Japan in the 21st Century

Japan in the 21st Century: Environment, Economy, and Society

Pradyumna P. Karan
Cartography by Dick Gilbreath
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 416
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    Japan in the 21st Century
    Book Description:

    The ancient civilization of Japan, with its Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, is also closely associated with all that is new and modern. Looking outward, Japan sees what it has become since Hiroshima: the world's second-largest economy, a source of fury and wonder, a power without arms. Looking inward, Japan sees old ways shaken and new ones developing at a hectic pace. Japan in the Twenty-first Century offers compelling insights into the current realities of the country and investigates the crucial political, economic, demographic, and environmental challenges that face the nation. A combination of text, maps, and photographs provides an essential understanding of Japan's geography, cultural heritage, demography, economic and political development, and of many other important issues. Pradyumna P. Karan explores the obstacles and opportunities that will shape Japan and affect the world community in the coming years. He highlights strategies and policies that will facilitate economic and political change and stimulate the development of effective institutions for long-term, sustainable prosperity and economic vitality. Unique field reports drawn from direct observations of events and places in Japan illuminate Japanese traditions and sensibilities. The first full-length English-language textbook on Japan's geography, culture, politics, and economy to appear in nearly four decades, Japan in the Twenty-first Century will be a vital resource for researchers, academics, general readers, and students of Japan. Pradyumna P. Karan, professor of geography and Japan studies at the University of Kentucky, is the author or editor of numerous books on Asian geography and culture, including The Japanese City and Japan in the Bluegrass.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-2763-7
    Subjects: Business, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Maps and Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Chapter 1 Japan at the Crossroads: Grappling with Changes
    (pp. 1-8)

    Japan. The name evokes thoughts of electronics, dials, lights, and numbers. This ancient civilization, with its Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, is closely associated with all that is new and modern in our times. Looking outward, Japan sees what it has become since Hiroshima: a source of fury and wonder, the world’s second-largest economy, a power without arms. Looking inward, Japan sees old ways shaken and new ones moving forward at a hectic pace.

    What is Japan like? Who are the Japanese people? What are the challenges that they face in the twenty-first century? Their characteristics collide: democracy and hierarchy;...

  6. Chapter 2 Environmental Challenges and Constraints
    (pp. 9-49)

    What challenges and constraints does the natural environment offer to Japan? What is the influence of nature on the country’s society and culture? What impact will the environmental challenges have on Japan’s role in the twenty-first century? The Japanese dwell in a dynamic and ever-shifting, even though restricted, natural setting, from cold northern seas to tepid southern waters. There is striking diversity in geography and environment from region to region. These differences have been a major factor in creating the unique blend that is Japanese culture. A slender mountain range stretching down the middle forms the backbone of the island...

  7. Chapter 3 The Cultural Heritage
    (pp. 50-76)

    Because of the acidic volcanic soils of the archipelago, fossils of early humans have rarely been preserved in Japan, but the few fossils of early Homo sapiens that are available indicate that the people were short and had flat faces. The characteristics of the fossils are similar to those found in southern China, and thus the mainland of Asia is the area of origin of the Japanese people. The forebears of the dwindling Ainu communities of Hokkaido once occupied northern Honshu, Hokkaido, Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands and were in fact the original inhabitants of northern Japan.

    An elaborate mythology...

  8. Chapter 4 Japanese Landscapes
    (pp. 77-108)

    The landscape of Japan is extremely complex and intricately organized. It records the occupancy by a culturally distinct and dynamic society of an archipelago bordering the earth’s largest continent and on the brink of an ocean trench 35,000 feet (10,668 m) deep! Great tectonic plates collide in this zone, resulting in earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and hot springs. The land is indeed alive, and so is the distinctive culture of the people.

    Geography spared Japan the tramp of invading armies and the confusion of many intruding aliens with strange cultures and ways. The Korea Strait, which separates the westernmost island, Kyushu,...

  9. Chapter 5 Regional Reality
    (pp. 109-163)

    Often Japan is described as a homogeneous island nation, but in reality it consists of distinctive constituent regions, each with a unique character. On a broader scale there are differences between eastern and western Japan (Nakamura 1980), between the seat of political and economic power in central Honshu and the outlying peripheral areas (Sugimoto 1997, 56–62), and between the Pacific Ocean front of Japan (Omote Nihon) and the back (Ura Nihon). These regional differences are widely recognized in Japan, and there is a particular consciousness associated with each geographic area (Yagasaki 1997). Kyoto, the capital of Japan for over...

  10. Chapter 6 Demographic and Social Challenges
    (pp. 164-203)

    Japan faces a number of demographic challenges as it enters the twenty-first century—falling birthrates, an aging society, shortage of labor—and social problems involving homelessness, minority groups, gender discrimination, and social welfare services. In this chapter the geographic dimension of these challenges and Japan’s approach to them are analyzed. It is clear that these problems will affect Japan’s domestic policy and international competitiveness.

    Japan’s population of 126.9 million (in 2000) is ninth largest in the world after China (1.2 billion), India (1.02 billion), the United States (284 million), Indonesia (210 million), Brazil (170 million), Russia (150 million), Pakistan (130...

  11. Chapter 7 Rural Landscape, Settlements, and Agriculture
    (pp. 204-235)

    The nature of Japanese agriculture, farm villages, and the countryside has changed radically during the past half century. Rice continues to be a staple crop, but truck gardening for the urban market has grown in importance. Quality- and labor-intensive production is much more significant. Apples, grapes, strawberries, and other fruits are produced in increasing amounts for the metropolitan markets and as seasonal expensive gifts to support the labor-intensive production methods. There is concern for the competitive ability of Japanese agriculture in an open market. The farm lobby pressures the government to maintain agricultural support programs (Mulgan 2000).

    The farm village...

  12. Chapter 8 Urban Settlements
    (pp. 236-283)

    Because Japanese cities have grown at different times (over several centuries), in different geographic regions, and in varied economic settings, they reflect diverse characteristics. Specific features of site and topography influence the form of the city. However, despite intraregional and interregional variations, recurrent national patterns of urbanization are, in their particular characteristics, a reflection of the social values and economic life of the country (Scholler 1984). During the past twenty-five years, as a result of the increasing trend toward globalization of the world economy and the important role that Japan plays in it, contemporary large Japanese cities and urban areas...

  13. Chapter 9 The Political Challenge
    (pp. 284-311)

    Japan’s political system is one of the most controversial areas in contemporary research. The basic nature of the system is hotly contested. There are three main models: (1) some scholars, such as Edwin Reischauer, have argued that Japan is an advanced democratic system characterized by unity derived from its Confucian past and strongly influenced by the West; (2) some say that Japan is politically different from the United States but similar to many European countries: and (3) others claim that Japan has a unique political system—one that sets it apart from other countries—and that in many ways it is...

  14. Chapter 10 The Economic Challenge
    (pp. 312-322)

    Japan has the second-largest market economy in the world, with an aggregate output of more than $4.8 trillion. The per capita gross national product (GNP) was $38,000 in 1997, as compared to $29,000 in the United States. However, once corrections are made for Japan’s high cost of housing and of various goods, the effective per capita GNP in terms of purchasing power parity was $24,400 in 1997. With its large productivity and volume of exports, Japan is one of the three centers of world economic power, alongside the United States and the European Union. In the 1990s Japan’s economy and...

  15. Chapter 11 Development and Restructuring of Industry
    (pp. 323-341)

    In comparing Japan’s history of industrialization and modernization with that of the West, several important differences stand out. In the first place, the process of modernization took place over a much longer period of time in the West. Western capitalism first appeared about five hundred years ago; then the Industrial Revolution occurred in Britain starting about 1750; and finally industrial corporate capitalism started to appear in the second half of the nineteenth century.

    In contrast, Japan changed from a traditional commercial agrarian economy to a technological one in a single generation. The zaibatsu were the central institution in this transformation,...

  16. Chapter 12 Postindustrial Japan
    (pp. 342-358)

    Since the mid-1970s, when manufacturing employment began to decline, a major transformation has been ushering Japan from the industrial into the postindustrial era. The passage into postindustrial society is marked by structural shifts from the production of goods to the provision of services and by the growing importance of technology and information as factors in production. The most obvious characteristic of economic life in the postindustrial society is that the majority of the labor force is no longer employed in agriculture (primary economic activity) or manufacturing (secondary sector), but in services. In 2002 the service or tertiary industries (retail and...

  17. Chapter 13 The Challenge of Environmental Preservation
    (pp. 359-375)

    Environmental degradation in Japan has accompanied the development of modern industry since the Meiji period. Environmental problems caused by drainage from the refineries at the Ashio Copper Mine in Tochigi Prefecture, operated by the Furukawa Company, go back to 1878. They provoked intense political struggles in the period 1890 to 1905. The pollution in Ashio is of such long standing that it is referred to as the origin of Japan’s environmental problems (Nimura 1997). The acid wastewater polluted large areas of agricultural land in the lower reaches of the Watarase River, damaging farm products, killing fish, and doing serious damage...

  18. Chapter 14 Facing the Challenges
    (pp. 376-386)

    As Japan enters the twenty-first century, the country faces several critical challenges to realize the great potential that the new era holds. Earlier chapters of this book have highlighted realities of contemporary Japan and the environmental, social, demographic, political, and economic challenges facing the nation. Reforms are required in order to meet the needs of the twenty-first century and ensure a vigorous nation in the future (“Future hinges on reality check” 2000). In modern times major changes were imposed on Japan from outside at the end of the Tokugawa shogunate and again at the end of World War II. Now,...

  19. Further Readings
    (pp. 387-392)
  20. Index
    (pp. 393-401)