Japan - the land of the rising sun
Japan - the most fascinating country in the far east of Asia is
after Indonesia, Madagascar and Papua New Guineathe fourth largest island
nation on earth. Few countries in the world combine state-of-the-art industry,
technical progress, rich culture, history and deeply rooted traditions as
concentrated and challenging as the “Empire of the Rising Sun”. Here, the past
and the future stand side by side and make the country an experience of
contradicting ones Superlatives. Between the most modern high-tech palaces there
are dilapidated wooden barracks, depictions of the most brutal pornography
contrast with the most childish plastic toys, wonderful temples and parks are
surrounded by ugly high-rise teeth and the brightest advertising signs -
juxtapositions that inspire, frighten, and arouse curiosity.
All of this is Japan, the former empire that is said to consist of 6,800
islands. Of these islands, the four main islands of Hokkaidô, Honshû, Shikoku and Kyûshû
alone make up about 98% of the Japanese land area. The head of state of
the high-tech nation is - even if only de facto and not de iure - the Tenno, the
emperor “tamed” by parliament on the “chrysanthemum throne”, the supreme
figurehead of one of the most incredible countries in the world.
On March 11, 2011, the main island of Honshu was hit by one of the strongest
earthquakes in the country's recent history with a magnitude of 9.0 on the
Richter scale. As a result of the earthquake and especially the subsequent
tsunami, which were up to 10 m high, entire areas were razed to the ground. Over
18,000 people were probably killed. The amount of material damage cannot be
foreseen at the moment, but the country fell into an existential crisis.
|Name of the country
||Japan, Nippon (also Nihon)
|Form of government
||Parliamentary monarchy with an emperor ("Tenno") as the de facto
head of state
||Island state in South-East Asia
|Head of state
||does not officially (de iure) exist but de fcto it is Tenno
||Approx. 128 million (Credit:
||Approx. 99% Japanese, the largest minority are Koreans
||Shinto and Buddhism are the main religions.
There are also about 1 million Christians.
||Tokyo (also Tokyo)
||Fuji-san with a height of 3,776 m
||Shinano with a length of around 369 km
||Biwasee with an area of approx. 675 km²
|International license plate
|Time difference to CET
||+ 8 h
|International phone code
|Internet TLD (Top Level Domain)
The islands of today's Japan were already settled in the Stone Age, but there
are still no reliable findings from this time.
Prehistoric times to around the year 300 AD
8th century BC Chr.
First secure dating of the Jomon culture. It existed until the 3rd century BC.
300 BC Chr.
Abbreviationfinder website, the Yayoi culture overlaid the existing culture. Immigrants from the mainland
introduced metal processing and wet field rice cultivation.
100 BC Chr.
Verifiable trade contacts with China.
Yamato period up to 710
In Japan, feudal small states emerged.
The Chinese script was adopted. The Tenson noble family gained control of
The Shinto monobes and the Buddhist soga fought for supremacy. The Soga family
as victor then ruled over Honshu, Shikoku and Northern Kyushu.
Regent Shotoku issued a code that transformed the Yamato Empire into an
absolutist monarchy. After conflicts with the old feudal lords, the reformists
prevailed and the old Japanese aristocratic state was converted into an absolute
official state. The ruler (Tenno) became the sole owner of the
country. According to legend, Tenno is a direct descendant of the sun
goddess. During this time, Chinese characters developed into their own
script. The administration system and calendar were also taken over from Cina
Nara and Heinan times until 1192
regent Kammu moved the capital from Nara to Nagoaka and in 794 to Kyoto,
breaking the power of the Buddhist clergy. He conquered the north of Honshu and
pushed the Ainu people to the island of Hokkaido.
The officials at the emperor's court had become a powerful court nobility. The
leaders of the Fujiwara family incapacitated the Tenno. In the year 894, the
previously diverse contacts with China are completely closed. Nobody except
priests and traders was allowed to leave the country
The court nobility was gradually disempowered. The leaders of the Taira and
Minamoto families became the powerful representatives of the so-called sword
nobility. These warriors were supposed to ensure internal and external
security. In 1185 the Minamoto won the battle between the two.
Shogun period until 1603
The emperor made Minamoto no Yoritomo a shogun. He used the post of imperial
general to expand his power. The shogun received all secular power, while the
emperor and his court only held representative functions. In the following
centuries up to the 15th century, different families rivaled for the
shogunate. The position of the shogun remained weak. In the 15th century the
warrior nobility (samurai) and the provincial administrators (daimyo) grew
stronger and waged war against each other.
In the bay of Hakata - located in the northwest of the island of Kyushu - troops
of the Mongol ruler Kublai Khan invaded in November of that year. The Japanese
samurai warriors were hopelessly inferior to the Mongolian war technique, so
that by November 19th the invaders had already advanced many kilometers into the
country. But due to a typhoon that came on the morning of November 20th, the
entire fleet with all soldiers who had embarked on the ships became a victim of
the storm. Japan had been saved by divine winds - the kamikaze.
After the defeat in Hakata Bay, Kublai Khan tried again to subdue Japan. With a
much larger invasion fleet, the invaders landed again in the northwest of the
island of Kyūshū, but where they encountered better prepared Japanese who could
withstand the attackers. But the decision brought another typhoon that destroyed
most of the ships in the invasion fleet. A total of over 100,000 soldiers of the
invaders are said to have died. The battle went down in history as the Battle of
Jesuits founded missions and converted around 150,000 Japanese
to Christianity within around 30 years. The so-called Christian century
began. The deeper sense was to learn mathematics, geography and navigation
techniques from the European missionaries.
The provincial administrator Oda Nobunaga overthrew the shogunate and he and his
successor subjugated the remaining 250 daimyos. One of his vassals, Tokugawa
Ieyasu, was appointed Shogun and made Edo, later Tokyo, the capital of the
country. In this Edo Shogunate a class society was formed: sword and warrior
nobility, dependent peasants, artisans and merchants formed the four classes
without the possibility of advancement to another class.
Edoshogunate until 1867
An uprising by mostly Christian peasants failed.
Thereupon the Shogun expelled all Europeans from the country. The influence of
foreign countries on Japan was prevented with a few exceptions in trade. For
over 200 years, the country remained almost completely isolated from the outside
Hokkaido is conquered. The country flourished by the 18th century. The merchant
class became economically powerful and the nobility became dependent on the
merchants' money. These demanded the establishment of trade contacts with
foreign countries. The Shogun stuck to its policy of isolation. Edo, today's
Tokyo becomes the economic and political center of the country - even if the
Tenno remains in Kyoto. He closed himself off behind the high walls of his
palace to his own people and only a few selected court officials and aristocrats
This long policy of isolation was not ended until 1853 when US warships forced
the opening of Japanese ports to foreign merchant ships and low tariffs on their
goods. Japan was technically and militarily inferior to the Americans. Unrest
led to the resignation of the Shogun in 1866.
Tenno Mutsuhito took over the government and initiated far-reaching reforms. The
emperor now resided in Tokyo (Edo). The Meiji (enlightened government)
disempowered the nobility. General military service and compulsory schooling
were introduced. A constitution based on the Prussian model came into force in
1889. Industrialization was advanced. Within a few decades, Japan transformed
into a modern nation. The country's first telegraph connection was established
in 1869, and a train connection between Tokyo and Yokohama was opened shortly
afterwards. And in 1873 the country introduces the Gregorian calendar. Education
is based on the example of Germany and the Navy on that of Great Britain.
Meiji period until 1919
Japan annexes the Nansei Islands from China. With that began the imperialist
policy of the empire. In 1895 Japan won the 1st Sino-Japanese War. Taiwan was
annexed and Korea became dependent on Japan.
The Russo-Japanese War began with the defeat of the Russian Pacific Fleet. The
Russian Baltic Fleet then sailed into the Japanese Sea and was devastated in the
Strait of Tsushijama by the highly armed Japanese battleships. Japan then
received territories and rights in Manchurai and was able
to annex Korea in 1910. Japan has finally risen to become a great power
Japan declared war on the German Reich and captured the German colony of
Kiatschou, which it received as a mandate in the Treaty of Versailles.
Hegemonic period until 1945
Japan became a founding member of the League of Nations and limited its sea
armament in the Washington Agreement. Thus it pursued a policy that was more
peaceful at times. Internally, there were reforms in electoral law. Meanwhile,
the influence of nationalist officers on the politics of the country grew. The
secret State Council, which was not controlled by parliament, influenced Emperor
Hirohito and ensured the armament and suppression of political opponents.
The Japanese Empire occupied Manchuria and proclaimed the State of Manchuko
there. International criticism caused Japan to withdraw from the League of
Nations and terminate the disarmament treaties.
The German Reich and Japan founded the Anti-Coming Pact. Italy joined the pact
The Second Sino-Japanese War began with the Japanese attack on China. Large
parts of the country were occupied. The US imposed an economic embargo on
Japan. In Nanjing, around 200,000 Chinese are victims of an arrogant military
camera. This leads to unimaginable atrocities, including medical experiments on
non-anesthetized people. These military men, intoxicated by their past, led the
country into World War II a few years later with the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Parts of Indochina were occupied while the colonial power France at home in
Europe was defeated by Germany in a blitzkrieg. The US imposed an economic
embargo on Japan. The feared shortage of raw materials was threatening for
On December 7th, the planes of a Japanese aircraft carrier fleet surprisingly
attacked the American naval base Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. But it was only a few
hours after the attack that Japan declared war on the United States and was thus
able to keep the attack a secret until the end.
The US Navy defeated the Japanese in the incredibly bloody and mutually costly
naval battle of the Midway Islands.
On August 6, 1945, the Americans dropped the Little Boy atomic
bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima with the help of their Enola Gay bomber. Hiroshima
as a city was the headquarters of the 2nd Japanese Army, but was inhabited by
about 255,000 civilians. The name of the bomber goes back to the American pilot Paul
Tibbets, who named his fatal aircraft after his mother. Before the
American team left for Hisroshima, a Lutheran chaplain said a prayer and
implored the "Almighty Father" to "help those who dare to venture into the
heights of your heavens and bring the fight to our enemies.
It is therefore not surprising that the Japanese later spoke of a "Christian
bomb". The bomb on Hiroshima was dropped at 08:15:17 (Japanese local time), and
at 08:16:02 it was 580 meters above the city center Hiroshimas exploded. Just 43
seconds later, 80% of the inner city area was destroyed due to the unimaginable
pressure wave. The resulting fireball had an internal temperature of more than
1,000,000 degrees Celsius Standing kilometers away, being swept away or going up
in flames. Of the 76,000 houses in Hiroshima, 70,000 were destroyed or badly
damaged. The mushroom cloud of the blown rubble and contaminated ash rose about
eight miles into the air.This fanned out highly toxic material then fell 20
minutes later as fallout (= radioactive fallout) on the city and its
The Little Boy atomic bomb was deliberately dropped by the Americans without
warning in order to keep the number of victims as high as possible. And indeed:
between 90,000 and 200,000 people were dead on the spot. By the end of 1945
alone, tens of thousands more people died from the aftermath of this explosion.
On August 9, the United States dropped another atomic bomb on the city of
Nagasaki, despite knowledge of the devastating consequences of the first atomic
bomb. At that time there were between 240,000 and 260,000 residents in the
city. Here it was the US pilot
Charles W. Sweeney who dropped his deadly burden - the
plutonium bomb Fat Man - in his Bockscar bomber on
Nagasaki at 11:02 am Japanese time. The bomb that exploded at a height of 470
meters this time caused a mushroom cloud 18 kilometers high. 22,000 people were
killed immediately, and another 39,000 in the following four months. Almost
75,000 people were injured (some seriously).
Both atomic bombs were decided by US President Harry S. Truman on July 16, 1945,
just a few days after the first "successful" atomic test, the so-called Trinity
test. This was done near the desert town of Alamogordo in the US state of New
Mexico. Although Japan had already made arrangements for surrender, Truman did
not abandon his plan. In his diary he noted, among other things, "I believe that
the Japsen will give in before Russia intervenes." After the drop on Hiroshima,
Truman threatened Japan: "If they do not accept our terms, then they may expect
a rain of destruction from the air such as has never been seen on earth." He
should be right:
September 2nd, 1945
On August 15th, Tenno Hiroito (1901-1989) announced by means of a radio address
at 12:00 noon that he had decided to make the path to peace possible and to
endure the "unbearable".
On September 2, 1945, Japan surrendered unconditionally. The surrender was
preceded by a - albeit foiled - coup of young fanatical officers who wanted to
"protect the Tenno from themselves".
The American occupiers left the Tenno in office - a decision that was certainly
brave and at the same time wise.
post war period
Emperor Hirohito announces that he only functioned as a symbol of the state and
could no longer be equated with a god. Nevertheless, it remained almost
invisible and inaudible to most Japanese. Only extremely rarely did a Tenno
address his people via radio or television in the following years and decades.
A new constitution established a parliamentary-democratic system. A year later,
the San Francisco Peace Treaty was signed.
end of the occupation. Japan then built up "self-defense forces", not least in
the face of the Korean War.
During the time of the occupation, US soldiers fathered around 200,000 children
with Japanese women. Most of them emigrated to the USA and Europe, partly
because they were not recognized in Japan.
treaty of alliance with the USA. After an economic miracle similar to Germany's
in the 1950s, Japan became the leading industrial and export nation.
Emperor Hiroito (1901-1989) died and his son Akihito (born 1933) ascended the
The Liberal Democratic Party LDP, ruling since 1955, broke up into several
splits as a result of a series of corruption scandals. After a year in the
opposition, it again became the leading democratic power. But the economic
crisis that began in 1990 (bubble economy) and the ongoing scandals have
repeatedly led to the resignation of once powerful politicians. But until 2009,
the LDP remained the country's leading political force.
In the election on August 30, 2009, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) won with
its top candidate with 315 of the total of 480 seats, well ahead of the Liberal
Democratic Party (LDP). After the previous Prime Minister Taro Aso, the
candidate of the DPJ - Yukio Hatoyama became Prime Minister of the
country. After his resignation on June 2, 2010 due to a party donation scandal,
Naoto Kan (born 1946) became Prime Minister of the country on June 8, 2010 until
September 2, 2011. He was a co-founder and chairman of the Democratic Party
(DPJ) on several occasions.
9.0 earthquake and a subsequent tsunami killed over 18,000 people and plunged
the country into a major crisis. As a result of the tsunami, there was also a
serious accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which led to the
contamination of large areas.
over 200 years, Emperor Akihito (born 1933) was the first Tenno to resign
voluntarily on April 30th. His term of office is known as the Heisei period. He
was succeeded by his son Naruhito (born 1960) on the throne.But it was not until
October 22, 2019 that Naruhito announced his enthronement in the presence of
around 2,000 dignitaries from all over the world, making him the 126th
Tenno. The ceremony "Sokuirei-Seiden-no-gi" (ceremony for the enthronement of
the emperor) takes place according to an ancient custom. Naruhito wore a
brown-orange robe and court officials placed two of the imperial throne insignia
next to the emperor's throne, a sword and the curved jewels that the imperial
house, according to legend, received from the sun goddess Amaterasu
Omikami. According to myth, the emperors of Japan are immediate descendants of
the sun goddess Amaterasu.