The history and culture of Japan

Japan’s history is a rich and varied one, with the different periods marked by remarkable change. In the Yayoi period (300 BC – AD 300), rice cultivation was introduced from China and Korea, and Japan’s oldest religion, Shinto, identified "divine forces in nature and in such human virtues as loyalty and wisdom."The Kofun period (300-645) showed the emergence of powerful clan rulers, and Japan begins to establish close contacts with mainland Asia. The Asuka period, (645-710) brought a great wave of reforms and new aristocratic families were created. During the Nara and Heian periods (710-1185) the emperors began to practice Buddhism, believing its teachings would protect the state. The Muromachi era (1333 to 1568) brought disintegration of the central government, firearms were introduced by the shipwrecked Portuguese soldiers, and Christianity was introduced . Finally in the Edo period (1600-1868) Japan enters into an age of "peace and national isolation". The United States wants to use the Japanese ports as supply bases for its commercial fleet, and, in a surprise move, Japan accepts the US demands and opens its doors for the first time in two centuries. In the Meiji period (1868-1912), the emperor was restored, and Japan made its transition to nation-state. The Showa period (1926-1989) brought many more changes for Japan, including World War II and its aftermath, including the necessary economic recovery. In 1941 Pearl Harbor brought the US into war in the Pacific and in August of 1945 "the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the second on Nagasaki. the emperor airs by radio a statement of unconditional surrender." (Background, 2005, p. 5). The years of 1945-1952 brought allied occupation of Japan, with women gaining legal equality as well as the right to vote. Japan’s political life was changed to a parliamentary state, and with the peace treaty signed in 1951, Japan regained independence. The "High Growth Age" in Japan occurred from the late 1950’s to the early 1970’s and Japan was rewarded with a booming economy. (Background, 2005, p. 5).
Japan is made up of five islands. however there are some thirty-six hundred islands in the entire group, and dozens that are actually inhabited. Japan has twenty-nine thousand kilometers of coastline, and the total land area is 142,000 square miles which makes Japan one-twenty-fifth the size of the United States, or roughly the size of Montana. Ostensibly, some one billion years ago these Japanese islands were part of the Asian mainland, however movement of the earth’s plates resulted in part of the Asian coastline breaking free and traveling east. Then a mere 100 million years ago, in the area that is now the Sea of Japan, a huge lake appeared, eventually linking up with the Pacific Ocean in the north and south, leaving the highest regions to become the islands of Japan. (Lafayette, 1995, p. xi).
Seventy percent of Japan’s land mass is made up of high mountains and hills. These mountains have over two hundred volcanoes and geothermally active areas. There are eleven peaks in Japan that are over three thousand meters high, and thirteen that are over 2500 meters high. These mountainous areas make Japan one of the most scenic groups of islands in the world.(Layfayette, 1995, p. xi). The climate of Japan is generally rainy, with a fairly high humidity. The Japanese enjoy warm summers and long cold winters in the north, and hot humid summers and short winters in the central regions. The southwest has long, hot, humid summers, and mild winters. (Library, 2005, p. 1).
Japan’s population is currently 127,417,224 million people, a huge number for such a small area. Japan is second only to the United States in the number of large cities-they presently have ten cities with populations over one