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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, however today this past has led to a calm present.
Japan, as a people, is old and historic, however the 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 spiritual 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 movement 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; just prior to this time they were again a nearly isolated state.
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, first
economically then militarily.
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
are an integral aspect of modern society and business. Included in this technology
are cars, which the people love the freedom of, despite great public transportation
In contradiction to their modern society filled with hard work and fun gadgets,
the people of Japan seem to find a release for this pressure through socialization
and a unique sense of humor. After work hours 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. Between this there are remnants of the past arts and architecture
around nearly every turn. Today the Japanese are a diverse and unique people with
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