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word Japan in English is a translation of the Japanese name for their country Nippon
via the Chinese language. The origin of the name Nippon refers to the sun
and the name Nippon is often translated into English as the "Land
of the Rising Sun."
Japan is a culture based on honor and respect with a strong
competitive streak that they at times attempt to hide, but never truly can. The
culture has struggled over time finding a balance between internal growth and external
dominance as their pride ebbs and flows.
Japan, as a people is old and historic, however their power
and political entity as it currently stands is a relatively recent addition. About
five hundred years ago the islands were isolated as the people were simple farmers
and fishers who cared little for outside contact and influence. These years helped
establish the people as simple and humble people who respected their elders and
worked for their family and those who owned the land they worked. They were also
a fairly religious people who sought internal growth and helped others with the
belief that their kindness would be returned to them. Their cultural capital, Kyoto
developed from this culture and from outside influences during this time and later.
Over time outside influences grew, most particularly from China
and Korea, introducing new aspects of daily life, but the Japanese's
humbleness and subordination to their rulers continued to dominate the culture.
More than the introductions these outsiders brought with them, they sparked a new
mental state for the Japanese, who began to recognize the opportunities that came
with foreign contacts.
Japan soon entered the world stage, but then retreated
and continued this back and forth for some time. Their culture changed rapidly between
isolation and foreign involvement. Warring became common, class structures were
implemented, and economic, political, and military success became the focus of many
people. This class system led to a very tiered society with the emperor at the top
and the majority at the bottom, a system accepted due to the vast amount of respect
and trust the people place in their leaders.
This back and forth ended in the 1800s when the European
powers forced Japan to open for trade. As it had in the
past, their strong competitiveness, stubbornness, and pride led to a backlash as
the leaders felt shamed by their inability to hold off the Europeans. Although they
were forced to open up, they would prove to have the power to dominate that new
position as the country began to over-run neighboring countries.
With their defeat in World War II, Japan began to reflect
on their past and their actions. This returned the people to their roots of peace
and a state of religious-like obedience as they felt great shame as a nation. They
didn't remain down for long though as their competitiveness sparked an economic
growth and a new path forward.
Today the people remain humble and hardworking, two traits respected and sought
by all. They see their nation's past mistakes and flaws as their own and treat
those past events as learning points. However, the country is also quickly moving
forward, not in order to bury their past, but rather to use their strengths to re-define
their future. The people work hard and rarely complain as personal, family, and
national pride seem to be forever at stake. This has led to a rapidly growing economy
and incredible advancements. Modern buildings and technology are everywhere and
an integral aspect of modern society and business. Also, the people love the freedom
that comes with cars, despite great public transportation.
In contradiction to their modern society filled with hard work and fun gadgets,
the people seem to find a release for this pressure through socialization and a
unique sense of humor. After work bars and restaurants are filled, but by late evening
have cleared out as businesspersons return home to their families. Television seems
to be focused on quirky games and humiliation that are creative and humorous. Today
the Japanese are a diverse and unique people with many
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