Japan, “the land of the rising sun”. Many of us no doubt have heard the phrase regarding this beautiful and enigmatic country but there are few places you will find where tomorrow`s culture and technology truly do ascend so quickly, revealing shades of color that prove fresh and yet still familiar. Soaring skyscrapers of futuristic design overshadow their humble wooden ancestors, the many shrines and old eateries nestled between the urban sprawl. Business men give a courteous ojigi (bow) when parting ways as their train arrives and within minutes of the doors closing, have pulled out their handheld gaming system to soften the long commute home.
It was into this world that I entered 12 years ago for a short trip and after traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto alone to take it all in, I have been enamored with Japan ever since. Although I originally came wide eyed and somewhat naive, intending to satisfy my interests in Karate and Japanese animation, the country has now become my primary missionary post as God gradually continues to reveal the heart of the Japanese people and His love for them to those that will take notice. With that, I want to welcome you to this page that will be an accumulation of information on Japan, from statistics to culture and etiquette. What is found here will be mostly a summary of the topics and points more deeply explored in future blog posts, so check back often and feel free to leave comments or corrections as my own familiarity with this wonderful country continues to grow. So once again, welcome or more appropriately, yokosou!
Country: Japan (Nihon or Nippon in Japanese)
Capital: Tokyo. Previously, the capital was located in Kyoto for over a 1000 years, from 794-1868.
National Anthem: “Kimigayo”. From 1868 to 1945 it was the official anthem for the Empire of Japan and is also one of the world`s shortest currently used. It`s lyrics were created in the Heian period from a waka, a five line poem, and sung to a melody written in the Imperial period, with the current tune being chosen in 1880. The lyrics and translation are as follows:
Chiyo ni yachiyo ni
Iwao to narite
Koke no musu made
May your reign
Continue for a thousand, eight thousand generations,
Until the pebbles
Grow into boulders
Lush with moss
Government: Constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy with the Emperor serving as “the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people”. His role is ceremonial without the sovereignty of before but, still, with the respect.
Emperor and Empress: Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.
Currency: Yen (¥)
Population: 127,960,000 (2011 est.)
Language: Japanese. There are many regional dialects throughout the country called hogen and represented by the ending -ben as in Osaka-ben, which is the speech spoken in Osaka city as well as its prefecture of Kansai. The common variant of the language is called hyojungo or kyotsugo and was initially based on the Tokyo dialect.
Religion: Though a combination of Shinto and Buddhism, originally called Shinbutsu-shūgō, are the traditional spiritual beliefs, recent surveys show that many Japanese say they do not actually believe in any faith. In a 2008 poll 39% of participants said that they “follow a religion” while 49% “do not follow any religion”. Interestingly, according to the poll`s results, there are higher percentages of younger people believing in “something spiritual” or a God than older Japanese. (ref 1. http://www.nhk.or.jp/bunken/english/reports/summary/200905/05.html) Even still, Shinto and Buddhism continue to be represented in everyday customs that stretch back over a thousand years. The Christian population remains in the minority but has increased from 1% to 2% in the last 3 years.