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Japan’s Government, Economics and Culture

Japan, land of the rising sun. This beautiful country is rich with history and culture. This presentation will discuss, in detail, topics about Japan from their past to present day. The broad topics to be discussed will include Japanese government, economy, culture, religion, and their military. More specifically how the the Japanese government has changed over time, the emperor, the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch will be discussed. Next in describing the economy; economic history, infrastructure, finance, agriculture, fishing, tourism, manufacturing, and the labor force will all be covered. After transitioning to the following section the topics will be language, art, food, popular culture, and Shintoism and Buddhism. Then, military history, military structure; including branches and units, uniforms, ranks, and insignia, and the role the military plays in Japanese society will be examined. Lastly, everything covered will be summarized and wrapped up. After this presentation the audience will have gained a deeper understanding of the country of Japan.

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Starting in 1651, Japan’s government was a Shogunate, feudal Japanese military government with the Shogun being the military dictator. The rule of multiple Shoguns lasted from 1185 to 1868. During this period, the Shoguns were the actual rulers of the country, although they were ceremonially appointed by the Emperor as a formality.The Shoguns held almost absolute power over the country.

The Meiji Restoration in 1868 practical imperial rule was brought back to the country, now known as the Empire of Japan under Emperor Meiji. Following the end of World War II Japan adopted a liberal democracy with the formation of the Constitution of Japan.

The Emperor of Japan is the Head of State and of the Imperial Family. The role of the Emperor has changed frequently between a symbolic role being an actual ruler. Since the establishment of the first Shogunate, the Emperors have rarely been a battlefield commander. Unlike most constitutional monarchs, the Emperor doesn’t even hold the chief executive title. The executive power lies strictly with the Prime Minister, being the leader of the Cabinet. The Emperor is also not the Commander -in-Chief, this is also the Prime Minister. The Emperor’s duties, with the approval of the Cabinet, include: Declaration of amendments of the constitution, laws, cabinet orders, and treaties, convocation of the Diet, dissolution of the House of Representatives, awarding of honors, receiving foreign ambassadors and ministers, performance of ceremonial functions, and other duties.

The Japanese government consists of three branches. The first is the Executive branch, led by the Prime Minister. This branch also includes The Cabinet, the Ministries of Japan, and the Board of Audit.

The second branch is the Legislative branch. This branch contains the National Diet. It is a bicameral legislature, the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors.

The third branch is the Judicial branch, which is made of the Supreme Court, the High Courts, District Courts, Family Courts and Summary Courts.

Development during the Edo period included more people moving from rural areas to the cites. The was also growth in the shipping of commodities, a significant expansion of foreign commerce. Banking facilities and merchant groups flourished. Rice was a pillar of the economy, as it was heavily taxed.

Modern day Japan uses a mixture of petroleum, natural gas, and coal for energy. Its roads are a major means of transportation. They have left-handed traffic on millions of kilometers of road. Railway is another major means of transportation. Japan is also home to the second busiest airport in Asia.

The currency used is the yen. It is the third most traded currency behind the U.S. dollar and Euro. The coins come in 1 yen, 5 yen, 10, yen, 50 yen, 100 yen, and 500 yen increments. The banknote come in 1000 yen, 5000 yen, and 10000 yen increments.

Because of its size, Japan’s small agricultural sector, is highly subsidized and protected by the government. Rice accounts for almost all of Japan’s cereal production.Rice, the most protected crop, is subject to tariffs of a very high percentage.

Japan has one of the world’s largest fishing fleets and responsible for nearly 15% of the global catch. The types of seafood caught are sardines, crab, shrimp, salmon, squid, clams, sea bream, tuna and amberjack. Around 300 species of fish in the rivers are varieties of catfish, herring, crabs and crayfish.

In 2012, Japan was the fifth most visited country in Asia and the Pacific, with over 8.3 million tourists. Japan has 21 World Heritage Sites, including Himeji Castle, Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, Nara. Popular attractions include Tokyo, Hiroshima, Mount Fuji and taking advantage of Japans hotel and hot spring network.

Japanese manufacturing industry is very diverse, including many successful advanced industries. Major technological development in fields including consumer electronics, automobile manufacturing, semiconductors, and manufacturing. In the world, Japan is the third biggest producer of cars. Toyota is the world largest car maker, and car companies Nissan, Honda, Suzuki, and Mazda are also some of the largest car makers in the world

Japanese is the official and primary language of Japan. Japanese is written with a combination of scripts: hiragana, katakana, and kanji. It is mostly derived from Chinese. The Latin alphabet is often used in modern Japanese for company names, logos, advertising, and other reasons.

Japan is the second largest music market in the world. Karaoke venues are very popular in Japanese culture. Painting has been an art in Japan for a very long time. Japanese painters are often grouped together by what they paint, as most of them dedicated themselves to one subject. The rendering of text itself is seen as a traditional art form as well as a means of conveying written information known as calligraphy. Some artists may take over one hundred attempts to create a single character but the process of creating is considered as much an art as the product itself.

The Japanese have developed a sophisticated and refined cuisine through the many years. More recently, Japanese food has become trendy and popular in other countries. Some of he commonly known foods are sushi, tempura, ramen, and teriyaki. The Japanese diet is made mostly of rice, seafood, and vegetables. This healthy diet is often believed to be why Japanese people live so long.

Japanese can choose from a large selection of music, films, a huge comic book industry, and other forms of entertainment. Teens like to hangout at game centers, bowling alleys, and karaoke, while older people may play shogi or go. Popular films, television programs, manga, music, anime, and video games all can be traced to traditional art forms, many of which are very popular around the world.

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Religion in Japan is ruled by Shinto and Buddhism. Shintoism is a religion that focuses on ceremonies and rituals. Followers believe that a Shinto deity or spirit named Kami, exists in nature, including rocks, trees, and mountains. Humans can also possess a Kami. One of the goals of Shintoism is to maintain a connection and balance between humans, nature, and Kami. Buddhism arrived in Japan during the 6th century. Buddhism is about the soul and life after dying. In the religion a person’s social status was not important, because everyone eventually dies and are reincarnated into a new life, a cycle called samsara. The ultimate goal was to escape the cycle by attaining true insight.

There was a time of peace under the Tokugawa Shogunate, maintained by numerous ways to ensure the loyalty of the daimyos to the Shogunate. In the 1850s, the Shogunate type of government collapsed. Following the formal termination of the Shogunate, the Boshin War was fought between the Tokugawa army and multiple factions of pro-Imperial forces. After its defeat in World War II, Japan was forbidden to have an offensive military and to wage war by Article 9 of its Constitution. The Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) was created in 1954.

The Prime Minister is the Commander-in-Chief of the Japan Self-Defense Forces. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense are guided by the Chief of StaffandJoint Staff. The Joint Staff includes a Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chief of Staff, the Vice Chief of Staff, an Administrative Vice Chief of Staff and other departments and staff. Each service branch is headed by their respective Chiefs of Staff. The Chief of Staff and Joint Staff supervises military operations, and assume command during wartimes. Their powers are limited to policy making and defense planning during peacetime. Operational Authority runs from the Chief of Staff and Joint Staff to the Commanders of several Operational Commands. Each service branches Chiefs of Staff has executive control over their own services.

Service branches

Japan’s military consists of:

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF)

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF)

Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF)

Service units

Five armies

Five maritime districts

Four air defense forces

The primary purpose of the JSDF is the preservation of national security. The JSDF also allocates a lot of its time and resources to disaster relief. The forces also take part in public works projects, help manage athletic events, and perform aerial survey reports on ice conditions for fishermen. In order to build community relations with cities close to defense bases, they built roads, irrigation networks, and schools.

To recount what was discussed. Japan once had a government called a Shogunate, ran by a military dictator called a Shogun. It eventually evolved in a Democracy that has three branches. The Emperor is a symbolic Head of State, with the Prime Minister actually having most of the power. The official language is Japanese and has developed it’s own unique style of art, cuisine, and popular culture. All of which has had their influences spread over the world and can be found in the cultures of many of countries. There are many religions in Japan, but the two dominate ones are Shintoism and Buddhism. Ever since their defeat in World War II, Japan hasn’t had a traditional offensive military. The Japan Self-Defense Forces, or JSDF was created in 1954. The Prime Minister is the Commander-in-Chief of all five armies, five maritime components, and four air forces. And lastly the roles the JSDF plays in Japanese society are ones of national defense and disaster relief. In conclusion, the audience of this presentation should have gained a deeper understanding of the country of Japan.

  • Sakamoto, Taro, et al. “Japan.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 15 Nov. 2018, www.britannica.com/place/Japan.
  • “The Roles of the Emperor.” The Japan Times, 8 Jan. 2018, www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2018/01/08/editorials/the-roles-of-the-emperor/#.W_Bn2JNKhAY.
  • Friday, Karl F. Japan Emerging: Premodern History to 1850. Westview  Press, 2012.
  • Gerteis, Christopher, and Timothy S. George. Japan since 1945: from Postwar to Post-Bubble. Bloomsbury, 2013.
  • Japan Society & Culture Complete Report. World Trade Press, 2010.
  • Press, World Trade. Japan Money and Banking: the Basics on Currency and Money in Japan. World Trade Press, 2010.


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