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[b]Japan - Nippon
[i]InfoPedia Sources - Encyclopedia: Plant and Animal Life[/i][/b]

The trees, shrubs, and flowering plants of Japan are as varied as its topography and climate. Forests cover most of the land surface that has not been cleared by humans. Coniferous, broad-leaved, and mixed forests are the three main types. Pine, cypress, hemlock, cedar, fir, and spruce are commercially valuable conifer. The numerous broad-leaved trees include oak, maple, ash, birch, beech, poplar, chestnut, and horse chestnut. Subtropical forms such as bamboo and palms grow as far north as central Honshu.
Many native plant species have been destroyed or reduced by humans, and new species from the Asian mainland have had to be introduced. Virgin forests have been preserved in limited areas.
Large mammals include bear, badger, otter, mink, deer, fox, and walrus. One monkey, the Japanese macaque, is found as far north as northern Honshu. Adjacent seas are the home of whales and porpoises. Japanese bird species include many water and wading birds, hawks, pheasants, doves, owls, and woodpeckers. Among the reptiles are sea turtles, tortoises, lizards, and snakes. The sea abounds with hundreds of fish species. Salmon, sardine, sea bream, tuna, squid, mackerel, cod, and mullet are among those caught by commercial fishermen. Tropical varieties accompany the warm waters of the Kuroshio as far north as Tokyo Bay. The raising of goldfish and colorful carp (koi) for decorative purposes is a Japanese specialty. Aquaculture, the commercial raising of certain fish, eels, and pearl oysters, is highly developed in Japan.

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[b]Excerpted from Infopedia: The Complete Reference Collection
Copyright © 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 The Learning Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.[/b]

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[b]Japan - Nippon
[i]InfoPedia Sources - Encyclopedia: People[/i][/b]

Japan is the world's eighth most populous country. Its population went beyond the 100 million mark in 1967, and at the 1990 census it had reached 123,612,396. Yet Japan has one of the lowest population growth rates in the world--about 0.3 percent per year.
Japanese population data are incomplete for the period before 1868, when the nation's modern era began. However, the population of Japan is believed to have reached 5 million in the 7th century and 10 million in the 14th century. Official estimates placed the number of Japanese in the mid-19th century at over 30 million. In 1920, when Japan's first census was taken, the country had a population of 55,963,000. In 1940, early in World War II, its population was 73,114,000.
Japan experienced a brief baby boom after World War II, but then the nation's birthrate dropped from a high of 34 per 1,000 in 1947 to about 11 per 1,000 by the end of the 1980s. This was one of the fastest declines ever observed in any country, though similar declines have taken place in other industrialized countries. Japan's death rate has also fallen--to about six per 1,000--largely because of improvements in public health measures, advances in medicine, and the greater availability of modern medical facilities. Average life expectancy in Japan reached 76 years for men and 82 years for women in 1990. A century earlier it was 43 years for men and 44 years for women.
The proportion of young people in Japan has been decreasing. Average family size has also been shrinking: it dropped from about five members in 1955 to about three members per family in 1990. This drop occurred in part because many young married couples were establishing their own households instead of living with their parents in the traditional fashion.
Another reason for this drop in family size was that young couples in Japan were having fewer children. In Japan, abortion is an accepted and widely used means of controlling family size. It is permitted under a 1950 law. Contraception, however, is not popular.

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The Japanese are a fairly homogeneous people--both culturally and racially. They have a single language, and almost all are members of the Mongoloid race. Koreans, the largest alien group in Japan, number about 688,000 (1990 census). The Ainu, a native people of northern Japan, have been almost completely assimilated into the general population of the country. There are between 2 and 3 million burakumin. The term means literally "hamlet people," but this conceals their true status as descendants of outcasts--individuals who engaged in occupations that were declared ritually unclean, such as gravediggers, butchers, or leatherworkers. These people are ethnically Japanese, but they are often victims of discrimination because of their low status in society.
Japan is one of the world's most densely populated countries. By 1993 the population density of the country as a whole was about 855 persons per square mile (330 persons per square kilometer), but if only the urban land area is considered, the density becomes several times greater than it is for the entire land area. The bulk of Japan's people live on the coastal lowlands, which make up a relatively small part of the country's total area.
Japan is one of the most urbanized major countries in Asia. In 1920, more than four fifths of its people still lived in rural areas. In 1993, however, about 77 percent of the Japanese lived in cities.
Japan's greatest concentration of population is in a long belt that extends for 350 miles (560 kilometers) from Tokyo and the Kanto Plain, westward along the Pacific coast through Nagoya and Kyoto, to Osaka and Kobe on the eastern edge of the Inland Sea. Within this belt, called the Tokaido Megalopolis, live about 42 percent of Japan's people. The belt comprises the six of the seven largest cities and a large percentage of the 209 cities with more than 100,000 population. A western extension of the Tokaido Megalopolis has been developing along the Inland Sea and as far as the city of Fukuoka in western Kyushu.

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The Tokaido Megalopolis includes the metropolitan clusters of Tokyo-Kawasaki-Yokohama, Nagoya, and Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto. The largest and fastest growing of these is around Tokyo. Population is actually decreasing within the city limits of Tokyo, but in Tokyo's distant suburbs--where open land is available for the construction of new homes and apartments--the number of people is increasing rapidly. A two-hour commute to work is common for many residents of Greater Tokyo.
The Tokaido Megalopolis contains the principal Japanese centers of industry, business, and finance and Japan's major international ports. It provides most of the job opportunities for migrants from the farms and small towns of Japan. Virtually all leading educational institutions and cultural organizations are located within the Tokyo-Kobe belt. For this reason, perhaps, Japan's difficulties in providing adequate housing, transportation, and social services of all kinds are greatest in the Tokaido Megalopolis.
Many prefectures--political subdivisions, called ken in Japanese--outside the Tokaido Megalopolis and the few other large metropolitan centers have been losing population through out-migration, especially since 1950. The heaviest losses have occurred in Honshu along the Sea of Japan coast and in rural areas north and west of Tokyo, in western and eastern Kyushu, and on Shikoku. Hokkaido, the northernmost large island, was an area of pioneer settlement until the 1930s. It has the lowest population density of any Japanese prefecture.
Four fifths of Japan's people--99,254,000 in 1990--were living on the island of Honshu. Three other major islands of Japan--Kyushu, Hokkaido, and Shikoku--had populations of 13,296,000, 5,644,000, and 4,195,000, respectively.

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[b]Excerpted from Infopedia: The Complete Reference Collection
Copyright © 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 The Learning Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.[/b]

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[b]Japan - Nippon
[i]InfoPedia Sources - Encyclopedia: Culture[/i][/b]

For nearly 2,000 years an intimate relationship existed between Japan and China. During much of Japan's history this relationship to China was that of pupil to teacher. As early as the 1st century AD, Japanese travelers visited the Chinese imperial court. They brought back cultural treasures that enriched Japanese life--the Buddhist religion, Confucian ethics, written language, literature, art, architecture, music, and methods of government.
In the late 19th century the coming of the Industrial Revolution to Asia changed this relationship. Japan emerged from more than two centuries of self-imposed isolation, recognizing that industrialization was a means of gaining equality with the Western powers. Mastering Western techniques, it soon built factories and created a modern army and navy.
Japan has therefore modernized relatively rapidly. Yet there are still contrasts in the everyday life of the Japanese people. Especially striking are the contrasts between the more traditional countryside and the bustling urban centers. Perhaps less than five percent of the Japanese people live in small farming villages called buraku. The way of life of these people has changed, but the traditional patterns established centuries ago can still be observed.
Rural homes are generally small by Western standards, but compared to the cramped apartments and the tiny houses typical of Japanese cities, they seem spacious. The walls are made of a clay-and-straw plaster. Kitchens traditionally had earthen floors, while the floors in the other rooms were covered with wood or reed mats. The stoves used for cooking are made of clay or brick. They are heated with such materials as straw or with compressed natural gas, which has come into widespread use. The toilet facilities are separate from the house. Water is usually obtained from wells.

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The villagers usually live in households that include grandparents and grown sons with their families, as well as the farmer, his wife, and their younger children. When a farmer dies or grows old, his land is passed on to a son, traditionally the eldest. His other sons may inherit money and may stay on the farm. However, most enter occupations in the village or a city.
The chief family responsibilities involve work in the fields. Both men and women spend long days planting, tilling, and harvesting their crops. During the time in each growing season when the rice paddies are flooded, the people work knee-deep in water. Most farmers tend and harvest their crops using modern specialized farm machinery; nevertheless, intense hand labor practices are still widely employed.
The women often work in the fields after they have finished their usual household tasks of cooking, cleaning, and gardening. Children go to school, and schoolwork is their major responsibility. They may help take care of younger brothers and sisters. Grandparents no longer able to do field work look after their grandchildren.
After a hard day's work, the entire family enjoys an evening bath. The large earthenware or cedar bathtub stands in a bathhouse or in the kitchen near the stove. A fire kindled beneath the tub keeps the water hot. Then each family member in turn--beginning with the father--washes and rinses thoroughly before getting into the tub. The water in the tub is used only for soaking since it is shared by all members of the family. On winter days the hot bath gives the farm family its first chance to get really warm.
Japanese villagers are neighborly. The whole village may partake in a wedding or a funeral. All the women prepare food for a village celebration, and every family brings its share. Most village business is handled through agricultural cooperatives which help market the farmers' produce.

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[b]Source[/b]

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[b]Excerpted from Infopedia: The Complete Reference Collection
Copyright © 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 The Learning Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.[/b]

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[b]Japan - Nippon
[i]InfoPedia Sources - Encyclopedia: Inside a Traditional Japanese Home[/i][/b]

Homes generally have a kitchen and three or four other rooms. The walls are lined with bamboo strips. The floors are covered with tatami, woven straw mats 6 feet by 3 feet (1.8 by 0.9 meters) in size. A room's size is stated as the number of tatami required to cover the floor. Among the most common sizes are 4 1/2- and 6-tatami rooms. To keep the tatami clean, the Japanese remove their shoes when entering a house.
Most houses perch on posts that are 2 feet (0.6 meter) high, set on rock foundations. A narrow porch on the sunny side serves as a hall onto which the rooms open. Permanent partitions are rare. Fusuma, or sliding screens made of paper-covered frames, may be closed to create separate rooms or opened to convert the entire house into a single room. Shoji, or sliding outer doors, are pushed back on summer days to let in air and are shut for protection at night.
The light, open construction of such Japanese houses is well suited to a warm climate and to a region where earthquakes destroy heavier structures. However, these houses do not keep out the damp chill of winter. A hibachi (charcoal brazier) serves mainly as a hand warmer. Sometimes a kotatsu (burner) is set into the floor and a table draped with quilts is placed over it. The family gathers around the table to warm their feet and legs under the table.
Furniture in the Japanese home generally consists only of storage chests and low tables. In most homes the family sits on zabuton (low cushions) and sleeps on futons (cotton-filled mattresses). However, many city families have replaced the futon with beds. Both the zabuton and the futon are stored in wall closets when they are not being used, although they must be aired frequently to prevent mildew during the hot, humid summers.
The most important spot in the house is the tokonoma, an alcove containing a low platform which holds a flower arrangement. Above the platform hangs a painted scroll. When callers come, the most honored guest is seated near the tokonoma. Except for the embellished parchment doors between rooms, scrolls and flower arrangements are usually the only decoration found in Japanese homes.
Carefully tended gardens demonstrate the Japanese love of nature. The rooms of a home often open onto a garden through a sliding door. Many Japanese gardens are actually miniature landscapes, with small trees, flowering bushes, pools, streams, and bridges.

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[b]Excerpted from Infopedia: The Complete Reference Collection
Copyright © 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 The Learning Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.[/b]

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[b]Japan - Nippon
[i]InfoPedia Sources - Encyclopedia: Food[/i][/b]

Most Japanese eat three meals a day. Boiled white rice (gohan), the mainstay of the Japanese diet for centuries, is eaten at almost every meal--though rice consumption per capita has declined markedly in favor of such Western staples as potatoes or bread. At breakfast rice is usually supplemented by misoshiru, a bean-paste soup, and tsukemono, pickled vegetables. In the cities, many Japanese have replaced these dishes with bread, butter, and eggs. Lunch is a light meal and may consist of tsukemono, salted fish, and tsukudani, seafood or vegetables cooked and preserved in soy sauce, in addition to rice or noodles.
The evening meal is the most important meal of the day. In most homes it includes vegetables and rice with fish, beef, pork, or chicken. Meat is usually cut into thin strips and fried. It has not been as central in the Japanese diet as in that of Western nations, but meat-eating increased in the late 20th century. Until the late 19th century, Buddhist practice discouraged eating the flesh of four-legged animals. Fish is often served raw. When served this way it is called sushi or sashimi.
The two most popular beverages in Japan are green tea and sake, although coffee is also widely consumed. Tea is drunk during and after meals. It is also served to guests with such snacks as soba, buckwheat noodles, and udon, wheat noodles. Sake, rice wine, is served with meals, at dinner parties, and especially at celebrations such as weddings or holiday feasts.
Chopsticks are the only eating utensils for a traditional Japanese meal, whether formal or informal. Food is served in china or lacquer bowls and on dishes. On important occasions, individual trays are provided. Usually a Japanese family sits around a low table for meals. Western-style breakfasts probably predominate in Japan today. Western fast-food establishments are widespread.

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[b]Excerpted from Infopedia: The Complete Reference Collection
Copyright © 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 The Learning Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.[/b]

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[b]Japan - Nippon
[i]InfoPedia Sources - Encyclopedia: Clothing[/i][/b]

Modern Japanese dress incorporates both Eastern and Western styles. Western clothes, worn by both men and women, are virtually universal. The traditional kimono, a loose-fitting garment with wide sleeves, is now worn principally at home or on certain special occasions. Men's kimonos differ from women's primarily in color and fabric. Women wear their kimonos at ankle length, bound with a sash called an obi. Men's kimonos are shorter and on very formal occasions are worn with a wide, divided skirt called a hakama. A kimono-shaped cloak called a haori may be worn over a kimono by both sexes. The clothes Japanese children wear are much like those worn by children in the United States. Boys wear short or long pants and shirts or sweaters. Girls wear skirts with blouses or sweaters. Japanese girls still wear kimonos for festivals, however.
The Japanese usually wear shoes like those worn in Western nations. However, geta, or wooden clogs, and zori, or rubber or straw sandals, are still worn with kimonos. Socks called tabi are worn with geta and zori. The tabi have a separate place for the big toe--the geta or zori strap is held between it and the other toes. Japanese now wear Western hairstyles. The elaborate hairstyles Japanese women formerly wore are now used only at weddings or by entertainers in the theater and hostesses at geisha houses.

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[b]Excerpted from Infopedia: The Complete Reference Collection
Copyright © 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 The Learning Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.[/b]

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[b]Japan - Nippon
[i]InfoPedia Sources - Encyclopedia: Religious Practices[/i][/b]

Most contemporary Japanese are not members of any formal religion, yet their ethics are strongly Confucian, their concerns with life after death are Buddhist, and their participation in community activities often centers on Shinto celebrations. Shinto is essentially animistic, recognizing millions of kami, or spirits, in nature (see Animism). Because Shinto and Buddhism focus on different aspects of a person's life, most Japanese have no trouble following both Shinto and Buddhist practices.
Shinto, the only religion that originated in Japan, was based on worship of local spirits in nature. Among its many objects of worship were the kami of the creator, the moon, stars, mountains, rivers, waterfalls, seas, winds, fire, and some animals. Shinto became the state religion after the Meiji Restoration of 1868. As such, it assumed that the Japanese were descendants of the sun goddess Amaterasu and members of one family headed by the emperor. The nationalists and militarists who rose to power in the 1930s adapted Shinto to their purposes, telling the Japanese that they were destined to rule all Eastern Asia.
After World War II, state support of Shinto was abolished by the United States occupation authorities, and the emperor renounced claims of his divinity. Today Shinto shrines dot the landscape, and community festivals honoring local kami abound. Shinto is valued because it creates a bond between the individual, his community, and his native land.

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Confucianism is a system of ethics for social relationships, not a religion. It originated in China during the 6th century BC and was introduced into Japan from Korea around the 6th century AD. Its ethical teachings were adopted primarily by the ruling elite. Centuries later, during the Tokugawa era (1603-1868), Confucian principles of absolute obedience to one's father and lord also greatly influenced the samurai. During World War II, Confucianism was used to arouse patriotism. After the war, Confucianism was excluded from the Japanese educational curriculum. Nevertheless, although people in Japan are not strictly Confucian, Japanese ethics and social behavior are still profoundly influenced by Confucian social ethics. (See also Confucius.)
Buddhism arose in India and was introduced into Japan from Korea in the 6th century. Several major branches of Buddhism developed in Japan, including the well-known Zen Buddhism. All branches taught that life continues after death, but each differed on how to find salvation. Buddhism was highly influential in early Japanese history for training the warriors who ruled the country (see Samurai). In contemporary Japan, Buddhist practices center around funerals and later memorial rites for deceased family members.
Christianity was introduced into Japan in the 16th century by Francis Xavier, a Spanish Jesuit. During the Tokugawa shogunate, Japanese Christianity was banned, and tens of thousands of Japanese Christians were killed. After Japan was opened to the West in the 19th century, Christianity was reintroduced, mainly by Protestant missionaries. Japanese Christians tended to become involved in social welfare movements.

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[b]Excerpted from Infopedia: The Complete Reference Collection
Copyright © 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 The Learning Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.[/b]

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[b]Japan - Nippon
[i]InfoPedia Sources - Encyclopedia: The Japanese Language[/i][/b]

The language of Japan has many dialects, and speakers of one dialect do not always understand everything a speaker of another dialect might say. But almost everyone in Japan uses standard Japanese as well as the dialect of his or her home area. Standard Japanese, originally the dialect spoken by the educated people of Tokyo, is now taught and understood throughout the country. Television, radio, and the Japanese educational system played prominent roles in standardizing the speech patterns of the population.
Broadly speaking, the accent in Japanese is musical. To say "bridge" (hashi) in standard Japanese, the voice begins with a low pitch on ha and rises on shi. If the voice is high for ha and low for shi, the word means "chopsticks." The pitch of a word can also change in a sentence. As a word, hi (fire) has a low pitch. But in the sentence Hi ga deta (Fire has broken out), the pitch pattern is high for hi, low for the rest of the sentence.
Japanese sentences are not put together in the same way as sentences in English. For one thing, the verb comes at the end of a statement in Japanese. In Japanese, the word order for "Kenji saw the book" is "Kenji the book saw." In addition, two language particles--wa and wo--are added. Wa often follows the subject of a clause (Kenji). Wo follows the direct object of a verb (the book). So the sentence in Japanese is Kenji wa hon wo mimashita. To make a question of a statement, the particle ka is usually added. Thus Kenji wa hon wo mimashita ka means "Did Kenji read the book?"
In Japanese, different styles of speech are used to show degrees of politeness and familiarity. A plain style is generally used in speaking to close friends. For strangers, a polite style may be used. To show honor and respect, a deferential style is often used toward parents, older people, teachers, and so on. Thus, when meeting a stranger for the first time, the Japanese are very concerned to determine appropriate social distinctions as soon as possible. Different styles are also used in talking about people and things. One of them, the exalted style, is almost entirely limited to references to the emperor and the imperial family.
The Japanese writing system is unique. Chinese characters, called kanji, were adopted by the Japanese more than 1,500 years ago. Because Japanese is very different from Chinese, additional sets of symbols, called kana, were developed, each standing for a syllable rather than a separate consonant or vowel. After World War II the Japanese government modified the system of writing. Kanji were reduced from many thousands of characters to 1,850 basic characters, and their forms were simplified. Many words are written with kanji only. Some words are written with kana (hiragana or katakana) only. And other words are written using both kanji and hiragana.
Most Japanese writing is a mixture of kanji and kana. In newspapers and magazines, Japanese is usually printed from top to bottom, in columns running from right to left. But in many textbooks, Japanese is printed horizontally from left to right. , In the Japanese culture, the surname, or family name, comes before a person's given name.

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[b]Excerpted from Infopedia: The Complete Reference Collection
Copyright © 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 The Learning Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.[/b]

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[b]Japan - Nippon
[i]InfoPedia Sources - Encyclopedia: Architecture and gardens[/i][/b]

Japanese architecture, like painting and sculpture, made its greatest advances following the introduction of Buddhism. As with sculpture, wood was the primary material. The design of traditional Japanese architecture emphasizes horizontal lines. Even in taller structures like pagodas, the use of sloping roofs helps minimize the impression of height.
Great temples and monasteries and feudal castles and palaces are the major architectural monuments. The temples are characterized by vast halls and soaring roofs. Based on Chinese examples, the temples and storied pagodas feature elaborate bracketing systems to support their roofs.
Major constructions mirror the taste of the periods which produced them. Horyu Temple near Nara reflects the simple elegance favored in the 7th century. It is Japan's oldest surviving wooden temple, in a region known for many such national treasures. The Toshogu Shrine in Nikko illustrates the opulence of the Edo period.
Secular architecture of nearly all periods reveals the Japanese love for refined simplicity. Interior and exterior finishes depend on the fine grain of wood and textured stucco.
Handsome gardens are created to so complement the buildings they surround that the landscape and structures appear to be part of one another. Moss, trees, pebbles and rocks may be combined with artificial hills, ponds, and a stream to suggest the natural beauty of a lake, seascape, or mountain waterfall. Profound simplicity is achieved in the garden of Ryoan-ji Temple near Kyoto, for example, by the use of five artfully placed rock formations set in moss in a patterned field of white sand. Whatever its proportions or the materials used, the Japanese garden is designed to invite entry and inspire meditation.

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[b]Excerpted from Infopedia: The Complete Reference Collection
Copyright © 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 The Learning Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.[/b]

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