Country Portrait: Japan

Country facts:

  • Full name: Japan or Nippon-koku
  • Capital: Tokyo
  • 61th largest country in the world (377,835 km²)
  • Largest cities: Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka
  • Population: 127 Mio
  • Growth rate: 0.126%
  • Age expectancy: 82.1 years
  • Languages: Japanese
  • Ethnic Mix: Japanese (98.5%)

Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands. Japanese culture has evolved greatly over the years, from the country’s original Jōmon culture to its contemporary culture, which combines influences from Asia, Europe and North America.

Japanese music is eclectic, having borrowed instruments, scales and styles from neighboring cultures. Many instruments, such as the koto, were introduced in the ninth and tenth centuries. The accompanied recitative of the Noh drama dates from the fourteenth century and the popular folk music, with the guitar-like shamisen, from the sixteenth. Western classical music, introduced in the late nineteenth century, now forms an integral part of the culture. Post-war Japan has been heavily influenced by American and European modern music, which has led to the evolution of popular band music called J-pop.

Karaoke is the most widely practiced cultural activity. A November 1993 survey by the Cultural Affairs Agency found that more Japanese had sung karaoke that year than had participated in traditional cultural pursuits such as flower arranging or tea ceremonies.

Traditionally, sumo is considered Japan’s national sport and it is a popular spectator sport in Japan. Martial arts such as judo, karate and modern kendō are also widely practiced and enjoyed by spectators in the country. After the Meiji Restoration, many Western sports were introduced in Japan and began to spread through the education system.

Since the establishment of the Japan Professional Football League in 1992, association football (soccer) has also gained a wide following. Japan was a venue of the Intercontinental Cup from 1981 to 2004 and co-hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup with South Korea. Japan is one of the most successful soccer teams in Asia, winning the Asian Cup three times. The World Cup in 2002 is in good memory in Germany, because the German team was second (only loosing one game against Brazil).

The Japanese team is not as strong and though it’s quite successful in the Asian Cup it doesn’t belong to the “TOP Teams”…

We’ll see how far they’ll get this time.

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