Japan - education
The general goals of the Japanese education system since 1947 have been to
develop the individual's personality, which is especially sought to be achieved
through special moral education. The Japanese education system is characterized
by a stricter discipline and a higher class quotient than in Europe and the
United States, and it is centrally governed, which includes a State
Inspectorate and Authorization of Textbooks.
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The Japanese school year is in primary school of 243 days (1993) against, for
example, the Danish public school's 200 school days. In the public school
system, tuition is free at the compulsory school age.
The school system consists of a municipal preschool for 3-5-year-olds, the yogi,
a six-year elementary school, shogakko, and a
superstructure education in two levels of three-year duration each. The first
level, chugakko, is thus covered by the nine-year compulsory schooling
for 6-15-year-olds. The teaching at the second level of the superstructure education, kotogakko,
which includes vocational subjects, can take place either as full-time studies, zennichisei
katei, or as part-time studies, including evening courses, teijisei
katei, and correspondence courses, tsushinsei katei; the latter
are fragmented to some extent.
In addition to the public school system, there are private schools; they
occupy at the last level of the superstructure education approximately 30% of students
Higher education is offered by universities, daigaku, higher
education institutions, tangi-daigaku, and higher technical
institutions, koto-senmongakko. Admission to more than 500 public as
well as private universities, where the studies are traditional academic
educations, presupposes completed postgraduate education and passed the entrance
examination, designed by the university in question. At the other almost 600
higher education institutions, the majority of which are private and offer
2-3-year studies of humanities, the students are predominantly women.
The over 60 higher technical educational institutions, most of which are
public, include five-year studies in technology and engineering. Many higher
education institutions are closely linked to the private sector. High admission
requirements to the universities have led many to apply to preparatory schools, juku,
which must strengthen the students in passing exams and entrance exams.
Adult education is a growing area; a wide range of educations is offered,
especially through the media, both through the formal system and through more
informal institutions. The teaching, which has so far been organized on the
basis of a six-day week, is gradually moving to a five-day week in the 1990's.
ETYMOLOGY: In Japanese, the land is called Nippon, Nihon, (from Chinese Riben 'Origin of
the Sun', abbreviation of Riben-guo 'the land where the Sun rises', by Marco
Polo interpreted as Zipangu, eventually distorted to Japan).
OFFICIAL NAME: Nihon Koku (The Land where the Sun Rises)
CAPITAL CITY: Tokyo
POPULATION: 126,760,000 (Source: COUNTRYaah)
AREA: 377,812 km²
OFFICIAL LANGUAGE (S): Japanese, Korean, Chinese, others
RELIGION: Shintoists and Buddhists 84%, Christians 1%, others 15%
CURRENCY CODE: JPY
ENGLISH NAME: Japan
POPULATION COMPOSITION: Japanese 99%, others (especially Koreans) 1%
GDP PER residents: $ 39592 (2007)
LIFE EXPECTANCY: men 78 years, women 85 years (2007)
INDEX OF LIVING CONDITIONS, HDI: 0.949
INDEX OF LIVING CONDITIONS, POSITION: 7
INTERNET DOMAIN NAME: .jp
Japan, empire in East Asia, nicknamed the kingdom of the sun,
island kingdom and ancient cultural land with great influence from China
At the end of World War II, Japan was bombed, after the two atomic
bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but since then the country has developed
into the world's second largest economy (after the United States). It is a
central part of the East Asian growth region, but is also integrated into
Western economies, and Japanese capital, know-how and entrepreneurship
characterize a large number of sectors in the world market,
including electronics, cars and shipping.
Japan - culture and lifestyle
Until the downfall of the Japanese bubble economy in the early 1990's, the
country benefited from an image abroad as a peace-loving harmonious culture with
an imitative corporate culture. The image had been created by the Japanese
themselves in previous decades in the so-called nihonjinron literature
("theories of the Japanese"), which in short portrays the Japanese as
being in harmony (wa), in close contact with nature, which values
purity and aesthetics, which is compromise seekers, are collectively minded
and are hardworking, obedient citizens.
Today, the image of the sacrificing industrious Japanese has been replaced by
the image of a new social character, influenced by a Western set of values,
which prioritizes the individual and needs satisfaction higher. Shinjinrui (
"the new man") is the older generation's nickname for the new selfish
The Japanese state seeks to create a different image of Japan through "public
diplomacy" as a modern cultural power, a "soft power" whose cultural capital
lies in the popular arts, where Japan must be said to be the leader: manga (comics), anime (cartoons)
and computer games. "Cool Japan". Unlike the elitist-aesthetic art forms of
earlier times, such as the ceremony, ikebana (flower arrangements), bonsai (miniature tree), origami (paper
art), ceramics and calligraphy.
The family with three generations under the same roof largely no longer
exists. The mother who takes care of children, household and grandparents, and
the father who works hard. Up to a third of both sexes do not want to get
married at all, and the birth rate is so low that Japan is shrinking. The number
of older people who also experience loneliness is growing proportionally.
At the same time, Japan has experienced earthquakes (Kobe 1995 and Tohoku
2011), which have put the unity to the test. It must be said, however, that the
last in 2011, which began as an earthquake, was a tsunami and hit the Fukushima
nuclear power plant with subsequent radioactive release, showed the unity and
courage of the population, while state power failed.
The Japanese perception of the different character and obligations of the
sexes has been strongly influenced by Confucian principles, which were
formulated in the moral code of the Tokugawa period. Obedience, gentleness,
chastity, compassion and silence were the ideal virtues for women and the
starting point for the desired harmony in the relationship between the
sexes. During the Meiji Restoration, the position of women was debated, but the
legislation of 1898 resulted in ie, the traditional Japanese
multigenerational family, where a male head had full authority, was made the
legal entity of society. Patriarchal custom, in which women were legally
considered minors, was thereby made law. Agitation for the rights of Japanese
women in the early 1900's. was swept off the table with the nationalist
mobilization of the 1930's. In the late 1930's, the organizations The Women's
Patriotic Society and the National Defense Women's Association had a total of
over 11 million. members. The aim was to strengthen the "family state" and
promote the duty of women to provide support for war efforts.
Since the years of occupation, women have enjoyed full political and legal
equality, but they are still under-represented in the political system. In
contrast, women play an important role in grassroots movements and in the more
aesthetically-ceremonial parts of Japanese culture. Japanese women are generally
well-educated, but in higher education, male students dominate the four-year
university degrees, while women are mainly sent to two-year universities, where
the subjects literature, child rearing and home economics dominate. Female labor
played a major role in the industrialization of Japan, especially in the textile
industry, and continues to play a major role in the rapidly growing service
sector. Women make up just under half of the workforce, but as it is common, and
Japan - language
Official language is Japanese, whose location in the Altaic language family
is disputed. I 400-t. borrowed the Chinese script, which over the next centuries
was adapted to the Japanese language structure by developing an additional sound
alphabet, kana, a common name for the alphabets hiragana and katakana. The
default language, hyojungo, is based on the Tokyo
dialect. Minorities speak Chinese and Korean, while Ainu
is no longer used as a daily language. English is a compulsory subject in
Japan - religions
Most Japanese are followers of two religions, Shinto and Buddhism. Both of
these religions are not averse to other faiths. They are inclusive.
The prevalence and the inclusion often appear on the ritual side of the
religions; for example, the ceremonies at birth and weddings take place at
Shinto shrines, while burials are performed from Buddhist temples.
According to statistics (2019), Japan's most important religions have the
following figures for followers:
||Number in millions
However, when it comes to personal relationships, only one-third consider
themselves religious. Especially after World War II, secularization has gained
momentum. Common to Japanese religions are ancestral worship, purity precepts,
and the notion of the reward of believers in this world.
Compared to the country's total population (approximately 126 million), this
shows that most Japanese are both Shinto and Buddhist, a result of religious
Shinto is the national religion of the country with roots in ancient kami
cult; it can be traced back 2000 years, where it was expressed through fertility
cult, nature worship and ancestral worship. Shinto first appears as a religion
with the sacred scriptures Kojiki and Nihongi, after Buddhism
had come from mainland Asia, and for long periods it was subject to Buddhism.
It has been strongest among the rice-growing rural population, as the
greatest god (kami) is the sun goddess Amaterasu, but also fishermen
have worshiped Shinto gods, for example in Izumo. It was not until the 19th
century, when Japan opened up to Western influence, sought its own roots and
emphasized the imperial lineage of the emperor, that Buddhism was swept aside
and Shinto was introduced as the state religion. Many temples were divided into
Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples.
Until the end of World War II in 1945, Shinto was the dominant religion. With
Japan's defeat, state shinto was made illegal, and the emperor renounced his
divinity. Today, Japan has a constitutional freedom of religion, and Shinto is
given the same rights as other religions, but doubts have been raised about the
real separation of Shinto and the Japanese state; most recently, the
relationship was debated at the coronation of Emperor Naruhito in 2019
Today, the importance of Shinto in the population is diminishing, but
Buddhism came in the 5th century from India via China and Korea to Japan,
mainly in the form of Mahayana Buddhism. The introduction of Buddhism is
usually set at 552, but despite the large-scale attempts of various emperors to
make Buddhism the country's religion, the first directions of Buddhism did not
succeed in becoming popular. Prince Shotoku, in his 17 points (principles of a
Japanese constitution) from 604 Buddhism to state religion, however, strongly
mixed with Confucianism.
In the Nara period (710-794) there were six different directions, but a real
development of Buddhism on Japanese soil did not happen until the next two
periods, Heian (794-1185) and Kamakura (1185-1333). In the Heian period, new
directions from China gained ground in the form of Tenda Buddhism and Shingon
Buddhism. Buddhism was not yet popular, with the Tendai monks on Mount
Hiibo outside Kyoto and the Shingon monks on Mount Koya south of Osaka
dominating. Hieibjerget is considered the hotbed of Japanese Buddhism,
as the religious innovators of the Kamakura period were all educated within the
broad Tenda Buddhism.
Buddhism first spread to all the people during the Kamakura period, when the
five great religious innovators lived: Honen (1133-1212) and Shinran (1173-1263)
within Pure Land Buddhism, Eisai (1141-1215) and Dogen (1200 -1253) within Zen
Buddhism and Nichiren (1222-1282), the direction of which is simply called
Nichiren Buddhism. The directions gained so much worldly power that they posed a
threat to the authorities. During the Muromachi-Monoyama periods (1333-1603),
Japan's history was marked by civil war, and especially Shin Buddhism, a
direction under Pure Land Buddhism founded by Shinran, showed its influence in
several peasant uprisings. Zen Buddhism gained a more elitist position; it
became the favorite religion of the samurai class and thus in periods state
religion, eg Rinzai-zen in the Muromachi period.
In the period up to the beginning of the Tokugawa shogunate (1603-1868), the
power of Buddhism was broken by the shoguns Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and Ieyasu. In
1571, Nobunaga burned down the temples of Mount Hiibi and in 1580 captured the
stronghold of Shin Buddhism, Ishiyama Honganji, the origin of
Osaka. Christianity had come to Japan in 1549, and after first enjoying the
goodwill of local princes, Hideyoshi banned it for the first time in 1587,
without, however, the ban being enforced; Ieyasu renewed it in 1614. To
thoroughly bring Christianity to life, the Danka system was introduced .,
which meant that all families in Japan had to be registered as belonging to a
Buddhist temple. The affiliation had to be confirmed once a year and in effect
made Buddhism the henchman of the state. Not only was it a matter of religious
coercion and a way of holding a census, but Buddhist priests recorded all
births, deaths, marriages, travels, and changes in residence and
employment. Apparently Buddhism gained great power, but it was to some extent
subjected to hatred by the population and thereby petrified in its
development. In response, a nascent Shinto renaissance emerged in the late 18th
century as a prelude to Shinto's resurgence in the Meiji period (1868-1912). In
the middle of the 19th century, therefore, Buddhism was very weakened.
Today, the importance of Buddhism among the Japanese is declining.
Confucianism came to Japan with the great cultural influence of China in the
5th century. It has meant a lot to Japanese ethics, but there has been no real
Confucian cult. Most often, Confucianism has functioned in alliance with
religious directions, thus with Zen Buddhism in bushido, the moral
code of the samurai class, and with shinto in the modern version of state shinto
1890-1945. Its most important period was the Tokugawa era, when it was the
ideology of the state, and there was a system of Confucian centers of learning, seido,
for the education of the local and central government.
In education, Confucianism has played a very large role. The nationalist
moral education of the 1930's, shushin, was strongly influenced by
Confucianism. Today's teaching of ethics, dotoku, shows remnants of
Confucian influence. Only after World War II has Western morality really become
Religious Daoism is another Chinese cultural tradition that came to Japan in
the 5th century. A "Yin-yang Ministry" (Onyo-ryo) was established to deal with
the metaphysics of Daoism at the state level, ie. interpretation of happy and
unhappy days and the like. This knowledge was eventually incorporated into
Shinto and lies, for example, behind the earth-cleansing ceremonies (jichinsai)
that Shinto priests perform before the construction of new houses begins even
has three times embarked on a large-scale mission in Japan: In the "Christian
century" beginning with the arrival of the Jesuits in Japan in 1549, in the
Meiji era and after World War II. The first attempt was most successful, with an
estimated 300,000 Japanese becoming Christians in 60 years, approximately 2% of the
country's population. When rumors arose that European powers would subjugate
Japan, the shoguns turned against Christianity, which they considered a danger
to the country's security. From the middle of the 17th century until 1853, Japan
chose to isolate itself from the outside world, as only a Dutch trading post on
the artificial island of Deshima in Nagasaki was allowed to trade with the West
The ban on Christianity was maintained until 1873, when American and European
pressure led the government to lift it. Earlier, in 1865, a group of "hidden
Christians" had made themselves known in Nagasaki, and deportations of members
of the group helped increase pressure on the government. In the ensuing time,
many, mostly well-educated, converted to Christianity, but around 1890, Shinto
was defined as Japan's spiritual foundation, and Japan took a more hostile
stance toward Western influences. The Christian congregations that were formed
came into Japanese hands as the missionaries ceased their work. Among the
Japanese Christians with great influence was Uchimura Kanzo, who founded a
Japaneseized form of Christianity without a church.
After World War II, a "Christian boom" followed in 1945-51. Foreign churches,
especially American ones, sent massive material aid to poor Japan; but after the
end of the occupation in 1952, Buddhism and Shinto regained some of their
influence, and the missionary work of the churches was gradually shifted to
dialogue work with Buddhism and Shinto. Today, quite a few Japanese are
Christians, but Christianity has left strong traces in the education system,
trade union movements and social legislation.
Christianity today is showing an increase in the number of followers.
The Japanese call the new religions shinshukyo. They include a
number of religions dating back to the early 1800's. They are called "new" as
they are in opposition to directions within the established religions and often
The oldest, which stem from the social unrest of the late Tokugawa era,
include Tenri-kyo and Konko-kyo, influenced by Shinto. In the spring,
Ontake-kyo, a religion characterized by Shugendo, Itto-en and Omoto-kyo
to. In the 1930's, the latter messianic religion became the starting point for a
new series of religions, including Seicho-no-ie, who claims that all religions
are one and the same. The period leading up to World War II was rich in new
religions, although the state's persecution of many of them was strong:
Reiyukai, a Buddhist religion with a strong emphasis on ancestral worship,
Perfect Liberty Kyodan (PL), characterized by faith healing, Gedatsukai with a
background in shingon Buddhism and shugendo, Soka Gakkaiwithin nichiren Buddhism
and Rissho Kosei Kai, building on the Lotus Sutra. Of these, Soka Gakkai was by
far the most influential after World War II.
With religious freedom, the number of new religions has increased since 1945.
Among them is Tensho Kotai Jingu-kyo, the "dance religion" founded by Kitamura
Sayo (1900-1967), a woman with roots in the shamanistic tradition in
Japan. Incidentally, many of the new religions have female founders.
In the 1970's and 1980's, another wave, called "new" new religions (Shinshinshukyo),
including Mahikari, based on Shinto, and Agonshu, which is influenced by Shingon
Buddhism. Moreover, Happy Science ("Kofuku no Kagaku") in the 1990's, influenced
Finally, Aum Shinrikyo, an eschatological movement mixed with Hinduism and
Buddhism, founded by Shoko Asahara. In 1995, Aum carried out a much-publicized
religious-terrorist act, a poison gas attack on a Tokyo subway station. Aum
Shinrikyo's actions sparked a public debate on the control of the new religions
and thus on the constitutional freedom of religion, as well as thoughts on
better information to the youth about the working methods of the new
religions. The debate has resulted in changes in the registration of religions,
which are now extended to the entire nation, as well as options for monitoring
Japan - constitution and political system
Japan is a constitutional monarchy. The 1947 Constitution, with subsequent
amendments, obliges Japan to abstain forever from going to war to resolve
international conflicts; however, the country must act in self-defense. The
emperor, no longer considered divine, is the representative head of state, but
without political power. He must seek the advice and approval of the government
in the performance of his duties.
Legislative power lies with a bicameral parliament, the Kokkai. There
is universal suffrage and the voting age is 20 years. The lower house, the House
of Representatives, has, after changes in 1994, 500 members elected for
four years. 300 members are elected in single-member constituencies, and 200 are
elected by proportional representation in the country's 11 regions; there is a
cut-off limit of 2%.
The Upper House, the Advisory Assembly, has 252 members elected for
six years. 100 members are elected according to party lists in proportional
representation elections, and 152 are elected in personal elections in 47
constituencies that coincide with the country's administrative units. Each voter
has two votes in elections to the upper house; half of the seats are up for
election every three years.
The lower house has a much stronger position than the upper house; it must
thus, for example, have the Finance Act for consideration first. If the upper
house either fails to take a position within 30 days or votes against a budget
bill passed by the lower house, or if it fails to reach an agreement in a joint
committee set up by the two houses, a budget bill passed by the lower house by
The same procedure applies to the definition of foreign policy and the
conclusion of treaties. About law generally applies that if the upper house
either veto or fails to decide within 60 days after the lower house has passed a
bill, it becomes law, if passed the second time by the lower house by at least 2/3 majority.
The executive power lies with the Prime Minister and the other members of the
government. The government is collectively accountable to parliament. The Prime
Minister is appointed by Parliament. If there is disagreement between the lower
house and the upper house about the election of a prime minister, and if
agreement cannot be reached through the establishment of a joint committee, or
if the upper house has not appointed anyone to the post within ten days of the
lower house having made its election, the House of Commons' proposal that
The Prime Minister appoints and dismisses the other ministers, a majority of
whom are to come from Parliament. If the lower house casts a no-confidence
motion, the entire government will resign unless the lower house is dissolved
within ten days.
The Prime Minister submits bills, reports on national and international
affairs to Parliament and controls and monitors the various administrative
bodies. All laws and government decrees must be signed by the Minister
responsible for the area and countersigned by the Prime Minister.
Japan - political parties
After a period after World War II with floating borders between the parties,
the Japanese party system in 1955 adopted a fixed structure that remained
relatively unchanged until 1993. In October 1955, the majority of the
parliament's progressive members gathered in a united socialist party, Nihon
Shakaito (Japan Socialist Party, JSP), and the following month the
Conservatives of the Liberal Democratic Party, Jiyu Minshuto (Liberal
Democratic Party (LDP)).
When it then did not develop into a real two-party system, it was because the
LDP usually had a majority in parliament, while JSP that throughout the period
was the largest opposition party, the highest level of 1/3 of
the seats. The LDP held government until 1993.
In 1959 formed a splinter group from the JSP the Democratic Socialist Party, Minshato (Democratic
Socialist Party, DSP), and in 1964 was a completely new party, Komeito (Clean
Government Party), related to the Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai, which the
opposition more were fragmented. The Japanese Communist Party, Nihon
kyosanto (Japan Communist Party, JCP), has played only a small role in
It was the LDP that implemented the economic growth policy that was to become
the background for the "Japanese miracle", but the party did not form a
homogeneous group. It was divided into a number of factions, but the desire to
retain government power ensured unity. Also JSP was factional and at times
paralyzed by ideological strife.
The basis of the LDP's position of power has been the close links with the
bureaucracy and the world of finance and business. This was reflected in the
economic policies pursued, but at the same time resulted in a series of
corruption scandals that weakened confidence in the political
system. Contributing to this was an electoral law that, at the expense of the
cities, favored the country, which is the stronghold of the LDP.
In 1993, a growing demand for political reform triggered a crisis that led to
a split of the LDP and the formation of a number of new parties: Shinseito,
Nihon-shinto (Japan New Party, JNP) and Sakigake. Since 1993, the
political situation has been marked by the formation of new parties and new
names for old ones.
As early as 1991, the JSP changed its English name to the Social Democratic
Party of Japan, SDPJ, and in 1996 to the SDP, the Social Democratic Party. At an
extraordinary party congress in 1995, the party was reorganized as a new
democratic-liberal party. The party chairman, Murayama Tomiichi (b. 1924), was
prime minister of a coalition government consisting of the SDPJ, LDP and
Sakigake in 1994-96.
Until 2001, the LDP ruled with changing coalition partners, but in
2001, Koizumi Junichiro became the new leader of the party, and his unorthodox
style heralded new times, rewarding voters with a victory for the LPD. Progress,
however, was relatively short-lived, and not least the new party DPJ, which had
been formed in 1998 when several opposition parties merged, proved to be a
After the LDP had declined in several elections and in addition had almost
annual leadership changes, the party suffered defeat in the August 2009
election, while the DPJ won a historic election victory and was able to take
over government power.
Japan - economy
Japan has had one of the fastest growing economies in the world since World
War II, and it is now surpassed only by the United States.
While Japan's gross domestic product in 1965 amounted to approximately 10% of the
United States, the share had risen to almost 60% in the early 1990's.
The development, which was particularly rapid in the 1960's (10% per year), is
not least due to a growth-oriented economic policy, which has been based on
implicit planning for both the private and the public sector, in competition
restrictions as well as in artificially low interest rates and direct control of
the financial sector's lending.
While enterprise policy, coordinated by the important Ministry of
International Trade and Industry (MITI), has not been peculiar to Japan, its
effect has certainly been fostered by the close cultural and institutional ties
that exist among business leaders, politicians and government officials.
The cohesion is obvious in the large industrial companies, which is
characterized by the conclusion of formal or informal agreements with the
wholesale and retail trade, the so-called keiretsu, by the absence of
hostile takeovers and by lifelong employment relationships for employees.
It is not least the export sector that has been the driving force in economic
progress. Until 2005, the United States was Japan's most important trading
partner, and the marked strengthening of the dollar in the first half of the
1980's meant further progress for the Japanese economy at a time marked by weak
growth in the rest of the world economy and a tightening of it. Japanese fiscal
policy with a view to correcting large budget deficits.
However, the collapse of the dollar in 1985 caused problems for
competitiveness, and growth fell below 3% in 1986. The slowdown was addressed
through an expansive policy, and the economy grew in the years up to 1990 by
more than 5% on average. Among other things. as a result of a very lenient
credit policy, property prices and stock prices rose dramatically.
When the government tightened monetary policy again in 1990, the financial
sector entered a serious crisis and the economy was characterized by a generally
negative mood. In the 1990's, annual growth was only 1.7%, and in order to revive
the economy, the government has since implemented several fiscal easing
measures, just as monetary policy key interest rates have been lowered to a
historically low level. But only after the Asian crisis in 1997 and the
international recession around 2000 did growth reach 2% (2004).
Although the economy has thus been weak for a number of years, unemployment
rose from only 2.1% in 1991 to approximately 3% in 1996 and 5.5% in 2003, falling to
4.4% in 2005, reflecting the specificities of the Japanese labor market.
The low economic growth combined with the expansive fiscal policy has meant
that the government has once again had to face considerable budget deficits
since the 1990's; the deficit is planned to be eliminated until 2011, after which
the general government gross debt (158% of gross domestic product in 2005) can
One means of achieving this could be cuts in public employment, and it was
decided in 2005 to privatize the postal service, which with 400,000 employees
also runs a financial business and is the country's largest employer.
As part of the general liberalization of the world economy, the Japanese
government also followed a clearly more market-oriented line from the 1980's
onwards in the form of trade liberalisations, deregulation of the financial
sector and the privatization of a number of state-owned enterprises.
This line continued in the 1990's, where the keiretsu-dominated
distribution system was sought to be reformed. This also aims to give foreign
companies greater access to the Japanese market.
It has been a major problem in particular that for decades Japan has even had
extremely large trade surpluses vis-à-vis the United States. This relationship
has periodically led to tensions in the relationship between the two economic
superpowers and culminated in the mid-1990's with threats of an actual trade war.
However, the conflict was averted with a bilateral framework agreement on a new
economic partnership, which should open up for increasing Japanese
imports of American goods in the automotive industry. Nevertheless, the annual
profit grew from approximately 50 billion dollars in the early 1990's to 69
billion. dollars in 2005.
Unlike the public sector, the private sector has a permanently large savings
surplus, and steady surpluses on the balance of payments since 1981 have made
Japan the world's largest credit nation. A large part of the receivable consists
of direct investment abroad, and while most of it was made in other OECD
countries until the end of the 1980's in order to avoid the formal trade
barriers, they have since been increasingly channeled into the newly
industrialized countries in the Far East.
This development is also reflected in foreign trade; In 2002, the ASEAN
countries, as well as China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan, represented 42%
of Japan's foreign trade.
Denmark's exports to Japan in 2005 amounted to DKK 11.5 billion. DKK, and
imports amounted to 4.4 billion. At 44%, meat was by far the most important
Danish export product. Medical and pharmaceutical products accounted for 18%. Of
imports, vehicles were 29%.
Japan - social conditions
Japan has experienced high economic growth since World War II. Also in the
development within life expectancy, level of education and gross domestic
product per. per capita, measured by the so-called Human Development Index,
Japan ranks at the top. The people of Japan thus live in one of the richest
countries in the world, which has managed to distribute its wealth so that Japan
appears as a relatively egalitarian society. However, the economic crisis in the
1990's has meant increasing inequality, e.g. as a result of property speculation
and increased housing costs.
The Japanese welfare system combines Western European systems with
traditional Asian values that emphasize the family as the basic unit. Japan's
social system covers three main areas: health, pensions and unemployment and is
a combination of public services and private savings from companies and
employees. In addition, there is a network of day care institutions that provide
childcare. However, assistance to the poor or others in need is often made
dependent on family relationships.
In the coming years, Japan will face a concrete problem in the social field:
the rapidly aging population. In 1995, the elderly over the age of 65 accounted
for 14.8% of the total population. According to the UN, this figure will
increase to 25% by the year 2020, which will mean sharply increased expenses for
pensions, nursing homes and medicines.
Japan (Health Conditions)
Life expectancy in 1995 had risen to 83 years for women and 76 years for men,
the highest in the world. Infant mortality is the lowest with approximately fire
pr. 1000 live births.
Japan differs markedly from other industrialized countries in terms of
disease panorama. Compared to Australia and New Zealand, whose morbidity
conditions are very similar to NW Europe, there is 3-4 times lower mortality
from breast cancer, twice as high mortality due to chronic liver diseases
incl. liver cancer and four times higher mortality from gastric cancer, while
the mortality from coronary artery disease is 4-5 times less in Japan. It is
likely that both the high incidence of stomach cancer and the low incidence of
heart disease are related to living conditions, especially dietary habits, which
is reinforced by the fact that Japanese compared to northwestern Europeans
gnsntl. have a low level of cholesterol in the blood.
Over 50% of adult Japanese men smoke, while under 20% of women do. The
mortality rate from lung cancer for both sexes is less than half of the Danish.
Japan uses approximately 6% of GDP in the health care system, ie. about the same as
Denmark, and approximately 30% of all public spending goes to health care. The entire
population is partially covered in case of illness, almost completely at
hospitalization. In total, the public sector covers approximately 70% of all health
care costs. The majority of the other expenses are covered by various insurance
systems paid for by the employers. In virtually all parts of the healthcare
system, however, there is a certain deductible for patients. Japan has
approximately 15 hospital beds per. 1000 residents, I.e. three times as many as in
Denmark. In 1992 there were approximately 10,000 hospitals with more than 20
beds; approximately 3/4 of these hospitals were private. In
addition, in the same year there were approximately 80,000 clinics with fewer than 20
beds; by far the majority were private. There are 1.6 doctors and 1.8 nurses
per. 1000 residents
Japan - legal system
The rules of social cohabitation between people that applied in Japan before
the influence of Western law consisted essentially of giri. These were
conventional rules that were complied with due to strong social pressure, see
the Far Eastern legal family. Shortly before 1900, law books were introduced
after the mainly German model, including a civil, a commercial and a civil
process law book. Japanese jurisprudence also oriented itself towards the
dogmatic German of the time, the historical school. German-influenced law was
introduced despite the great difficulties involved in reproducing Western legal
ideas and rules of law in Japanese, which are so rich in poetic associations,
but in return without legal terms. It can still be difficult to express an exact
legal mindset in Japanese.
After World War II, Japanese law came under American influence. A new
constitution was introduced, which was influenced by the United States and aimed
at strengthening the position of the courts and introducing human rights. A
corporation, monopoly and stock exchange law was enacted following the American
pattern, and the German legal method was supplemented by the more open,
society-oriented American jurisprudence.
However, the court is still a rarely used means of resolving social conflicts
in Japan. The Western ideas of legal logic and consequence and of equality
between the people on which modern Japanese law is based have not taken root in
the Japanese people. The laws that were created in Western Europe in the 1800's
are based on the belief of the individual initiative; it was the free initiative
that created industry and trade. In Japan, on the other hand, the government
entrusted the former feudal lords with building up companies. They were the ones
who created the flourishing industry, while preserving the old ties to the
family, the village and the workplace, the basis of the giri, which
still exists. It is not the process before the courts, but the out-of-court
settlement that decides the conflicts. Such settlements are often made by
negotiation between prominent members of the two parties' families or between
other "superiors" whom the parties trust. For the few cases that are brought
before the courts, there are special conciliation commissions that bring a large
part of the brought cases to conciliation.
In the late 1900-t. however, the Japanese have begun to show interest in
justice and the administration of justice. Lawsuits about industrial companies'
product liability and pollution of the environment have aroused great interest
among many Japanese. When so few cases are still being heard in the Japanese
courts, this is partly due to the fact that they are understaffed and that the
number of lawyers is also modest. It is claimed to be the policy of the
government to keep the administration of justice on a weak flame; thus, the
people are forced to resolve their disputes by conciliation.
The "Self-Defense Forces" peacekeeping force is (2006) 239,900, with 148,200
in the land forces, 34,600 in the maritime forces, 9800 in the maritime air
forces and 45,600 in the air forces. The reserve is 44,395. The forces are
equipped with a mix of newer Japanese-made and other Western, primarily American
equipment. The Japanese-produced share is increasing. The composition of the
forces reflects the geography and location of Japan; thus, the maritime forces
and the air forces are relatively large. The air forces are dominated by fighter
jets rather than fighter bombers. In addition, a coast guard of 12,250.
The Japanese Empire was demilitarized after World War II, but in 1954
the Eisenhower administration believed that Japan was ripe to have armed forces
again. In order not to offend the victims of Japanese expansionism before and
during World War II, the euphemistic term JSDF (Japan Self-Defense Forces)
was chosen. Article 9 of Japan's new constitution otherwise prohibits Japan from
maintaining its army, navy and air force. Pacifist forces in Japan have over
time charged changing governments with violating the constitution, even though
the "guards" are called the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (Army), Japan
Maritime Self-Defense Force (Navy) and Japan Air Self-Defense Force (Air
In 1998, North Korea fired a Taepodong-1 missile over Japan and
North Korea is in possession of nuclear weapons. In 2004 agreed the United
States and Japan to establish a missile defense (BMD: Ballistic missile
defense) consisting of Standard Missile 3 on four Aegis - destroyers of Congo -class
as well as land-based Patriot Advanced Capability 3 surface to air
missiles. On 28 March 2003, the otherwise civilian Japanese space
program launched the first Information Gathering Satellite, which
spied on North Korea with radar. It has since become a total of four spy
satellites, two optical and two radar-equipped.
Japan (Trade Union Movement)
In the period before the end of World War II, the labor movement had poor
opportunities for development due to authoritarian rule. The first national
organization, Sodomei, emerged in 1921, but its importance did not
become great, and by 1940 all trade unions were banned.
After World War II, a new trade union movement was created on the basis of
trade union laws and constitutional provisions. In the first post-war years,
approximately 40% organized; since then, the trade union movement has split in
different directions, with the trade unions in particular standing outside the
national organizations. The trade union movement is heavily politicized, and
until 1987, Sohyo, affiliated with the Socialist Party, was the
strongest national organization, while the second largest, the Domei,
had links to the Democratic Socialist Party, the DSP.
1987-89, by merging four national organizations, a new one was created, Rengo,
which declared itself independent of parties but sought to develop an active
opposition to the dominant liberal-democratic party. There were several reasons
for the association, including the general weakening of the trade union
movement, as the degree of organization in 1989 had fallen to approximately 26% and
since then has fallen further. In 1995, Rengo, which is affiliated with Frie
Faglige Internationale, had approximately DKK 8 million. members, almost 2/3 of
all unionized. In opposition to Rengo's moderate policy, the national
organization Zenroren was also established in 1989, which has an
anti-capitalist aim and cooperates with the Japanese Communist Party. Zenroren
claims to have approximately 1.5 million members predominantly in the public
sector. In both the private and the public sector, there are also a number of
smaller unions, which together have approximately 3 mio. members. The degree of
organization varies from industry to industry with the public employees as the
Characteristic features are the many business unions that often cooperate
closely with the company management, and that the national organizations are
weak in relation to the affiliated organizations. The Japanese trade union
movement was in significant difficulty in the second half of the 1990's due to
the economic crisis.
Japan - mass media
Japan - Mass Media, Print Mass Media
The Japanese press is young, and it was not until around the 1880's that
newspapers of international standard began to appear. Yet for decades the press
has been among the world's leaders in terms of both circulation and circulation.
The good hundred dailies have a total circulation of approximately 70
million (2005), and thus Japan is one of the countries in the world where the
most newspapers are published per. per capita, namely 573 per. 1000 residents
The newspaper market is fairly stable with steadily increasing circulation
despite competition from the electronic media. The three largest and most
influential dailies, Asahi Shimbun, grdl. 1879 with a circulation of 11.8
million. (2005), Mainichi Shimbun, grdl. 1882 with a circulation of 5.5
million. (2005), and Yomiuri Shimbun, grdl. 1874 with a circulation of 13.9
million. (2005), together accounts for approximately 45% of the total circulation.
Like many other Japanese dailies, these three major Tokyo newspapers are
published both morning and afternoon and also have regional, local and
English-language editions. None of them have any particular party political
affiliation. Other large and influential dailies are the business and financial
magazines Nihon Keizai Shimbun, grdl. 1876 with a circulation of 4.6
million. (2005), and Sankei Shimbun, grdl. 1933 with a circulation of 2.8
Economically and technically, Japan's newspaper industry is one of the world
leaders. Over 90% of the dailies are sold by subscription with an efficient
distribution system. The press is privately owned, and large media groups
dominate the market.
For many years, criticism of powerful figures in politics and business was
unheard of in the Japanese press, but in the wake of increasing
internationalization, more critical journalism has begun to gain ground. The
largest news agency is Kyodo News (grdl. 1945).
Electronic mass media
The Japanese are also major consumers of electronic media. Every Japanese
over the age of seven spends an average of over three hours in front of the TV
screen every day, and for years it has been common with several TVs in every
home. On top of that comes computer games and the internet.
The state and licensed radio and television, Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK), works
side by side with private, commercial stations and networks. NHK was founded in
1926 and reorganized in 1950, three years before television began
broadcasting. The television company is considered to be one of the richest in
the world and operates three nationwide radio channels and five television
channels: a public television channel, an educational channel and three
satellite channels, including an HDTV channel (High Definition Television).
The main commercial television companies are Fuji Television, Nippon
Television (NTV), TV Asahi and TV Tokyo. 12. In addition to Asahi Shimbun, the
other major newspapers are also affiliated with television channels. From the
mid-1990's onwards, cable and satellite television began to gain ground.
Japan - visual art
Japan has a rich cultural history that goes far back in prehistoric times.
Genji monogatari. Detail from an emaki (picture roll) from the 1100's, which
illustrates a scene from the work: At dusk one spring evening, a young officer
looks through a crack in the sliding door at the two princesses, who are sitting
behind the curtain and playing go. Two other ladies on the porch admire the
The earliest preserved paintings in Japan are murals in tombs and temples
from the late 600's. and the beginning of the 700-t.; style and iconography
suggest direct contact with China. With the arrival of the esoteric Buddhist
sects in Japan in the 800's. also followed images of mandala is a
stylized chart of Buddhist universes, used in the temples for worship,
meditation and teaching.
Paintings imported from China often came as cake mono, a vertical
picture roll to hang on the wall. Another image scroll format is
the horizontal makimono, which is read from right to left. The
masterpiece is illustrated sutras from China that came to Japan in the 700's. In
Japan, makimonos were used for narrative imagery, such as telling stories about
famous monks or the founding of temples.
I 900-t. the imperial court and the aristocracy of the capital began to
define their own cultural identity alongside the hitherto dominant Chinese
influence. In the art of painting, a stylistic distinction was made between kara-e,
Chinese-style painting with landscapes and motifs taken from Chinese models,
and yamato-e with specific Japanese motifs and references.
I 1000-t. developed a worldly style within makimono, in which literary works
were translated into visual narratives and incorporated into an aesthetically
oriented lifestyle among a narrow cultural elite. Genji monogatari emakimono (The
image roll over the story of Genji), made by anonymous artists in the early
1100's, reproduces scenes and text excerpts from the period's famous prose work Genji
monogatari, written by court lady Murasaki Shikibu around the year 1000.
Women at court actively participated in many parts of cultural life, both as
performing artists and as audiences.
In the early 1300-t. the Zen Buddhist monochrome ink painting, sumi-e or suibokuga,
became widespread in Japan by visiting monks. The ink paintings were made by
artist monks in the Zen monasteries, where the images both in the production
process and as a finished work formed the basis for meditation.
The motifs could be figures associated with Zen Buddhist iconography or
imaginary landscapes with hints of high mountains in an atmospheric perspective,
combined with calligraphy. The artist monk Sesshu, who in the 1400's. became
known for his haboku technique ('broken ink'), was one of the first
Japanese painters to sign his works, suggesting that he was recognized by his
contemporaries as an individual artist. Until then, painters were anonymous
artisans. Ink painting with Zen Buddhist references had a renaissance in the
1700's, at the same time as Chinese painting in the Song Age style was continued
in an unorthodox interpretation, nanga ('painting in a southern
From the end of 1500-t. large formats predominated in connection with
extensive castle and palace construction, namely fusuma, paper- lined sliding
doors, and byobu, paper-lined folding screens used for room
division. The large and often colorful and gilded images were coveted; they
emphasized the wealth and status of the lord, while the gilded paintings lit up
the otherwise obscure castles. The leading school in this style was
the Canoe School, which was supported by the shogunate throughout the Edo
The canoe school was based on powerful brushstrokes inspired by ink painting,
combined with a more refined processing of details. The motifs at Kanoskolen are
first and foremost landscapes and scenes from the four seasons,
while Tosaskolen specialized in motifs from classical literature in stylized and
The first Europeans came to Japan in the 1600's. and gave rise to a special
genre, namban paintings, images of "the southern barbarians". The Shijo
School included elements of Western realism in ink painting. In addition, there
are genre scenes that emerged among the growing merchant class in the big cities
of the Edo period, and which depict contemporary festivals and entertainment
This is also where the motif circles that characterize woodcuts, ukiyo-e, originate . It
is first and foremost pictures of famous courtesans and beautiful women (bijin)
from the entertainment world or portraits of kabuki actors (yakusha),
which The Torii school specialized in. A special genre was shunga ('spring
pictures') with erotic motifs.
From the beginning of 1800-t. changed the motifs to landscapes and scenes
from famous places, such as Hokusai's series of views of Mount Fuji
and Hiroshige's series of famous places in Edo. It was especially these
landscape woodcuts as well as the Hokusai Manga (Sketchbooks) that
became popular among European artists in the second half of the 1800's. and
formed a significant part of the wave of Japaneseism.
In the last quarter of 1800-t. yoga ('Western-style
painting') emerged as a result of the influence of Western oil painting. In
parallel, nihonga ('Japanese-style painting') was developed, based on
techniques and motifs from selected traditional art forms.
This coincided with the formulation of an actual art history, under the
influence of the American art collector Ernest Fenollosa. Despite an apparent
contradiction between yoga and nihonga, they have mutually influenced each
other, and both directions thrive today as an established part of Japanese art
20th century visual art
In the early 1900-t. came the avant-garde art to Japan, and one finds
representatives of futurism, dadaism and surrealism in the period up to the
1930's. Discussions arose about the role of art in the social context, at the
same time as many artists were subjected to censorship and control between 1930
and 1945. In the 1950's, avant-garde art re-emerged with renewed vigor and
international contacts, such as the Gutai group.
In the early 1960's, groups such as the Neo-Dada Organizers and the Hi-Red
Center emerged, and the term han-geijutsu ('anti-art') came to mean a
showdown with the prevailing conception of museums and art. In the mid-1960's,
concept art was based on poetic and metaphysical aspects and resulted in, among
other things, in the participation of many Japanese artists in the international
Fluxus movement, such as Yoko Ono and Ay-o.
In the 1970's, an aesthetic and material-conscious art became central, which
can be seen in e.g. The Mono-ha group, which, based on classical Buddhist
philosophy, created an abstract, minimalist form of expression in both painting
and sculpture. The sculptor Endo Toshikatsu belongs to the young generation of
In the 1980's, the figurative returned to the visual arts, and at the same
time, new media such as video and computer art have been experimented with. Many
themes in 1990's art reflect topics discussed in Japanese society, such as the
mass media, consumer culture, gender roles, and cultural identity in a broad
From the late Jomon period (approximately 1500-300 BC) dates female figures
decorated with incised rope patterns; they are believed to have functioned as
fertility symbols. In the later Kofun period (300-600 AD) another type of clay
figures, haniwa, approximately 1 m high cylindrical shapes, which were placed
around burial mounds, with representations of houses, warriors, peasants,
musicians and various animals.
With the arrival of Buddhism in Japan in the mid-500's. also came the
depiction of the Buddha in human form. The statues were often grouped in a
trinity with a seated or standing buddha (nyorai) in the center and a
standing bodhisattva (bosatsu) on each side. The figures' hands are
placed in characteristic symbolic gestures, and often an oval or teardrop-shaped
disc behind the figures marks their aura.
Among the most frequently depicted figures is the bodhisattva of mercy,
Kannon. From the late 800's, when the Buddhist pantheon was mixed with gods from
Shinto, sculptures of Shinto deities performed as Buddhist monks, such as the
god Hachiman, are also seen. In addition, there are portrait sculptures
depicting famous monks or lay people such as shoguns and officials.
Many statues were cast in bronze and gilded. A technical climax was reached
in 752 when the 16 m high Daibutsu, the Great Buddha, was consecrated in the
Todai-ji Temple in Nara. Other figures were made of clay or wood, which were
painted, gilded or lacquered, or in lacquer, in which layers of lacquered fabric
were wrapped in a skeleton of wood. The most characteristic works in stone are
the outdoor sculptures of the bodhisattva Jizo, which worshipers wear with red
hats and aprons.
Sculptures were often made as commissioned works for the temples by sculptor
workshops such as the Keiskolen, established in the late 1000's. of Kokei. In
time, however, the sculpture was detached from the religious context and gained
status as an independent artistic form of expression. From the late
1800's. bronze sculptures and wood carvings were made with influences both from
the West and from classical Japanese sculpture.
In the 1950's, an abstract sculptural art was developed, and since then many
sculptors have experimented with new materials and shapes, for example in the
art of installation, which became prevalent from the mid-1980's.
Japan - Architecture - 20th Century
In the Meiji period (1868-1912) a major modernization of Japanese
architecture was initiated. Western architects and engineers were brought to the
country; greatest importance was given to the British architect Josiah Condor
(1852-1920), who taught at the Imperial University of Tokyo.
Early in the modernization, the technical and economic aspects were given
very high priority. Architecturally, the period was marked by eclecticism. It
eventually elicited a backlash from the younger architects who formed the
"Japanese secession" in a quest for a modern architecture, especially inspired
by German Expressionism; Yamada Mamuros (1894-1966) Central Telegraph
Administration Building from 1926 and Ishimoto Kikuji's (1894-1963) Asahi Press
Building from 1927, both in Tokyo, are examples.
This trend was strengthened through the construction of Frank Lloyd
Wright and Bruno Taut in Japan. The international style also gained a foothold,
and several Japanese architects worked in Europe, Maekawa Kunio (1905-86) and
Sakakura Junzo (1904-69) at Le Corbusier, and Yamaguchi Bunzo, Yamawaki Iwao,
and Kurate Chikatada at Walter Gropius.
From the late 1930's, the modern current had to give way in favor of a
national style, most often akin to European fascist architecture; its main
monument is the Tokyo Imperial Museum from 1937 by Watanabe Hitoshi
(1887-1973). In response to this reactionary tendency, the Kosaku Bunka Remmei
group was formed, inspired by the Deutscher Werkbund in particular.
After World War II, the leaders were again Mayekawa and Sakakura as well
as Kenzo Tange, who had made a name for himself with Hiroshima Peace
Center from 1949-50. Influenced by the late works of Le Corbusier in particular,
Tange strived for a union of modern technology and Japanese character.
In the 1960's, efforts were concentrated on urban planning, such as Tange's
plan for Tokyo in 1959-60. On the basis of the progressive belief and industrial
development of the time, " metabolism " was formed in 1960 with the
architects Kawazoe Noboru (b. 1926), Maki Fumihiko (b. 1928), Kiyonori Kikutake
(1928-2011) and Kisho Kurokawa (1934-2007); at Kurokawa, metabolism was
particularly evident in high-tech, almost science fiction-like buildings such as
the 1972 Nagakin Capsule Tower in Tokyo.
Shinohara Kazuo (1925-2006) developed a symbolism, eg the house in Uehara
from 1976, and Isozaki Arata worked with a more abstract, neoplatonic starting
point in eg Gunma Art Museum (1971-74) in Tagasaki.
Among the architects who have made a name for themselves in the late 20th
century are Ito Toyo (b. 1941) and Takamatsu Shin (b. 1948), Ban Shigeru (b.
1957), Taneguchi Yoshio (b. 1937), and Hasegawa Itsuko (b. 1941) and Sejima
Kazuyo (b. 1953), who are among the few recognized female architects.
Tadao Ando has distinguished itself internationally with a new interpretation
of both modernism and Japanese tradition, eg the Water Chapel from 1988 in
Tomamu on Hokkaido.
Japan - handicrafts
Among modern industrialized countries, Japan stands out by having maintained
a strong craft tradition with artisans who are admired for their sense of
quality and artistic design.
The arts and crafts were stimulated after the middle of the 5th century
with the arrival of Buddhism and the establishment of a closer connection with
the mainland. With the construction of Buddhist temples, not only was there a
need for paintings and sculptures of deities, but also finely crafted textiles,
lacquerware and metal objects such as bells and incense burners as well as other
Early examples of this are preserved in the Shosoin Imperial Treasury and in
the temples in and around the city of Nara. The Japanese handicrafts regularly
received strong influences from China and Korea, which over time were adapted to
the particular Japanese taste.
Pottery has been made in Japan since the Jomon period (approximately 8000-approx. 300 BC),
which is named after the string prints used as decoration on the early
pottery. From the Yayoi period (approximately 300 BC- approximately 300 AD) pottery and clay copies
of bronze objects are known.
At the end of the period, the potter's wheel was introduced, and the improved
technique led to an increased use of pottery. Far back in time, wooden utensils
and tableware were dominant in the daily household.
Of great importance for the ceramic development was the introduction of anagama stoves
through Korean potters in the 400's. These furnaces, which were dug into hillside
slopes, could burn pottery at above 1000 °C. It produced unglazed, hard-burnt sue pottery,
which was used by the upper class and during Buddhist ceremonies. The contact
with China led around the year 700 to the use of colored lead glazes on pottery
The characteristic Japanese ceramics from the 12th century until approximately 1600
was robust, unglazed stoneware, which was mainly used as a storage vessel. The
best known ceramic centers are the "six ancient
furnaces": Echizen, Shigaraki, Seto, Tokoname, Tamba and Bizen.
Glazed pottery from Seto was considered the finest, and from the 14th century
imitations of Chinese tea bowls with temmoku iron glaze were made here. Tea
bowls, teapots, water jars and flower vases were made for use in the tea
ceremony, which achieved its final design in Japan in the 16th century. Among
the preferred tea ceramics were products from Bizen, Shigaraki, Mino (oribe)
and Karatsu as well as hand-shaped tea bowls (see raku).
From Korea, at the end of the 1500's, all the "creeping furnaces" (naborigama)
were introduced, which could have up to 20 furnace chambers in extension of each
other, and in which the firing temperature could reach 1300-1400 °C.
This enabled the manufacture of porcelain after suitable porcelain soil had
been found on Kyushu in the early 17th century. Of the early porcelain types,
large quantities of imari and kakiemon were exported to
Europe, while finer imari and nabeshima were reserved for the local
In the Edo period (1603-1868) the demand for fine pottery and teapots
increased. Many new kilns were created, including Kutani, which made porcelain
decorated with enamel colors. Also pottery and stoneware, decorated by
artists like Kenzan, was much sought after.
The ceramics of the 18th and 19th centuries were generally characterized by a
decline in quality and a lack of artistic inspiration. Known in the West is satsuma - ceramics
that were manufactured for export.
Today, most Japanese ceramics are produced industrially, but the old
traditions are still carried on in smaller kilns around the country, for example
by the internationally renowned Hamada Shoji.
Varnish has been used in Japan for protection and decoration of eg wood and
wickerwork since the end of the Jomon period. Only after Buddhism reached the
country and new techniques and forms of decoration were introduced from China
and Korea, did the art of lacquer begin to play a very important role.
It was used especially for tableware, boxes, containers such as cabinets and
furniture. The preserved lacquer works show that the maki-e technique
and varnish with inlays of resp. mother of pearl and thin gold and silver flakes
were known in Japan from the 700's.
Maki-e ('strewn image') is a characteristic Japanese way of decorating in
which gold or silver dust is sprinkled on the wet lacquer surface. This
technique was developed to include several different variations, nashiji ('pear
peel'), in which irregular pieces of gold are sprinkled over a layer of
transparent amber lacquer.
From the end of the 16th century, Japanese lacquer works were exported to
Europe, where they became highly sought after due to their high quality, and
where they sought to be imitated.
Before cotton was introduced in Japan in the 16th century, fibers from
hemp and ramie (Chinese grass) and silk for making garments and
textiles. Silkworms are thought to have been introduced from China around the
year 200, and from the 500's and 700's there are two very large textile
collections from resp. Horyu-ji Temple (now housed in Tokyo National Museum) and
Shosoin. A large part is imported from the mainland, and some textiles have
motifs that can be traced all the way to Egypt and Persia.
The Japanese generally preferred composite textile patterns and motifs taken
from nature and daily life. Highlights include 16th and 17th
century kimonos with dyed, painted and embroidered decoration and lavishly
brocade-woven No- theater costumes as well as ikat (kasuri) -woven
fabrics of hemp and cotton from the late Edo period.
The technique was introduced from China in the late 500's. Paper was not only
used as writing and printing material, but also for the home's sliding doors and
folding screens and for finely processed fans and lights.
From rain-prepared paper were made rainwear, umbrellas and templates for
dyeing textiles, from leather-imitated paper pipe cases and tobacco pouches, and
twisted paper was, among other things. woven into kimonos.
Paper production was formerly run as a home industry by the peasants during
the winter. Before the 1870's, when paper machines were introduced from the West,
there were approximately 100,000 paper makers in the country. Today, there are fewer
than 600 left who produce handmade paper, especially for artistic purposes.
Bamboo has always been used for numerous purposes, but only since the theme
master Sen no Rikyu in the 1500's. began using bamboo tools in the tea ceremony,
the Japanese became aware of the plant's artistic uses.
Traditionally, bamboo is used for e.g. combs, hairpins, brush cups, vases for
flower arrangements (see ikebana), furniture, boxes and musical
instruments as well as the skeleton of fans and umbrellas.
Wood and metal
Wood was widely used in Japanese folk art and was the basis for lacquer
work. It was also used for masks and was one of the materials that was cut for net
The knowledge of metallurgy reached Japan in the Yayoi period, where bronze
was used for weapons, mirrors and bells (dotaku) and after the
introduction of Buddhism for casting statues, bells and lamps.
The Japanese swordsmiths were unsurpassed in the manufacture of strong and
very sharp steel blades and exquisite accessories (see tsuba). Among
other admired works were the iron boilers used in tea ceremonies.
Since the 1950's, the Japanese government has sought to preserve traditional
craft techniques by naming particularly excellent artisans as "living national
These artists are required to pass on their skills to posterity, and their
efforts are financially supported by the state. In parallel, modern designers
produce more avant-garde handicrafts, which exhibited at the annual art
Japan - literature
The earliest preserved fiction in Japanese is a number of poems in the oldest
historical works Kojiki (Chronicle of old days, excerpts
from 1989) and Nihongi (Records of Japan) from the early 700's.
Early literature up to 1600-t.
The poetry anthology Manyoshu (A Thousand Leaves) from the late 700's. is a
monumental collection of nearly 4,500 poems that reflect the poetic tradition of
Japan over a 300-year period. The development of the literary tradition in Japan
is connected with the development of the written language. Poems and place names
in the three mentioned works are written with an early Japanese use (manyogana)
of the Chinese characters, where they are used both according to their adapted
sound value and according to their meaning. Manyogana was intricate and no
longer invited to fictional texts.
About the same time as the imperial residence and with the entire court in
794 moved to Heian, present-day Kyoto, there was a simplification to a syllable
alphabet, kana, which was a contributing factor to the enormous
literary production of the period. The capital became the setting for a literary
golden age in Japan, where both men and women within the court world
unfolded. All important classical genres within prose found their expression and
form. For some genres, the works of this period were never later surpassed.
The classic poem form tanka ('the short poem') on five lines with
resp. five, seven, five, seven and seven syllables had found its form in Manyoshu,
but were further refined. Formerly educated from the court and the bureaucracy
attached poetic ability to a meaning that is difficult to imagine. Everyone had
to be able to improvise a poem on their own, by saying goodbye to their loved
one when friends met or divorced, by the countless poems (utaawase)
held at court. Poetry anthologies were compiled at regular intervals by imperial
decree. There came a total of 21, the last in 1439.
The earliest was Kokinshu (Poems from then and now) from approximately 920, edited
by Who is Tsurayuki. It was considered the greatest honor to have just one
poem in these anthologies in which women and men were approximately equally
represented. In prose, female writers came to play a major role. It first
developed as an accompanying explanation, a framework for poetry collections.
Early examples are Ise monogatari (Tales from Ise, partly
in da. 1989), a cycle of poems with the poet Ariwara no Narihira as the center,
and Tosa nikki (A journey from Tosa province to the capital,
da. 1989) by Ki no Tsurayuki. This secondary prose developed into actual novels,
short stories and short stories, where thought was no longer the
In the essay genre (zuihitsu), the court lady Sei
Shonagon's witty Makura no soshi (The Pillow Book, partly in
1989 and 1996) appeared in the late 900's. This kaleidoscopic work with its many
enumerations and small pieces on all sorts of subjects came to form
school. About the same time, the court lady Murasaki Shikibu wrote her
masterpiece, the novel Genji monogatari (The Tale of Genji,
partly in 1989).
Also the literary diary and memoir literature (nikki) found its
perfect expression in Kagero nikki (The Cobwebs) of the Mother of
Fujiwara no Michitsuna - often the most important female writers of the time are
not known by their own name.
After the Genji monogatari, several novels were published, of which
only a few are preserved, none at the same level. Hamamatsu chunagon
monogatari from approximately 1050 (Forever love only the lost, da.
1981) is an example.
At the end of the 1100-t. the imperial court had lost much of its political
significance, and Japan faced a more turbulent time in which the sensitive
courtier was replaced by the samurai as an ideal. The feuds and wars of the
warring warrior families to gain power were reflected in a new genre, warrior
tales, of which Heike monogatari (The Story of the Taira Family,
partly on da. 1989) from 1200-t. is the earliest and most gripping.
The Buddhist way of thinking came to influence literature even more. One
longed to return to the good old days. Hojoki (Records from the
hermitage, da. 1989) by the monk Kamo no Chomei from 1212 and Tsurezuregusa (Grass
shoots from free time, partly on da. 1989), a collection of essays by the
monk Yoshida Kenko from approximately 1330, are examples of this.
Female writers were few. There were a number of collections of short stories,
short stories, where the portrayal of the person and thus the immersion did not
reach the same heights as in the novels of the Heian period. (The mentioned
Danish translations from 1989 are collected in Is the moon the same, is
spring as before? (1989)).
The theoretical works of the no- playwright Zeami from the 1400's
were of great importance for later Japanese aesthetics. Tanka remained the
prevailing verse form, but sprang from it during the 1300's. a new form of
poetry: It had long been a convention for one person to compose the first three
lines of a tanka, after which another continued with the last two lines.
This developed into chain poetry (renga), where the first poet
came with the first three lines, the second poet with the two ending lines,
after which a third again came with the first three lines of a new poem that
simultaneously associated with the two ending lines in the foregoing, etc. The
chain poems could be several hundred lines long. Poet Sogi (1421-1502) is
considered the most important of rengadigterne.
The three introductory lines that gave the impetus to the whole chain poem
became a genre in themselves - probably the most famous literary form in Japan: haikai (haiku),
which the poets of the Edo era developed to perfection.
From the Edo period to today
The main actors in the literary arena of the Edo period (1603-1868) were in
contrast to former merchants and artisans as well as samurai of lower rank. The
authors recruited from these strata of society portrayed fellow human beings of
the time who, in various ways, suffered under feudalism, as well as their
compensatory pleasure life in all its guises. But in fact, no author took a
critical stance toward the feudal system as such.
In and around the culturally flourishing Genroku period (1688-1704), three
masters emerged who excelled in their respective genres: Basho in the haikai poem, Chikamatsu in
the joruri and kabuki drama, and Saikaku in prose. Their
artistic expression was in its own way full of liberating and life-affirming
energy, but neither of these three did art involve a confrontation with the
prevailing social system. But their unique talent for an at once elegant and
powerful expression became the norm for posterity. Numerous writers tried to
follow in their footsteps, slowly leading to flattening and stagnation.
In and around the Tenmei period (1781-89), however, there was a resurgence of
cultural life with the common denominator "back to the original". Buson thus
returned to Basho's haika art; Motoori Norinaga analyzed Japan's oldest
mythology and history book, Kojiki (712); and Ueda Akinari parodied
Chinese entertainment literature. Their approach was highly intellectual and
academic; also their works functioned outside the framework of the
social system in a strangely unrealistic way.
This trend was soon met by a backlash in the general public, after which the
smooth, the banal, the exciting and the erotic literature came to play the
central role. This popularization of literature took place in and around the
Bunka and Bunsei periods (1804-30) with the following authors as the most
prominent representatives: Issa in the haika genre, Ikku in the
entertainment literature, Bakin in the historical narratives and Tamenaga
Shunsui in the amorous novels. With Issa as the exception, there was something
fanatical about the writers from this and the subsequent periods; they
cultivated their delicate artistic mind to the utmost, until it combed over into
decadence. A new era was unmistakably on the way.
At the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japan began to modernize the country
following the European model with the main emphasis on creating a rich nation
with a strong army. This radically new policy caused a number of conflicts and
confusion in the country, not least in cultural life and literature. On the one
hand, volumes of enlightening and pragmatic works on the conditions of the West
were produced in the form of translations and political novels, on the other
hand, the narrative tradition from the Edo literature was still dominant, as the
depictions now concerned the great upheavals in society.
But it was not until 1885 with Tsubouchi Shoyo's essay The Essence of
the Novel that realism as a literary method was introduced in Japan, which
became the starting point for a modern Japanese literature. In order to be able
to describe new phenomena, a new literary language had to be created. At that
point, Futabatei Shimei made a great effort, but his attempts to write novels in
the spirit of realism were quickly overthrown by a romantic trend.
Thanks to Mori Ogai's exquisite translations of a wide range of European
literature, in fact, the entire history of Western literature was introduced in
Japan at once. Through all these translations and through the work of his own
works, he created a modern Japanese written language that could express the new
ideas. Around him, an aesthetically oriented group of writers such as Nagai
Kafu and Tanizaki Junichiro were soon formed.
However, at the turn of the century, the most influential direction in Japan
became naturalism, whose truth demands captured the interest of the authors. The
search for the truth of life was also cultivated by the idealistic Natsume
Soseki in his psychological novels with the keywords individualism and egoism,
followed by the intellectual Akutagawa Ryunosuke and the self-destructive Dazai
Osamu in respectively. Taisho and Showa period.
Not only in the art of prose, but also in the field of traditional poetry, a
modernization was underway; Shiki revived thought and haikai (like haiku). In
the animated cultural life of the Taishi period, Yosano Akiko appeared and put
all his female passion into her thought poems.
As a reaction partly to the still dominant autobiographical novel writing,
partly to the newly emerged proletarian literature, Kawabata
Yasunari marked herself as a modernist in the 1930's. After the defeat of Japan
in 1945, however, he immersed himself exclusively in the traditional aesthetics,
which was continued by Mishima Yukio, who cultivated the life and death of
the true Japanese hero both privately and in his works.
While Tanizaki, Kawabata and Mishima became known abroad for their exoticism,
the works of Abe Kobos and Oe Kenzaburo were internationally recognized for
their universal values. Less known abroad, but significant, was literature
produced by female writers after the war. With Enchi Fumiko at the helm,
realistic depictions of women's life in the wrestling era emerged.
Post-war literature played its role in Japan during the 1980's. The 1990's
generation of writers is free of exoticism and considers itself to belong to the
With Murakami Haruki at the helm, more and more Japanese writers have been
translated into both Asian and Western languages. Their works seem to have
universal validity in the globalized world. The influence of pop culture is
striking, and the demand for entertainment value is not to be overlooked. Among
the newer names, Yoshimoto Banana, Tsuji Hitonari and Ogawa Yoko are worth
Japan - theater and dance
Theater and dance in Japan is known for its diversity and its time
span. There are many fundamental differences between the traditional and modern
genres: Traditionally the texts are recited or sung, theater and dance are
inseparable, and the education takes place through a master teaching, where both
text and dance are learned through copying. In modern theater, the text is
spoken, theater and dance are most often separated except within the revue and
musical genres after the Western model, and the education takes place in schools
or in theater ensembles.
Traditional theater and dance refer to an origin in the same myth, written
down 712 in Kojiki (Chronicle of the Old Days), which tells
the story of the sun goddess Amaterasu, who had hidden in a cave due to a
conflict with her brother, and the whole world became dark. Therefore, the many
gods gathered and initiated a ritual, in which the goddess Ame-no-Uzume
performed a dance on an inverted vessel. She made a noise by stomping her feet,
getting into a trance and showing off her breasts and genitals. This made the
gods laugh out loud. The curious sun goddess also allowed herself to be lured
out by the sound, and the world got light again.
Associated with this legend is kagura ('god music'), which is a
broad term for religious conduct to invoke gods. Today, however, it is the
theatrical performance more than the religious content that has the primary
attention. There are many different types, from simple games performed in
villages to dances performed at the Imperial Court or at Shinto shrines.
In connection with the introduction of Buddhism in Japan from the middle of
the 5th century, the gigaku form came in the early 600's Gigaku, whose
origins appear somewhere in Central Asia, consisted of mime, often moralizing
performances or a procession combined with dance and music. The form no longer
exists, but a large number of well-preserved masks from the Nara period
(710-794) as well as descriptions and images since the 1100's. gives an idea of
the content of the performances.
As a similar influence from the continent, gagaku came with the
dance bugaku to Japan from the 500's-600's.
A broad category of performing arts of ancient Japanese origin, dengaku,
is associated with the cultivation of rice. In particular, the dengae dance,
performed by professional troops, became popular in the Kamakura period
(1185-1333) among the growing warrior nobility, the samurai. Dengaku is still
very common in Japan in connection with annual festivals associated with
From China came in the 700's sarugaku, a mixed repertoire of
acrobatics, juggling and magic, which later also included masked games with text
and dance. The Sarugaku troops thus surpassed dengaku in popularity and amounted
to in the 1300's. the basis for the no and kyogen games.
In 1603, dancer Okuni performed kabuki dances and comic
sketches. Since 1629, when women were banned from performing, kabuki has been
performed by men just like in the related bunraku puppet theater. In
the 1990's, the Kabuki Theater was mainly subject to one production company
(Shochiku), which is unusual for the traditional genres.
The dances associated with the above genres belong to different categories,
each with their own designation and characteristics: The old and stylish solo
dances, called mai, which occur in bugaku and no, were performed at
temples and the court and developed until approximately 1600. Popular dances, called odori,
occur in kabuki or are danced together during the big festivals and developed
until 1868. Nihon buyo (jap. 'Japanese dance') is an independent
theatrical form with dances mainly from the kabuki repertoire, just like dances
within for the geisha repertoire can be traced back here.
The period after approximately 1860
After the beginning of the Meiji period in 1868, when Japan was opened to
Western influence, the spoken theater and Western repertoire was gradually
introduced, while dance developed as an independent genre.
In connection with the political upheavals brought about by the new times,
the genre shimpa ('new school') emerged, originally as agitatorical
political theater played by actors from the kabuki theater, but after the 1930's
developed into melodrama. The men who traditionally played the female roles were
now replaced by actresses. The genre still exists in this form.
At the beginning of 1900-t. translations of Henrik Ibsen's plays were
introduced in Japan. This was the beginning of the genre shingeki ('new
theater'), which includes both Western and Japanese repertoire, but which in its
dramaturgy and historical development has followed Western theater. With
shingeki came a definitive break with the traditional acting technique as well
as a need for a special acting education following the Western model. In recent
times, however, there has been some rapprochement between shingeki and kabuki.
In 1914, a girls' ensemble, Takarazuka, was created, modeled on
the Western revue and operetta tradition.
In the field of dance, Western classical ballet was established in the 1920's,
and from 1933, the German neuer Tanz was introduced, which did away
with the ballet's sentimentality and romance. Where classical ballet was more
akin to Japanese traditional dance in terms of prescribed rules and established
choreography, the "new dance" appeared as a radical break. It was further
developed from the 1950's when American modern dance came to Japan. From
the late 1970's, the two forms were mixed, and both also began to incorporate
traditional Japanese dance techniques. As a reaction to this modern Japanese
dance, but still influenced by the new dance as well as by happening, the butoh dance
was created in the late 1950's.
In the 1960's, a group theater movement, angura (after the underground), emerged,
seeking new directions in opposition to both the established theater and the
political system. From the 1980's, directions inspired by the visually oriented
performance genre emerged; especially the group Dumb Type, founded in
1984 with a background in visual arts and architecture, has made its
mark. Likewise, a kind of minimalist direction has emerged within modern dance
represented by Kurosawa Mika (b. 1957).
Characteristic of the modern genres is the fluid boundary between amateurs
and professionals as well as the exchange between the different genres, both
traditional and modern. In contrast, there is the rich variety of the commercial
Japanese repertoire of the commercial theaters as well as all the western genres
such as opera, musical, ballet and drama. In addition, there is a live radio and
Japan - music
Characteristic of the Japanese music culture is that very old music forms
live side by side with modern music forms, which are introduced from the western
world. The old music forms are partly rooted in domestic traditions, partly
influenced by China, especially in the period 500-700.
The music forms from the West have come to Japan since around 1900. These
fundamentally different types of music and mixed forms are practiced in parallel
in today's Japanese society, albeit in different social environments.
Styles in traditional art music often have their origins in a few prominent
musicians and teachers. In strictly hierarchically organized groups, students
have faithfully continued the teacher's way of playing, often for several
New directions have been formed when someone has distanced himself from the
teacher's way of playing and founded a new school. Therefore, within each style
of music, several parallel styles or schools have been developed, called ryu. Although
the music conservatory offers education in traditional forms of music, the
master-student relationship is still the most common form of education. This
contributes to the survival of this music.
Although much traditional music has roots in China (and Korea), it has been
transformed in Japan. This applies to the design of the instruments and the Zen
Buddhist aesthetics as well as the tonality; the semitone steps in Japanese
scales are a prominent feature. In the same way, the Western stylistic features
have in many cases been transformed and adapted to the Japanese.
The oldest information about music in the Japanese islands comes from
archaeological finds in the form of tomb statues from the 200's AD, showing
musicians and dancers, and from early literary sources such as lyrics and
mention of music in the oldest chronicles.
These include alternating songs between young women and men, kagai,
at courtship ceremonies, which took place in the mountains. These songs are of
historical interest, partly because they have parallels in Southeast Asia,
partly because they play a central role in the origin history of Japanese
poetry. The word rhythm with verse feet of five or seven syllables is an
essential component of the metric structure of Japanese songs.
The music that belongs to the Shinto religion is called by a common name kagura. The
oldest part of the repertoire can be traced back to local songs from the
beginning of our era. In the early 500's, these were combined with an orchestral
music with roots in China, gagaku.
The orchestras include percussion, string instruments and wind instruments,
including the oboe, hichiriki, and the mouth organ, sho,
which are very characteristic of the soundscape. The genre includes bugaku (dances)
and togaku (melodies), which are considered to originate from the China
Gagaku is performed during ceremonies at the Imperial Court and at
certain major Shinto temples; in modern times even actual concerts occur. For Kagura is
also considered a number of other music forms, which occurs at various local
shintobaserede festivals, called matsuri.
To the earliest influence of China and Korea belongs Buddhism with its
special world of sound. Above all, the song in the Buddhist ritual shomyo has
played a significant role in shaping Japanese music through recitation based on
word rhythm, glissando movements and a calm, meditative tempo. These stylistic
features were cultivated in the aesthetics developed within Zen Buddhism, where
silence has value in itself.
This aesthetic permeates the music of the no- drama, which was
developed in the late 14th century. In addition to two actors and a choir, an
ensemble, hayashi, is used, consisting of three different kinds of
drums and a transverse flute. A similar aesthetic is found in the music on the
edge-blown bamboo flute, shakuhachi, which used for meditative
The great importance attached to the narrative song, joruri, often
performed to lute accompaniment by blind artists, also has parallels in
China. In Japan, it comes in a variety of styles. Heike-biwa, which is
about the family feuds of the 12th century, is accompanied on the short-necked
With the long-necked lye as an accompaniment instrument after approximately In
1600, gidayu-bushi formed the musical backbone of the puppet theater, bunraku,
while naniwa-bushi enjoyed widespread popular popularity well into the
In the Edo period from approximately 1600 emerged the kabuki theater,
which can be considered a popular variant of the no-drama, in which the songs, nagauta,
are more melodic and often have a fixed pulse. The ensembles were augmented with
the long-necked lute, the shamis, which, incidentally, became a very
widespread folk music instrument.
During this time, a solo repertoire also grew in front of the bamboo flute shakuhachi and
for koto, a 13-string board guitar that originally came from China as
part of the gagaku orchestra. In the merchant class that emerged during the Edo
period, it was common for young girls to learn certain traditional arts.
In the case of music, it was above all koto, which in the 19th century came
to assume the same social function as the piano in the bourgeois environments of
the western world. The repertoire went back to the music in variation form
called danmono, with the piece Rokudan (six variations) as
the foremost representative.
Shamisen appeared as a singing accompaniment in kouta,
popular geisha songs. In the early 1800's, sankyoku, instrumental
music for ensembles consisting of shakuhachi, shamisen and koto, emerged.
Folk music has been deeply rooted in concrete situations. Lullabies, dance
songs and work songs with alternating songs between singers and choirs have been
prominent genres. In the folk tradition, there are diverse local variations.
During the Edo period, the capital (present-day Tokyo) became a melting pot
of various local folk music traditions, which were later mixed throughout the
country. In this way, a kind of "normalization" of folk tradition emerged, which
anticipates today's mass production of popular music and school songbooks.
Influence from the West
The time immediately after the Meiji Restoration in 1868 was characterized
partly by a renewal of certain traditional forms of music, above all gagaku and
kotomusik, partly by a strong influence from Western music in the form of
march music, school songs and operetta hits.
The mixture of Japanese and Western music arose early in the school songs, shoka,
not least through a series of stylistic songs by Taki Rentaro (1879-1903).
Even in the street musicians' news songs for accordion, guitar or violin,
such style mixes occur. Traditional instruments, especially koto, were developed
and adapted to the new requirements. Above all, it was about combining Japanese
melody with Western accordion. Through Miyagi Michio (1894-1955), this modern
koto music became a kind of national symbol for Japan in the eyes of the outside
From the 1920's, with an interruption during World War II, mass-produced
Western music has come to dominate the music scene, and the record industry is
extremely extensive. The tonal language of mass-produced music is largely
Within the domestic hit music kayo-kyoku, however, there is since
the 1920's a special Japanese form, enka, mainly represented by the
composer Koga Masao (1904-81), who in his shows, the so-called Koga melody,
combined different Japanese and western style features. This genre gradually
came to replace the folk song in folk singing and formed the core of and thus
the prerequisite for karaoke, a facility that allows singing for
pre-recorded orchestral accompaniment, and which became popular in the 1980's.
Mass-produced youth music has largely followed international developments
since the late 1950's. A significant part of the production consists of
translations (cover versions) of international hit songs, but there is also a
production that is based on broader youth movements. One of the most important
genres was the protest song folk rock, which was especially prevalent
in the early 1970's.
Within this, a rift arose between American-influenced and Japanese music,
which led to the first examples of style mixing in youth music, to the use of
Japanese lyrics, and to the first wave of folk music revival.
With roots in the folk rock wave developed the now dominant Japanese
popular music genre new music. Japanese youth music has above all
influenced Western music in connection with the so-called synth pop and
with Japanese-produced synthesizers with Japanese sound. In other ways, too, the
Japanese market is important to the Western music industry; a number of Danish
pop and rock groups have, for example, found their way to the larger Japanese
Through music conservatories, through the so-called Suzuki method in
instrumental education and through instrument production, symphony orchestras,
prominent musicians and conductors, even the classical Western tonal language
has come to play a prominent role in Japan. Choirs and orchestras, which are
found at almost all schools in the country, contribute to many young people
participating in the active musician.
An early leading, Western-inspired composer was Yamada Kosaku (1886-1965),
who after studying in Europe composed operas. Matsudaira Yoritsune combined
twelve-tone music with the influence of gagaku. Mayuzumi Toshiro, the first to
compose concrete music and electronic music in Japan, often drew inspiration
from the Buddhist sound world.
Takemitsu Tori composed for both Western and Japanese instruments or for
combinations of them. The leading Japanese composers have belonged to the
international avant-garde since the end of World War II, and the modern Japanese
sound world has influenced Western composers.
Folk dance songs are gradually sung, above all, at bon parties (in
July or August), and many use the different folk song styles. Certain local folk
music traditions have gained great popularity. This applies to the rhythmic
lively music on the shamis, which is practiced in the so-called Tsugaru
jamis. From being a low-status genre, which in the 1970's received the
attention of students in Tokyo, it is now known throughout the country and
courses are given in it.
The folk style of Okinawa in the south has also become widespread, and the
almost extinct musical tradition of the ethnic minority Ainu in the
north, which includes epic songs, the string instrument tonkori,
Jewish harp and frame drum, has been revived.
Among the folk music forms that have essential functions in modern society is
music at local Shinto-related festivals, matsuri. These range from
large audience magnets like Gion matsuri in Kyoto to
celebrations of great social significance to the immediate surroundings of small
A normal ensemble at such festivals, matsuri-bayashi, consists of
drums, taiko, and flutes. On the island of Sado, there is a drumming
tradition called on-daiko, through which evil spirits were cast out at
the time of year when the rice was sown. Here is now also the home of the young
drum collective Kodo, which has renewed the Japanese drum tradition
and made it known worldwide.
Japan - film
Japanese photographers began filming in 1897, and the first cinema opened in
1903. The early Japanese films drew many of their stories from the Kabuki
Theater, which also influenced the form of presentation: In the cinema there was
always a narrator, benshi, next to of the canvas and accompanied the
pictures with an ongoing commentary. These benshi exerted a dominant influence,
and the form of the films was adapted: one avoided intermediate texts, close-ups
and fast editing.
From the early 1920's, several directors sought inspiration in German
expressionist and American films in particular. One went away (as
in kabuki) from using male actors in female roles. The Benshis, however, still
enjoyed great popularity, and their opposition delayed the introduction of sound
film in Japan until well into the 1930's.
The film industry was built on the American pattern and dominated by a
handful of large film companies, which in the 1930's produced more than 500 films
a year. However, renowned master instructors such as Mizoguchi Kenji and Ozu
Yasujiro managed to maintain a significant degree of artistic independence.
In 1939, the military regime put all film production under state control and
demanded absolute loyalty. The end of World War II led to a marked
liberalization, Japan's first movie kiss was shown in 1946.
Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950, The Gate of Demons)
created international awareness of Japanese film and paved the way for a number
of artistically ambitious period films, such as Mizoguchi's later films and
Kinugasa Teinosuke's (1896-1982) Jigokumon (1953, Nobody Can Force
a Heart) with his breathtaking color photography.
In the second half of the 1950's, directors Ichikawa Kon and Kobayashi Masaki
(1916-96) ruthlessly confronted the militarism of the war years. After 1960, a
new generation of younger filmmakers emerged, such as Oshima Nagisa and Imamura
Shohei (1926-2006), who attacked post-war Americanized, capitalist Japan in an
often radically experimental, modernist film language. To the new wave also
belonged Teshigahara Hiroshi (1927-2001), known for his film adaptations of Abe
The entertainment film was dominated by samurai films and gangster or yakuza films. The
comedy series about Tora-San (from 1969) was a sure success, and the so-called pink films
(semi-pornographic sex films) were produced in large numbers; but otherwise the
film industry experienced a sharp decline in the 1970's and 1980's, crowded by
television, foreign films and problems developing new directorial talents.
The progress of the video has further aggravated the situation of cinemas,
but at the same time created a new market, not least for cartoons, anime,
which by virtue of original directors such as Miyazaki Hayao, among
others. with Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (2001, Chihiro and the
Witches), has also gained a large audience in the West.
Among the most important newer instructors is Kore-eda Hirokazu with Wandâfuru
raifo (1998, Between Life and Death), as well as Kitano
Takeshi and Miike Takashi (b. 1960), both of whom have given the yakuza film
an artistic expression in a formally challenging way.
At the same time, occult Japanese horror films such as Nakata Hideos (b.
1961) Ringu (1998, The Ring) and Miikes Ôdishon (1999, Audition)
have gained international attention. Japanese industrial groups have invested
huge sums in Hollywood in the 1990's, but so far do not seem to have exerted any
Japanese cuisine is rich in starch and protein, but low in fat. It is based
on rice and noodles, vegetables and mushrooms, eg matsutake, as well
as a wealth of products from the sea with various soy products, ginger and the
strong, green horseradish, wasabi, as a common spice. Fish, shellfish
and molluscs are often served raw, as an accompaniment to the rice-filled
seaweed rolls; this applies to salmon, tuna, bonit, which are also
used dried, and the coveted snail abalone. Fugu is prepared from puffer
fish, whose entrails are deadly poisonous and which are therefore cut by
specially trained personnel.
The use of poultry and pork is of later date, which is related to Buddhism's
reluctance to eat meat. Beef is very expensive. It is prepared, for example, in
the dish sukiyaki blanched in rice wine (sake) and soy
together with vegetables and soybean quark (tofu).
Hardly anywhere in the world is so much care taken in serving the meal as in
Japan. The serving thus contains various ritual elements, and in front of each
diner many small portions are served, neatly cut and garnished to present an
exquisite visual experience.