Japan is an archipelago of 8964 islands. The six largest islands are Karafuto, Ezo, Honshū, Kyūshū, Shikoku and Taiwan, together accounting for ninety-seven percent of Japan's land area. Japan has the world's eighth largest population, with over 153 million people. The Greater Tokyo Area, which includes the capital city of Tokyo and several surrounding provinces, is the largest metropolitan area in the world, with over 40 million residents.
The climate of Japan is predominantly temperate, but varies greatly from north to south. Japan's geographical features divide it into seven principal climatic zones: Northern Islands, Sea of Japan, Central Highland, Seto Inland Sea, Pacific Ocean, Ryūkyū Islands, and Taiwan. The northernmost zone, Northern Islands (Karafuto and Ezo), has a humid continental climate with long, cold winters and very warm to cool summers. Precipitation is not heavy, but the islands usually develop deep snowbanks in the winter.
In the Sea of Japan zone on Honshū's west coast, northwest winter winds bring heavy snowfall. In the summer, the region is cooler than the Pacific area, though it sometimes experiences extremely hot temperatures because of the foehn wind. The Central Highland has a typical inland humid continental climate, with large temperature differences between summer and winter, and between day and night; precipitation is light, though winters are usually snowy. The mountains of the Chūgoku and Shikoku regions shelter the Seto Inland Sea from seasonal winds, bringing mild weather year-round.
The Pacific Coast features a humid subtropical climate that experiences milder winters with occasional snowfall and hot, humid summers because of the southeast seasonal wind. The Ryukyu Islands have a subtropical climate, with warm winters and hot summers. Precipitation is very heavy, especially during the rainy season. The generally humid, temperate climate exhibits marked seasonal variation such as the blooming of the spring cherry blossoms, the calls of the summer cicada and fall foliage colors that are celebrated in art and literature.
In Taiwan, the climate is generally marine and varies widely by season in the Northern part and the mountain areas. The Southern part of the island, however, belongs to the tropical belt and is warm and humid all year. Rainfall varies hugely from place to place throughout the year, but averaging 2600 mm for the island proper. During the winter (November to March), the northeast experiences steady rain, while the central and southern parts of the island are mostly sunny.
The average winter temperature in Japan is 5.1° C (41.2° F) and the average summer temperature is 25.2° C (77.4° F). The highest temperature ever measured in Japan - 40.9° C (105.6° F) - was recorded on August 16, 2007. The main rainy season begins in early January in Taiwan, and the rain front gradually moves north until reaching Ezo in late July. In most of Honshu, the rainy season begins before the middle of June and lasts about six weeks. In late summer and early autumn, typhoons often bring heavy rain.
Politics and GovernmentThe government of Republic of Japan is founded according to the 1921 Constitution of the Republic of Japan, based on the principles of Five-Pointed Star Ideology (ゴボウセイシソウ, Gobōsei Shisō) and National Democracy.
The unicameral National Congress (コクミンダイヒョウタイカイ Kokumin Daihyō Taikai) constitutionally is the highest organ of state authority and holds supreme powers in legislative, executive and judicial matters. The Congress has the powers to amend and interpret the Constitution. Its members are elected every four years through a rigid hierarchical electoral system. The members of the National Congress are elected by the prefectural councils that in turn are elected by the citizens.During the interim of its sessions, the National Congress elects the Legislative Council (リッポウイ Rippō-in) from among its members for two-year term. The Legislative Council exercises the legislative powers and acts on the behalf of National Congress when the Congress is not in sessions. The Legislative Council may creates a constitutional commission to interpret the Constitution when the latter is not in sessions.
The President of the Republic (ソウサイ Sōsai) is the head of state of Japan and the nominal commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Japan. Unlike other heads of state, the President of Japan is mostly a ceremonial office and can described only as an instrument of the Congress according the Constitution. However, by convention, the Presidency is actually the most powerful office as it is usually occupied by the leaders of ruling Japanese Nationalist Party. The President of the Republic is elected by the National Congress from among its members every four years and can be re-elected without any term limit. The President is assisted by the Ministers of State and the State Council.The Ministers of State (コクムブギョウ Kokumu Bugyō) are appointed by the National Congress from among its members by the Presidential recommendation. The Ministers of State form the Inner Cabinet with one presiding member whose referred as the Prime Minister (ソウリ Sōri). Later, the Prime Minister appoints the ministers without portfolio, heads of state commissions and president of Central Bank which form the Outer Cabinet. The Inner and Outer Cabinets together form a single body called the Council of Ministers (カクリョウイギ Kakuryō Kaigi).
The State Council (コクムイン Kokumu-in) serves as the main advisory body both for the National Congress and the President of the Republic. The members of the State Council are elected for four-year terms through three types of constituencies: regional constituencies, functional constituencies and indigenous constituencies. The regional representatives are elected by the prefectural councils. The functional representatives are elected by the corporate and special interest groups. The indigenous representatives are elected by the designated indigenous peoples of Japan, like the Ainus or the Taiwanese aboriginal peoples.
The National Court (コクミンサイバンショ Kokumin Saibansho) is the supreme judicature of Japan. Its consists of one Chief Justice and twelve Associate Justices which are appointed by the Congress from among its members every four years. The court has the power to interpret the Constitution and laws on the behalf of the Congress as a court of last resort. The highest court of appeal, the Supreme Court (サイコウサイバンショ Saikō Saibansho), is in charge of civil and criminal cases, with all of its judges are appointed for life by the National Court. The National Procuratorate (コクミンケンサツショ Kokumin Kensatsusho) responsible for the investigation and prosecution of crime at the national level.
Modern Imperial era (1853–1920)
Bakumatsu period (1853–1868)After being almost self-isolated for about 200 years, the Bakufu showed signs of weakening by the late of 18th century. Peasant uprising due to famines and natural disasters occured in 1837. The arrival of Commodore Matthew C. Perry's four-ship squadron in Edo Bay in July 1853 brought turmoil among the Bakufu officials. The U.S. government aimed to end the Sakoku isolationism and the Bakufu had no defense against Perry’s gunboats. Thus, in 1854, chief senior councillor, Abe Masahiro, represented the Bakufu agreed to compromise by accepting Perry's demands for opening Japan to foreign trade. The era of seclusion was formally brought to the end.
In 1858, the Treaty of Amity and Commerce was signed, forcing Japan to grant extraterritoriality to the Americans. Similar “unequal treaties” were soon imposed upon Japan by the British, the Russians, the French and other Western nations. The treaties triggered political crisis as well violences against the government and foreigners. Opposition to the Western influence over Japan erupted openly when Emperor Komei, breaking his traditional role, issued on March 11 and April 11, 1863, his "Order to Expel Barbarians". The feudal domains of Chōshū and Satsuma in the south followed this order and began to take actions to expel all foreigners.
At the height of anti-foreign movement, the Bakufu had realized the end of its own rule. Tokugawa Yoshinobu resigned his position as shogun to Emperor Meiji in November 1867. However, the leaders of Chōshū and Satsuma continued to their opposition and tried to completely purge Yoshinobu and his supporters. The mysterious death of Emperor Meiji in January 1868, just a year after the death of his predecessor, Emperor Komei worsened the relations between the Bakufu and the supporters of Imperial Court. This political and social crisis later culminated into the Boshin War from 1868 to 1869. Following the victory of anti-shogunal coalition, newly-enthroned Emperor Taisei proclaimed the “restoration” of Imperial rule on November 7, 1868 and moved the capital from Kyoto to Edo, which was renamed as Tokyo, in 1869.
Taisei era (1868–1903)While nominally the Imperial rule was restored, the true powers during this period were vested on the leaders of Chōshū and Satsuma, that known later as the “Taisei oligarchy”. In 1870, new noble class called “kazoku” (華族) was created from the ancient court nobilities (公家 kuge) and former feudal lords (大名 daimyō). Feudal domains were retaken by the new government and the country was divided into prefectures. In 1876, the samurai class was abolished and ex-warriors were banned to wear swords publicly. The last policy prompted the samurai to rebel in 1877 led by Saigo Takamori which was defeated by the government forces.
The dominance of Taisei oligarchy was strongly opposed by the elements beyond Chōshū and Satsuma. The opposition led to the establishment of Freedom and Popular Rights Movement (自由民権運動 Jiyū Minken Undō) in the 1870s and 1880s which advocated representative government. On February 11, 1889, the Constitution of the Empire of Japan was enacted, establishing a national assembly and cabinet system while reserving special powers to the Emperor. The imperial parliament, called the Diet, was bicameral with a non-elected upper house, House of Peers, and a lower house, House of Representatives, consisted of members elected by limited male suffrage.In a few decades by reforming and modernizing social, educational, economic, military, political and industrial systems, Japan emerged from the transitional period as the first Asian industrialized nation. From the onset, the Taisei oligarchy embraced the concept of market economy and adopted British and North American forms of free enterprise capitalism. Japanese economy was transformed from the traditional agricultural based one into the modern industrial state. Transportation and communications are developed to sustain heavy industrial development.
After the end of seclusion era, Japan found itself defenseless against potential military threats from the Western powers. Modern Japanese army was quickly built up in 1870s, modeled after Prussian Army. With its modernized military, Japan soon assumed its position as new power in East Asia. The empire was expanded to the island of Ezo in the north in 1869 and the Ryukyu islands in the south in 1879. The latter expansion, however, prompted objection from Qing China and led to the eventual conflicts between two countries. The conflict peaked in 1894 over control of Korea, resulted to the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895). Japan emerged victorious and gained control of Taiwan, Kwantung, Shandong Peninsula and the southern half of Korean Peninsula.
In 1881, Emperor Taisei and King David Kalākaua of Hawaii arranged marriage between Prince Komatsu Yorihito, the Emperor’s younger half-brother and later imperial heir, and Princess Kaʻiulani, Kalākaua’s niece. Although the marriage did not produce any heir and Princess Kaʻiulani later died in young age in 1902, the arrangement resulted to the closer alliance between Japan and Hawaii. In 1893, Japan played pivotal role during the overthrow attempt of the Kingdom of Hawaii by sending its armada to Hawaii, supporting Queen Liliuokalani against the rebels.
While Japan continued its growth as a regional power by the end of 19th century, another expansion effort proved disastrous. Japan’s ambition over the Philippine Islands as well as fear of growing influences of Spain's ally, Germany, in Asia led to the preemptive invasion to the Spanish East Indies, resulted in the Spanish-Japanese War (1898–1901). The war, however, proved to be not in favor of Japan. In 1901, the peace treaty was signed between two countries without any territorial gains for Japan. This military and diplomatic failures were seen as humiliating by the Japanese nationalists and prompted to the rise of anti-imperial sentiment.
Keishin era (1903–1920)In 1903, Emperor Taisei died and his brother, Prince Yorihito, succeeded him as Emperor Keishin; the nation, however, lost its unifying figure. Only a year after it, the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905) occured. Although Japan defeated the Russian Empire and surprised Western powers, its demands were not completely fulfilled on the Treaty of Portsmouth in September 1905. Japan only received southern half of Sakhalin and Korea, did not get indemnity and not acquired Manchuria. The Japanese public thus viewed the treaty as a national humiliation. Discontents over the government were shown a huge demonstration in Tokyo on September 5, 1905.
By 1910s, Japan has enjoyed economic growth and the steady rise of population. The cities grew in population due to industrialization and urbanization. Poor living and working conditions of industrial workers, however, led to several labour unrests during this period. Labour unions flourished and leftist ideologies began to enter the country. The revolutionary movements grew significantly after the Russo-Japanese War, advocating republican form of government. In 1906, the Konkikai was founded by Nagayama Yoshida dan Kita Ikki. The organization advocated republicanism and called for the “national restoration."
In 1910, the government uncovered radical leftists' plot to assassinate the Emperor in the Kōtoku Incident. The government started to curtail anti-monarchist activities and arrested some left-wing agitators. In avoiding the repression, the Konkikai officially abandoned its republicanism and merged to the Constitutional Nationalist Party led by Inukai Tsuyoshi. Nagayama entered mainstream politics and was elected to the House of Representatives in 1912. On other hand, Kita went to China to participate in the Xinhai Revolution led by Sun Yat-sen. Nevertheless, Nagayama and Kita remained to work in building a secret anti-imperial network during 1910s.
Japan entered World War I in 1914 as a part of the Allied Powers. The entry, however, was not entirely welcomed by several elements in Japan. Several veterans in the wars with the Spanish and the Russians criticized the entry as both “waste of time and waste of budgets”. Left-wing and Christian intellectuals criticized it as an aggressive act. Nagayama Yoshida in his capacity as a member of Diet warned the economic consequences of the war, a prophecy that will proven to be true. Thus, although gained control the Spanish East Indies, Japan’s economy was suffered due to large military spending on previous wars. Japan succumbed into deep economic crisis and general dissatisfaction emerged among the populace against the country's expansionist policies.
Japanese Revolution (1918–1920)
Rice Riots of 1918 (1918)Japan's participation on World War I and Siberian Intervention brought the country into industrial booming. Exports quadrupled from 1913 to 1918. The massive capital influx into Japan and the subsequent industrial boom, however, led to rapid inflation. On July 1918, protests and disturbances against high prices of rice caused by this inflation erupted in villages and cities throughout Japan. This series of political disturbances then known as the Rice Riots of 1918.
By August 11, the riots had spread to the rest of the Kansai region; Osaka, Kobe, Kure and Hiroshima all experienced rioting, followed by Tokyo the next day. The largest cities in the industrial areas of Kansai and Kanto saw riots last up to a week, such as in Nagoya that lasted the longest at ten days. Beside the peasants and the urban population, the workers soon also involved on the disturbances by mounted strikes for better wages and working conditions. The country’s largest labour union, the Yuaikai, rapidly grew in membership during this time.The social unrest reached its climax on November 13, 1918. More than 5000 demonstrators gathered in the Hibiya Park, Tokyo, protested against the government's economic policy and overspending on the military investiture. When the demonstrators marched from the park and approached toward the Imperial Palace, the police opened fire on the masses, killed 50 individuals and injured 327 others. The revolutionary wave soon spread throughout Japan. Nagayama and fifty-one parliamentarians denounced the actions and demanded the formation of a coalition government.
Shortly after delivered a speech denouncing the misconducts in the Hibiya Park, Nagayama was arrested on November 5, 1918 and tortured for about two weeks by the police for his suspected anti-imperial activities. The arrest triggered a massive amount of protests by the citizens and the parliamentarians whose viewed it a breach of parliamentary immunity. Nagayama was released on November 20 with Inukai’s guarantee. Republican faction within the Constitutional Nationalist Party soon took over the party and renamed the party as the Japanese Nationalist Party on December 1, 1918. Nagayama became its first Party President.
In December 1918, the Nationalists launched a series of military uprisings throughout the islands. On January 13, 1919, the Council of National Salvation was formed by the Nationalists in Kyoto with Nagayama as the Political Commander of the Army and Navy. On February 16, 1919, the representatives of pro-revolution parties convened a National Congress in Kyoto and declared the establishment of Republic of Japan. Nagayama Yoshida and Kita Ikki were elected as the first President and Vice-President of the Republic, respectively. Inukai Tsuyoshi was appointed the first Prime Minister of the Republic on February 19, 1919.
Japanese Civil War (1919–1920)
Open conflicts between the government forces and the revolutionaries quickly erupted in every Japanese cities and a civil war can not be avoided. Southern prefectures like Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe, were taken over by the revolutionaries between December 1918 and January 1919. First major battle between the revolutionaries and the loyalists was fought in Nagoya between January 4-9, 1919 after the loyalists tried to retake control of the city. The Revolutionary Army in Nagoya under the command of Takabatake Motoyuki was able to defend the city. Takabatake later appointed as the Minister of War in the first cabinet of the Republic on February 19, 1919.
By 1919, Japan was divided into two governments. The revolutionaries which based on Otsu controlled most of southern prefectures on eastern Chubu, Kansai, Chugoku, Shikoku, Kyushu and Okinawa while the loyalists controlled Greater Tokyo, western Chubu, Kanto, Tohoku, Ezo, and Karafuto. The revolutionaries gained control of Taiwan following the Battle of Taihoku on August 1-4, 1919. On October 12, 1919, the revolutionaries launched a large scale mobilization from Nagoya to Shizuoka and Nagano. Tokyo was captured by the revolutionaries following a major offensive on December 14, 1919; the Imperial Court and government evacuated farther north to Hakodate.
A temporary truce was declared by the Imperial government on December 29, 1919. The Imperial government, represented by Makino Nobuaki, attempted to open negotiation with the Republican government. However, the talks failed to meet any agreement for a peaceful transfer of power. However, a secret arrangement was agreed between two sides to have the Emperor and his family exiled in safety to Hawaii. On January 19, 1920, the war resumed. The revolutionaries launched its final major campaign to Hakodate on March 3, 1920. The civil war was ended following the capture of Hakodate on March 5, 1920.
Republic of Japan (1920–present)
Early years of the Republic (1920–1931)
National Restoration era (1931–1941)
World War II (1941–1945)Influenced by the German invasion of the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa on June 22, 1941, China decided to denounce the non-aggression pact and declare war on Japan an hour before midnight on July 7, 1941. Full-scale battles soon broke out across Sino-Manchurian borders on July 8–23. Japan itself was caught completely by surprise when China deployed its newly-modernized air forces to bomb Kwantung on August 1. With the Fall of Kwantung on August 10, 1941, the Chinese forces unexpectedly overran Manchuria by October 1941. However, the Japanese forces were able to halt the Chinese movement in the Korean Peninsula at the Battle of Hongcheon from January to February 1942.
The Chinese also attacked Formosa from air and heavily bombed Taihoku on October 25, 1941. Four massive bombings on Taiwan followed on March 1942, destroyed many Japanese military bases on the city and inflicted heavy civilian casualties. Massive air raids were also launched by the Chinese air forces over Manila on April 1942 and over Busan on August 1942.
By March 1942, Japan decided to renounce its nominal neutrality. President Nagayama Yoshida then sent Prime Minister Nakano Seigo to Mayflower, D.C. on March 1, 1942 to endorse the Declaration by United Nations and join the war with the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the Soviet Union and other Allied nations against the Axis Powers. On March 2, 1942, Japan officially declared war on Germany, Spain and Italy. The governments-in-exile of Manchuria and Korea as well as the South Pacific Islands also followed Japan's move by joined the Allies and formally declared war on the Axis Powers.On March 15, 1942, after had begun drafting the large numbers of Koreans, Filipinos, Moros and Indonesians, Japan launched a massive counteroffensive to northern Korea and Manchuria. Japan was able to liberate Korea by December 1942 and Manchuria by April 1943. In June 1943, the Japanese launched another offensive from Manchuria and occupied Beiping on July 27, 1943. Advancing very aggressively, the Japanese forces captured Nanjing by December 1943 and forced the Chinese government to move to Chengdu.
With the aggressive offensive from the occupied northern China and the naval infantry landings and air raids in the southeastern coast of China from Formosa in April 1944, Japan had completely conquering the eastern China by late 1944. In January 1945, the Japanese divisions from Formosa and French divisions from French India launched a campaign to French Indochina, mainly to encircle China for the final time. Japan also sent its war vessels to destroy the Thai navy in the Thailand waters around February and April 1945 as well as helping the British in the battles against the Thai forces on four northern Malay states.
By May 1945, Japan has occupied North China and Inner Mongolia. The Interim Government of the Republic of China (中華民國過渡政府 Zhōnghuá Mínguó Guòdù Zhèngfǔ) led by Zhou Fohai was proclaimed in Beiping on May 2, 1945. On August 9, 1945, the Soviet Union renounced its non-aggression pact with China and attacked the Chinese in East Turkestan, fulfilling its Yalta Conference pledge to attack the Chinese within three months after the end of the war in Europe. In less than three weeks, the Soviets has overran East Turkestan and West China. President Chiang Kai-shek of China officially capitulated to the Allies on August 25, 1945, and the official surrender was signed in Pyongyang, Korea on September 2, 1945.