilization. Between the two pyramids, at the lowest level, there was the repudiate state. They couldn’t be included in either of the two pyramids of the Japanese medieval society because they were not subordinated to a dominant or sub-dominated state but were at the mercy of the Japanese society as a whole. The emperor’s authority, even if only formal, was recognized by all social states, whether they were belonging to the dominant or subordinate states.

Edo Society


Meiji Period (1868 – 1912)

The interest of Western seafarers was mainly directed to the southern areas of the globe, to the “Indies”, and between the navigation lines of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Ocean they traversed the southern hemisphere. However, in the last decades of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century, as the need for new markets for different industrial products started to increase, it was necessary to make additional, albeit secondary, stopovers in the north of the Equator, in the Pacific, therefore in the Japanese archipelago. Under the influence of the social and political ideas of European origin brought by the Western sailors, many young nobles and samurai who didn’t have great wealth thought about the regeneration and progress of the country by introducing economic reforms. At the same time, the wealthier merchant blanket, though discredited by the regime, had come to credit the shogun, high-ranking dignitaries and noblemen with significant sums of money. With economic and capital strength, they claimed new positions in the state and started to increasingly protest against abuses and


confiscations. Ergo, they called for political and social transformations. In turn, the peasantry had increasingly resorted to riots, which seriously undermined the regime of the Shogunate. All the unhappy people invoked the name of the ostracized emperor, appealing to the court aristocracy (kuge), who was also impoverished and disrespected. On that specific general background of disappointment and dissatisfaction, since the beginning of the 18th century, the cult of the emperor started being intellectually and ideologically rebuilt, thus preparing the way to the restoration of the emperor to his political duties from which he was dispossessed. In 1715, the book “The History of Great Japan”, written at the initiative of the nobility from the Mito Prefecture, insisted on the importance of the imperial family. In the same purpose was the intellectuals’ effort to diminish the influence of Chinese civilization and to revive the ancient Japanese religion, Shintō, in opposition to Confucianism and Buddhism. Japanese men of culture emphasized in some works the divine character of the emperor’s origins, while historian Rai San’yō (1780-

A Japanese print showing three men, believed to be Commander Anan, Commander Perry and Captain Henry Adams, who opened up Japan to the west

1860 Japanese Delegation to USA

Samurai of the Satsuma domain during the Boshin War


Promulgation of the Meiji Constitution

1832) intended to establish the historical foundations of the Emperor’s direct governance. The effect of growing contacts and trade with Europe and the United States, though imposed by violence, has been rapid and spectacular, even beneficial on various plans for the Japanese society. The massive arrival of foreign merchants, especially after 1858, led to the transformation of the Yokohama Harbor into a major commercial center, from whose warehouses large quantities of goods invaded the Japanese market. Between 1859 and 1868, the value of Japanese foreign trade increased from only 2 million $ to 35 million $. Foreigners bought from Japan silk, cotton, paper, tea, oils, copper and others. In turn, they sold to the Japanese: ships, weapons, cars and various metal objects, woolen fabrics, cotton and hemp fabrics, fishing gear and others. The sharp increase of import as against export caused the flow of gold out of Japan. The loss of the gold resources combined with the imbalance of the monetary system had caused a serious inflation. At the same time, the competition of foreign goods also led to the ruin of the indigenous manufacturing and craft production. Significant changes have also occurred in agricultural production due to massive external demands for tea, silk and other products. On the other hand, industrial enterprises were founded in light industries, arsenals and shipyards, metallurgical enterprise and others. This resulted in the establishment and growth of the Japanese bourgeoisie. The crisis in which the Shogunate 20

regime was profound and the opponents of the ruling circles of Edo took advantage of this by signing unequal treaties with the West (such as the Kanagawa Treaty in 1854) to openly and decisively attack the existing regime, accusing it of being unable to withstand foreign pressures. Opponents of the Shogunate started to

Emperor Matsuhito (Meiji) – By Takahashi Yuichi

Japanese Landing at the Battle of Tsingtao during World War I

gradually abandon the shogun and gathered around the Emperor of Kyoto. In this climate of political crisis, xenophobic assassinations intensified. Russians (1859), French and Dutch (1860) and British (1861) fell victims to nationalist exaltations. The clashes between the opponents of the imperial power restoration and the supporters of the Shogunate regime have taken a decisive turn since March 1860, when the Shogun’s first counselor, Ii Naosuke, was assassinated. The character of the uprisings, movements and actions that followed had a both anti-feudal and anti-colonialist tinge. At the head of these mass movements were the samurai with reformist views that have managed to attract on their side the bourgeoisie, peasants and intellectuals. The armed struggle against the shogun started in the Chōshū Domain in 1865. It was not until July 1866 that the Shogun armed forces could confront the rebels, but they were defeated. In February 1867, Emperor Kōmei died and his son, Matsuhito (Meiji), aged just 15 years old, ascended to the throne. The young monarch had the support of the military forces from the Satsuma and Tosa domains. Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu was virtually deprived of any armed support, and on 8 November 1867 he gave up his functions. After his abdication, he didn’t perform seppuku as the tradition demanded but instead lived in obscurity for a while and was later admitted to

the imperial court. The imperial forces leader, Saigō Takamori, and the leader of the Shogun forces, Katsu Kaishū, have met and discussed about the peaceful surrender of power. Although the shogun accepted the restoration and withdrew his troops to Osaka, at the end of January 1868, other Tokugawa forces tried to recapture Kyoto but were defeated by the united forces of the Satsuma, Choshu and Tosa domains. The Boshin War, also known as the Japanese Revolution, was fought between 1867 and 1868 and led to the abolition of the Shogunate. The final battle took place at Toba-Fushimi. This battle basically put an end to the domination of the Tokugawa family, although other Tokugawa families from the north still resisted and the fleet from the

Japanese Attack on US naval base at Pearl Harbor


Hokkaidō harbor resisted until 1869. On 3 January 1868, Matsuhito decreed the takeover of power and the abolition of the Shogunate regime. The Emperor installed his court and resided at Edo starting from 26 November 1868. The city was then re-named to Tokyo (Eastern Capital). A new era began in the history of Japan and Emperor Matsuhito called it Meiji (enlightened government) at the request of the Reformers. This era was meant to be both a continuum and a great social and political mutation in Japanese society. Modern Japan cultivated the spirit of total subordination to the emperor and to the state institutions, psychological elements which immediately before the Second World War were oriented towards the formation of the fanatical militarist mentality. Since the Meiji restauration until the end of the Second World War, the emperor was the head of the government and the army. In the Meiji era, the Emperor was divinized and after his death in 1912, his memory was accompanied by awe. Matsuhito, though he favored the conservatives more than the liberals, has been and remains a remarkable personality and also a symbol. A fundamental feature of the epoch in which he lived was that he played a passive role, leaving the state people to act on his behalf. The three decades of Meiji governance have transformed Japan into a modern capitalist state both because of its own efforts and favorable international circumstances


as the great European powers and the United States have been involved in internal and external conflicts that have kept them away from the Japanese archipelago. The main concerns of the Meiji regime leaders aimed at changing the international status of Japan by annulling the unequal treaties that had been imposed on it, strengthening the country’s infantry and naval forces, as well as engaging the country in the great powers’ competition in order to establish areas of influence and markets for the sale of its industrial products and acquisition of raw materials resources. All of this required a strong military base that was systematically created. Japan has adopted numerous Western institutions during the Meiji period, including a modern government, the law system and the organization of the army. These reforms helped transform the Japanese Empire into a world power. Japan defeated China in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and Russia in the Russian-Japanese War (1904-1905). Until 1910, Japan had come to control Korea, Taiwan and the southern half of the Sakhalin Island.

Taishō Period (1912 – 1926)

The beginning of the 20th century marked a short period of Taishō democracy, which was eventually abandoned following the evolution of the Japanese expansion policy. Emperor Mutsuhito (Meiji) was

Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

succeeded by his son Yoshihito (Taishō) in 1912, whose precarious state of health favored the consolidation of the political role of the military. In August 1914, following the outbreak of World War I, Japan sent an ultimatum to Germany, requiring the evacuation of the Jiaozhou (Kiaochow) territory from northeastern China. Following the refusal of the Germans, Japan went to war alongside the Allies, occupying the German islands in the Pacific. In 1915, Japan submitted to China the “twenty-one requests” that requested the granting of industrial, rail and mining privileges, which represented the first sign of the Japanese domination policy in China and the Far East. In 1916, China ceded its business rights in Inner Mongolia and South Manchuria to Japan. The First World War allowed Japan, which had fought on the side of the victorious allies, to expand its sphere of influence in Asia and possessions in the Pacific. Japan also obtained the concession of Jiaozhou, which however had to be returned to China in 1922 according to the Shandong Treaty, which was signed during the Washington conference of the same year.

China, occupying Manchuria in 1931 and continuing its expansion in China in 1937, thus starting the second Sino-Japanese War that lasted until the end of the Second World War. In 1941, after President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the president of the United States of America demanded that Japan withdraw its forces from China, Japan attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor and the British and Dutch South-East Asian colonies, entering in war against the United States. After a lengthy campaign in the Pacific Ocean, Japan lost its initial territorial gains, and the US forces have come close enough to start strategic bombings on Tokyo, Osaka, and other major cities, as well as atomic bombing on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese eventually accepted the unconditional surrender to the Allies on 15 August 1945. The International Military Tribunal for the Far East met on 3 May 1946 to judge the Japanese War Crimes, including atrocities like the Nanking Massacre. Emperor Hirohito received immunity though and retained his title. The war has cost millions of lives in Japan and other countries, especially in East Asia, and left much of the industry and infrastructure of the country destroyed. American occupation lasted Shōwa Period (1926 - 1989) In 1936, Japan signed the Anti-Comintern until 1952, although US forces still have important Pact, thus forming together with Germany and Italy military bases in Japan, especially in Okinawa. In 1947, the Axis alliance. During this period, Japan invaded Japan adopted a new pacifist constitution, pursuing international co-operation and emphasizing on human

Emperor Shōwa (Hirohito) and US President Richard Nixon in 1971


Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko

rights and democratic practices. On 28 April 1952, the peace treaty with the US entered into force and Japan regained full sovereignty. During that year, the Japanese government concluded peace treaties and reopened diplomatic relations with Taiwan, Burma, India and Yugoslavia. In 1953, the United States actively pushed Japan into rearmament as a measure of protection against a possible Soviet attack. In August, the two countries signed an inherent aid treaty regarding Japanese arms production and in March 1954 they signed a pact of mutual defense. The resolution of international disputes was defined in 1956 as Japan was allowed entrance into the UN. The 1960’s, which were marked by two major international events: the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 1964 and the Osaka Universal Exhibition in 1970, saw Japan climb to the top 24

rankings of world production. At the political level, the re-opening of diplomatic relations with China in 1972 was crucial. Regarding domestic politics, following a serious scandal where several political and industrial men and women, as well as an US aerospace company, Lockheed, were involved, at the December 1976 elections, the Liberal Democratic Party (Jiyū-Minshutō) lost for the first time the majority of the lower chamber. Since then, various party representatives have been replacing the prime minister until November 1982, when Yasuhiro Nakasone was appointed. In 1983, the Liberal Democrats obtained an overwhelming election victory in 1986 and Noboru Takeshita replaced Yasuhiro Nakasone in November 1987. By the mid-1980’s, the continuous growth of the Japanese economy began to slow down.

Heisei Period

After its occupation, in the frame of an aggressive industrial development program with US assistance, Japan has experienced a spectacular growth, becoming one of the world’s largest economies. Despite a major collapse in the stock market in 1990, from which the country gradually recovered, Japan remains today a global economic power and now calls for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. Emperor Akihito rose to the throne after the death of his father Hirohito in 1989. The next year marked one of the fastest growing economic growth in Japanese history. With a strong yen and a favorable exchange rate, the Bank of Japan kept interest rates low, resulting in an investment boom that boosted the value of real estate in Tokyo by more than 60% in one year. The 1988 Recruit scandal had already eroded public confidence in the Liberal Democratic Party, which had controlled the country’s government for thirty-eight years. In 1993, the party was defeated by a coalition led by Morihiro Hosokawa. The coalition collapsed because the parties that formed it merged only to defeat the Liberal Democratic Party and lacked a unified position on virtually every social topic. The Liberal Democratic Party returned to the government

in 1996 when Social Democrat Tomiichi Murayama was elected as prime minister. The Heisei period also marked the re-emergence of Japan as a world military power. In 1991, Japan contributed with billions of dollars to support the Gulf War, but constitutional reasons prevented the country’s direct participation or support. Following the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s Cabinet approved a plan to send about one thousand soldiers of the Japanese Self-Defense Force to help reconstruct Iraq. In 1995, a strong earthquake struck Kōbe. On 20 March of the same year, terrorists from the Aum Shinrikyo Group released sarin gas in the Tokyo subway, killing 12 people, including two Tokyo Metro staff and a passenger, and severely wounded over three hundred people. In 1997, Japan was hit hard by the Asian financial crisis. Between 2005 and 2012, seven prime ministers alternated in Japan: Koizumi was followed by Shinzo Abe, Yasuo Fukuda, Taro Aso, Yukio Hatoyama, Naoto Kan, Yoshihiro Noda and Shinzo Abe again. On 11 March 2011, the strongest earthquake ever recorded in Japan, with an epicenter of 130 kilometers off Sendai, has affected the north of the country and provoked a tsunami that devastated the north-east coast.

Nowadays, Japan is a thriving and developed nation, being a leader in world electronics and engineering


Nature Landforms

The Japanese archipelago consists of a total of 6.852 islands located off the east coast of Asia, being bordered by the Okhotsk Sea to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the east, the East China Sea to the south and the South Japan Sea to the west. The country, including all of its islands, lies between latitudes 24° and 46°N and longitude 122° and 146°E. The four main islands of Japan, from north to south, are Hokkaidō, Honshū, Shikoku and Kyūshū. Together they form a 3.000 km long arch that opens northwest. The Ryukyu Islands, including Okinawa, are located south of the Kyūshū Island. 73% of Japan’s territory is made up of forests and mountains, making it unsuitable for agricultural, industrial or residential use. The main mountainous system consists of the Japanese Alps, located in the center of Honshū, across the Itoigawa-Shizuoka Tectonic Line (ISTL). Most peaks are characterized


by sharp edges and stony peaks. In some cases they exceed 3.000 meters, the highest peak of the country being Mount Fuji with a total altitude of 3.776 meters. The plains, of which the Kantō plain is the largest, are located along the coast or along the inner valleys. Honshū is the largest island in Japan and is also referred to as the Japanese “core land”. Tokyo is the capital city of Honshū. The island is about 1.300 km long and has a width between 50 and 240 km. The total area is of 230.500 km², which is about 60% of the total area of Japan. The coast line has 5.450 km in length. The area is particularly fertile in the Kantō plain and many rivers flow there. The island of Hokkaidō is the second largest island of Japan, with an area of 77.984 km². Together with several surrounding small islands, it forms the northernmost and by far the largest prefecture of the country. The highest elevation is the Asahi Mountain with an altitude of 2.291 meters. To the south of Hokkaidō there is the Tsugaru Strait, which separates the island from Honshū. The largest city is Sapporo. With an area of 35.640 km², Kyūshū is the 2nd most populated and 3rd largest island in Japan. Its name derives from the original division of the island into nine

Mount Fuji

Kantō Plain

provinces. The island of Kyūshū is the southernmost of the four main islands. Kyūshū is very mountainous and its largest peak is Mount Aso (1.592 m), which is also the most active volcano in Japan. Other active volcanoes are the Sakurajima, near Kagoshima and Unzen near Nagasaki. The largest and most important city on Kyūshū is Fukuoka, which has a big port, industry and numerous administrations. Kyūshū has a subtropical climate. The main agricultural products are rice, tea, tobacco, potatoes and soybean. Silk is also produced. Shikoku is the smallest of the four main

islands. It has an area of about 18.000km². It is divided into four prefectures: Ehime, Kagawa, Kōchi and Tokushima. The island is also named “four provinces” because of the fact that since the time of the Shogunate there were four main provinces: Awa, Sanuki, Iyo and Tosa. The borders of these ancient provinces are the same as those of nowadays prefectures. The Japanese islands are located in a volcanic area located within the Pacific Ring of Fire. They are mainly the result of large oceanic movements that occurred over hundreds of millions of years, starting

Mount Asahi


Ryūkyū Islands

from the middle of the Silurian to the Pleistocene Epoch. The islands formed due to the subduction of the Philippine Sea Plate under the continental Amurian Plate and the Okinawa Plate to the south, as well as due to the subduction of the Pacific Plate beneath the Okhotsk Plate to the north. Japan was originally linked to the eastern coast of the Eurasian continent. Oceanic movements pushed Japan eastward, forming the Sea of ​​Japan about 15 million years ago. Japan has 165 volcanoes, out of which 108 are active. Massive destructive earthquakes, often resulting in tsunamis, occur more than once every century. The Kantō earthquake from 1923 killed more than 140.000 people. Among the most recent major earthquakes are


the great Kobe earthquake of 1995 and the Tōhoku earthquake of 11 March 2011. The latter recorded a magnitude of 9.0, ergo triggering a large tsunami. Due to the narrow and elongated shape of the Japanese Islands, the rivers that cross the country are generally short. They are usually bigger during spring thaw or summer rains, but instead turn to small streams during the dry season. The low depth and high speed of the rivers make them navigable only for very light boats. The longest river of the country is Shinano, located on Honshū Island, with a total length of about 370 km. Other major rivers of this island are Tone, Kitakami, Tenryu and Mogami. The main river of Hokkaidō is Ishikari, the second largest Japanese

Sea of Japan

Shinano River in Niigata

river by drainage basin, in addition to Teshio and Tokachi. Yoshino is Shikoku’s largest river. There are numerous lakes, some of volcanic origin, often formed in the caldera of extinct volcanoes and others formed as a result of natural barriers of river valleys. Mainly they are located in the mountains and lots of them have become summer resorts. The biggest one is Lake Biwa, located on Honshū Island, with an area of ​​670 km² and a depth of 104 meters. The Sea of Japan lies northwest of the main islands, and the Pacific Ocean lies to the east. The Ryūkyū Islands border the East China Sea in the west and the Philippines Sea to the east. In the north of Japan lies the Okhotsk Sea. Only a few kilometers off the Japanese east coast lies the Japan Trench, the lowest point of which is located at a depth of 10.554 meters. In front of the east coast of Japan, roughly at 36° latitude, two main sea currents meet, the cold Oyashio from the north, and the warm Kuroshio from the south. A branch of the Kuroshio Current, the Tsushima stream, flows up the west coast to the Sea of Japan.


Japan is located in the temperate and subarctic climate zones, but also has a monsoon climate. Due to the country’s large latitude there are major differences regarding regional climates. In the Tōhoku region from the south, the climate is temperate, while the Hokkaidō region of Japan has a subarctic climate with cold winters. In addition, mountainous topography brings regional variations on precipitation and temperatures. The winds blow from the east during summers and from the west during winters. The Sea of ​​Japan, which separates Japan from continental Asia, has a moderating effect on the climate.

Köppen climate classification of Japan

Winter is not so cold in Japan and during summers, the warmness level is similar to that in China and Korea. Rain falls mainly in the summer months in the east, while the northwest receives wind-driven winter rain from the Sea of ​​Japan. Average temperature in the Hakodate region from the north is of -3°C in January and 19°C in July, while average temperatures in Tokyo are between +2°C to +8°C in January and between 22°C to 30°C in August. The annual average rainfall amounts to 1700 mm, but it is unevenly distributed throughout the year. The rainy season, called tsuyu/baiu, starts in the middle of June and lasts until the end of July, just before tropical summer. High precipitations are recorded in the Tokyo region during autumn. From late summer to September, Japan is often hit by typhoon. The typhoon is born from low pressure large masses of tropical air in the North Pacific, between the latitudes of 5 to 20 degrees, and is almost the same phenomenon as the hurricane or cyclone in other parts of the world. When a typhoon begins to take shape, it starts moving northwards. Every year during this period, out of around 30 types of typhoons, usually 4 of them hit Japan, sometimes causing great destruction. After mid-October, Japan generally enjoys good weather which is neither cold nor warm. The country also enjoys good weather at the beginning of November. Many trees take the shining colour of autumn and make this time of the year a truly beautiful 29

Rainy Season in Japan

season. After the end of November, seasonal cold winds begin blowing out from the continent. These northwest winds usually absorb moisture from the Sea of Japan ​​ and leave much of it under the form of rain and snow in western Japan. Precipitations are prevented from advancing towards the eastern parts of the country due to the mountainous relief from the central part of the country. The Hokuriku region (Fukui, Ishikawa, Toyama and Niigata prefectures) facing the Sea of Japan is separated from the other regions of Japan by its high altitude mountains, is known for its snow abundance.

In contrast, the Pacific area generally enjoys clear skies in winter. In Tokyo, despite the clear clouds, the winter temperature reaches to about 5°C, a difference of approximately 25°C compared to the 30°C summer temperature. The Islands of the Okinawa Prefecture from southwest Japan enjoy a subtropical climate with less temperature differences between seasons. Winter temperatures are more moderate than in other parts of the country. When winter comes to an end, the cold winds that blow out from the continent become weaker. During this time, low-pressure air masses originating

Cherry Blossom in March

Typhoon waves near Japan


Winter in Gassho Village

from China usually stop in the Sea of ​​Japan. This offers power to the south winds that are crossing this low-pressure zone from the Pacific Ocean. The first of these winds is called Haru Ichiban. This wind generally announces the arrival of the spring warmth, but sometimes causes avalanches and after overpassing the mountains from the shores of the Sea of Japan, it is responsible for the exceptionally hot and dry weather that can sometimes become the source of large scale fires. In early spring, plums and peaches start blooming. During the last ten days of March the cherry trees (very loved by the Japanese) start blooming.

Before the arrival of summer, Japan experiences a sad, full of rain period known as tsuyu/baiu. From May to July, cold air at high pressure from the Okhotsk Sea advances towards the north of Japan, while a across the Pacific Ocean there can be felt a warm, wet and highpressure air. Along the line where these two currents, the hot and the cold one meet, a low-pressure hot air is formed, known as baiu zensen or “rainy season”. This baiu zensen extends from southern China towards the Japanese Archipelago and causes a prolonged period of torrential rain. After mid-July, the masses of air from the Pacific Ocean become predominant and the rainy season ends, baiu zensen being pushed northwards. Seasonal winds from the Pacific Ocean bring a warm, wet air to Japan and the country fully experiences summer weather for several days as long as the temperature is over 30°C. Basically it is possible to divide the Japanese Archipelago into six distinct climatic areas: • Hokkaidō, located at the extreme north of the region, has rigid winters and cool summers with prevailing mountainous climate. Precipitation is normal, except for the winter period when the island is usually buried in snow.

Autumn Maple Rugs


Chrysanthemum - National Flower of Japan


Solar GIS Map of Japan

• Sea of Japan. In winter, there are heavy snowfalls caused by winds that during the summer show up in the form of cool breezes. In any case, temperatures can sometimes reach high peaks (typical for the regions affected by Föhn). • Central Island experiences a typical climate of the inland parts of the island with strong temperature changes from summer to winter and from day to night. There are little precipitation throughout the year. • Seto Naikai, where the sea area between Honshū, Shikoku and Kyūshū is sheltered from winds by the Chūgoku and Shikoku mountains, characterizing the area with a particularly mild climate throughout the year. • Pacific Ocean or the east coast, where winters are rigid with few precipitations and hot and torrid summers. • Ryukyu Islands, whose area is characterized by a subtropical climate with hot winters and sumptuous summers. Precipitation is abundant and typhoons are often formed in this area. 32

The wide variety of Japanese vegetation (about 17.000 species) is related to its climate and terrain. The vegetation of Japan is mainly represented by forests. Forest covers almost 67% of the country’s surface and is composed of a majority of broadleaved trees and conifers such as: oaks, beeches, maples, cedars, red and black pines, birches and ash trees (fraxinus). The west of the country is dominated by forests where conifers grow alongside bamboos, magnolias and holm oaks. Plum and apricot trees, early-flowering cherry trees, bamboos and pines have become over the centuries traditional symbols of the country. The Japanese respect and conserve the forest. In Japan there are 168 different species of trees, compared to Europe as a whole, which only had 85 species in 1975. This is explained by the factors mentioned above, the latitude of the Japanese archipelago (3.500 km from north to south), its variations of climate from cold to subtropical, its reliefs (its plains and its high altitudes), as well as its different types of soils. The great variety and luxuriance of the vegetation can be also explained by the heat and humidity recorded during summers and the abundance of water (groundwater, lakes and others). Since Japan didn’t experience the great Quaternary glaciations, the Pleistocene Epoch’s vegetation (3rd period of the Neogene, late Paleolithic) managed to survive. This vegetation is characterized by a large number of plant species. There are three types of forests in Japan. The first type is the boreal forest, which is found in the north and east parts of the Hokkaidō Island. Coniferous trees form the majority of the vegetation cover and are often associated with birch and ash trees. The second type

Weeping Ume (Apricot) Tree

of forest is represented by the temperate one, which consists of deciduous and coniferous trees. It can be divided into two parts: the cool temperate forest (oaks, beeches, maples, cedars, pines) found north of Honshū Island, and the warm temperate forest that can be seen in western Japan and is characterized by conifers, oaks, bamboos and magnolias. Finally in Kyūshū, Shikoku, and in the south of Honshū, there is a typical subtropical vegetation where bamboo, camphor and banyan trees

dominate the landscape. Variations in forest types are mainly related to the climates of the archipelago. Ergo, the coniferous trees are the predominant tree variety in Japan, a common species being sugi or Japanese cedar, which can reach up to 46 m in height. Other notable evergreens are larch, spruce and many varieties of fir trees. In Kyūshū, Shikoku and southern Honshū, bamboo, camphor tree and wax tree are the most common found trees. Tea plants are also cultivated in these areas. The trees of central and northern Honshū are typical of the temperate zone and are characterized by beech, willow, chestnut and conifers. The lacquer tree and mulberry tree are extensively cultivated, while cypress, yew, boxwood, holly and myrtle are plentiful. In Hokkaidō the vegetation is subarctic and similar to the one of south Siberia. Spruce, larch and Jezo spruce are the most common trees, although there are plenty species of alders, poplars and beeches. One of the most beautiful and famous bamboo forests is that of Arashiyama, which is located in Kyoto and appears in many movies and is cited in every tourist guide. The areas on top of the mountain ranges do not

Momo (Peach) Tree Flowers


Kuro-Tsubaki (Black Camellia)

have, as in Europe, meadows and pastures, but are characterized by an own type of bush, where the most common species is Pinus Pimilla. At heights between 400 and 1.500 meters there is often the typical Japanese moorland, the so-called hara, a set of dwarf bamboo bushes, herbaceous pillows, herbaceous plants, shrubs and ferns, which do not form a continuous vegetable


Sakura (Cherry) Flowers

cover but leaves the exposed surface of the soil to erosion. The most common fruit trees in Japan are peach, pear and orange trees. The Japanese practice a unique type of landscape gardening in which they reproduce in miniature natural landscapes in a stylized way. They also grow dwarf trees, such as the cherry tree and the plum tree which, by careful pruning, maintain a height of about 30 cm. Especially famous are the bonsai, a kind of ornamental plants subjected to cultivation techniques that prevent their growth by cutting roots and pruning branches. Among the flowering plants we must first mention the cherry tree, which blooms in early spring. It is the national flower and is a recurring motif in Japanese art and culture. In April, the hills are covered in the colors of camellias and azaleas, while in early May, peonies, one of the most cultivated flowers dominate the landscape. The lotus flower is blooming in August, while in November one of the most famous Japanese floral festivals celebrates chrysanthemum, a flower representing the emblem of the imperial family. Among other cultivated flowers are the anagallis, the bellflower, the gladiolus and various varieties of lilies.

Green Pheasant – National Animal of Japan


Like the rich Japanese flora, due to the great geological and climatic differences between the north and the south, Japan is home to animals living in different type of climates. There can be found animals from the tropics of Southeast Asia, as well as animals from the temperate zones of Korea and China and subarctic animals from Siberia. The island of Hokkaidō, which is mostly facing the Okhotsk Sea in the Arctic region, is occasionally frequented by animals from the Arctic zone such as walruses. On land, many animals can be found on this island since it is little industrialized. There are mostly cool-temperate animals like the brown bear, which can be also found in the north of Honshū. The sea located north of Honshū belongs to the North Pacific Ocean which runs along the south coast of the Aleutians and the west coast of the United States all the way to California. Sea lions and whales dwell within this part of the Pacific. The sea located south of central Honshū belongs to the western Indo-Pacific region which is part of the tropical region. It is full of colorful coral fish, sea snakes and turtles, as well as dugong and beluga white whales. Japan, in comparison with its

flora, has a small fauna, which however includes 188 species of mammals, 250 species of birds and 87 species of reptiles, amphibians and fish. The only primate is the red-faced monkey or the Japanese macaque, which is found throughout the Honshū territory. Carnivores include black and brown bears. Foxes and deer are very widespread. Many animal species that are not found in neighboring countries have made their home in the Japanese archipelago since Japan has been several times detached and attached to the continent in the past. The same is available for the Ryukyu Islands, which have become detached from the mainland prior to the main islands. In relation to such a lush flora, Japanese fauna may seem poor. In the country, however, there are several species of mammals, many species of birds and a rich variety of reptiles, amphibians and fish. There are also primates, including monkeys, represented by the family of Cercopithecidae, who populate the islands of Honshū and Shikoku, and a kind of macaque. Japan’s giant salamander is well-known and can reach half a meter in length. Amongst other endemic species, there can be mentioned the Glirulus japonicus, a kind 35

Koi (Amur Carp) Fish

of squirrel-rodent belonging to the Gliridae family, present especially in mountainous forests (between 400 and 1.800 meters); the Senkaku mole (Nesoscaptor Uchidai species), found exclusively on the Uotsurijima islet (Ryukyu islands); the Amami rabbit, always present in the Ryukyu islands, and finally the Muennink spiny rat, Okinawa’s endemic species. Among the mammals we can mention the Asian black bear, present in Honshū and Shikoku, although extinct in Kyushu and the brown bear of Hokkaidō, an island where the black bear is not present anymore. The wild boar is absent in Hokkaidō, but present in the rest of the archipelago. The Sika deer and Japanese Serow (a kind of antelope resembling the chamois, found in the mountains of Honshū, and to a lesser extent in Kyūshū and Shikoku), the red fox (absent from Shikoku), Japanese marten and Japanese badger are present on the islands of Japan, except for Hokkaidō. The tanuki or raccoon dog is distributed throughout the archipelago. It is interesting to note the presence of two varieties of wild cats that are only living on small islands: the Iriomote cat, located on the same island in the south of the Ryukyu Islands, and the Tshushima cat that only inhabits this island. Both are subspecies of the leopard cat. There are various species of flying foxes in Okinawa and in the Bonin Islands. The Steller sea 36

Japanese Serow

Japanese Macaque

lion is concentrated on the coasts of Hokkaidō. There is a threatened population of dugongs living near the Ryukyu Islands. However, excessive hunting combined with their few numbers and poor nature protection laws in Japan could have already caused their extinction. Japanese wolves became extinct both in the southern islands and in Hokkaidō. In Japan there are more than 500 different species of birds. Since the island group is surrounded by sea in every direction, a large number of these are water birds. From north to south, Japan is an important stopover for migratory birds. Thus, a variety of bird species find their way to Japan. In cities, crows, sparrows, pigeons and swallows can be observed. The national bird of the country is the green pheasant. The Japanese crested ibis is threatened with extinction. The Okinawa rail (Gallirallus okinawae), which lives on the Okinawa Island, lost its flight ability like many birds that are living on the islands. The small Asian mongoose has already become extinct in parts of its original habitat. In the brackish waters of the estuaries there are a variety of mussels. The problem is that water pollution and other factors lead to the extinction of numerous fish species. In the 1970’s there was a strong

environmental movement, which was able to record its first successes. The variety of the Japanese fish world can also be experienced as a tourist by visiting large aquariums from the big cities.

Okinawa Rail


People Language

Japanese is the official language of Japan and the island of Angaur from the Republic of Palau, where Japanese is an official language along with Angaurese and English. There are numerous words and dialects that show an appreciable geographical fragmentation of the population over the course of history. With the spread of radio and television, through the government’s policy of language modernization, Japanese people across the country have increasingly come in contact with the standard language (Hyōjungo or 標準 語) and differences in local language have been diminished. Standard Japanese is the language taught in schools and used in the media. Being spoken almost exclusively by the Japanese, this language is closely related to Japanese culture and vice versa. There are countless words describing certain elements of Japanese culture, tradition and customs (such as 和 (wa), 根回 し (nemawashi), 改善 (kaizen) or 切腹 (seppuku)) This phenomenon, although not specific to Japan alone, is amplified here by the long periods when Japanese culture developed in almost total isolation from any other external influences. Although Japanese is spoken almost exclusively in Japan, it was and still is spoken in other countries.


During the Japanese occupation of Korea, Taiwan, Manchuria and various Pacific islands, the inhabitants of these territories were forced to learn Japanese within the frame of a Japanese empire expansion program. As a result, there are still many people in these areas who speak fluently Japanese instead of the local languages or alongside them. In addition, Japanese emigrants, many of whom live in the United States of America (especially in California and Hawaii) and Brazil, still speak Japanese. Their descendants (called nikkei 日 系, meaning of Japanese origins) often do not speak fluent Japanese. It is also estimated that several million people study Japanese as a foreign language. Due to the long external and internal isolation (including the fact that country is located on an archipelago, the numerous mountainous areas, etc.), Japanese language has several number of dialects. They usually differ by musical accent, inflection, vocabulary, particles, and pronunciation. More rarely, some dialects may also differ by the number of vocals and consonants. Distant regions have dialects that are not understandable to standard Japanese speakers, such as the Tsushimaben and Tōhoku-ben dialects (“-ben” meaning regional dialect). The dialect spoken in Kagoshima in southern Kyūshū Island is known to be unintelligible even to residents of other neighboring regions of the same island. Technically speaking, the Kagoshima dialect overlaps only 84% with the standard dialect. Although it is frequently stated that the Ryukyuan languages ​​spoken in the Okinawa prefectures are dialects of Japanese, the extent to which they are unintelligible to standard Japanese speakers make many linguists conclude that

Japanese Language Map (Countries with large Japanese speaking communities are highlighted in azure)

Japanese Dialects Map

the Ryukyuan languages ​​are separate languages, but part of the same Japanese language family. A recent study suggests that all dialects of Japanese language have their origin from a common founding language spoken by rice growers who came to the Japanese archipelago about 2.200 years ago from the Korean Peninsula and not from a hunter-gatherer society which populated the archipelago about 30.000 years ago. Linguists specialized in the history of Japanese language agreed that this is one of the two Japanese languages, the other one being the Ryukyuan language, spoken in Okinawa), but in relation to their origins there is still no common theory. The general opinion, especially among non-specialists, suggests that the

Japanese language would be in fact an isolated language. As for the relationship between Japanese and other languages, there are several contradictory theories, presented below in the decreasing order of their plausibility: • Japanese language is related to a number of missing languages ​​that have been spoken in the Korean Peninsula and Manchuria. Of these, the best attested is that spoken in Goguryeo (or Koguryo). • Japanese language is related to other Asian languages. This theory claims that Japanese would be related to languages like ​​ Korean and possibly Sino-Tibetan languages. • The Japanese language is related to the family 39

Japanese Pitch Accent Map

of Altaic languages. This family also includes: Mongolian, Tungus, Turkish, and, conversely, Korean. • Japanese language is a Creole language (formed by the transformation of an auxiliary, rudimentary language, used only in contact with other ethnicities, in an own language over a previous linguistic substrate). • The Japanese language is related to South Asian languages. The same Japanese history specialists agree that Japanese and Ryukyuan are related to forming the Japanese language family and appreciate that a relation with the spoken language in Goguryeo is highly probable. The relationship with the Korean language, although very plausible, is still under discussion. The hypothesis 40

of Japanese being part of the Altaic language family has relatively little plausibility and its relationship with Tamil is viewed with much reserve. It should be noted that the results of language studies are often confronted with non-scientific obstacles such as political interests or frictions between countries or populations. The same situation also occurs in Japan, which has a long history of conflicts with neighboring countries. Japanese language currently uses a combination of four types of writing: Kanji (漢字), which are characters of Chinese origin (ideograms), Hiragana (平 仮 名), Katakana (片 仮 名) and Rōmaji (ロ ー マ 字), which are characters of the Latin alphabet. Traditionally, Japanese is written in vertical lines from top to bottom, beginning at the right edge of the page and continuing to the left. This style is still

have multiplied and thus many English, French and German words have made their way in Japanese language. In the same period, Japan’s cultural elite has “fabricated” a whole series of neologisms written in Kanji to describe foreign words. Such neologisms are kagaku (化学) (chemistry), seiji (政治) (politics) and others. Some of these were copied in both Chinese and Korean. Therefore, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean have a common neologism vocabulary, along with the old Chinese words, in a way similar to the existence in Europe of a common vocabulary of relatively recent compound terms from ancient Latin or Greek words. Japanese Alphabet

practiced today, being considered the natural style, easier to calligraphy and reading. In the early years of school, pupils are predominantly accustomed to this style. Also, most of the literary writings are paginated vertically. In ancient times, over many centuries of cultural and religious contact with China, the Japanese language has massively borrowed Chinese words so that more than half of the Japanese vocabulary is of Chinese origin. Other languages that ​​ are at the origin of many Japanese words are the Korean and Ainu languages. From the contacts with Portuguese travelers in the 16th century, many Portuguese words have been borrowed. In the 19th century, the Dutch language provided another series of words for the Japanese. Starting with the Meiji Era, contacts with European civilization


The most practiced religions in Japan are Shintōism and Buddhism. Determining which one is the most important is difficult because believers’ numbers are often processed on the basis of data extracted from birth certificates, following the established practice of associating the family name with a local Buddhist temple or, in the case of Shintōism, considering as part of the community all those citizens who fall within the territory of the nearby sanctuary. Many Japanese follow both the Shintōism and Buddhist beliefs, a tendency known as shinbutsu shūgō (神 仏 習 合 or Shintō-Buddhist syncretism), which, although officially disunited as a religion following the Meiji restoration in 1868, it continues to be practiced. In polls, the proportion of those who declare Shintō is often subject to variation since, while taking part in Shintō rites,

Japan Religion Maps


Fushimi Inari Taisha Shintō Shrine

praying at private shrines or altars, most Japanese do not identify with the term “Shintō”. This is because the term itself has little meaning for them or because by manifesting openly, Shintōism is seen as a form of adherence to one of the many religious organizations present in the country. In Japanese culture, the same term “religion” ( 宗教 or shūkyō) refers only to religious organizations. People who declare themselves “non-religious” (無 宗 教 or mushūkyō) in fact, mean that they are not part of any organization, even if they can participate in Shintō rites. Shintōism is the native religion of Japan. It encompasses adoration of the kami (神), a term that can be translated as divinity, natural spirits, or simply spiritual presence. Some Kami are local and can be regarded as the guardian spirits of a particular place, but others may represent a specific object or a natural event, such as Amaterasu, the goddess of the Sun. Even illustrious people, heroes and ancestors become subjects of worship after their death and are in turn counted among the kami. The word Shintō is composed from the word “shin” (神, meaning divinity or spirit) and “dō” (道, meaning road or path). Thus, Shintō literally means “the practice of the gods” or “the way of the gods”. As an alternative to Shintō, the purely Japanese expression (with the same meaning) to indicate Shintōism is kami no michi. The term Shintō is also used to indicate the 42

body of the deity, that is, the relic at which the kami participates materially (for example, a sacred sword). In the second half of the 19th century, in the context of the Meiji restoration, the State Shintō aimed to give ideological support and a social control instrument to the Japanese ruling class, and centered on the figure of the emperor and goddess Amaterasu, the progeny of the imperial race. The State Shintō was abolished at the end of World War II, once with the occupation of Japan. Some Shintō practices and teachings that were considered of great importance during the war are now no longer taught or practiced while others remain largely popular as daily practices without having particular religious connotations, such as o-mikuji. Buddhism was imported from China and Korea since the 5th and 6th centuries onwards, so it is strongly influenced by Chinese and Korean Buddhism, but also by Shintoism. In 592, after many struggles for influence with Shintoism, Buddhism was declared a state religion. Buddhism was introduced by the high class into the dominant social classes before reaching the people because its relatively difficult teachings could not yet be understood by the entire non-literate population of Japan. Its history can be divided into three periods, each having seen the introduction of new doctrines or the evolution of existing schools, of the three great currents

Yanaka’s Zuirinji Buddhist Temple

of Buddhism: Nara period (710-794): Hossō, Kegon and Ritsu schools; Heian period (794-1185): Tendai and Shingon; Kamakura period (1185-1333): Nichiren Buddhism (Jōdo, Jōdo shin, Yūzū nenbutsu and Ji) and Zen schools (Rinzai, Sōtō and Ōbaku). Catholic missionary activities in Japan began in 1549 and were initiated by Portuguese-backed Jesuits before the Spanish-backed Mendicant Orders came in turn to Japan. The Jesuits first approached the men of power then spread the religion to the rest of the population. The Christians of Japan at this time are called kirishitan. The vast majority of them gave up their faith after the persecutions, following the banning of Christianity by the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1614. Currently, there are about 1.000.000 Japanese Christians, out of which almost 450.000 Catholics, 530.000 Protestants and 30.000 Orthodox. As total percentage of the population, Japanese Christians are fewer than they were in the 17th century. Academics estimate there are between 100.000 and 120.000 Muslims in Japan, 10% of who are Japanese citizens. The Israeli embassy estimates that there are

about 2.000 Jews in the country, most of who are of foreign origin. A 2008 survey conducted by the NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute and the International Social Survey Program (ISSP) revealed that, out of the 1.200 people interviewed, 39% reported having a religious belief, of which 34% stated that they followed Buddhism, 3% Shintōism, 1% Christianity (0.7% Protestantism, 0.3% Catholicism) and another 1% said to follow other religions. A number of new religions have been established in Japan in the 20th century and today have a relatively important role in Japan. Many of these sects are syncretisms between traditional Japanese philosophy and Western philosophy. Some incorporate elements of Hinduism and fundamentalism. Named shinshūkyō, the main ones are Sōka Gakkai, Sūkyō Mahikari, Konkokyo and Omoto Kyo. One of them, Aum Shinrikyo, was responsible for the attack on a Tokyo subway station with sarin gas on 12 March 1995. The result of this attack was 12 killed people and more than 5.500 wounded. However, this isolated act is not representative to the climate of peace that prevails between the different religious communities in Japan. 43

Che Sui Khor Pagoda of the Moral Uplifting Society sect

World Heritage On UNESCO’s list there can be found 17 cultural objectives and 4 natural objectives in Japan: Cultural Objectives: • Buddhist Monuments in the Hōryū-ji Area • Fujisan (sacred place and source of artistic inspiration) • Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu • Himeji-jo • Hiraizumi – Temples, Gardens and Archaeological Sites Representing the Buddhist Pure Land • Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) • Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) • Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara • Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama • Itsukushima Shintō Shrine • Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and its Cultural Landscape • Sacred Island of Okinoshima and Associated Sites in the Munakata Region 44

• Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range • Shrines and Temples of Nikko • Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining • The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier (An Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement) • Tomioka Silk Mill and Related Sites Natural Objectives: • Ogasawara Islands • Shirakami-Sanchi • Shiretoko • Yakushima


Japan had almost 128.000.000 inhabitants in 2016 and one of the lowest birth rates in the world. During the year 2016, the archipelago lost more than 300.000 inhabitants. This drop in the population has reached a record level since the existence of statistics in 1968. This was the 6th year in a row that the country has seen

Population Density Map of Japan

its population fall. This accelerating fall will bring the population down to less than 85 million in 2050. Indeed, nearly 35% of the population will have more than 60 years old at the end of 2018 and more than 90 years old at the end of 2048. Since 2005, the Japanese population has begun to decline. In 2009, the population fell by 183.000 inhabitants. At the same time, the population continues aging as the number of Japanese over 65 years old has increased by 789.000, reaching a total of 22.7% of the population, while the number of young people under 14 years old has decreased by 165.000. In 1950,

Japan was the 5th most populous country in the world, only behind China, India, the USSR and the United States. Since then, the country has lost five places and is now 10th. By 2050, Japan could be no more than 17th. According to a study by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Affairs made in January 2012, the Japanese population is expected to drop below 100 million by 2048 and approach 86 million by 2060. In 2005, among Japanese aged over 15 years old, 60.8% of men and 57.0% of women were married. According to article 750 of the Civil Code of 1947, the 45

spouses must choose a common family name: that of the husband or the wife. In practice, the family name of the man is chosen almost systematically (97.5% of cases in 1993). The marriage rate has been declining among new generations, since the 1970’s. This decline in marriages partly explains the drop in the birth rate, especially as many unmarried 30 year olds continue to live with their parents. This number was estimated at 70% of the population in 2005. The number of marriages in 2016 was estimated at 621.000, a decrease of about 9.000 from 2015. This is the lowest figure since the end of the Second World War, with only ten married individuals or five marriages per 1.000 inhabitants. The fertility rate is very low in Japan: 1.26 children per woman in 2005, 1.37 between 2007 and 2009 and 1.39 in 2010. This explains the considerable share of the population constituted by the elderly. The state encourages birth rate by offering 5.000 yen (about 40 euros) per month and per child until the age of 3. In 2003, aid accounted for 1.1% of Japanese GDP. The estimated number of births in 2016 was 981.000, a figure below the million for the first time since 1899. In 2007, 11 million Japanese people were over 75 years old, which raised the issue of pension funding. In response to this challenge, the government has decided to gradually raise the retirement age from 60 to 65 years. Life expectancy is one of the highest in the world, thus reflecting a high level of development. In 2009, the number of centenarians in Japan exceeded 40.000.


35.000 of them were women, according to national data. In 2010, it reached 44.450 and it has been increasing steadily since 1963. 50% of Japanese people are not interested in sex, and 25% of the 25 to 29 year olds find this practice boring. This may partly explain the low fertility rate. In addition, a study shows that in 2010, 36.2% of the population aged between 18 and 34 had never had sexual intercourse. Among men aged 20 to 24, this proportion reaches 40.5%. The Japanese have one of the highest life expectancy, especially women, with the longest life expectancy in the world since 1985. In 2016, the death toll was estimated at 1.300.000, the highest figure since the end of the Second World War. This results in a general population decrease of 315.000 people, a demographic decline that is accelerating. Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world: 26 per 100.000 population or 33 people in 2007, 32 in 2008 and 2009, 30 in 2011 and 28 in 2012. In 2006, the Japanese suicide rate was 23.6 per 100.000 inhabitants and was far outstripped by Eastern European countries such as Lithuania (38.8) and Russia (32.3). Japan was then ranked 8th in the world. According to national police figures, three quarters of the suicides occurred in 2007 were committed by men. 60% of them were unemployed. The suicide rate for seniors is still rising sharply. According to the government, only 81 suicides in 2007 were due to overwork or stress (karĹ?-jisatsu), which more generally leads to karĹ?shi, a natural death

Foreign People living in Japan

Birth and Death Rates of Japan

occurred due to overwork. However, in 2007, the Chūō-sen in Tokyo. Japan had 2.190.000 foreigners at the end of national police accounted for 2.200 suicides caused by problems at work. In 2009, 6.949 people committed 2009. The Chinese are the largest ethnic group (30%), suicide as a result of depression (21%), 1.731 as a result of difficulties in daily life (5%) and 1.071 because of unemployment (3%). In descending order, the months of March, April, May are those in which one commits suicide the most, probably because the fiscal year traditionally ends on 31 March in Japan. In 2009, there were mainly worker suicides in March, housewives in April / May and unemployed in May / June. Few suicides take place on weekends, the maximum being reached on Monday. In 2008, a study realized by the Japanese government revealed that nearly one in five Japanese people have seriously thought about committing suicide at some point in their lives. In 2010, a new study indicates that suicides in Japan would cost the economy nearly 2.700 billion yen a year, or 25.3 billion euros. Some places are famous for the many suicides that occur there, such as the Aokigahara forest in Yamanashi prefecture near Tokyo, the Tōjinbō cliff (東 尋 坊) in the Fukui prefecture, the Amagase Dam (天 ヶ 瀬 ダ ム) in Uji, the Sandanbeki Cliff (三 段 壁) in Wakayama Prefecture, Cape Ashizuri (足 摺 岬) in Tosashimizu, Kegon Falls in Nikko, and Japan census population change by prefectures


with 680.000 people, followed by Koreans (578.000), Brazilians (267.000), Filipinos (212.000) and Peruvians (57.000). In 2009, 1.132.000 Japanese lived abroad, mostly in the United States of America, China, Australia, Brazil and the United Kingdom. The small indigenous minority of Ainu from Hokkaidō has some genetic uniqueness. In 2008, 37.000 Japanese married foreigners, eight times more than forty years ago. The same year, 19.000 divorced. There are around 10.000 births of binational children per year in Japan. According to figures from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, the country had 15.759 homeless in January 2009, in steady decline since 2003. 4.302 were in Osaka, compared to 3.428 in Tokyo. In 2004, according to the OECD, Japan had the 4th highest poverty rate of its 30 member countries, after Mexico, Turkey and the United States. The Japanese government estimated that in 2006, 15.7% of the Japanese had less than half of the median annual income of the time, meaning less than 1.14 million yen (8.500 €). Japan is divided into 43 prefectures (県 ken), 2 urban prefectures (府 fu), 1 circuit or territory (道 dō) and 1 metropolis (都 to) as following:



Aichi (愛知県)


Akita (秋田県)


Aomori (青森県)


Chiba (千葉県)


Ehime (愛媛県)


Fukui (福井県)


Fukuoka (福岡県)


Fukushima (福島県)


Gifu (岐阜県)


Gunma (群馬県)


Hiroshima (広島県)


Hokkaido (北海道) –

Circuit / Territory


Hyōgo (兵庫県)


Ibrakai (茨城県)


Ishikawa (石川県)


Iwate (岩手県)


Kagawa (香川県)


Kagoshima (鹿児島県)


Kanagawa (神奈川県)


Kōchi (高知県)


Kumamoto (熊本県)


Kyoto (京都府) –


Administrative Map of Japan

Urban Province


Mie (三重県)


Miyagi (宮城県)


Miyazaki (宮崎県)


Nagano (長野県)


Nagasaki (長崎県)


Nara (奈良県)


Niigata (新潟県)

The top 20 largest cities from Japan can be seen in the following table:

Rank City
















Ōita (大分県)






Okayama (岡山県)






Okinawa (沖縄県)










Osaka (大阪府) –

Urban Province


Saga (佐賀県)






Saitama (埼玉県)






Shiga (滋賀県)






Shimane (島根県)






Shizuoka (静岡県)


Tochigi (栃木県)






Tokushima (徳島県)






















Tokyo (東京都) -



Tottori (鳥取県)


Toyama (富山県)


Wakayama (和歌山県)


Yamagata (山形県)






Yamaguchi (山口県)






Yamanashi (山梨県)





720.000 49

Economy and Transportation Economy

Japan is the 3rd largest economy in the world after the United States of America and China, with around 4.5 trillion $ in terms of nominal GDP and the 3rd after the United States and China in terms of purchasing power. Its GDP per worked hour is the 18th highest in the world since 2006. Banking, insurance, real estate, retail, transportation and telecommunications are the major industries. The country has a large industrial capacity and is home to some of the largest, best and most technologically advanced motor vehicle manufacturers, electronic equipment, machine tools, steel and nonferrous metals, ships, chemicals, textiles and processed foods industries. Construction has long been one of the largest industries due to the help of


public contracts signed for billions of dollars in the civil sector. Economic freedom, cooperation between the government and industrial sector, a huge emphasis on science and technology, and a strong work ethic have contributed to Japan’s economic growth. Significant features of the economy of this country include a strong unity or cooperation between producers, manufacturers and distributors, which gather in groups known as keiretsu and the fact that it has relatively low international competition in domestic markets. There are various forms of employment, including the guarantee of lifetime employment in large corporations. Recently, policymakers have encouraged reforms and Japanese companies have begun to abandon some of these standards in an attempt to increase their profitability. The fiscal pressure is lower than in any large western country, amounting to 26.4% of the GDP as of 2007. Only a small part of Japanese employees have to pay any income tax, the value-added tax being only 5%. Corporate tax rates are high though. Some of the largest companies in Japan are: Nintendo, Nissan Motors,

Japan’s Export Tree Map (2014)

Tokyo Stock Exchange

Real GDP growth rate in Japan (1956-2008)

Toyota Motor, NTT DoCoMo, Canon, Honda, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, Sony, Suzuki, Panasonic, Toshiba, Nippon Steel, Nippon Oil, Tepco, Mitsubishi Estate and Seven & I Holding. It is home to some of the world’s largest banking entities by bank assets. The Tokyo Stock Exchange, with a market capitalization of more than 549.7 trillion yen in December 2006 stands as the 2nd largest in the world. From the 1960’s to the 1980’s, the overall economic growth of the country has been called the “Japanese miracle”: an average of 10% in the 1960’s, an average of 5% in the 1970’s, and an average of 4% in the 1980’s. The 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo played an accelerating role in this strong growth. This growth slowed sharply in the 1990’s, largely as a result of the aftermath of excess investment in the late 1980’s

and national policies aimed at controlling speculative excesses in real estate markets. The signing of agreements with the World Trade Organization has forced Japan to reduce its subsidies to farmers, paving the way for US or Vietnamese rice, a sensitive subject in a country where this cereal is the daily food base. The Asian economic crisis of 1997 had the effect of accentuating this tense economic situation. The government’s efforts to revive the economic growth were unsuccessful and were hampered in 2000 and 2001 by the slowdown in the world economy. However, the economy showed signs of a strong recovery after 2005. GDP growth for that year was 2.8%, with a fourth quarter expansion to 5.5%, thus exceeding the growth rates of the United States of America and the European Union during the same period.

Japan ranks 5th worldwide at fishery catches


Japanese Exports in 2005

Because only about 15% of the total land is suitable for cultivation, a system of agricultural terraces is used to cultivate in small areas. This has resulted in one of the highest crop yield level per unit in the world. Agricultural subsidies and protection are costly. Japan imports about 50% of its cereal and other crop needs, and imports most of its meat supplies. Regarding the total tonnage of fish caught, it ranks 2nd in the world only behind China. The country has one of the largest fishing fleets in the world, accounting for almost 15% of the worldwide caught fish. Most of the energy is produced from petrol, natural gas and coal. In Japan, nuclear power produced until a few years ago a third of the electricity demands, but after the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011, the majority of the nuclear power plants paralyzed. Since then, Japan has changed its energy policy and started promoting other sources of renewable energy such as photovoltaic solar energy, which has increased greatly. Japan’s main export partners are the United States of America, the European Union, China, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The main Japanese exports are transportation equipment, motor vehicles, electronics, electrical machinery and chemicals. With very limited natural 52

resources to sustain the economic development, Japan relies on other nations for the supply of most of its raw materials. Its main import partners are China, the United States of America, the European Union, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, South Korea and Indonesia. Japan mainly imports machinery

Japan’s Economy against the rest of the world

Japanese Highway near Tokyo at night

and equipment, fossil fuels, food supplies (in particular meat), chemicals, textiles and raw materials for their industries. Generally speaking, Japan’s largest trading partners are China and the United States of America. On long term, the overpopulation of habitable areas and the aging population are two major problems. Robotics is one of the greatest strengths of the Japanese economy in the long run. The country is considered the laboratory of the post-industrial society. 410.000 or 57% of the 720.000 industrial robots of the world are made in Japan. Employment in Japan remains a major concern

though. Since 1 September 2009, a Free Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement between Switzerland and Japan has been signed. Since 2013, the Japanese government has invested in the African economy, particularly in infrastructure. In 2016, at the JapanAfrica Summit in Nairobi, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to invest an additional 30 billion $ on the African continent, out of which 10 billion $ will be allocated to infrastructure development. Japan was the 3rd tourist destination according to a 2011 survey, only behind the United States of America and Great Britain.


Narita Airport Terminal Connection Bus

Japan has an efficient public transport network, especially in metropolitan areas and between major cities. Public transport in Japan is characterized by punctuality, quality services, and the fact that it is used by a very large number of people. The Japanese road network extends for more than 1.200.000 km. In Japan, however, it is more convenient to move by trains because they are efficient, punctual and run at high speed. A toll motorway links the major cities of the four main islands of the archipelago. However, while the three bigger islands of Honshū, Shikoku and Kyūshū have a single highway network, thanks to the bridges linking them, the Hokkaidō highway network is separate. Also the 53

Shinkansen high-speed train

Tokyo Metro (Tōyoko Line)

island of Okinawa, the southern bastion of the country has a similar highway, although it is located far from the four large islands and has an area of only 1.201 km². In Japan, traffic is taking place on the left side of the road. Road passenger and freight transport expanded considerably since the 1980’s as private ownership of motor vehicles greatly increased along with the quality and extent of the nation’s roads. Bus companies including the JR Bus companies operate long-distance bus services on the nation’s expanding expressway network. In addition to relatively low fares and deluxe seating, the buses are well utilized because they continue service during the night, when air and train services are limited. Recent large infrastructure projects were the construction of the Great Seto Bridge and the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line (opened in 1997). Japan has a more than 25.000 km long rail network, which, however, is not linked to any other country. There are seven railway companies, which form the Japan Railways and serve 80% of the railway network, but operate independently on a regional basis. The rest of the network is served by 16 large

private companies and some smaller local lines. Four of the seven JR companies operate the Shinkansen network with high-speed trains. Since 1964, Japan is the motherland of modern high-speed train technology. The Shinkansen network is separated from the rest of the railway network because of the different lanes, and the Shinkansen stations are located only in some major cities. The first Shinkansen bullet train was introduced at the 1964 Summer Olympics. Numerous railway lines have been regionalized since the 1980’s and are now known as so-called third sector railway lines. All major cities in Japan have a metro system that allows fast and efficient transportation at a low price (starting from 130 yen). There are metro lines such as Yamanote Line or Osaka-Kanjo-Sen, whose routes go around the whole city. The metro system is the most used form of transportation by the Japanese due to its practicality and low cost. Even for a foreigner it is easy to transport by this means, since the system of purchase is explained with diagrams and many of the indications come in Japanese, Rōmaji and sometimes in English. In Japan there are 11 subways: Fukuoka Subway, Kōbe

Tokyo Subway Map

Naha Monorail in Okinawa


Shonan Monorail in Kamakura

Japanese Tramcar

Metro, Kyōto Subway, Nagoya Subway, Osaka Subway, Sapporo Subway, Sendai Subway, Tokyo Subway and Yokohama Subway. In Japan, there are also numerous monorails such as the Kitakyūshū Monorail, Chiba Monorail, Naha Monorail in Okinawa, Osaka Monorail, Shōnan Monorail, Sky Rail in Hiroshima, Tama Line, Tōkyō Monorail and Ueno Zoo. There are also modern trackguided urban transport systems such as Astram or Yurikamome. Shinjuku Station is the world’s largest passenger terminal with an average daily passenger volume of 3.466.398 people (2005). The following largest railway stations of the country are Ikebukuro (2.619.761 passengers per day), Osaka / Umeda (2.230.252), Shibuya (2.136.011) and Yokohama (2.050.273). The two largest airline companies in Japan are All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL),

which handle all international passenger traffic. There are also a multitude of national airlines as well as several international carriers such as Nippon Cargo Airlines with 11 cargo Boeing 747 model aircrafts. Throughout the country there are numerous large airports as well as a multitude of domestic and regional airports. The major international airports are: Osaka (Itami) Airport, Chubu Centrair International Airport, Narita International Airport (Tokyo) and Kansai Airport. The world’s 4th largest airport is the Haneda Airport from Tokyo, which has increasingly been operating international flights since its expansion in 2010. Because of the low terrain levels, artificial islands were created for some airports. The 22 largest seaports are administered by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. These are: Chiba, Fushiki / Toyama, Himeji, Hiroshima, Kawasaki, Kitakyushu, Kobe, Kudamatsu, Muroran,

Japan Airlines is the national carrier of Japan


Tokyo International Airport Terminal 1

Nagoya, Niigata, Osaka, Sakai / Senpoku, Sendai / Shiogama, Shimizu, Shimonoseki, Tokyo, Tomakomai, Wakayama, Yokkaichi and Yokohama. There are ferries between the numerous islands of the country and major ferry services between Hokkaidō- Honshū and Okinawa Hontō - Kyūshū. A recent law issued by the Hatoyama government, promoted maritime transport in order to decongestionate the intra-insular road transport network, which is now collapsing. In this way, Japanese people who have to travel between one island


and another will have an alternative mean of transport available. The law has been appreciated by the public and was seen as one of the greatest successes of the Hatoyama legislature. In any city one can find taxis that can transport to any place provided you show a written address. Taxis are available if a red light located in the lower left corner of the windshield is active. Take care when approaching the taxi as the door opens automatically. However, the taxi is an expensive mean of transportation in Japan.

Japanese Taxi in Honjō

Yokohama Harbor

Japanese Ferry near Tokyo Bay



Japanese Holidays Holiday


Japanese Proverbs

元日 (New Year’s Day)

1 January

1. 自業自得。(What goes around comes around.) 2. 虎穴に入らずんば虎子を得ず。(If you do not enter the tiger’s cave, you will not catch its cub.) 3. 弱肉強食。(The weak are meat; the strong eat.) 4. しょしんわするべからず。(We should not forget our beginner’s spirit.) 5. おきてはんじょう、ねていちじょう。(Half a tatami mat when awake, one tatami mat when asleep.) 6. 猿も木から落ちる。(Even monkeys fall from trees.) 7. 馬鹿は死ななきゃ治らない。(Unless an idiot dies, he won’t be cured.) 8. 井の中の蛙大海を知らず。(A frog in a well does not know the great sea.) 9. なまびょうほうはおおけがのもと。(Newly learned unmastered tactics are the origin of great blunders.) 10. 悪妻は百年の不作。(A bad wife spells a hundred years of bad harvest.) 11. ちょうしょはたんしょ。(Our strong points are our weak points.) 12. あくせんみにつかず。(Dirty money doesn’t stay with a person for long.) 13. 残り物には福がある。(Luck exists in the leftovers.) 14. なせばなる。(If you take action, you will succeed.) 15. ねこをおうよりさらをひけ。(Rather than chase the cat, take away the plate.) 16. 酔生夢死。(Drunken life, dreamy death.) 17. 門前の小僧習わぬ経を読む。(An apprentice near a temple will recite the scriptures untaught.) 18. 案ずるより産むが易し。(Giving birth to a baby is easier than worrying about it.) 19. 蛙の子は蛙。(Child of a frog is a frog.) 20. 秋茄子は嫁に食わすな。(Don’t let your daughter-in-law eat your autumn eggplants.)

成人の日 (Coming of Age Day)

2nd Monday of January


建国記念の日 (National 11 February Foundation Day) 春分の日 (Vernal Equinox Day)

20 or 21 March

昭和の日 (Shōwa Day)

29 April (Golden Week)

憲法記念日 (Constitution Memorial Day)

3 May (Golden Week)

みどりの日 (Greenery Day)

4 May (Golden Week)

こどもの日 (Children’s Day)

5 May (Golden Week)

海の日 (Marine Day)

3rd Monday of July

山の日 (Mountain Day)

11 August

敬老の日 (Respect for the Aged Day)

3rd Monday of September

秋分の日 (Autumnal Equinox Day)

23 or 24 September

体育の日 (Health and Sports Day)

2nd Monday of October

文化の日 (Culture Day)

3 November

勤労感謝の日 (Labour Thanksgiving Day)

23 November

天皇誕生日 (The Emperor’s Birthday)

23 December

Japanese Style of Painting

Women dressed in Japanese Traditional Costumes


Pagodas can be seen everywhere across Japan


Japanese Women dressed as Geishas

Sushi is the most consumed dish in Japan


Japanese Tea Set


Samurai Armour

Japan Personalities


Oda Nobunaga Oda Nobunaga (b. 23 June 1534 in Nagoya Castle, Owari Province – d. 21 June 1582 in Honnōji, Kyoto) was a powerful Daimyō of Japan in the late 16th century who attempted to unify Japan during the late Sengoku period. Nobunaga is regarded as one of three unifiers of Japan along with his retainers Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. During his later life, Nobunaga was widely known for most brutal suppression of determined opponents, eliminating those who by principle refused to cooperate or yield to his demands. He was both a skilled ruler and keen businessman, economic reformer, strategizing at both the micro and macroeconomic scales. He was killed when his retainer Akechi Mitsuhide rebelled against him at Honnō-ji. Known for his courage and brazenness, the boy would be renamed Owari no Outsuke (The Fool of Owari), because he walked around with other young people without worrying about his social rank. Soon the boy had begun to master the art of European firearms. Over time, he has been called Nobunaga. In 1551, Oda


Oda Nobunaga

Nobuhide, his father, died. During the funeral ceremony, his boy threw incense on the altar in a shocking manner. Many of his instructors were shocked by Nobunaga’s mediocrity and lack of discipline. The mentors, shocked by his attitude, decided to focus more on educating and training his younger brother, Nobuyuki, who was mannered and disciplined. Hirate Masahide, one of the mentors, ashamed of the boy’s gesture, performed seppuku. This act deeply affected Nobunaga and matured him. Later, he ordered the construction of a temple in his honor. Although Nobunaga was known as Nobuhide’s legitimate successor, the Oda clan divided into several rival factions as the Owari province entered under the control of Shiba Yoshimune’s Shugo. Oda Nobutomo, the brother of the deceased Nobuhide, as deputy of the Shugo used Yoshimune as his own puppet, pretending to be the true successor of his father. Nobutomo murdered Yoshimune when he found out that he was trying to support Nobunaga. Nobunaga then convinced Nobuhide’s younger brother, Oda Nobumitzu, to join his camp and helped him in the fight against Nobutomo by attacking the Kiyosu Castle, which would become his own residence. Nobutomo was captured in 1555 and forced to commit seppuku. Taking advantage of Shiba Yoshikane’s (son of Yoshimune) position as Shugo, Nobunaga created an alliance with the Imagawa clan of the Suruga Province and the Kira clan of the Mikawa Province, who also had the same Shugo. Nobunaga also received assurances from Imagawa that he would stop attacking the borders of the Owari Province. Oda Nobunaga created his own army in the Mino Province in order to support Saitō Dōsan against his son, Saitō Yoshitatsu, who turned weapons against him. The campaign failed as Dōsan was killed in the Battle of Nagara-gawa and Yoshitatsu became the new master of the Mino Province in 1556. A few months after, Nobuyuki together with Shibata Katsuie and Hayashi Hidesada rebelled against Nobunaga. The conspirators were defeated in the Battle of Ino. They were forgiven after Dota Gozen, mother of Nobunaga and Nobuyuki interfered. The following year, Nobuyuki planned a new rebellion. Eventually, Oda pretended to be sick so he could get close to Nobuyuki and be received at the Kiyosu Castle, where he murdered him. In 1558, Nobunaga defended Suzuki Shigeteru in the Terabe Siege and in 1559 he got rid of the entire opposition from the Owari Province. He used Shiba Yoshikane as a pretext to maintain peace with the other Daimyō lords, but it was discovered that Yoshikane secretly

maintained correspondence with the Kira and Imagawa clans to restore the Shiba clan to power. Oda banished him and thus secured full control of the Oda clan and the Owari province. In June 1560, Imagawa Yoshimoto gathered an army of 25.000 soldiers and marched alongside Matsudaira Motoyasu’s (Ieyasu Tokugawa) troops to Kyoto under the pretext of helping the Ashikaga Shogunate. Thus he entered the Oda territory of the Owari province, occupying the frontier fortresses of Washizu and Marune, before settling in a forested place called Okehazama. Imagawa’s forces didn’t expect an attack. Besides, that afternoon had been warm and they decided to celebrate the victories at Dengakuhazama with sake. Matsudaira’s forces had been placed at the border where they had captured a fortress. Oda Nobunaga was then only 26 years old. He was informed that the Imagawa forces were at the gates of the city. Some counselors suggested him to resist the Kiyosu siege by hiding or surrender without fighting. Nobunaga refused their advices saying he would not spend a lifetime praying for longevity and that he was born to die honorably in battle. He immediately ordered a counterattack. He also refused to stand in the castle and resist the Imagawa attacks, knowing that his defense will gradually be stifled. Thus, he mobilized his 3.000 soldiers and led them to the Zenshō-ji temple which was located on a high hill at a short distance from the Tokaido road. Nobunaga was planning a frontal assault, although he was aware that he could lose because Imagawa’s army was outnumbering his. At Nobunaga’s orders, there were several figurines with battlefield flags placed at the Zenshō-ji temple to serve as bait and give the false impression to the enemy that the main Oda forces were located there. However, Nobunaga’s real forces were in the woods in the Dengakuhazama Gorge, a place well known to him as he constantly walked there since he was a small child. Nobunaga divided his forces in two small armies, slowly heading toward the enemy camp. After a while, a thunderstorm started and the sound of the thunder combined with the fog and the rain covered the noise of the footsteps made by Oda’s advancing troops towards the Imagawa camp. The Imagawa soldiers immediately went to their tents to sleep. When the storm calmed down, Oda’s soldiers rushed into the enemy camp and the Imagawa soldiers were taken by surprise. They were confused, drunk after the party, disobedient and defensive. Many were killed, while others fled. Oda’s warriors quickly approached

Portrait of Oda Nobunaga

the Imagawa commando tent. Imagawa Yoshimoto believed that the noises heard in the camp were actually the party shouts of his men. He shouted to his troops to stop with the noise and asked them to go back to their posts. A few moments later the Oda warriors made their way into the tent. Yoshimoto drew his sword, but overwhelmed, he was instantly beheaded. With the leader killed and all the senior officers dead, all the remaining Imagawa officers surrendered and joined the Oda army. The rumors of how Nobunaga managed to perform a spectacular assault with minimal forces over a far superior number of troops spread quickly. A young samurai-lord of Milkawa, Matsuidara Motoyasu (the one who would later be known as Tokugawa Ieyasu), impressed by how the trick worked, joined Nobunaga’s cause, becoming his partner. The Imagawa house has immediately entered in the attention of other rival neighbours. To the east of the Owari Province belonging to the Oda clan, there were three major clans: Hōjō, Takeda, and Uesugi. But with Matsuidara defending his back, the eastern border was secure and Oda allowed himself to focus on the west border where other two clans dwelt: Azai and Saitō. Although he wanted to 65

Drawing of Oda Nobunaga

conquer Kyoto, he had to consolidate his position. He married his sister with the lord of the Azai clan in order to conclude an alliance. Then he turned his attention to Saitō, seeking the alliance with Lord Saitō Dōsan. Many years before, in 1549, Nobunaga became Daimyō of the Owari province and married Nōhime, the daughter of Saitō Dōsan, the Saitō clan lord in the neighboring Mino province. Saitō Dōsan, Lord of Mino, was a powerful and cruel leader who was affected by the internal rebellions and tensions that disintegrated the Saitō clan into factions. The marriage between Nobunaga and Nōhime brought the clan rivalry to an end. In 1555, Saitō Yoshitatsu, Dōsan’s eldest son, murdered his two younger brothers, gathered his army and rebelled against his father. As a reaction, Dōsan named Nobunaga as the heir prince. Dōsan was killed shortly after in the Battle of Nagaragawa by Yoshitatsu’s forces. In 1561, Yoshitatsu died of leprosy and his son, Saitō Tatsuoki, was to take the lead. Being young, he was considered incapable of leading. After the Oda and Matsudaira clans allied following the Battle of 66

Okehazama, Nobunaga strengthened his position and focused on the confrontation against his northern neighbour, the Saitō clan. Nobunaga planned to invade the Mino Province to avenge the death of Saitō Dōsan, although Yoshitatsu had died. Nobunaga’s forces penetrated into the Mino Province in the years 1561-1563, resulting in tough clashes. In each expedition, Nobunaga and his 700 soldiers were quickly overwhelmed by the forces of local lords that mobilized 3.000 soldiers. Being unable to fight in open field and organize his defense, he retreated each time. In 1564, Nobunaga managed to re-enter the province, intending to siege the Inabayama Castle. The castle was located on the top of Inaba Mountain, with steep frontal access, at its base being the bank of the Sunomata River. Though it looked like an impenetrable fortress, Tatsuoki withdrew his forces from the parapets and hid in the castle, while Takenaka Shigeharu and Andō Morinari ordered the defense. Nobunaga withdrew again so he could bribe more warriors from Mino Province to attract them. Nobunaga then thought of a great plan. He instructed Kinoshita, a former Ashigari soldier of peasant origins and a sandal carrier to negotiate with the local warriors so he could attract them (including the vassals from Mino). Then he instructed Kinoshita to build a new castle near the Inabayama Castle to serve as a base for the Oda forces. Kinoshita built the Sunomata Castle on the banks of the Sai River, across Saitō’s territory. Legends claim that this castle was built in one night as the builders managed to remain unseen by the Inabayama castle archers. The castle was quickly transformed into a fortification. After noticing what an excellent job he did, Nobunaga called him Hideyoshi. In 1567, Nobunaga led the final attack, alongside Kuroda Kanbei, another Daimyō. Saitō Tatsuoki, the Saitō clan’s Daimyō, proved to be a coward and inefficient leader and as a consequence was removed from power by Takenaka Hanbei through a coup. The latter took the command so he could defend the castle. Nobunaga mobilized an army of 5.000 soldiers to cross the Kiso River. Oda’s forces entered the city of Inoguchi located near the Inabayama Castle. Hideyoshi ordered the city’s arson to provide more space for the invading army. Then he sent his spies to gather information and to ask for help from local peasants. He met a local resident, Horio Yoshiharu, who showed him an access path leading to the castle from the top of the mountain. The siege took an aggressive turn. Strategist Kuroda Kanbei coordinated the main attack and Hideyoshi

Nobunaga’s body armour

planned to escalate the mountain with a small team of soldiers to enter the castle and open the gates for the invading army. Nobunaga accepted the plan and ordered Hideyoshi to lead the attack. He took with him eight people. On 26 September, Nobunaga, confident of Hideyoshi’s plan, met with the top officers and gave them tasks to repair the castle after the battle. On the night of 26 September, Hideyoshi breached together with his men on the mountain, under clear moonlight. At sunrise, they managed to infiltrate the castle and burnt the warehouses with supplies then blew up with explosives the stores and opened the gates. At the time of the explosions, the people inside the fortification started panicking and chaos took large proportions. Disoriented soldiers surrendered or were killed. The castle was occupied until the 27th day of September, and the Mino lords swore their allegiance to Nobunaga. Two weeks later, Nobunaga entered the province of Mino in full force, conquering and subjugating the clan. Nobunaga repaired the castle and renamed it to Gifu Castle, thus becoming his residence. As a reward for his services, Nobunaga named Hideyoshi as Lord of three prefectures of the Saitō clan. Tatsuoki, who was in exile in the Iseh province and found refuge at

Asakura Yoshikage, was killed in the Battle of Tonezaka in 1573. In 1568, Ashikaga Yoshikage went to Gifu to ask Nobunaga for support and convince him to start the Kyoto campaign. Yoshikage told him that his brother, Shogun Yoshiteru, was killed and Ashikaga Yoshihide took his place. He wanted vengeance for him. Nobunaga agreed to install Yoshiaki as the new Shogun. In his mind, this was an opportunity to enter Kyoto and gain power. But the main obstacle was the Rokkaku clan located in the southern province of Omi, led by Rokkaku Yoshikata. Nobunaga launched a quick attack, causing the Rokkaku forces to retreat to their castles. Nobunaga arrived in Kyoto and removed the Miyoshi clan from town. Yoshiaki thus became the 15th Shogun of the Ashikaga Shogunate. Nobunaga declined to serve as deputy (Kanrei). He even imposed restrictions and limited the powers of the Shogun. Nobunaga asked Yoshiaki to invite all the Daimyō lords to a party. Yoshiaki noticed what hidden intentions Nobunaga had and concluded a secret alliance with other rivals, sending letters to call feudal lords to kill the usurper Nobunaga and release Kyoto from his control. The Asakura clan distanced itself from the Oda clan and ended a secret alliance with Azai Nagamasa, who was offered the hand of Nobunaga’s sister. Also receiving support from the Ikkō-ikki rebels, the antiNobunaga alliance was prepared to destroy the Oda clan, which had only one hopeful ally, the Tokugawa clan. Nobunaga swore a terrible revenge and promised to kill Shogun Yoshiaki. He marched with his forces towards the Asakura clan, but there was an obstacle in front of him: Azai, the clan whose leader was married to his sister. However, Nobunaga crossed the territory illegally. As he arrived at Asakura, the Azai Clan declared war. Surrounded by both forces, Nobunaga decided to fight to death. His generals persuaded him to split his forces and retreat, bypassing the enemy forces. Though he had escaped, Nobunaga was very determined to kill his brother-in-law. As Oda was retreating with the troops through a forest and was cursing the Azai clan, a Ninja (Shinobi, an assassin who used unconventional methods to kill) located on a tree branch, fired towards Nobunaga two bullets with two harquebuses, then escaped. Nobunaga escaped, returned to Kyoto and gathered his forces. On 30 July 1570, Nobunaga’s forces marched to the bank of the Ane River at Anegawa, where Oda’s troops would face the Azai clan, while the forces of Tokugawa Ieyasu would face the Asakura clan troops. 67

Oda Nobunaga’s statue in Kiyosu Park

Tokugawa sent his second division under the command of Honda Tadakatsu and Sakakibara Yasumasa to the left flank, thus surrounding Asakura Kagetake. Nobunaga’s forces were overwhelmed by the Azai troops. After the forces of Tokugawa Ieyasu destroyed the Asakura troops, they returned and hit the right flank of the Azai forces, ergo helping the Oda forces. The Azai and Asakura clans were defeated and the river flushed with blood as thousands of soldiers were killed. In August 1570, Nobunaga left the Gifu Castle with 30.000 soldiers and ordered the construction of fortresses around the Ishiyama temple fortress. On 12 September, however, at midnight, the Buddhist Order Ikkō-ikki launched a sneaky attack against Nobunaga. The Ikkō forces included soldier-monks from Negoro and Kii and other 3.000 musketeers. Nobunaga was pushed back and headed for the Nagashima fortresses. The Ishiyama fortress, located on the coast, was guarded by the Mori clan fleet. The Mori clan soldiers were considered excellent navigators in naval battles and were Nobunaga’s enemies. In 1575, the fortress needed supplies, and Kōsa, the leader of the order, was ready to negotiate peace with Nobunaga. Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki sent a letter to Mōri Terumoto, promising to supply his temple fortress. In April 1576, a 3.000 soldiers Oda army under the command of Akechi Mitsuhide and Araki Murashige attacked but it was denied by the 15.000 fortress 68

defenders. Nobunaga changed his tactics and attacked the outposts, killing Ikkō-ikki sympathizers. He sent Hideyoshi to assault the monk fortress at Negoro-ji. Then Nobunaga instructed Kuki Yoshitaka to impose a blockade and break the fortress supply lines. In August 1576, at the Battle of Kizugawaguchi, the blockade failed, but Kuki Yoshitaka, with a massive fleet, managed to successfully cut the Mori supply in the second battle. Since then, Nobunaga’s siege has taken a favorable turn for him. Most of Ikkō-ikki’s allies were already inside the fortress. In 1580, the Mori clan had lost its castle from Miki. In the years 1578-1580, the Ikki sailed often from the fortress under the command of Shimozuma Nakayuki to face the Oda forces. But in April 1580, the fortress’s defenders were devoid of food and ammunition. Kōsa held a conference with his colleagues, and soon received a message from the Emperor to surrender. The siege ended in August 1580, after 10 years of cruel fighting. Another famous siege was the one on Nagashima Fortress, defended by Ikkō-ikki warrior monks. The first siege took place in 1571 but Nobunaga’s forces got stuck in mud. The second siege took place in 1573, when Nobunaga recruited harquebuses shooters. The idea had proved excellent until a rainstorm diminished the effectiveness of firearms and the warrior monks strongly counterattacked, rejecting Nobunaga’s forces. The third siege took place in 1574 when Nobunaga

applied a terrible tactic. Seeing that the water and mud had broken his plans, he had to respond with fire. He built a wooden wall around the fortress and burned it. The flames expanded and comprised the fortress. No defender of the fortress survived and 20.000 warrior monks were burnt alive. Nobunaga continued in 1573 to capture three fortresses: Hikida, Ichijōdani and Odani. Shogun Ashikaga was banished from Kyoto on 27 August 1573 and became a Buddhist monk. Asakura Yoshikage and Azai Nagamasa have both done seppuku after being defeated. The Azai and Asakura clans were destroyed but a strong new rival was on the horizon. Tokugawa Ieyasu was defeated at Mikatagahara by Takeda Shingen, one of Oda’s most reputable opponents. Tokugawa Ieyasu was able to withdraw to Hamamatsu Castle only with 5 people who survived the Takeda cavalry attack. The castle had been surrounded by Takeda forces overnight but Tokugawa ordered his men to light torches and beat the drums. Then, an assassin warrior named Hattori Hanzō appeared alongside a Ninja band and provoked chaos in the Takeda camp. Shingen, convinced that Tokugawa had several soldiers in the castle, withdrew his forces. Shingen, originally called Harunobu, was the first born of Takeda Nobutora, leader of the Takeda clan, Daimyō of the Kai province. In 1541, he forced his father to withdraw from the leadership of the clan. He fought numerous battles between the years 1553-1564 against his rival, Uesugi Kenshin, for the control of the Kanto province. He conquered the northern territories of the Shinano and Kai Provinces. From 1551, he became a priest and took the Buddhist name of Shingen. Later, he noticed that Oda Nobunaga and his Tokugawa ally became a real threat and wanted to unify Japan. Takeda sent his army to Mikawa in Tokugawa’s territory, near Hamamatsu, to attack him. But in May 1573, the course of events took an unexpected turn. Takeda troops suddenly withdrew just when they had the opportunity to crush the Tokugawa clan. There are rumors that Shingen has been ill or shot by a harquebusier. It is certain that Shingen was declared dead in 1573 and his son Katsuyori succeeded him. Katsuyori started the siege of the Nagashino Castle with 15.000 soldiers. Nobunaga and Ieyasu gathered an army of 38.000 soldiers to reject the siege. To reject the cavalry attack for which the Takeda clan was wellknown, Nabunogo placed bamboo palisades behind them and 10.000 harquebusiers, 3.000 of the best being placed under the command of the best commanders. Takeda sent his infantry, spearhead and cavalry troops.

Oda Nobunaga Painting at Kobe City Museum

All Takeda forces were destroyed by the bullets of the harquebusiers and the spears of the Ashigaru troops. 10.000 Takeda soldiers were killed including Takeda Shingen’s best generals. The Takeda clan had been thus destroyed. Still, Nobunaga was overwhelmed by wars on all fronts. A major conflict was with Uesugi Kenshin, the leader of the Uesugi clan, the most powerful Daimyō of the Sengoku period, known for his courage and good administrator skills, which led to the flourishing of local industry and commerce. Being a good strategist, he 69

led numerous campaigns to restore order in the Kanto region and faced Takeda Shingen. He had a strong belief in the Buddhist god of war, Bishamonten (Vaiśravaṇa). In 1570, Kenshin governed Echigo, several adjacent provinces and the entire Hokuriku sector. In 1571, Kenshin attacked Shingen’s Ishikura satellite castle in the Kōzuke Province and fought at the Battle of Tonegawa. Since 1576, Kenshin has seen Oda Nobunaga as a great threat. Uesugi was the only major clan to stop the forces of the Oda clan. Kenshin was prepared to occupy the territories of weaker clans and to secure his position in order to threaten Nobunaga and his allies. In response, Nobunaga mobilized his forces under the command of two of his best generals, Shibata Katsuie and Maeda Toshiie, to face Kenshin, who had successfully conquered Nanao Castle from Tedorigawa in 1577. Kenshin sent his 30.000 soldiers army to Matsuto Castle, while Nobunaga arrived with an army of 50.000 soldiers. Kenshin was not intimidated by Nobunaga’s numerical superiority. He knew that Oda would try to cross the river at night so he could attack during sunrise. He sent a quarter of his army to attack Nobunaga’s rear forces and offer the enemy a great opportunity to crush the remaining forces. Nobunaga bit the bait then he attacked during the night as he planned. He expected to meet a tired enemy but instead Kenshin’s massive army 70

Statue of Young Oda Nobunaga

Stele of Oda Nobunaga at Honnoji Temple

awaited. Nobunaga’s forces crossed the Tedori River and prepared to enter the Noto province without knowing that the Nanao Castle surrendered to the Uesugi forces. Kenshin’s forces advanced to Oda’s position but the Oda forces, which were equipped with cannons, bombed Uesugi’s position beyond the river. Kenshin’s sneaky skills led Nobunaga to order Katsuie to rush over the Uesugi lines and face them on the bank of the river. A strong current of the river and the heavy rain prevented Oda soldiers from effectively using harquebuses and cannons. The Oda forces were pushed into the river and thousands of them drowned. Some of Oda’s forces escaped by crossing the Tedori River and Nobunaga ordered the withdrawal to the Omi province. Kenshin continued his plan the attack on Nobunaga’s territories after concluding an alliance with Takeda Katsuyori against him. Suddenly, due to bad weather, he died of esophageal cancer in the spring of 1578. Nobunaga continued to win battles, especially in 1582 when he defeated the last forces of the Takeda clan at Tenmokuzan, where he killed Takeda Katsuyori. Oda Nobunaga continued to consolidate his position in Japan by attacking Buddhist sects. He distributed the monks’ properties to loyal samurais and noblemen. He became a good friend to European Jesuit missionaries and even showed sympathy for Christianity by building the first Christian church in Kyoto in 1576, although he did not convert to that religion. He supported the arts and built castles such as the Azuchi Castle and gardens and showed interest in the tea ceremony and the Kabuki Theater. He collected valuable pieces from the west such as European knights and armor. He was the first Japanese in history to wear Western clothings. In 1582, Hashiba Hideyoshi invaded the Bitchu Province and laid siege over the Takamatsu Castle, which was vital for the Mori clan. However, Hideyoshi asked for reinforcements from Nobunaga. Nobunaga ordered Niwa Nagahide to prepare the invasion of Shikoku, and Akechi Mitsuhide to support Hideyoshi. On his way to the Chūgoku region, Nobunaga decided to have a brief stay at the Honnō-ji Temple in Kyoto, where he was guarded by some soldiers and servants, including his squire, Mori Ranmaru, who was also his partner. His son, Nobutada, remained at the Myôkaku-ji Temple in the Nijo Palace. However, Mitsuhide had hidden plans. On 21 June 1582, he ordered several troops to surround the Honnō-ji Temple. He then ordered other troops to assault the Myôkaku-ji Temple. It was a coup.

At Honnō-ji, Nobunaga saw himself surrounded by Akechi’s troops. Without thinking, Nobunaga ordered his servants and guards, including his squire, to set the temple on fire, telling them not to let the enemy inside. Then, along with his entourage, he headed towards an inner room where they all performed seppuku. At Myôkaku-ji, Nobutada, his son, has committed suicide after resisting a bit while fighting. The cause of Mitsuhide’s betrayal is not known even nowadays. Most historians consider that he probably betrayed Oda because he envied him or perhaps because he had heard the rumor that Nobunaga was preparing to transfer his domain to Mori Ranmaru with whom he had a homosexual relationship. He also wanted to offer him the function of Shudō. 11 days after the Honnō-ji temple incident, Mitsuhide was killed in the Battle of Yamazaki by the army led by the commander who was supposed to help him, Hashiba Hideyoshi. He became Nobunaga’s heir and changed his name to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, taking control of the provinces dominated by Oda. In 1585, he became Regent Imperial, and in 1587 he became Chancellor. Oda Nobunaga is considered by historians to be one of the greatest leaders in Japan’s history, compared to Julius Caesar. He conquered territories, faced superior numerical armed forces, ended a civil war that had ravaged Japan for more than a century and left behind a great inheritance without enjoying it as he suddenly died. However, he assured the rise of Tokugawa Ieyasu, a kind of Augustus of Japan. He also laid the foundations for the modernization of Japan by adopting and introducing European firearms into combat. Nobunaga was not a great strategist in open battles, but his brutality, ingenuity, cunningness and ferocity demonstrated in his unconventional fighting methods have secured his place in history.

Oda Nobunaga’s Tomb


Ieyasu Tokugawa Ieyasu Tokugawa (b. 31 January 1543 in Okazaki Castle, Mikawa, Japan – d. 1 June 1616 in Sunpu, Japan) was the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan, which effectively ruled Japan from the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Ieyasu seized power in 1600, received appointment as shogun in 1603, and abdicated from office in 1605, but remained in power until his death in 1616. His given name is sometimes spelled Iyeyasu, according to the historical pronunciation of the kana character he. Ieyasu was posthumously enshrined at Nikkō Tōshō-gū with the name Tōshō Daigongen (東 照大権現). He was one of the three unifiers of Japan, along with his former lord Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Born in the Okazaki Castle of the Mikawa province (nowadays in the Aichi Prefecture) with the name of Tokechiyo Matsudaira, he was the son of

Statue of Ieyasu Tokugawa

Hirotada Matsudaira, a kind of a small hetman, and Odai-no-kata, who was the daughter of an army leader from a nearby town named Tadamasa Mizuno. At the time of his birth, Japan was devastated by civil war, but also by violent quarrels between various clans that lasted nearly a century. When he was 4 years old, Ieyasu was sent, along with 50 other Samurai youths, to secure an alliance between his clan and the neighbouring Imagawa clan. Thus he received a proper education for a nobleman. At the age of 12 years old he wore a tunic for the first time, and two years later, at the Genbuku ceremony, he gained the name Motonobu. In 1558, he married Chikanaga Sekiguchi’s daughter, a vassal of the Imagawa clan. He received shortly afterwards the permission to return to his own province where he changed his name to Motoyasu. In 1567, Ieyasu, who became the master of the Matsudaira domain after his father’s death, made an alliance with Oda Nobunaga, a powerful neighbour. This was the time when he changed his family name from Matsudaira to Tokugawa (the name of the area 72

Replica armor of Tokugawa

where his family came from). Ieyasu spent the next decade and a half taking part in military campaigns alongside Nobunaga as he expanded his own influence and wealth, gaining a considerable military reputation. In the same period, he received the name of Mikawa no Kami (Mikawa’s Supreme Leader), and later received the Imperial Decree permission to change his surname to Tokugawa, which was more prestigious. At about that time he was allied with Shingen Takeda, the leader of the Kai province, against the Imakawa clan chief named Ujizane. The latter attacked them but was eventually defeated, and as a result Shingen Takeda received the Suruga Province (which Ieyasu had lost in the meantime to the Imagawa clan), and Tokugawa took the Tōtōmi province. The alliance between these two clan chiefs proved to be a very fragile one. The Battle of Mikatagahara from 1572 resulted in Shingen Takeda defeat against Ieyasu. After Shingen died shortly afterwards, his son, Katsuyori, took over the leadership of the clan. The battles between the Imagawa and

Tokugawa clans started from 1575 at Nagashino and lasted until 1581 at Takatenjin. This war ended with the victory of Ieyasu Tokugawa, who conquered all the provinces of the Takeda clan. In 1579, Ieyasu was forced to kill his wife (who was from a vassal family of the Imagawa clan) and forced his eldest son, Nobuyasu, to commit seppuku as a proof of loyalty to Nobunaga Oda. Both of them had been suspected by Nobunaga as accomplices of the Takeda clan. When Oda Nobunaga was assassinated in 1582, Ieyasu obtained more territory and allied himself with Nobunaga’s successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi sent Ieyasu to govern the areas located in the eastern part of Japan, in this manner trying to hinder his growing independence. Ieyasu made his headquarters in the small port of Edo, where the city of Tokyo is located nowadays. The fact that the local lords had to reside in Edo led to the flowering of trade and roads in this area. The city grew amazingly fast, and at the end of the 18th century, Edo became the world’s largest city,

Tokugawa Ieyasu Examining the Head of Kimura Shigenari at the Battle of Osaka Castle


Ieyasu Tokugawa’s handprint

with a population of 1 million people, while Osaka and Kyoto had only 300.000 inhabitants. After Toyotomi Hideyoshi died, Ieyasu became one of his young son’s tutors. Japan’s most prominent military figures began to plot against one another and so a civil war broke out. Another counselor named by Hideyoshi was Ishida Mitsunari, the one who formed the Western Army against Ieyasu. In 1600, Ieyasu defeated 74

the Western Army in the decisive Battle of Sekigahara, thus gaining supremacy in Japan. In 1603, Emperor Go-Yōzei offered Ieyasu Tokugawa the historical title of Shogun (military governor) to confirm his primacy. Japan then became united under Tokugawa’s control. Ieyasu Tokugawa also interfered in religious life. After the Shimabara Rebellion led by a Christian priest, this religion was forbidden. Thus in 1612 the first antiChristian decree was released. Ergo, the main religion in Japan became Confucianism, which was in the vision of Ieyasu the philosophy of rulers. This philosophy helped both in the development of schools and universities in Japan as well as in the establishment of a social system of values. During the Tokugawa dynasty each region had its own university. He experienced a significant change according to Hideyoshi’s model. The social system was divided as following: Shi (Warriors) 10% of the population; Nō (Farmers), Kō (Craftsmen) (who were on the same social level as farmers) and Shō (Merchants) - 85% of the population, while the last 5% of the population was represented by aristocrats and priests. This division was in line with the official doctrine, namely Confucianism. He has made great efforts to restore the stability of Japan and encouraged foreign trade, which included gifts exchange with James I of England, as well as with other European leaders. In 1603 he resigned in favor of his 3rd son, Hidetada, and moved to Sumpu (now the city of Shizuoka), which did not prevent him from interfering in the problems of those times, especially with other clans. To prevent a concentration of power around Hideyori, Hideyoshi Toyotomi’s son, Tokugawa attacked the Osaka Castle twice in 1614 and 1615, conquering it only at the second attempt and destroying its outer fortifications. Hideyori preferred to commit seppuku, but his 17 years old son, Kunimatsu, was beheaded. The power of the Tokugawa clan then became supreme and was guaranteed to last for a very long time. Prior to his death, Ieyasu promulgated a “Regulation in 13 Chapters for Samurai” (called Buke Shohatto) and “Laws on the Imperial Court and Nobility” (Kinchū Narabi ni Kuge Shohatto) in 17 chapters. Only later, under the successors of Ieyasu, Japan effectively isolated itself from contact with foreigners starting from 1639. Ieyasu Tokugawa died on 17 April 1616 and by imperial decree he was canonized under the name of Tōshō Daigongen. He left behind a dynasty that would rule Japan for the next 250 years. His mausoleum at Nikkō became one of the most important sanctuaries in Japan.

Ieyasu Tokugawa


Emperor Hirohito Hirohito (b. 29 April 1901 in Tōgū Palace, Aoyama, Tokyo, Japan – d. 7 January 1989 in Fukiage Palace, Japan) was the 124th Emperor of Japan according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from 25 December 1926 until his death. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Akihito. In Japan, he is now referred to primarily by his posthumous name, Emperor Shōwa (Shōwa-tennō). The word Shōwa is the name of the era that corresponded with the Emperor’s reign, and was made the Emperor’s own name upon his death. The name Hirohito means “abundant benevolence”. Hirohito was the first boy of Prince Yoshihito (future Emperor Taishō) and Princess Sadako (the future Empress Teimei). According to tradition, Hirohito was separated from his parents and, together with his younger brother, Yasuhito (future Prince Chichibu), was given to a retired admiral, Count Kawamura Sumiyoshi, and his wife. Prince Hirohito went to the Gakushūin men school from 1908 to 1914, then to the TōgūHirohito and Princess Nagako in 1924


Crown Prince Hirohito in 1919

Gogakumonsho special institute from 1914 to 1921. He received military training from Admiral Heihachirō Tōgō, who was the commander of the imperial military navy during the Russian-Japanese war. From Shigetake Sugiura he received various teachings on morality, philosophy and religion, and from Kurakichi Shiratori he learned history. All three of his professors were fervent nationalists, but also defenders of a divine but constitutional and parliamentary monarchy, according to the model of Emperor Meiji’s reign. At the death of his grandfather, Emperor Meiji, on 30 July 1912, Hirohito’s father, Yoshihito, succeeded him at the throne and he became heir to the crown. In 1924, he married Princess Nagako Kuni, with whom he had six children. They’re first three children were girls, while the heirloom prince, Akihito, was born on 24 December 1933. He was officially invested with the title of crown prince on 2 November 1916. In 1921 he made a six month journey through the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Netherlands and Belgium, becoming the first Japanese prince to travel abroad. Upon his return to Japan, he became ruler of Japan on 29 November 1921 as his father suffered from a mental illness. He became familiar with his new position by fulfilling his father’s daily duties: opening the annual session of the Imperial

The Shōwa family in 1936

Diet, signing acts, decrees and laws, as well as making Shintō rituals. In 1923, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the army and navy, and two years he was promoted to the rank of colonel. On 25 December 1926, Hirohito ascended to the throne following the death of his father, Yoshihito. In this manner, the Taishō era was followed by a new one, the Shōwa era (Enlightened Peace). In November 1928, the emperor’s succession was confirmed by a ceremony (Sokui no rei) that symbolized both his “enthronement” and “crowning” (Shōwa no tairei-shiki). The first part of Hirohito’s reign was marked by a struggle against the economic crisis and both a legal and illegal arms race. The Japanese Imperial Army and the Japanese Imperial Marine have always received the right of veto in the formation of the cabinets since 1900 and between 1921 and 1944, being no less than 64 political violence incidents. Hirohito was very close to being assassinated by a grenade thrown by Korean independence activist Lee Bong-Chang in Tokyo on 9 January 1932. Another case of assassination was that of the Interim Prime Minister Tsuyoshi Inukai in 1932, which marked the end of the military control over civilians. On 7 December 1941, the Japanese attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor. Shortly after, from December 1941 to March 1942, the Japanese army and navy occupied all of Southeast Asia. The Midway defeat from June 1942 had put an end to Japan’s expansionist wave and the US Army forces set off a non-stop offensive

against Japan. In the spring of 1945, it became quite clear that Japan couldn’t obtain the victory in the war. The Americans had landed in Okinawa and the USSR stated that it wouldn’t renew the Non-Aggression Pact. After Germany capitulated on 8 May 1945, the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki from 6 and

General Douglas MacArthur and Emperor Hirohito of Japan


Emperor Hirohito and the Reagans in 1985

9 August 1945 devastated the country. Conscious of the disaster of his country, Emperor Hirohito took on 12 August 1945 the decision to put an end to the war. Several fanatical soldiers attempted a coup d’etat by occupying the Imperial Palace to prevent the broadcast of the emperor’s message on radio. The blow was quickly crushed at the command of the Emperor. During his reign in the Second World War, the true power was held by General Hideki Tōjō and his military junta. Some historians believe that Hirohito encouraged totalitarian slippages and that he actively participated in making big decisions by supporting an expansionist politic. Others claim that, in fact, the Emperor was just a puppet in the hands of the military leaders. After the capitulation of Japan in August 1945, Hirohito maintained his throne, while many of the Japanese military leaders were tried for war crimes. On 15 August 1945, he addressed for the first time to his nation through the radio and asked his subjects to “bear the unbearable” and accept the deposition of weapons. The emperor promised total cooperation with the American occupants and kept his word. For six years, the real ruler of Japan was General Douglas MacArthur, Commander of the Allied Forces. He embarked on an ambitious reconstruction process, 78

imposing, in parallel, ample democratic reforms. At the same time, the role of the Emperor was framed within the narrow limits of the constitutional monarchy. An absolute premiere in Japan’s history was that Hirohito renounced to his traditional status of “incarnate deity” after proclaiming his human nature. Subsequently, the Emperor even allowed the publication of his photographs as well as the appearance of articles about his family life. In 1959, his eldest son, crown prince Akihito, was allowed to marry a plebeian, thus breaking a 1.500 years old tradition. Another premiere was recorded in 1975, when Hirohito became the first Japanese Emperor to hold a press conference. For the rest of his life, Emperor Hirohito was an active figure in the Japanese public life and performed many of the tasks frequently associated with those of a constitutional monarch. He also played an important role in rebuilding Japan’s image in the world and met with great world leaders, including Queen Elizabeth II in 1971 and President Gerald Ford in 1975. Between 27 September and 14 October 1971, the Imperial family went on a journey in seven European states and made official visits to Great Britain, Belgium and Federal Republic of Germany, with stopovers in Denmark, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland. This was the first visit that a Japanese emperor made abroad. In 1971, he made a 15 days historical visit to the US, where he had a meeting with US President Richard M. Nixon, being the first time a Japanese emperor and a US president met. The Imperial Family also took part in the opening of the 11th edition of the Winter Olympics in Sapporo in 1972. On 22 September 1987, the sovereign underwent a pancreas operation. Doctors diagnosed him with duodenal cancer. Hirohito had the longest reign in Japan’s history. He sat on the throne of Japan for 62 years until his death on 7 January 1989.

Emperor Hirohito and US President Richard M. Nixon

Emperor Hirohito


Miyamoto Musashi Miyamoto Musashi (b. 1584 in Harima Province or Mimasaka Province, Japan – d. 13 June 1645 in Higo Province, Japan), also known as Shinmen Takezō, Miyamoto Bennosuke or, by his Buddhist name, Niten Dōraku, was an expert Japanese swordsman and Rōnin. Musashi, as he was often simply known, became renowned through stories of his excellent and unique double-bladed swordsmanship and undefeated record in his 60 duels (next is 33 by Itō Ittōsai). He was the founder of the Hyōhō Niten Ichi-ryū or Niten-ryū style of swordsmanship and in his final years authored The Book of Five Rings (五輪の書 Go Rin no Sho), a book on strategy, tactics, and philosophy that is still studied today. When Musashi was only 7 years old, his father, Munisai, was killed, though some legends claim that he abandoned his baby. Short time after this, his mother also died, and Ben No Suke, as Musashi was known


Miyamoto Musashi

in his childhood, was entrusted to an uncle who was a priest. Thus, during the unification campaign led by Hideyoshi, the orphan Musashi lived in an extremely violent region. He was a full of energy young man, being physically well developed for his age, and possessing a strong will. It is unclear whether he was convinced by his uncle to follow the art of swordsmanship, Kendo, or if his aggressive nature led him to practice this. Some documents reveal that young Musashi slaughtered a mature man after a melee fight when he was only 13 years old. His rival was Arima Kihei, a samurai of the Shinto Ryu military art school, known for his sword and lance fight qualities. The boy simply threw him to the ground and hit him with a stick whenever he tried to get up. In the end, Kihei died after suffering massive blood loss. Miyamoto’s next confrontation occurred three years later when he defeated Tadashima Akiyama. It seems that during this period he had already left his home so he could walk on “The Warrior’s Path”, which led him to many victories and carried him to war six times. Only at the age of 50, Musashi decided to stop, believing that he had come to the end of his search for truth. Probably there were many Rōnins (samurais without a master) in Japan at that time, some of them lonely like Musashi, but who benefited from funding. None of them stood up at the level of famous swordsman Tsukahara Bokuden, who had traveled with a suite of more than a hundred men during the previous century. Miyamoto Musashi lived in this period away from society, dedicating his body and soul to the search of rational knowledge through the Warrior’s Path. Concerned only about the improvement of his talent, he spent his youth the way other people couldn’t or didn’t need to do. He travelled across the whole of Japan on his journey being driven away by the fierce winds of winter. He didn’t have any wife nor had he any profession, dedicating himself only to his study. Some legends say he has never entered in a bath tub so he couldn’t be caught unprepared and unarmed. Thus, his appearance looked like that of a poor man, even barbarous. After the Battle of Sekigahara when Ieyasu Tokugawa defeated Hideyoshi and became the new leader of the Shogunate, Musashi joined the Ashikaga army in order to fight against Ieyasu. He survived the three days of conflict, when 70.000 people lost their lives. Then, when he was 31, Miyamoto went to Kyoto, the capital of Japan. His personal battle against the Yoshioka House took place there. This family provided for many generations fencing instructors for the Ashikaga house.

A drawing representing Miyamoto Musashi

After the Tokugawa Shōgun banned the teaching of Kendo, the Yoshioka family members became dyers. Munisai, Musashi’s father, had been invited to Kyoto many years ago, being introduced to Shōgun Ashikaga Yoshiaki. Munisai was a skillful swordsman and an excellent jitte expert. Legend says that Munisai fought three of the Yoshioka family members winning only two of the confrontations. Yoshioka Seijūrō, the greatest of the brothers, was the first to fight Musashi at the walls outside the city. Seijūrō was armed with a sword, while Musashi had only a wooden one, usually used for training. Musashi plunged over Seijūrō and brought him to the ground then struck him wildly, crushing his right hand. His servants took him home on a stretcher and following the shame he suffered, Seijūrō cut his samurai hair. After this battle, Miyamoto remained in the capital, which caused the Yoshioka family’s irritation. Thus, the second brother, Denshichiro, provoked him to duel. Using a military strategy, Musashi deliberately

arrived late in the day of the duel, thus causing his opponent’s irritation. A few seconds after he started fighting with Denshichiro, he broke his skull with a single blow of his wooden sword. Denshichiro died instantly. The members of the Yoshioka family provoked Miyamoto to a new duel, this time sending Hanshichiro, Seijūrō’s little brother, to fight Musashi. Hanshichiro was just a 12 years old child. The confrontation would take place near a pine tree, located very close to the rice fields. Miyamoto arrived in that place long before the time that was set for the fight and hid, waiting for his enemy. The boy came dressed in warrior clothes and accompanied by nearly 60 well-armed servants, determined to liquidate his enemy. Musashi remained hid in the shadows and when the servants thought he had already left the capital he attacked by surprise, killing the last offspring of the Yoshioka house. Then, pulling out both of his swords, the katana and the wakizashi, he started fighting against his enemies, eventually determining them to flee. 81

Miyamoto Musashi then continued to travel throughout Japan, becoming a living legend of his times. His name and adventures are written in several documents and journals of that period, while scenes of his life are carved on monuments or appear in popular legends throughout Japan. He had fought over 60 battles before he was 29 years old and won all of them. The oldest account of his confrontations appear in Niten Ki or “The Chronicle of the Two Paradises”, written by his disciples a generation after the master’s death. In the year of the confrontations with the members of the Yoshioka family, 1605, Musashi also visited the Hōzōin Temple, located in the south of the capital. There he fought against Agon Hōzōin, a student of the Nichiren sect led by priest Hōzōin In’ei. Agon Hōzōin was a good swordsman, but he couldn’t be compared to Musashi who had already defeated him twice with his wooden sword. Musashi has then lived in the temple for a long time, studying fighting techniques and enjoying conversations with the priest. Hōzōin In’ei was a good student of Kamiizumi Nobutsuna, master of Shinto Kendo. The priest used cross-blades that he held outside the temple and used them to fight against fire. Even nowadays there is a traditional fighting style practiced by the Hōzōin monks. Also, in the ancient times, the


word “Osho”, which in modern Japanese means priest, was used to name masters who teached the art of handling swords. After a while, Miyamoto arrived in the province of Iga, where he met a skilled warrior in the handling of kusarigama, named Shishido Baiken. During the fight, Musashi lost his sword, but managed to kill Baiken by slipping under his weapon and hitting him in the chest with the dagger. The disciples who witnessed this scene attacked Musashi, but he managed to put them on the run without difficulty. During his trip to Edo, a known fighter named Musō Gonosuke Katsuyoshi visited Musashi and challenged him to duel. Right at that moment, Musashi was working on a piece of wood that he wanted to make a bow out of it, but he accepted Gonosuke’s challenge. Then he stood up and used the sharp blade he was using to carve the wood as a sword. Gonosuke attacked in force but Musashi’s counterattack was faster and the blow to the head of his enemy was fatal. Another legend says that when Musashi was passing through the Izumo Province, he visited Lord Matsudaira and asked for permission to fight against his best expert in Kendo. At that time there were many good strategists in Izumo. Miyamoto was given permission

Duel between Sasaki Kojirō and Miyamoto Musashi

to fight against a man who used a hexagonal wooden stick of two and a half meters long. The confrontation took place in the garden of the master’s library. Musashi used two bokken wooden swords. He led the samurai on two wooden steps of the porch of the library and at the second step hit him over the face. When the enemy lost his balance, Musashi hit him over both arms. To the surprise of the people gathered in the garden, Lord Matsudaira himself challenged Musashi to a duel. He led him on the staircase of the library, just as he had done with his previous opponent, then when the master tried to adopt a firm posture, Musashi hit his sword with the “fire and stones” slash (when the swords of the combatants hit each other with power, one of them cuts as hard as possible without lifting the weapon), breaking it in two. The senior acknowledged his defeat and Musashi remained for some time there as an instructor for his guards. The most famous confrontation involving Musashi took place in the 17th year of Keicho, 1612, when he was in Ogura, in the province of Bizen. His opponent was Sasaki Kojirō, a young man who had developed an advanced sword handling technique, known as Tsubame-gaeshi, or “Swallow Reversal / Return”, a name inspired by the movement of the swallow’s tail during its flight. Kojirō was vassal of the provincial chief, Hosokawa Tadaoki. Musashi asked Tadaoki for permission to fight Kojirō through another vassal named Nagaoka Sato Okinaga, who had been Munisai’s apprentice. Permission was granted to him and the confrontation would take place at 8 o’clock, the next morning, on an island located a few kilometers from Ogura. That night, Musashi left the room he rented and moved to Kobayashi Taro Zaemon’s house. This led to the rumor that he, frightened by Kojirō’s technique, would have fled. The next day, at 8 o’clock in the morning, Miyamoto couldn’t have been woken up until a messenger had been sent to the island especially with this task. Musashi woke up, drank the water that had been brought to him and went towards the shore. As Sato moved around the island, Musashi made a string out of paper to tie the kimono’s sleeves to his back and carved a wooden sword from a thin oar. Then, while the boat was approaching the island where the battle was supposed to take place, the Japanese officials waiting alongside Kojirō were amazed. Musashi had an unkempt hair (an unusual thing for a Japanese), tied up with a towel and jumped anxious, waving the sword made out of wood. Kojirō drew his sword, a fine blade made by Nagamitsu from Bizen, and threw his sheath. “You

do not need that anymore”, Musashi said as his enemy ran towards him with his sword held sideways. Kojirō was challenged to execute the first slash and Musashi ran towards his blade while bringing his wooden sword over Kojirō’s head. While Kojirō’s sword sliced M ​​ usashi’s samurai hair from aside, his improvised sword struck him in the softness of his head. Kojirō died instantly without realizing what was happening. The legend says that when he realized he had killed him, Musashi was so scared of the presence of the officials that he tried to escape to his boat. Other sources claim the warrior threw his improvised sword to the ground and after taking a few steps backwards he pulled out both of his swords and saluted his opponent with a shout. This was the moment when Musashi ceased using real swords in duels. He was invincible and decided to devote himself to the search of the perfect understanding. A legend, however, says that Musashi was defeated once with a fan used by a ninja fighter expert in the use of hallucinogenic substances. Between 1614 and 1615, Miyamoto Musashi participated for the last time in a war. At that time, Ieyasu started a siege on the Osaka Castle, where sympathizers of the Ashikaga

Miyamoto Musashi killing a giant nue


family gathered. Musashi joined the forces led by Tokugawa, now fighting against the former allies from Sekigahara. According to his own notes, Musashi came to understand the strategy when he was 50 or 51 years old. He and his adoptive son, Iori, the abandoned child he had met in the Dewa province during his travels, settled in Ogura in 1634, and Musashi would never leave the island of Kyushu. At that time, the Hosokawa House was entrusted with the command of the Kumamoto Castle, the most important location of the Higo Province, and the new senior of Bizen was a member of the Ogasawara family. Iori joined Ogasawara Tadazane and, as the captain of his army, fought against the Christians in the Shimabara Rebellion of 1638. In this conflict, Musashi was a military adviser. Senior citizens of the southern provinces have always been against Tokugawa, creating intrigues with foreign powers and Japanese Christians. Ieyasu closed the ports of Japan for ships coming from foreign countries and remained blocked for more than two hundred years. After six years spent in Ogura, Musashi was invited to live in Churi’s home, the head of the Kumamoto Castle, part of the Hosokawa house. He lived there for a few years, dedicating his time to teaching Kendo and painting. In 1643, he retired in complete isolation to a cave named “Reigando” where he wrote Go Rin No Sho, a work addressed to his apprentice Teruo Nobuyuki. Musashi is known for the Japanese as “Kensei”, meaning “Sword Saint” and his book Go Rin No Sho is the starting point of every Kendo bibliography, being a unique work among martial arts. This is because Go Rin No Sho treats both war strategies as well as fighting methods between two individuals exactly in the same manner. The book does not present itself as a thesis on strategy, but in the author’s words it is “a guide for those who want to learn the strategy”. This was Miyamoto’s last wish, to teach the key of the path that he followed. After becoming an invincible and renowned fighter, he didn’t set up a martial arts school that would have had a guaranteed success, but became more concerned with his studies. Even in the last days of his life, Musashi has despised his life in comfort along with senior Hosokawa and lived alone in a cave from the mountains, totally dedicating himself to contemplation. The behavior of this harsh, stubborn man was completed in the most obvious way by his honesty and simplicity. Musashi wrote in his book that “when you understand the Path of Strategy, there is nothing that you can’t understand ... you observe the Way in everything.” 84

He has, indeed, become a master of arts and crafts. He has realized true masterpieces in Japanese painting, his works being more appreciated than those of any other artist. Among the things painted by Musashi are cormorants, herons, a portrait of the Shinto god Hotei, dragons or birds with flowers. He also made metal sculptures and was also an extraordinary calligrapher, as evidenced by his work “Senki” (The Warrior Spirit). Miyamoto also founded a school of artisans who crafted swords and handle grips, signing them “Niten”, by his name. His paintings are sometimes marked with his seal, “Musashi” or with the nickname “Niten”. Niten means “Two Paradises”, a syntax used to make an allusion towards a fighting posture (when the fighter holds a sword in each of his hands above his head). In some regions of Japan, Musashi has established schools known as Niten Ryu, while in other regions they are known as Enmei Ryu. Musashi also wrote in the pages of his book that “he is studying the paths of all professions”. It is obvious that this is what he did. He sought the company not only of good swordsmen, but also of priests, strategists, artists and craftsmen, in his desire to broaden his horizons of knowledge.

Miyamoto Musashi killing a giant nue

Morihei Ueshiba Morihei Ueshiba (b. 14 December 1883 in Tanabe, Wakayama, Japan – 26 April 1969 in Iwama, Ibaraki, Japan) was a martial artist and founder of the Japanese martial art of Aikido. He is often referred to as “the founder” Kaiso or Ōsensei (Great Teacher). The Aikido founder, Morihei Ueshiba, was born in a family of farmers in the village of Tanabe, the prefecture known today as Wakayama. He was the only son of a family with five children. From his father, Yoroku, he has inherited his determination and interest for public affairs, while from his mother he inherited a profound interest for religion, poetry and art. A frail and constantly sick young man, he has been interested since an early age in all the religious aspects of the esoteric Buddhist sect known as Shingon, to which his parents belonged, and he earnestly worshiped the Kami of the Shinto religion from his district, Kumano. He liked to listen to the legends and stories told by the elders, like “En no Gyōja” and “KōbōDaishi”. At one point, Morihei even thought of becoming a Buddhist priest. In order to counteract his son’s habit of dreaming with open eyes, Yoroku told Morihei about his great-grandfather “Kichiemon” known as one of the

Morihei Ueshiba

most powerful samurai of his times and encouraged him to practice sumo, fighting and swimming. Morihei realized the importance of being strong after his father has been attacked and beaten by men who worked for a rival politician. At the same time, he was struggling through permanent exercise to strengthen his body’s health and vigor. After completing his secondary studies, he had various small jobs, but in the end he was disappointed by each of them. In 1901, he opened a small stationery shop in Tokyo. During a short period of time when he worked as a merchant, he realized that he had a great affinity for martial arts. Morihei enjoyed the jujutsu trainings at Tenjin Shinyo-ryu traditional school which were taught by Tozawa Tokusaburō and the sword fighting at the Yagyū Shinkage-ryū school of swordsmanship. Having suffered from a disease, he decided to return home to Tanabe, where he married Itogawa Hatsu in 1903. After he recovered, he decided to join the army. As he was too short, he did not fall within the height limits standards in the army. He has intensified his workouts and eventually succeeded in the following incorporations and was recruited as an infantryman. He impressed his superiors so much that he was offered a post at the National Military Academy, but for some reasons he refused. He was left as a reserve in Osaka then in 1904 he was sent to Manchuria. Upon his return, he continued to train at Yagyū Shinkage-ryū under the directions of Master Nakai Masakatsu. In 1908, he received a diploma of martial arts instructor and opened a dojo in Tanabe. In the spring of 1912, at the age of 29 years old, he moved together with his family in Hokkaido in an yet uninhabited area. Together with a group of 84 people, among which former peasants and soldiers, they founded a small village named Shirataki. After a few years of work, the little village they had established began to develop. Ueshiba had grown very well physically, in a way that was almost legendary. In 1915 he met Takeda Sōkaku, a master in Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu and invited him to live in Shirataki. Taked accepted him as his disciple and awarded him the jujutsu master’s diploma in 1916. At the end of 1919, he found out that his father was very ill. Ueshiba sold most of his property and left Takeda’s dojo with the intention of not returning to Hokkaido. On his way home, he stopped at Ayabe, where the new political-religious sect Ōmoto-kyō was formed. Here he met the founder of this sect, named Deguchi Onisaburo. This detour on the way home made him 85

arrive too late. His father had already died. His father’s death affected him very much and decided to sell his parent’s house and move to Ayabe to study Ōmoto-kyō. At the request of Onisaburo, he created a dojo for the disciples’ training. In 1922, Takeda Sōkaku joined him. Over the next eight years, Ueshiba studied with Deguchi Onisaburo, taught Budo and was in charge of the local fire brigade. Being a pacifist, Deguchi was an advocate of non-violence and universal disarmament. He said: “Weapons and war are the means by which landowners and capitalists make profit, while the poor people suffer”. Deguchi, who defended the principle of love and goodness, wanted to morally influence the world with the help of religion meanings. He dreamed of building a “Kingdom of peace” in Mongolia with the help of this religion. In this purpose, Deguchi contacted the Putienchiao religion in Korea and Taoyiian Hungwantzuhui in China. Thus, in 1924, Ueshiba left for Mongolia along with Deguchi. Due to China’s domestic problems, Deguchi’s group found itself quickly without any help and in the midst of those problems. At


one point, during an attack of the local forces, Ueshiba’s entire group was captured and robbed. In July 1925, the Japanese Government obtained their release. The study of the Ōmoto-kyō religion and his encounter with Onisaburo had greatly influenced Ueshiba. The study he made alongside Takeda Sōkaku opened his eyes on the essence of Budo and his “enlightenment” was complemented by the influences that Ōmoto-kyō had on him. Around 1925, Ueshiba had several spiritual experiences that greatly impressed him and marked his life and training forever. He realized that the true path of Budo is the love that binds all beings. Over the next year, more and more people joined Ueshiba’s training, including Tomiki Kenji (who would later form his own Aikido style) and famous Admiral Takeshita from the Toyama Naval Academy. In 1927, Deguchi Onisaburo encouraged Ueshiba to separate from Ōmoto-kyō and follow his own path. Morihei listened to his advice and moved with his family in Tokyo. There, he built a dojo in the Ushigome district (currently the World Headquarters of Aikido). He continued to study the old techniques

Ōsensei in his dojo

Morihei Ueshiba training with his students

Ibaraki prefecture, in a village called Iwama, where the Aiki Jinja sanctuary is nowadays found. In this place he built an outdoor dojo. He created a sanctuary dedicated to the “Meetings of Ki” and the “42 Guardian Deities of the Universe”. Iwama is considered to be the place where “Aikido” (The Way of Harmony) has been created. Initially, it was called Aikijutsu, then Aiki-Budo, being rather a martial arts path than a spiritual one. From 1942 to 1952, Ueshiba strengthened the techniques and improved the religious philosophy of Aikido. After the war, Aikido rapidly developed at Kobukan (now called Hombu Dojo) under the directions of Kisshomaru Ueshiba. Morihei Ueshiba became known as Ōsensei or “The Great Teacher”. He has also received many decorations from the Japanese Government. By the end of his life, Ōsensei has improved his Path, dedicating his time to sustained training. In the spring of 1969, he offered his students his latest advices. He said the following things: “Aikido is for the whole world. Train yourself not for selfish reasons, but for people everywhere.” On 26 April 1969, at the age of 86 years old, following a battle with liver cancer, Ōsensei took his son’s hand and told him to “Take care of everything” and then died. Ōsensei’s ashes were buried in the family temple from Tanabe.

of Ju-Jitsu and in particular those of the Kito School under the guidance of Master Tozawa. In parallel, he practiced Kenjutsu in a dojo of Shinkage-ryū. While the dojo was under construction many other martial arts instructors, such as Kanō Jigorō, came to training. They were so impressed by Ueshiba’s art that they wanted their students to learn under his guidance. In 1931, the construction of the dojo (Kobukan) was completed. The Budo Development Society was also created in 1932 and Ueshiba assumed the role of chief instructor. During this period, Shioda Gozo and Shirata Rinjiro became his dojo students. After the beginning of the Second World War, Ueshiba continued to teach at Kobukan, but also began teaching special courses at the Military Police Academy and the Military College. Over the next 10 years, Ueshiba became more and more famous as he continued to appear in more and more publications, many of which were written by his son, Kisshomaru. In 1942, following a “divine inspiration” he returned to countryside. He often said that working on the farm and Budo are, in fact, the same thing. He left Kobukan in the hands of his son Kisshomaru and established himself about 120 km from Tokyo, in the Ōsensei practicing in his dojo


Emperor Meiji Emperor Meiji (Meiji-tennō), (b. 3 November 1852 in Kyoto Gyoen National Garden, Kyoto, Japan – d. 30 July 1912 in Meiji Palace, Tokyo, Empire of Japan), or Meiji the Great (Meiji-taitei), was the 122nd Emperor of Japan according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from 3 February 1867 until his death on 30 July 1912. He presided over a time of rapid change in the Empire of Japan, as the nation quickly changed from an isolationist feudal state to a capitalist and imperial world power, characterized by the Japanese industrial revolution. Emperor Mutsuhito was crowned emperor of Japan when he was only 15 years old, following the events known as the Meiji Restoration. Thus, according to the new constitution, the emperor became the symbol of the state and unity of the nation. The Meiji regime began as an alliance between the provinces of Satsuma and Chōshū, supported by Tosa and Hizen. The purpose of this alliance was the restoration of power in


Portrait of Emperor Meiji realized by Takahashi Yuichi

the hands of the emperor, who was considered to be the true ruler of Japan and the liberator of the country from the barbaric, foreign influences. This was only possible after a bloody civil war between the young emperor’s supporters and the last Shogun of the Tokugawa dynasty. The latter gave up his powers on 9 December 1867. The last military remains of the old laws were definitively destroyed following the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877. The great feudal lords named Daimyō were forced to give up their lands. A central government was thus formed, while a centralized tax system and an army of recruits were established. Of course, this was a tough time for the Daimyō and some samurais because the society needed new type of men: entrepreneurs, skillful people, specialists, craftsmen and goods producers. Many samurais became gatekeepers, cops, postal factors or even entered the ranks of the industrial and agricultural proletariat. In April 1868, only 3 months after his coronation, the Emperor helped by his counselors issued the Charter Oath, which basically abolished feudalism. Article 5 was the most important because it stated that: “Knowledge shall be sought throughout the world so as to strengthen the foundation of imperial rule.” Japan’s attitude radically changed as the country was ready to learn and assimilate its opponent’s knowledge. The unequal treaties signed in the last years of the Shogunate had to be revised and the country had to be treated on an equal footing. On 23 December 1871, Prince Iwakura Tomomi left the Yokohama port as the leader of the first large-scale Japanese mission beyond its borders. He was assigned the function of extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador to the United States of America and Europe. On 11 February 1889, the modernization efforts of the nation were crowned by the adoption of the first complete constitution outside the Western world. A year later, the first parliamentary elections took place and the political arena was occupied by two main parties: Seiyūkai (liberal) and Kaishintō (progressive). In just two decades remarkable progress has been made in all areas, starting with the economy and ending with religion and literature. Modernization became the word of order and Western habits were consequently copied while committing too many excesses at the same time. At one point, it was even taken into consideration the adoption of English as a secondary language in order to be able to deal on an equal footing with other nations. The Meiji government abolished the old Japanese feudal system of seniors by replacing it with an aristocratic one

in accordance to the existing British model with barons, dukes, and earls. The emperor literally redesigned the map of Japan by creating new administrative units called prefectures. Despite sustained efforts, the economy didn’t develop too well in the early years of the Meiji period. The causes were numerous, among them being the poor performance of governmental businesses, the payment of numerous foreign councilors and former samurai left without occupation, as well as the many rebellions that occurred. The state had to sell an important part of its industry to private entrepreneurs to cope with the situation. Much of the industry entered under the influence of a small group of people that will later be known as zaibatsu or “financial cliques”. In fact, to a great extent, the political power will fall under the hands of these oligarchs. The Prime Minister was often appointed after having been previously researched and approved by them. In a couple of years, the first results started to appear. The import of advanced technology, the foreign experts and students that came back from abroad have helped Japan build a modern industry. In order to put their hands on Western technology, Japanese companies have set up joint ventures with North American and European enterprises. The well-known nowadays giant, NEC (Nippon Electric Company) was founded in 1899 as a joint venture of an American company named Western Electric and a Japanese agent. Another giant, Toshiba, started out as a joint venture in the early 1900’s, consisting of General Electric from America and two Japanese companies: Tokyo Electric and Shibaura Electric (part of the Mitsui Group). At the military level, the effects of the new measures quickly made their presence felt. The superiority of British naval tactics proved to be decisive

in the conflict with China, which ended in 1895. The territorial lands acquired from the defeated represented the first stage of the establishment of a Japanese Empire in Asia, even after giving up the Liaotung Peninsula following the pressures coming from Germany and France. Japan gained something that it craved for a long time: the respect of the Westerners and at least partial revision of the unequal treaties. Soon, a military pact signed in 1902 with the United Kingdom consecrated Japan’s entry into the big club. After becoming the first Asian colonial owner, Japan suddenly solved a lot of its problems. First of all, the country obtained resources without which its economy would have been practically strangled. Secondly, it acquired new outlets for its manufactured products and, last but not least, gained a spare territory for its growing population. The population density was one of the largest in the world at that time and the demographic increase reached 1.300.000 inhabitants annually around World War II. Nippon life was dominated by the fear of overpopulation, which would grow increasingly between such narrow borders. It is well known that Japan, in addition to not having sufficient underground resources, doesn’t have enough agricultural land, the existing one being exploited as much as possible. The naval victory from the Tsushima Strait in the war against Tsarist Russia from 1904-1905 was decisive and further strengthened Japan’s position. The peace treaty was signed at Portsmouth but the country didn’t receive any financial damages. However, the fact that Japan was the first Asian nation to crush a western power brought it a tremendous prestige. Japan held at that time Taiwan, a part of the Sakhalin Island, territories in Manchuria and the recognition of its interests in Korea. In just a few years, in 1910, Korea was simply annexed and Japan imposed its own laws. In 1912, at the death of Emperor Meiji, one of the most important epochs in Japan’s history basically ended. The balance sheet of this long period is impressive. In just 50 years, a country about whose existence was known so little, a country that was disregarded and ignored managed to gain access to the status of superpower. This was the greatest achievement realized by any nation in the history of the world. At the same time, following the restoration of the emperor’s cult also known as Tennoism, a change with extremely damaging political effects soon occurred in the Japanese mentality. Adoration for the Emperor was used by nationalist military groups in order to promote an expansionist policy.

Emperor Meiji of Japan and the imperial family in 1900 (by Torajirō Kasai)


Haruki Murakami Haruki Murakami (b. 12 January 1949 in Kyoto, Japan) is a Japanese writer. His books and stories have been bestsellers in Japan as well as internationally, with his work being translated into 50 languages and selling millions of copies outside his native country. The critical acclaim for his fiction and non-fiction has led to numerous awards, in Japan and internationally, including the World Fantasy Award (2006) and the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award (2006). His oeuvre received, for example, the Franz Kafka Prize (2006) and the Jerusalem Prize (2009). Although he was born in Kyoto, he lived most of his youth in Kōbe. His father was the son of a Buddhist priest while his mother was a merchant from Osaka. Both of them taught him Japanese literature. Since his youth, Haruki was very influenced by the western culture, in particular, by music and literature. He grew up reading numerous works written by American authors, such as Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan. It is these Western influences that often distinguish


Haruki Murakami

Murakami from other Japanese writers. He studied Greek theater and literature at Waseda University (Sōdai), where he met his wife, Yoko. His first job was in a record store (such as one of his main characters, Toru Watanabe of “Norwegian Wood”). Before finishing his studies, Murakami opened the Peter Cat jazz bar in the Kokubunji district of Tokyo, where he and his wife ran the business from 1974 to 1981. The couple decided not to have any children in part because they do not have the confidence that the generation of their parents had after the war that the world would continue to improve. Murakami explained that it was after watching a baseball game (a very popular sport in Japan) that he had the idea to write his first novel, “Listen to the Wind” (1979), which opened a cycle of independent novels baptized “The Trilogy of the Rat” (the nickname of the best friend of the narrator) before Haruki added a fourth and last book. Murakami’s works are based on a form of surrealism which, on the basis of an everyday melancholic banality, succeeds in forming original narratives following the idea of ​​ the link between Buddhism and Shintoism of events and beings: an action provokes in a distant and indirect way an immediate reaction, in reality or elsewhere, in another world that Murakami creates. In 1986, following the enormous success of his novel Norwegian Wood, he left Japan in order to live in Europe and the United States, but returned to his native country in 1995 after the Kōbe earthquake and the sarin gas attack that the “Aum Shinrikyo” sect (The Supreme Truth) perpetrated in the Tokyo subway. Later Murakami would write about both events. Haruki Murakami’s fiction, which is often overlooked in Japanese pop literature, is humorous and surreal, and at the same time reflects loneliness and the craving for love in a way that moves both Eastern and Western readers. He tries to draw a world of permanent oscillations, between what is real and what is dream, between joy and darkness. One can notice the influence of the authors he has translated, such as Raymond Carver, F. Scott Fitzgerald or John Irving, whom he considers his teachers. His novels and short stories are frequently tinged with fantasy, anchored in a daily life that will subtly get out of the sphere of normality. Having appreciated a lot of European and Anglo-Saxon fiction in his youth, then having lived in southern Europe and the United States of America, Western influences are perceptible in his works. This makes him a more international writer with references to world popular culture, while keeping a

Haruki Murakami at the Jerusalem Prize in 2009

contemporary Japanese experience to his characters. In his novels there can be discovered astonishing characters such as “the man-sheep” or an avatar of Colonel Sanders. The human soul is dissected in such a way that the reader is carried away in a journey of himself, but in a setting that is sometimes confusing. The melancholy of Murakami’s characters and their half-hearted social analyzes sometimes recall Japanese authors such as Natsume Sōseki. In his novels we discover the thoughts of human beings that are in search of their identity and approach existence with a certain malaise. Many of his novels also have themes and titles related to particular songs such as “Dance, Dance, Dance” (The Dells), “Norwegian Wood” (The Beatles), and “South of the Border, West of the Sun” (The first part is the title of a song by Nat King Cole). Music, one of his hobbies, is always present throughout his work. Murakami is fond of sports as he participates in marathons and triathlons although he didn’t start running until he was 33 years old. On 23 June 1996 he completed his first ultramarathon, a 100 kilometer race around Lake Saroma in Hokkaido, Japan. He talks about his relationship with sports in “What I talk about when I talk about running” (2008). At the end of 2005, Murakami published the collection of stories entitled “Tōkyō Kitanshū”, freely translated like Strange Tales from Tokyo. He later edited an anthology of stories entitled Birthday Stories, which includes texts written by English-speaking writers, including one of his own, specially prepared for this book. After the international success of “1Q84” in 2009 and 2010, his new novel “The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage” was released in April 2013 in Japan, where it became the number one

seller of the year with over a million copies sold. In 2014, Haruki’s new collection of short stories “Men without Women” was released in Japan on 18 April at midnight. On 24 February 2017, his book “Killing Commendatore” (Kishidancho Goroshi) was released in Japan in two volumes entitled “Emerging Ideas” and “Moving Metaphor”. This novel is described by Haruki Murakami as “longer than Kafka on the Shore, shorter than 1Q84, a very strange story”. Murakami divides his work into six categories: long novels; short novels; novels; translations; attempts and surveys. Some analyses see aspects of shamanism in his writing. In a 2000 article, Susan Fisher connected Japanese folk religion or Japanese shamanism with some elements of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, such as a descent into a dry well. Haruki Murakami is a fan of crime novels. During his high school days while living in Kobe, he would buy paperbacks from second hand book stores and learned to read English. The first book that he read in English was The Name is Archer, written by Ross Macdonald in 1955. Other writers he was interested in included Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. When working on a book, Murakami states that he relies on his wife, who is always his first reader. While he never acquainted himself with many writers, Murakami enjoys the works of Ryu Murakami and Banana Yoshimoto.

Murakami’s famous 1Q84 book


Yoko Ono Yoko Ono (b. 18 February 1933 in Tokyo, Japan) is a Japanese multimedia artist, singer, songwriter, and peace activist who is also known for her work in performance art and filmmaking. She performs in both English and Japanese. She is noted for being the second wife and widow of singer-songwriter John Lennon of the Beatles. Yoko Ono belongs to the Japanese aristocracy and was part of the avant-garde movement of the 1960’s. She was a member of the Fluxus group. Yoko’s father was a banker, while her mother came from a family of bankers. During her childhood, she learned in a school where only the children of aristocrats were allowed. Ergo, she received a very rich international education. During World War II, Yoko’s family settled in New York while she chose to stay at home to study philosophy. A year later, she dropped out of school and joined her family in the United States of America. She enrolled at the Sarah Lawrence College.


Yoko Ono

She went on a pursuit to follow her dream of becoming an artist and thus Yoko was introduced to the world of singing and integrated in a group of artists from the United States. In 1956, Yoko Ono met a Japanese composer named Toshi Ichiyanagi and they married without the blessing of Yoko’s parents who would have preferred to see their daughter marry someone from the same background as them. They eventually gave up and moved especially to New York to celebrate their daughter’s marriage a year later. After seven years together, the couple divorced. In 1962, Yoko remarried with Anthony Cox, a jazz musician and they had a daughter named Kyoko Chan Cox, born on 8 August 1963. This second marriage also ended with a divorce. The divorce between Yoko and Anthony was pronounced in February 1969. On 30 May 1968, at the beginning of the Beatles album sessions, Yoko’s constant presence alongside John Lennon greatly undermined the atmosphere in the band. Unlike other women or companions, she didn’t just sit in the control room with the producer and sound engineers, but settled in the studio even under John’s insistence, commenting on his work. George Harrison said: “Yoko just moved in. Well, John moved in with Yoko or she moved in with him. From that moment on, they were never seen one without the other, at least for the next two years. She was suddenly part of the group. She didn’t start singing or playing, but she was there. It was very strange to see her there all the time. Not just because it was Yoko or because they were opposed to the idea of a​​ stranger staying there. But there was a particular vibration and that was what bothered me. It was a bizarre vibration.” At first, the members of the group thought of seeing only the passing manifestation of a new love. But when they recorded their last album Abbey Road in July 1969, they disenchanted when John installed a bed in the studio for Yoko, who had to recover from a car accident that had occurred in Scotland a few days earlier. A microphone was even suspended above her to allow her to talk with her husband. As a result, Yoko became a major subject of controversy among fans of the band and would be considered the main cause of the separation of The Beatles. However, many agree that she was also a lifesaver for John, who was in ruin at that time, and would exert considerable influence on many of his compositions. Shortly after Yoko married John Lennon in Gibraltar on 20 March 1969, the leader of the legendary group The Beatles, with whom she had previously had

extramarital relationships while John was still married to Cynthia Lennon. The marriage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono has been the subject of much controversy as the Japanese artist was constantly accused of being primarily responsible for the dissolution of the Beatles. Instead of being overwhelmed by various allegations and criticisms, the couple went on with their relationship harmoniously and wrote songs together for John who would then sing them solo. The most popular titles are, among others, Imagine and Jealous Guy. On 9 October 1975, the couple had a son named Sean Taro Ono Lennon. Much of Yoko’s work (plastic arts and music) deals with issues such as freedom of thought, peace, antiracism, homophobia and sexism, as well as the value of everyday small sensations. A special characteristic of her art (songs, books, music, films, drawings, etc.) is represented by the economy of generating resources of maximum effect. The same motifs reappear in her work at various times, being adapted, reused and loaded with new significances. Her albums in collaboration with John Lennon include “Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins”, “Unfinished Music No.2: Life with the Lions”, “Wedding Album”, “Some Time in New York City”, “Double Fantasy” and the posthumous “Milk and Honey”. In the 1990’s, she released two albums that were very well received by critics: “Rising” and “Blueprint for a Sunrise”. Until today, her biggest successes have been “Walking on Thin Ice” and to a lesser extent “Never Say Goodbye”.

At the same time, Yoko Ono didn’t stop making artistic works. After gaining more popularity for her achievements, the whole world reacted positively to the cover of her 1981 album “Season of Glass” and reflected the public’s mood after Lennon’s assassination. The famous cover showed the glasses of John Lennon fallen on the ground and bathed in his blood, a cliché Yoko made on 8 December 1980, when the singer has just been shot down before her eyes. Despite everything, Yoko Ono produced a remarkable amount of albums, films and literary works. However, she has never enjoyed a proper public success even if she obtained the critical recognition of the artistic world. Among her best known works there is a painting entitled “Promise”, which she dedicated to the Autism Speaks Association. This fresco was exhibited at the UN headquarters in New York on 2 April 2009. Yoko Ono has sometimes been defamed and slandered by critics who condemned her art. It has been described as “the most famous unknown artist: everyone knows her name but no one knows what she is doing” or according to Brian Sewell: “... she did not create and did not contribute to anything, it was simply a reflection of her time ... I think she is an amateur, a very wealthy woman who married someone who had the talent and was the driving force behind The Beatles. Had she not been John Lennon’s widow, she would have been totally forgotten now ... Yoko Ono was simply a parasite. Have you seen her sculptures or her paintings? They are all horrible.” The most common criticism is that Yoko Ono’s work has been misunderstood and deserves attention and respect, so in recent years her work has gained constant awards and ovations. In 2001, the University of Liverpool awarded her an Honorary Degree. In 2002 she received her degree as Doctor of Fine Arts from Bard College. In recent years, a remixing project of her old classic songs has been very successful and many of her most classic and previously unknown songs have reached the top of Billboard’s Dance / Club Play Songs. These songs are: “Walking on Thin Ice “, “Hell in Paradise”, “Everyman, Everywoman” and “Open Your Box”. Marked by her difficult childhood, she was able to absorb the positive side of all the difficult circumstances of her life and extract from it a great creative force. Heir to John Lennon’s 356 million $ fortune in 1980, she currently doubled her wealth to 745 million $ thanks to copyright management. Nowadays over 80 years, she doesn’t stop working and defending the causes she advocates for.

Yoko Ono at radio station Echo of Moscow



Yoko Ono and John Lennon in Amsterdam in 1969


Kohei Uchimura Kōhei Uchimura (b. 3 January 1989 in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan) is a Japanese artistic gymnast. He is a seven time Olympic medalist (all-around, team and floor exercise), winning three golds and four silvers, a 19 time World medalist (allaround, team, floor, high bar, and parallel bars) and is considered by many to be the greatest gymnast of all time. He is known for becoming the first gymnast to win every major all-around title in a single Olympic cycle. He accomplished this feat twice by winning six world all around titles in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015, as well as the 2012 Olympic and 2016 Olympic all-around titles. Uchimura is also 2008 Olympics All-Around silver medalist. He is also known for delivering difficult and accurately executed routines. His gymnastics skills were praised by International Gymnast Magazine as a “combination of tremendous


difficulty, supreme consistency and extraordinary elegance of performance.” He started practicing artistic gymnastics at the age of 3 at his parents (Kazuhisa and Shuko Uchimura) gym. At the age of 15 years old, he moved to Tokyo, where he was trained by Athens 2004 Olympic champion, Naoya Tsukahara. His first participation in an international competition dates back to 2005 with the International Junior Competition held in Japan, where he competed in an unofficial manner. Kōhei joined the Japanese national team in 2007, officially debuting at the Paris World Cup. There, he won the bronze medal on vault and came in 9th on floor. In the same year, at the Summer Universiade of Bangkok he won the gold medal with the Japanese team on floor and ended up 3rd on vault. In October, during the National Championships, he finished 7th in the individual competition. The following month he ranked 7th in the individual competition and won the silver medal with the Japanese national team at “Good Luck Beijing”, a test event before the 2008 Olympic Games. Kōhei started the 2008 season by winning a gold

Kōhei Uchimura (right side) with Rick McCharles and Shiro Tanaka (Associate Professor of Osaka University)

Kōhei Uchimura at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro

medal on floor at the Tianjin World Cup. Thanks to his outstanding results, he was selected to participate in the Beijing Olympic Games as a member of the Japanese national team. In the team finals, he competed on floor, vault, parallel bars, and high bar. Uchimura won the silver medal on all-around floor with a total of 278.875 points. He also qualified for the final on floor, where he finished 5th. Japan managed to win an individual Olympic medal on all-around floor after 24 years. At the Japanese Championships, aged only 19 years old, Uchimura won the national all-around title after ranking on the highest position on pommel horse and floor exercise in the individual competition. Uchimura competed for the first time at the World Championships held in London from 12 to 18 October. He won the all-around title in the individual competition and ranked 4th on floor and 6th on high bar. He won the gold medal after exceeding with 2.575 points 2nd ranked Daniel Keatings and obtained the highest scores on floor, rings, vault, and horizontal bar. Kōhei also appeared on the cover of the International Gymnastics Magazine under the title “Uchimura Rules”. At the 2010 World Championships, as he did in the previous year, Kōhei dominated both during the qualifying phase and during the individual competition, winning his second all-around title by a margin of 2.202 points ahead of 2nd ranked, German Philipp Boy. During this final he obtained the highest score on the floor and performed a perfect Yurchenko with 2.5 twists on vault. He contributed to Japan’s second place in the team competition, coming second on floor and third on parallel bars. On 14 October 2011, Kōhei Uchimura managed to win his 3rd consecutive individual title. With a score

of 93.631 points, he won the competition by detaching from the second ranked by 3.101 points, more or less the same margin that separated the second ranked from the 14th. Kōhei thus became the first male gymnast to have won three individual contests in a row and the first gymnast in general to have won three consecutive titles. The Japanese also obtained the highest score in 4 out of 6 events: floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings and parallel bars. During the first day of the competition, Uchimura also qualifies for five apparatus finals. He won his first gold medal on floor and got the silver medal in the team competition. He also ranked 3rd at the high bar. Along with Romanian Ana Porgras, he was awarded the Longines Prize for Elegance and won a trophy, a Longines watch and 5.000 $. Uchimura used to collect watches so he was very happy to have won the prize. At the National Championship he won four gold medals: the all-around title, the floor exercise competition, high bar and pommel horse. On 28 July 2012, the Japanese started his second Olympic adventure with the men’s team in London. He competed in all six events and contributed to Japan’s 5th place ranking, with a total of 270.503 points. Individually, due to several mistakes on the pommel horse and still rings, Uchimura finished the individual contest on the 9th place. Also, Kōhei qualified with the second best score at the floor exercise event and ended on the 5th place on parallel bars. On 30 July 2012, he competed again on all the events in the team finals. He obtained the highest scores, respectively: 15,700 on flour, 15,133 on still rings, 15,900 on vault, 15,416 on parallel bars and 15,733 on horizontal bars, but made a major mistake at the pommel horse events. Following his performances, Japan finished the competition on 97

4th place, just a few points away from the 3rd position. After an appeal made by a coach, the judges changed Uchimura’s score: from 13,466 to 14,166. With 271,952 points, the Japanese team finished second, only behind China. He dominated the final of the individual competition and won the gold medal with 92,690 points. He also won the silver medal on floor exercise with 15,800 points. During the World Cup qualifiers, Kōhei got the highest score in the individual competition (91,924), with an advantage of 2,392 points from the second ranked. He also qualified for the floor exercise (15,333), parallel bars (15,400) and horizontal bar (15,658) final. The Japanese was one of the three reserves for the pommel horse competition. With 91,990 points, he won his 4th all-around consecutive title. He came up 3rd on the flour exercise (15,500) and on the horizontal bar


(15,633) and won his first gold medal on parallel bars. On 9 October 2014, Kōhei won his 5th consecutive allaround title with a total of 91,965 points. He also won two silver medals: one in the team competition and one on the horizontal bar. He was rewarded for the third time in a row with the Longines Prize for Elegance. In August 2016, Kōhei Uchimura participated at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where he gained the gold medal in the team competition together with Ryōhei Katō, Kenzō Shirai, Yusuke Tanaka (gymnast) and Koji Yamamuro, ranking ahead of Russia and China. On 10 August 2016, during the individual competition, Uchimura defended his individual all-around gold title obtained at London in 2012 with a score of 92.365. Thus, he gained his second consecutive Olympic gold medal, ranking ahead of Ukrainian Oleh Vernjajev and British Max Whitlock.

Kōhei Uchimura at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

KĹ?hei Uchimura (gold medalist) alongside Philipp Boy 99 (silver medal) and Jonathan Horton (bronze medal)

Konosuke Matsushita Kōnosuke Matsushita (b. 27 November 1894 in Wakayama, Japan – d. 27 April 1989 in Moriguchi, Osaka, Japan) was a Japanese industrialist who founded Panasonic, the largest Japanese consumer electronics company. To many Japanese, he is known as “the god of management”. A biography of Matsushita’s life called Matsushita Leadership was written by American business management specialist John Kotter in 1998. Kōnosuke’s father made a series of unprofitable


Kōnosuke Matsushita

investments that ruined the family shortly after he was born. Besides Kōnosuke, the Matsushita family had seven more children. Because his family lived in very poor conditions, young Kōnosuke had to abandon school in 1904 and was sent to Osaka to work as a disciple at a hibachi store. Shortly after, he became an apprentice salesman at a bicycle store where he stayed for nearly six years. In 1910, at the age of 16 years old, Matsushita was employed as a technical assistant at the Osaka Electric Power Company (nowadays the Kansai Electric Power Company), where due to his rapid learning abilities he was advanced several times. He has developed a high interest in electricity, which at that time began to expand throughout Japan. In 1915, he married Mumeno Iue. Three years later, in 1918, he followed his father’s advices on the benefits of being an entrepreneur and founded his own electrical accessories factory, Matsushita Electric, in collaboration with two friends who had abandoned the project shortly after and were replaced by Kōnosuke’s brother-in-law, Toshio Iue, who later became the founder of Sanyo. Thus, in 1918, he set up the Matsushita Electric Appliance Factory in Osaka. His first products were not very successful though. For four months he worked in his own house so he could realize an adapter for the socket, namely a double jack for a lamp to which both a bulb and a plug could be connected. He manufactured the invented product, but it wasn’t sold. He made his first big money when he received an order for insulation boards. Five years after the establishment of the factory, in 1923, he built an innovative headlamp for bicycles. However, it hasn’t even been sold. Matsushita didn’t want to quit and came up with the idea of ​​letting a light bulb function in every shop where they were being sold. This simple demonstration impressed customers and the bicycle headlamp became a commercial success. In 1922, Kōnosuke was forced to build a new factory and offices. The factory has begun to produce large-scale electric batteries and radio sets. During the Great Depression of 1929-1933, the vast majority of companies reduced their activity and massively fired their staff. However, Matsushita refused to follow this trend. He didn’t fire any of his employees, nor did he reduce their salaries. Matsushita came up with the solution to transfer some of his workers from the production line to distribution and sales sectors so that all the workers could work. This strategy, though at the time, was regarded by some economists in a pessimistic manner, led to the establishment of a special relationship

between employees and the company. In 1929, when he changed the company’s name, Matsushita had declared that a company’s mission was not only to make a profit, but much broader: to fight poverty by offering affordable products that would improve the lives of people around the world. He considered people as the main resource of the company and placed a great emphasis on their professional development. Since 1932, he has decided to celebrate the anniversary of the day when the company was established, which was held since then. In 1933, he set up a division management system, also known as profit centers. As he paid lots of attention to his staff development, he set up a Matsushita Staff Training Institute in 1934. In 1935, the company made its first television, a sphere in which the products manufactured by Matsushita had a huge success. In the same year, Matsushita Electric manufactured 600 different products and was just starting to distribute them for the first time outside Japan. At that time, the factory had 3.500 employees. In 1942, Matsushita became Japan’s leading radio producer. During the Second World War, Japan’s entire industrial force had to contribute to the war efforts. Matsushita manufactured various products for the army and assembled combat aircrafts in his factories. Shortly after the war, in 1945, the PHP Institute (Peace, Happiness, Prosperity) was established. In post-war Japan, the company has received several restrictions from the allies, a measure that has in fact affected all Japanese businesses. Matsushita was in danger of being dismissed as president, but was eventually rescued by a petition signed in his favor by the 15.000 employees of the company. In 1947, Kōnosuke lent his brother-inlaw, Toshio Iue, a capital to buy an unused bicycle lamp factory, which later became Sanyo Electric. Between 1950 and 1973, Matsushita’s company became one of the largest electrical products companies worldwide. His products were sold under well-known brands like Panasonic and Technics. In the early 1950’s, he started producing electric washing machines and televisions following the explosive popularity of electrical appliances. The first black-and-white TV was sold since 1952 and then, in 1960, the color television

was introduced on the market. Within the brand, other companies have been set up. Since 1954, Matsushita Electric has become the majority shareholder of JVC by forming an alliance. In August 2007, Matsushita Electric reduced its participation in JVC’s capital to around 37% after building an alliance with Kenwood Electronics. In 1959, the Japanese businessman established Matsushita Electric Corporation of America in New Jersey (USA). Shortly after, other companies were set up on the American continent. In 1952, he started a technical collaboration with Dutch company Philips. In 1956, he set up the 5-year Plan Development of the company. In 1961, he became chairman of the Board of Directors and the following year he appeared on the cover of the prestigious American magazine Time. In 1965, he set up the week system with five working days. Matsushita withdrew from management in 1973 and received the role of executive counselor. That year, the company had 28.000 employees and reported a profit of 1.5 billion yen. After retiring from business, Matsushita focused his work on developing and explaining his social and commercial philosophy and wrote a number of 44 books. One of them, entitled “Developing a Road to Peace and Happiness through Prosperity”, was sold in four million copies. In 1977, he published the book “Japan in the 21st Century”. Three years later, in 1980, he set up the Matsushita Administration and Management Institute, which became a reputed management school. In 1983, he was among the initiators of the Kyoto Protocol on Global Change. As a recognition of his merits, in 1987, he was decorated with the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers after he had been previously decorated with the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun and the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure. His chronic lung problems have caused his death of pneumonia on 27 April 1989 in Osaka, at the age of 94 years old. At his death, his fortune amounted to 3 billion $ and his company had a turnover of 42 billion $. Nowadays, Matsushita is a very popular figure in Japan, his managerial heritage being highly appreciated in various sectors of human society. 101


Matsushita as a successful businessman

Japan Cuisine


Sushi (with Wasabi) Ingredients: • • • • • • • • • • • • •

500g sushi rice 600 ml water 60 ml rice vinegar 25g honey (or sugar) 1 teaspoon salt 1 piece of Kombu 6 Nori whole strips 1 avocado 70g salmon 50g surimi ½ cucumber Soy sauce Wasabi powder


1. Wash the rice in at least 7 waters until the water becomes clean. 2. Put the rice in a pot covered with lid, add water over it and let it covered with the lid for 30 minutes. 3. Boil the rice with the lid covered for 9 minutes on medium to high heat then another 4 minutes on high heat. Stop the fire and let the rice cool with the lid placed on for about 15 minutes. 4. In a bowl, add the salt and honey (or sugar) to the rice vinegar and stir until it dissolves, then add a 5x5 cm piece of kombu in it. 5. Place the rice on a flat surface (wooden or plastic tray) and add 4 tablespoons of the prepared rice vinegar. 6. Mix the rice with rice vinegar through cutting movements (the rice must not be pressed), then use a fan over it until it reaches a temperature similar to that of the human body. 7. Prepare a wooden bottom, a sushi bamboo roll and a bowl of clean water. 8. Place a Nori strip over the bamboo roll and start the assembling process. 9. Put your hands in water then take a handful of rice and spread it over the lower portion of the Nori. Distribute it as evenly as possible. 10. With a wet finger, touch the top of the Nori in order to allow the roll strip to stick at the ends, like an envelope, when making the sushi roll. 11. Put the other ingredients cut in slices over the rice 104

and start rolling the first sushi. The idea is to tighten it as hard as you can by using the bamboo roll so that the ingredients are well placed inside the sushi roll. The shape we want is rather that of a square and that’s why you have to use the sushi mat. 12. Gather the sushi roll and put it aside until you finish the rest. Repeat the process with the rest. 13. The sushi roll is very simple to cut: the first step is to cut it into two equal halves, which will then be cut in three equal pieces. From a roll, you will get 6 pieces of sushi maki. 14. For the wasabi paste, in a bowl mix equal amounts of wasabi powder with water. Wasabi can be used in two ways: either mix it well in the soy sauce or place a little on each sushi piece. 15. Now that the wasabi paste is ready, pour the soy sauce into a small bowl and you’re done.

2. Boil it with a little salt in a covered saucepan for 5 minutes on high heat and for 10 minutes on low heat. Do not mix the rice with wooden spoon or any other tool in the kitchen! 3. Remove the rice from fire (without removing the Ingredients: lid) and leave it for another 10 minutes to cool. • A glass of round grain rice 4. Take out the rice from the saucepan and spread it on • 2 and a half glasses of water a tray (now you are allowed to use a spoon) to cool • Nori strips completely. • Salmon (cut into small pieces) 5. To prepare the Onigiri, take some rice in your palm, • Black olives (without seeds) press it with your fingers in order to obtain a small • Anchovy (finely sliced) pancake and place the desired filling (anchovy, • A pinch of salt salmon or olives) in the middle. 6. Wrap the stuffing with another small amount of rice Steps: and shape it like a ball or any other form you want. 1. Before boiling, wash the raw rice 5 to 6 times under 7. Finally decorate it with Nori cut algae strips as you repetitive water jets. want.


Sushi (with Wasabi)



shrimps in two places (2-3 millimeters) at equal distances on the inside (inside the curved part) and then lightly press them on a wooden table. In the end they must remain straight. 3. Mix the wheat flour with the rice one and baking Ingredients: powder. • 100g white wheat flour 4. Whisk the egg with cold water and sesame oil. • 2 tablespoons of rice flour (or corn starch) 5. Mix half of the flour mixture with the egg with the • 1 teaspoon of baking powder help of a fork. Do not mix too much as the mixture • 1 big egg should not be homogeneous. Lumps are part of the • 200 ml very cold water recipe! • 1 tablespoon sesame oil 6. Add the rest of the flour mixture and incorporate it • Eggplants, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, courgettes, as above mentioned. onions, bell peppers, carrots to fry 7. Put the mixture in a cold place until you start • Shrimps frying it. • Soy sauce 8. Heat the oil in a thick bottom pan. Vegetables will • Frying oil be fried for about 2 minutes or 2 minutes and half, while the shrimps will be fried for 20 to 30 seconds. Steps: 9. Pass each piece of vegetables through the mixture 1. Prepare the vegetables by washing them. Remove and fry it in the hot oil. Shrimps will be fried the spine and seeds of the vegetables and peel separately (before or after) at a higher heat. the onions. Vegetables are cut into sticks of 5-10 10. Remove the vegetables and shrimps and let them millimeters wide or into rings in the case of onions. drain on a metallic grill or paper napkins. 2. Prepare the shrimps. Clean the outside crust then 11. Serve warm with soy sauce. rip off the head and remove the intestine. Cut the




Okonomiyaki Ingredients: • • • • • • • • •

100g flour 100 ml water 1 egg ¼ boiled cabbage (200-300g) 1 carrot (grated) 1 courgette (grated) 3 green onions (chopped) 4 pieces of bacon Aonori (green nori flakes)

• Okonomiyaki sauce (or Worcestershire sauce) • Mayonnaise


1. Mix the flour with egg and water then add the boiled cabbage, courgette, green onions, bacon pieces and carrot. 2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan. 3. Put the mixture in the pan. 4. Fry each side for about 10 minutes or until it becomes golden. 5. Add some Okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise on top as well as the aonori. You can also add a topping of bacon slices.



Ramen Ingredients: • • • • • • • • • • •


2,5 liters of water 5 sprigs of green onion (chopped) 400g deboned chicken legs 3 garlic cloves (crushed) Some slices of ginger 2 tablespoons of sesame oil 2 tablespoons soy sauce 2 tablespoons of sake (ideal, not obligatory) 2 tablespoons of sugar 1 teaspoon grated ginger 4 boiled eggs


1. Put the water to boil, and add 4 green onions, ginger, 2 crushed garlic cloves and deboned chicken legs. Boil the soup for 10 minutes at low heat. 2. Remove the meat and put it aside. 3. Take the foam out of the soup occasionally, and 3 minutes after you remove the meat, remove the vegetables. Add sesame oil, salt and mix. 4. Cut the chicken legs in big cubes. Mix the sugar with soy sauce, sake (if you use), 1 crushed garlic clove and grated ginger. 5. Pour the composition over the chicken legs cubes and put them in the oven in a heat resistant pot or tray for 20 to 25 minutes at 180ºC or until it is well made. 6. Boil the Ramen noodles for 4 minutes then transfer them to the soup. Over the noodles place some chicken legs cubes, 1 chopped green onion and for each portion of soup, one egg cut in half.


• 1 sprig green onion (finely chopped)

Udon Ingredients: • • • • • • • • • •

100g Japanese Udon noodles 2 garlic cloves (finely chopped) 1 leek (finely chopped) 3 Shiitake mushrooms (dried) 25g miso paste 1 strip Nori algae 2 tablespoons soy sauce Oil Salt Small beech mushrooms


1. Let the Shiitake mushrooms hydrate in hot water for 20 minutes then remove their feet and cut them into slices. 2. In a wok, pour a little oil, add the Shiitake mushrooms and them sauté for a few minutes. 3. Add the finely chopped garlic cloves and leek and cook everything for 1 minute. Add the miso paste and water and bring it to the boiling point. 4. Add the Udon noodles and the soy sauce. Cook at low heat for 10 minutes. 5. Season the soup and decorate it with beech mushrooms, green onion and Nori algae.




2. 3.

Ingredients: • • • • • • • • • • •

800g pork chops (or 4 pieces) 8 slices of white cabbage 1 garlic clove (chopped) 2 tablespoons soy sauce 1 egg (beaten) 120g breadcrumbs (Panko) 100 ml tomato juice 3 tablespoons white wine (or sake) 1 tablespoon sesame seeds 1 teaspoon mustard Oil (for frying)


1. Put the cabbage leaves in cold water for 20 minutes


4. 5.

6. 7.

then cut them in thin slices. Cut the pork chops into thin but long pieces. In a large bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of white wine with a spoonful of soy sauce and garlic. All the mixture must be placed over the pork chops. Allow to marinate for 30 minutes. Fry the sesame seeds in oil until they are well browned. Meanwhile, pass the meat slices through the beaten egg and then through the breadcrumbs until uniform. Put them in the hot oil and fry until they turn golden-brown. To get rid of the surplus oil, place them on some napkins. Prepare the sauce: 1 teaspoon of mustard, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, tomato juice and the remaining wine. Place the meat on a plate and add the fried sesame seeds. Next, place the cabbage slices and add the sauce over them. Enjoy!


Miso Soup Ingredients: • • • • • •

85g miso paste 1 liter of boiled water 30g dried Wakame algae 55g Shiitake mushrooms 250g tofu (cut into cubes) A handful of chopped green onions


1. In a large bowl, mix the miso paste with a little water until the composition becomes liquid. Pour over the rest of the boiled water and mix well. 2. Add the Wakame algae, sliced Shiitake mushrooms, sliced green onions and tofu cubes. 3. Leave the composition aside for about 10 minutes so that the Wakame algae will hydrate well (check the moisture time on the package). 4. Mix again and serve. If needed, heat the soup. For an even more consistent soup, you can add carrots, peppers, celery, white radish or zucchini.

Miso Soup


Shabu Shabu Ingredients: • • • • • • •

2 slices of Kombu algae 2 liters dashi soup 500g beef meat (sliced in very thin slices) 8 Shiitake mushrooms 250g Enoki mushrooms 500g cabbage (cut into thin strips) 500g tofu (cut into cubes and without its juice)


1. Put the Kombu algae on the bottom of a wok or saucepan and cover them with dashi soup. 2. Heat the soup. Just before it begins to boil, pull the Kombu out of it. While on the table, the soup has to slightly boil. 3. Arrange the rest of the ingredients on a large plateau. The guests will pick up whatever they want to serve from the plateau, immerse them in the shabu-shabu soup and shake them in the hot liquid until they are cooked (a few seconds for the beef and a few minutes for the vegetables). 4. If desired, serve with some sauce and hot rice.


Wagashi Ingredients: • • • • • •

1 kg white beans 300 to 500g caster sugar 30g rice flour 45 ml water 15g sugar 600g Shiro-An


1. Let the beans soak in water for at least 24 hours before you start cooking them. 2. Add a lot of water and bring to a simmer (you should leave them for at least 2 hours). Drain the beans and blend them in a food processor. 3. Press the beans through a large sieve then fine sieve to filter out skins and large pieces and collect the paste. Get rid of the excess water. 4. Continue to heat the mixture until it becomes a smooth and moldable paste. 5. Mix the sugar, rice flour and water and let the nerikiri cool. Dye the nerikiri with whatever food dye you want. 6. Shape the Wagashi as you want (Cherry Blossom, Tulip, Lotus, etc.).

Shabu Shabu





Japan Travel



Tokyo Sky Tree


Tokyo Bay with Tokyo Tower

Tokyo at night seen from the Mori Tower


Shibuya District Crossing

Beautiful Ginza District at Night


Tokyo Imperial Palace East Garden

KabukichĹ? red-light district


Nakamise Quarter

Kabukiza Theater

Yasukuni Shinto Shrine

Sensōji Buddhist Temple

Meiji Jingū Shinto Shrine


Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo DisneySEA


Tokyo Imperial Palace

Tokyo Imperial Palace Bridge


Tokyo seen from above

Pokémon Mega Center

Edo Tokyo Museum


Hachikō Statue

Tokyo Tower

Akihabara Electric Town

Sanrio Puroland




Kiomizudera Temple

Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shinto Shrine

Fushimi Inari-Taisha Sembon Torii


Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Three storied Pagoda

Heian Shrine Torii Gate


Silver Pavilion

Golden Pavilion


Maruyama Park

Nishiki Market


Monkey Park Iwatayama

Eikando Zenrinji Temple

Beautiful panorama of a small district from Kyoto


Kyoto International Manga Museum

Kiomizudera Temple

Yasaka-jinja or Gion Shrine

Gion District


Arashiyama Lily Pond and Bridge

Jizo Statues near Sanzen-in Temple




Ebisu Bridge on the DĹ?tonbori Canal

Osaka Castle

Sumiyoshi Taisha Drum Bridge

Osaka Aquarium

ShitennĹ?-ji Temple




Kofuku-ji Temple

Isuien Gardens

Hōryū-ji Temple


TĹ?dai-ji Temple

Nara National Museum


Nara Park

Research Center for Buddhist Art Materials of Nara National Museum

Yakushi-ji Temple




Fudoin Shoro

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum


Itsukushima Shrine Torii Gate

Hiroshima Castle


Shukkei-en gardens

Mitaki-Dera Forest and Temple


Other places


Kegon Falls near Nikko

Matsumoto Castle in Nagano

Sagano Bamboo Forest


Nachi Falls and Shinto Shrine


Hitachi Seaside Park

Kenchō-ji Zen Buddhist Monastery Main Complex

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

Hansōbō shrine at Kenchō-ji in Kamakura

Nagoya Castle

Beautiful landscape of HokkaidĹ? Wharf


Sanmachi Suji District of Takayama

Mount Fuji


Kenrokuen Garden

Hokkaidō’s Blue Pond

Okuno-in Cemetery

Nikko Tosho-gu Shinto Shrine

Okuno-in Cemetery, Koya-san


Nishinomaru Garden

Gokayama World Heritage Site

Shinkyo Bridge


Mount Yake

Mount Nantai near Nikko

Yumoto National Park

Lake Chuzenji


Hida Minzoku Mura Folk Village in Takayama

Kabira Bay by Ishigaki Island


KamikĹ?chi River

Fukuoka Canal City

Sapporo Snow Festival Panorama


DanjĹ?garan Koyasan

Matsue Castle


Korakuen Garden in Okayama

Nagasaki City view from Hamahira

Higashi-hennazaki Lighthouse on Miyako-jima Island (RyĹŤkyĹŤ Islands)

Jufukuji Zen Buddhist Temple Main Gate

Kanazawa Castle


Engaku-ji Temple Complex Main Hall

Hitsujiyama Park


ShĹ?nan Beach

Rice Fields near Sendai


Shirakawa-gō Historic Village

Palace Building of Shuri Castle



Ritsurin Garden on Shikoku Island

Naminoue Beach and Naminoue-gū Shrine

Meoto-Iwa Rocks

Hasedera Temple Complex Main Hall


Yokohama Bay

Hamamatsu Castle


Great Buddha Statue of Kamakura 159

All About Countries - Japan  

This is a Codex where you can find general information (history, nature, people, economy), top personalities, best recipes and at least 100...

All About Countries - Japan  

This is a Codex where you can find general information (history, nature, people, economy), top personalities, best recipes and at least 100...