Japan
Travel to Japan

Japan is one of the most developed countries in the world with a thousand-year history, distinctive culture and traditions. This is a country of contrasts: rice-growing rural hinterland and multimillion-dollar Tokyo, Buddhist monks and fashion-obsessed teenagers, solemn religious rituals and the noise of patinko gambling halls, exquisite temple architecture and multi-storey concrete boxes. Japan is located in East Asia, on 6852 islands. The largest are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku, which make up 97% of the entire territory. The Japanese archipelago originates from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north and extends far south to the East China Sea and the island of Taiwan. Despite the relatively small area – 377,944 km2, the country is densely populated. According to 2018 data, 126,225,000 people live here. According to this indicator, small Japan is inferior to huge Russia by only 17.2 million people.


The unofficial name of Japan, often found in the press– is the Land of the Rising Sun. The Japanese themselves widely use the name "Nihon" in everyday life, which translates as "the birthplace of the Sun". The daylight only once, back in 1945, faded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki – two cities that became targets for American atomic bombs that claimed thousands of lives. Thus, Japan today is the only state on the planet against which nuclear weapons have been used. Having survived this terrible tragedy, she was still able to recover, having built a strong economy over the years. In terms of living standards, according to the Human Development Index (HDI), Japan ranks 10th, ahead of Canada, the Republic of Korea and Hong Kong and behind Switzerland, Sweden and Ireland.


In Japan, they are sensitive to historical continuity, which confirms the existence of the institution of the monarchy as a symbol of the unity of the people. Only in this country and nowhere else is the monarch called the emperor, and this position appeared a very long time ago, back in 660 BC. Despite the external conservatism and adherence to traditions, the Japanese are modern and make great strides in the field of high technology, robotics and biomedicine. The government spends fabulous funds on science – 130 billion US dollars a year. More than 700 thousand scientists are involved in various studies. Among them are 13 Nobel laureates, three winners of the Fields Prize and one recipient of the Gauss.


Surprisingly, with such scientific and technological progress and a high level of urbanization, the Japanese manage to preserve the natural environment. Not to mention the rich heritage of antiquity: castles, palaces, monuments, temples have reached our days almost in their original form. Millions of tourists set foot on this ancient land every year, never ceasing to be interested in the history of Japan, sometimes tragic, and admire local attractions.


What is the secret of the success of an island state located, moreover, in an earthquake-prone zone? Every foreigner answers this question in his own way. Some see the basis of prosperity in the peculiarities of the local mentality, others – in an effective management system, and others - in the actual absence of spending on military purposes. I wonder what kind of solution to this phenomenon you will find for yourself when you visit Japan and get to know this peculiar country.

History of Japan
In the Paleolithic era, the Japanese islands were connected to the mainland by isthmuses. The primitive population was engaged in gathering and hunting and took the first steps towards progress by making stone tools. Local ceramics, which appeared about 10 thousand years ago, is considered the oldest in the world. And in the annals of the Chinese Han Empire (I century A.D.), there are the first mentions of ancient Japan, inhabited by the Wajin people, who had "100 small countries". Already in the IV century, there was a noticeable tendency to unite around one of the states – Yamato, which later became a federation. At the end of the VI century, its ruler Prince Setoku set a course for centralization. In 604, the monarch issued the legendary "Constitution of 17 Articles", where the monarchy was proclaimed the highest authority.

At the same time, there was a strengthening of the samurai, who were accepted to key positions of the imperial court. They positioned themselves as a separate class and often rebelled against the government. The rebellions of some samurai were suppressed by the forces of others, since there was no army as such in the country yet. In the XIV century, the military-feudal system of government, known as the shogunate, declined, and the Hojo dynasty followed the path of even greater centralization. Samurai in the regions did not like this. Uprisings began, which ended with the complete liquidation of the shogunate and the entire mentioned dynasty. Subsequently, in 1338-1573, a new shogunate was established in Japan, known as the Muromachi period, as well as its course towards decentralization.

In the XVI century, European navigators began to visit East Asia. In 1543, they set foot on the Japanese island of Tanegashima and handed over to the local population the secret of firearms, which soon began to be produced throughout the country. The acquaintance of the Japanese with Christianity took place in 1549, when the missionary Francis Xavier arrived here. At the same time, trade with Europe was developing: the Japanese paid for the purchased goods with silver. At the beginning of the XIX century, the country was struck by famine caused by long-term crop failures. But the government did not even think to save the population, but bought rice only for itself, which provoked mass demonstrations of peasants and samurai. The 500-year dominance of the latter in politics and public life ended in 1868, when the opposition to the shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu formed a new government, and he himself was removed from power.

At that time, the Cabinet of Ministers formed the Privy Council, prepared a new version of the Constitution and assembled the Parliament. Thus, a period of political, military and socio-economic transformations began in Japan, named after the 16-year-old emperor by the Meiji Restoration. The reforms ensured the country's industrial dominance in the world and led to military victories over China and Russia, respectively, in 1894-1895 and 1904-1905. Having annexed South Sakhalin, Taiwan and Korea, the powerful island empire became the rightful mistress of the surrounding seas.

The beginning of the XX century was marked by the growth of militaristic and expansionist sentiments in the country. Japan joined the First World War, becoming an ally of the Entente. As a result, its influence increased, territorial acquisitions multiplied. In the occupied Manchuria in the early 30s, Japan formed the quasi-state of Manchukuo, and in the second half of them entered into allied relations with the Third Reich, signing the Anti-Comintern Pact. During the same period, she signed a Mutual Neutrality Pact with the USSR. The document provided for Tokyo's respect for the sovereignty and integrity of Manchukuo and the Mongolian People's Republic. That, however, did not prevent Japan from starting a second war with China. In December 1941, she attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and declared war on the United States and Great Britain. This was followed by the conquest of Hong Kong, Malacca and the Philippines.
Nature of Japan
The local natural landscape is very diverse. Its formation was influenced by the location of Japan on a large archipelago with many stratovolcanoes. 10% of the world's volcanic activity and up to one and a half thousand earthquakes per year in 4-6 points are all local realities. And fluctuations in the soil with a lower magnitude in different regions are a daily phenomenon at all: the population does not even react to periodic trembling of buildings.

The flora of the Japanese islands is no less variegated. Coniferous trees grow in the north. In the center and south there are, respectively, mixed and subtropical forests. In total, there are over 2,700 species of various plants in the country, of which 168 are trees only. The most famous tree in Japan is, of course, sakura. Two-thirds of the archipelago's territory is occupied by forests, as well as shrubby areas and mountain peaks. Landslides and typhoons are frequent here, not to mention earthquakes, which has made these territories unsuitable either for living or for agricultural and industrial activities.

The fauna of Japan is represented by brown bear, ermine, sable, weasel – they are found on the island of Hokkaido. A fox, a wolf, a hare, a raccoon dog, a badger, an otter feel at ease on Honshu. Here and on the southern islands there is a black bear, an antelope, a Japanese macaque and even a giant salamander. Of the birds, we will single out a woodpecker and a chickadee, a swallow and a stork, a black grouse and a hawk, an eagle and an owl, a thrush and a crane: the list is as if we are talking about Russia.

The largest lakes and rivers of Japan, where catfish, carp, lamprey, and eel are found, are located on large islands. Due to the peculiarities of the local landscape, the riverbeds are not very long, barely exceeding 200 km. The longest river in the country is the Shinano, which carries its waters on the island of Honshu. The second longest is Tonegawa: it is actively used for shipping and fishing. Rafting championships are also organized here – sports rafting on mountain rivers. And the waterway of Hokkaido is Ishikari, originating in the mountains. Of the lakes, the largest in Japan is Biwa; its area is 640 km2. Many freshwater reservoirs - Asi, Sinano and others - were formed in the craters of dormant volcanoes. There are salt lakes in the coastal zone. For example, Kasumigaura is the second largest in the country.
Climate and weather
Although Japan is a small country, it has as many as six climatic zones. The temperature regime ranges from fairly cool in the north (Hokkaido Island) to subtropical in the southern regions (Ryukyu Islands, Bonin Islands). Climatic indicators directly depend on seasonal movements of atmospheric air. So, in winter, a north-easterly wind blows from the Sea of Japan, which drives clouds with all the ensuing consequences – heavy snowfalls.

Seasonal winds also determine the weather in the Pacific Ocean area. This area is characterized by rare snowfalls, but winters are cold. Summers are usually humid and hot due to the influence of the seasonal south-easterly wind. In the extreme southwest, as already noted, a subtropical climate prevails. Winter is warm here, and summer is hot. There is a high level of precipitation, and even there is a rainy season. Typhoons are not uncommon.

Weather is a very popular, inexhaustible topic of conversation throughout the year, especially rain, the arrival of which is unpredictable in most cases. For this reason, a sturdy folding umbrella is an indispensable piece of equipment for every enlightened traveler in Japan. If, without an umbrella, you get caught in the pouring rain, take shelter in the nearest shop.

We will start exploring the sights of Japan from the Imperial Palace in Tokyo in a special area of Chiyoda. It functions as the official residence of the head of state, Emperor Akihito, and as a museum where tourists can get acquainted with Japanese history, culture and art. The palace was built on the ruins of the old Edo Castle, destroyed by fire. The residence has many reception halls, and it is surrounded by gardens in the traditional Japanese style.

One of the symbols of Japan and the highest mountain of the country is Fujiyama (or Fuji). The mountain is located on the island of Honshu, 90 km southwest of the capital, its height is 3776 meters. Fujiyama is well recognizable due to its symmetrical cone. This volcano is loved to photograph and is often depicted on souvenirs or paintings. Annually Fujiyama conquers more than 200 thousand people, spending 5-8 hours on the ascent (descent usually takes less time).

But the main symbol of the capital is the Tokyo television Tower, whose height is 332.6 meters. The structure was designed "with an eye" on the Eiffel Tower in Paris: its structure is the same lattice. She appeared 69 years later than her French "sister". The TV tower in Tokyo has become the embodiment of the most modern technologies. Its observation decks offer stunning views not only of the city, but also of the surrounding area. There are shops and restaurants where you can shop and eat delicious food.

Let's move to Kyoto, the capital of Japan from 794 to 1869. Located in the central part of the largest island of Honshu, it is famous for one of the most popular attractions of the country - the Buddhist Temple of the Golden Pavilion or Kinkaku-ji. It was erected at the end of the XIV century, but in 1950 it was burned by a monk who obviously suffered from a mental disorder. In 1955, the temple was restored and is an exact copy of the original. Kinkaku-ji was covered with gold leaf, giving a beautiful reflection in the surrounding pond.

There is also a "Silver Pavilion" or Ginkaku-ji in Kyoto, built in 1483. Only his coating is not really silver – the war that began at that time prevented him from applying the noble metal. The temple was intended for the recreation of Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa. The area where it is located is very quiet, and the surrounding nature is the embodiment of harmony and beauty. For tourists' information: in Japanese temples (only in Kyoto there are about 1600 of them), you should take off your shoes before entering and carefully familiarize yourself with the explanatory signs. Photographing is usually allowed, but it won't hurt to ask the attendants again.

In addition to local sanctuaries, ancient castles are also open to tourists, of which about fifty have been preserved in the Land of the Rising Sun. Many have reached our time almost in their original form, others were destroyed during the Second World War. So, Inuyama Castle (XV century) belongs to the oldest of them. It is just an hour's drive from the port city of Nagoya, the administrative center of Aichi Prefecture. The castle is well preserved, has an original architecture. The object has been given a high status of a National Treasure, which is not awarded to all monuments.
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