The language of Japan has many dialects, and speakers of different dialects do not always understand each other. But almost everyone in Japan uses standard Japanese as well as the dialect of his home area. Standard Japanese, originally the dialect spoken by the educated people of Tokyo, is now taught and understood throughout the country.
Broadly speaking, the accent in Japanese is musical. To say "bridge" (hashi) in standard Japanese, the voice begins with a low pitch on ha and rises on shi. If the voice is high for ha and low for shi, the word means "chopsticks." The pitch of a word can also change in a sentence. As a word, hi (fire) has a low pitch. But in the sentence Hi ga deta (Fire has broken out), the pitch pattern is high for hi, low for the rest of the sentence.
Japanese sentences are not put together in the same way as sentences in English. For one thing, the verb comes at the end of a statement in Japanese. In Japanese, the word order for "Kenji read the book" is "Kenji the book read." In addition, two language particles wa and wo are added. Wa often follows the subject of a clause (Kenji). Wo follows the direct object of a verb (the book). So the sentence in Japanese is Kenji wa hon wo yomimashita. To make a question of a statement, the particle ka is usually added. Thus Kenji wa hon wo yomimashita ka means "Did Kenji read the book?"
In Japanese, different styles of speech are used to show degrees of politeness and familiarity. A plain style is generally used in speaking to close friends. For strangers, a polite style may be used. To show honor and respect, a deferential style is often used toward parents, older people, teachers, and so on. Different styles are also used in talking about people and things. One of them, the exalted style, is almost entirely limited to references to the emperor and the imperial family.
The Japanese writing system is unique. Chinese characters, called kanji, were adopted by the Japanese more than 1,500 years ago. Because Japanese is very different from Chinese, however, additional sets of characters, called kana, were developed. After World War II the Japanese government modified the system of writing. Kanji were reduced from many thousands of characters to 1,850 basic characters, and their forms were simplified. Many words are written with kanji only. Some words are written with kana (hiragana or katakana) only.
But most Japanese writing is a mixture of kanji and kana. In newspapers and magazines, Japanese is usually printed from top to bottom, in columns running from right to left. But in many textbooks, Japanese is printed horizontally from left to right. In the Japanese culture, the surname, or family name, comes before a person's given name.


Poetry is an important part of Japanese culture. Occasions of many kinds are celebrated with poems, and thousands of poems are submitted for the poetry prize awarded by the emperor each New Year. Most Japanese compose short poems, called haiku and tanka. Japanese poems, which usually do not rhyme, are based on a syllable count.
A haiku is a three-line poem, with 5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second, and 5 syllables in the third. A tanka has five lines, with 5, 7, 5, 7, and 7 syllables. Because haiku and tanka are short, they can only suggest a mood or a picture; the listener or reader has to fill in the details. Basho (1644-94), who has been regarded by many as Japan's greatest poet, was a master of haiku. A notable tanka poet was Tsurayuki Ki-no (884-946), one of Japan's "thirty-six poetic immortals."
Japanese literature is noted for distinctive forms of drama as well as of poetry. The no, or noh, play combines recitation, music, and slow dancing. Japan's no plays can be considered as scenes from the ceremonious life of lords and ladies during Japan's Middle Ages. The mood of these plays is usually serious often tragic and they are noted for their fine poetry, which is chanted by the actors and chorus. Because the no plays are short, five different types of plays are presented at a time, each with its own music. The first is usually about a god, the second about a warrior, the third about a woman. Japan's outstanding no dramatists were Motokiyo Zeami (Seami) (1363-1443) and his father, Kiyotsugu Kanami (1333-84).
Like the no play, the Japanese puppet play is serious drama combining words, music, and dancing. Perhaps the greatest writer of puppet drama, called Bunraku, was Chikamatsu (1653-1725). His plays fall into two groups: heroic plays, often set in Japan's Middle Ages, and domestic tragedies for example, 'The Love Suicides at Amijima' which give a naturalistic picture of middle-class life.
For elaborate spectacle, Kabuki drama has no rival. Kabuki plays are distinguished by sensationalism and melodrama. One of the most famous Kabuki plays is 'Chushingura', about 47 samurai who avenge their lord's death and then commit hara-kiri as required by the law of the time. (See also "The Performing Arts of Japan" later in this section.)
Japanese prose works tend to be series of loosely connected episodes. Diaries and books of random thoughts, which lend themselves to this style, are typical of Japanese prose literature. Early Japanese novels consisted of series of incidents, each incident built around a poem. Perhaps the greatest work of Japanese literature is 'The Tale of Genji', an episodic novel by Lady Murasaki (975?-1025?). Most of the works of Saikaku (1642-93), the outstanding novelist of the Tokugawa period, are really collections of short stories based on a single theme. In many modern novels it is common to find loosely related incidents. (See also Japanese Literature.)


The fine arts of modern Japan are similar to those of many Western countries. However, Japanese classical works of art are unique in the philosophy, methods, and materials used in their creation. These works include paintings and sculptures, as well as products of the decorative arts, such as pottery and porcelains, lacquers, textiles, and woodcuts.


In classical Japanese painting, black ink and watercolors were used on tissue-thin silk or washi (Japanese paper). Often the artist used only black ink, achieving a sense of color in the gradations from deep, luminous black to silvery gray. One-color paintings made in this way are called sumi-e.
Although classical Japanese paintings were realistic, they were never photographic. Instead, the artist used only a few brushstrokes to suggest the crumbly texture of a boulder; a hard-edged, rocky cliff; the gnarled trunk and rustling foliage of a tree; the feathers of a bird; or an ocean wave. Unpainted areas of silk or paper created a sense of space and depth. Through economy of line and careful composition, the artist presented a distillation of his subject, leaving the viewer to fill in the details.
Classical Japanese paintings were "studio pictures." The artist did not go into the countryside with paints and easel. Instead, following a walk in the hills or along a stream, he returned to his studio to paint his impressions. The paintings usually took the form of hanging scrolls called kakemono, hand scrolls called emakimono, large folding screens, sliding doors, or fans. The hand scrolls, often 30 feet or more in length, are unrolled from right to left, the viewer enjoying only as much of the painting as may be exposed between his outstretched hands.
After Buddhism was introduced in Japan in the mid-6th century, great temples were built. These served not only as religious shrines but also as centers of art and learning. The numerous deities of Buddhism were depicted in paintings and sculptures. Artists, governed by precise descriptions in the sutras (holy texts) created likenesses of the Buddha, his disciples, and minor deities, as well as complex map-like representations of gods surrounding a central Buddha. These figures were painted or carved to embellish the temples and instruct the devout. Long narrative hand scrolls record in fine line and rich color the lives, journeys, and campaigns of important Buddhist priests and nobles. The names of most early painters, many of them priests, are no longer known.
Sumi-e developed rapidly during the Muromachi period (1392-1573) of Japanese art. It was fostered by Zen Buddhism, which stressed simplicity and was influenced by similar examples from China. However, while Japan was subjected over the centuries to successive waves of influence from China, the artists assimilated the foreign styles and in almost every instance made them uniquely their own.
During the Muromachi period and the Momoyama period (1573-1615), distinctive schools of painting emerged and individual artists established their fame. The Buddhist monk Sesshu (1420-1506) perfected black-and-white landscape painting in the Chinese tradition. The Kano school, founded by Masanobu Kano (1434-1530) and continued by his family, developed a distinctively Japanese style.
Folding screens and sliding door panels in rich colors and patterns, often on a ground of gold or silver, were created to enliven the austere grandeur of 16th-and 17th-century castle interiors. The creators of these works were called "the great decorators." The Kano school remained dominant well into the Edo, or Tokugawa, period (1615-1867). It shared favor with traditional Chinese-style ink painting as well as a new artistic style called ukiyo-e, paintings depicting the life of common people.


Woodcuts were made in Japan as early as the 11th century. But this art form enjoyed its greatest popularity from the mid-17th through the 19th centuries. The earliest woodcuts, which portrayed Buddhist patriarchs and deities, were executed in black with strong, rhythmic lines and areas of simple pattern. Occasionally, rich red-oranges, mustard yellows, and greens were added by hand. Early color prints, developed around 1740, were also restricted to three colors, usually green or pinkish-red, and sometimes yellow. True color prints, using many wood blocks and called nishiki-e (brocade pictures), were developed in 1765. A print bore the name of the artist who designed it. The carving and printing, however, were done by two other craftsmen.
Japanese woodcuts are probably the finest expression of the ukiyo-e movement. Courtesans, Kabuki actors, and scenes from Kabuki dramas were popular subjects. Moronobu Hishikawa (1618-94) is credited with beginning the ukiyo-e tradition of printmaking. The era of the full-color print starts with the work of Harunobu Suzuki (1725-70). The early 19th century brought both the full maturity and the gradual degeneration of this art form. The landscape artists Hokusai Katsushika (1760-1849) and Hiroshige Ando (1797-1858) were the last outstanding woodcut artists of the ukiyo-e. In the 20th century a modern movement in printmaking developed, called sosaku hanga (creative prints).


Japanese sculpture of the pre-Buddhist period is perhaps best represented by the haniwa (clay cylinders), which date from the 3rd to the 5th century. These images of red clay were sometimes elaborately modeled in the forms of animals, birds, and human figures. Placed fencelike around tomb mounds of the imperial family and important court figures, the haniwa seem to have served the dual function of preventing soil erosion and providing the deceased with objects they had enjoyed during their lives.
Following the introduction of Buddhism to Japan, the development of sculpture paralleled that of painting. Numerous icons depicted the growing number of deities. Sculpture closely followed earlier Chinese examples which had been transmitted through Korea. Important images were cast in bronze, though wood was also favored. In later periods, wood and clay were increasingly preferred, as was dry lacquer. This consisted of successive coats of lacquer applied to cloth over a clay or wood core that was later removed. Since stone was scarce and of poor quality, it was almost never used in sculpture. Most of the best surviving were made by unknown masters.
A noteworthy 8th-century tendency, which continued through the Kamakura period (1185-1392), was the portraitlike quality of much of the sculpture. This may in part be attributed to the growing preference for the dry-lacquer technique, which allowed greater inventiveness on the part of the artist. The finished product was light but durable. An innovation in wood sculpture the use of small blocks ingeniously fitted together, rather than a single block or log also provided the artist with greater freedom of expression.
Japanese sculpture reached its peak during the Kamakura period. Although distinctive pieces were made in later eras, sculpture never again attained the position it had enjoyed in the preceding seven centuries. Most of the important sculptures have remained in the temples for which they were created.

Decorative Arts

The Japanese decorative arts include the making of pottery, porcelains, lacquers, and textiles. It is for such works that Japan is perhaps best known.
The earliest examples of Japanese artistic expression are earthenware vessels called jomon (rope-patterned) and the later, but still archaic, yayoi pottery. Some jomon specimens may date as far back as 6000 BC. The style continued until about the 2nd century BC, when it was supplanted by the more finely executed yayoi.
The process of making true porcelain was not introduced into Japan until the 16th century. Elegantly patterned products found favor with the nobility and court circles. By contrast, native rough pottery enjoyed great popularity in intellectual circles and was especially favored for use in the tea ceremony.
Many well-known painters also applied their skills to allied arts. Koetsu Honnami (1558-1637),famed for his calligraphy, or decorative writing, was also a gifted potter and lacquer designer. Kenzan Ogata (1663-1743) executed in pottery the designs of his brother Korin (1658-1716), who was renowned for bold decorative paintings.
The dry-lacquer technique was used not only for sculpture but also for decorative accessories such as trays, tables, small chests, containers for tea and candy, and sumptuously fitted picnic boxes. Sprinklings of gold and silver powder and burnished and cut-gold foil alone or combined with inlays of shell, mother-of-pearl, or metal provided a bold contrast to the red, black, brown, and green lacquer surfaces. The 18th- and 19th-century love of splendor and rich decoration was mirrored in handsomely brocaded silks favored by the court and clergy. The latter, under vows of poverty, cut brocades into small squares and pieced them together again so that their fine garments would simulate the patched clothing of leaner years. Even the simple folk designs worn by the poor reflected the taste of Japanese weavers.

Architecture and Gardens

Japanese architecture, like painting and sculpture, made its greatest advances following the introduction of Buddhism. As with sculpture, wood was the primary material. The design of traditional Japanese architecture emphasizes horizontal lines. Even in taller structures like pagodas, the use of sloping roofs helps minimize the impression of height.
Great temples and monasteries and feudal castles and palaces are the major architectural monuments. The temples are characterized by vast halls and soaring roofs. Based on Chinese examples, the temples and storied pagodas feature elaborate bracketing systems to support their roofs.
Major constructions mirror the taste of the periods which produced them. Horyuji Temple near Nara reflects the simple elegance favored in the 7th century. The Toshogu Shrine in Nikko illustrates the opulence of the Edo period.
Secular architecture of nearly all periods reveals the Japanese love for refined simplicity. Interior and exterior finishes depend on the fine grain of wood and textured stucco.
Handsome gardens are created to so complement the buildings they surround that the landscape and structures appear to be part of one another. Moss, trees, pebbles and rocks may be combined with artificial hills, ponds, and a stream to suggest the natural beauty of a lake, seascape, or mountain waterfall. Profound simplicity is achieved in the garden of Ryoanji Temple near Kyoto, for example, by the use of five artfully placed rock formations set in moss in a patterned field of white sand. Whatever its proportions or the materials used, the Japanese garden is designed to invite entry and inspire meditation.

Interior Decoration and Home Arts

The art of raising bonsai (dwarfed potted trees) has enabled the Japanese to admire nature in an indoor setting. Bonsai are able to bear fruit and to drop their leaves in season, thus reproducing nature in miniature. A skillful bonsai artist can prune, bend, and shape branches to suggest trees standing tall and upright in a field or bent and gnarled by age or weather. The beauty of a natural landscape is evoked in the viewer's imagination. (See also Bonsai.)
Another means of enjoying nature in the home is through the arrangement of flowers, which has been refined in Japan to an art known as ikebana. Unlike Western arrangements which emphasize the color and form of flowers, ikebana favors the flowing lines of stems, leaves, and branches.
In any arrangement, the plant materials used must convey a feeling of continuing growth as well as be symbolic of time and the season. Full blossoms might suggest the past; buds, the future. A full and spreading arrangement of various blossoms or other plant materials might suggest summer; a sparse one, autumn. A graceful floral design and a symbolic ornamental scroll often decorate the alcove called the tokonoma, the place of honor in a Japanese home.
Chanoyu, the ceremonial art of making tea, is a notable aesthetic discipline in Japan. Through the delicate flavor of the tea and the simplicity of the ceremony, participants in the ritual hope to achieve serenity and an understanding of true beauty. (See also Tea.)


The Japanese have great respect for their ancient, traditional performing arts. At the same time they are attracted by new, more modern forms. As a result, a Japanese who enjoys a performance of bugaku, an ancient musical dance of the imperial court, may also take pleasure in a concert of contemporary Western music played by an excellent Japanese symphony orchestra.
One reason for the vitality of the performing arts in Japan is that "performance" is an essential part of the nation's life. The ceremonies of the native Shinto religion include music and dance. A Japanese wanting to honor the gods pays for a performance of the sacred dance kagura at a shrine. During the bon festival, a Buddhist celebration for the souls of the dead, the young people of a community dance in a circle around a drum tower. In the summer, groups of young men carrying a portable shrine dance and chant through the city streets. All such dances are related to the Japanese love and worship of nature.
Rhythm, singing, and chanting are also part of everyday work in Japan pulling a net from the sea, felling timber, even erecting a telephone pole. Ancient music and dance accompany the planting and harvesting of rice. Music and rhythmical movement closely combine dancing, acting, and instrumental and vocal music. In any traditional Japanese stage performance, it is difficult to say where the dancing stops and the acting begins.
The Japanese performing arts differ greatly from those of the West. Traditional Japanese music does not use Western keys and scales. The drums, stringed instruments, and flutes produce sounds not usually heard from Western instruments, though the koto (Japanese harp) comes close to sounding Western. Traditional Japanese singing uses a different system of voice production than that of the West, and the traditional dance employs patterns of body movement unfamiliar in the West. A traditional Japanese actor does not think he should look like a "real person" when he is performing. From his youth the Japanese performing artist is trained in the strict imitation of his teacher. This method insures that traditional techniques of performance are preserved in a continuous, almost unchanged, artistic heritage.
Before 1640, foreign influences on the Japanese performing arts came only from the Asian mainland. But, as is typical in Japan, the borrowed materials were refined into a principally Japanese expression.

Gagaku and Bugaku

Classical gagaku music was introduced into Japan from China in the 8th century AD. It combined musical forms absorbed from Korea, Manchuria, Persia, India, and Indochina. Gagaku merged with Japanese music around 850. Wind, stringed, and percussion instruments are used in gagaku performances, which are known as kangen when performed alone.
When gagaku is accompanied by dancing, it is called bugaku. A single dancer or one or more pairs of dancers perform with great symmetry of movement. The dances may be slow or spirited depending on whether they are ceremonial dances, military dances, or dances for children. A bugaku may tell a story, but the story is generally not learned from a view of the dance alone.

No Plays

The medieval dance drama of the no theater came in part from Chinese sources. Actors in no plays perform on a usually bare stage about 18 feet square and on a narrow runway leading to the stage from the dressing room. They are accompanied by drums, a high-pitched flute, and chanting by a chorus of six or eight men. All parts, including female roles, are played by men and boys. There are only two important roles the shite (principal character) and the waki (subordinate character).
Both the shite and the waki wear handsomely embroidered costumes patterned upon medieval court dress. The shite usually wears a painted mask carved from wood. Joy, sorrow, or anger may be represented by slightly changing the position of the mask on the actor's face. Different masks are used to represent men, women, elderly persons, gods, and demons. In most of the 240 no plays performed in Japan today, the shite changes his costume and mask for the second half of the performance to reveal his true character. He may change, for example, from a beautiful woman to a demon or from a boy to a warrior. Often, the waki is a Buddhist priest and the shite is the ghost of a person who, suffering for evil he committed during his lifetime, seeks and obtains help from the priest for the peace of his soul.
A no performance neither looks nor sounds like real life. Movement is extremely slow. If the play requires, for example, a boat or a hut, these are represented by a skeletal framework which only suggests their shape. A folding fan in the hands of an actor may represent a variety of objects a sword, a letter, the rising moon, or falling rain. The text is ancient poetry, difficult even for many Japanese to understand.
The traditional no program consists of five plays with short comic pieces called kyogen performed between them. The usual program is now three plays, each lasting an hour or longer, and two kyogen. The kyogen are a complete contrast to the serious no plays, for they are acted vigorously and amusingly and deal with such matters as servants outwitting their masters or husbands their wives.


Toward 1700 a new form of theater appeared in Japan. Called bunraku, it combines the manipulation of puppets with a narrative accompanied by music played on the samisen, a three-stringed, banjo-shaped, plucked instrument. Each puppet is about half life-size and is handled by a team of three men in a fashion unique to Japan. By means of strings inside the puppet's head, the chief manipulator controls the movable mouth, eyebrows, and eyelids, as well as the right arm and hand of the doll. His assistants animate the rest of the puppet. The operators are silent but visible to the audience throughout the play.
Unlike the no stage, the bunraku stage uses elaborate scenery and various techniques and devices for changing scenes rapidly. At one side of the stage are seated one or more samisen players and the narrator-singer, who chants both the descriptive passages and the spoken words of all the characters. Such precise coordination and teamwork is demanded among the operators, the musician, and the narrator that they must all have many years of training.
Bunraku developed two kinds of plays. Jidaimono deals with historical materials and the warrior class, while sewamono is concerned with the life of the commoner. Some of the greatest Japanese dramatists wrote bunraku plays. Among them was Chikamatsu, who is sometimes called "the Shakespeare of Japan." Another was Izumo Takeda (1691-1756), whose 'Kanadehon Chushingura' (1748), or 'Chushingura' for short, is a popular Japanese play in both the bunraku and Kabuki theaters. Its theme loyalty to a master is a common one in the puppet theater.
Bunraku declined in popularity after the mid-1700s. It survives only in Osaka, though tours are made to other cities. It is regarded as a "cultural property" by the Japanese government, which supports it through the Japan Broadcasting Corporation.


Kabuki, a form of Japanese theater using live actors, began around the same time as bunraku. It originated in Kyoto with new kinds of dances performed by a woman named Okuni in the early 1600s. These became highly popular, and Okuni was imitated by other actresses and actors. But the Japanese government, deciding that the performances were immoral, decreed in 1629 that women could no longer appear on the stage. Women's roles were taken over by men, and this practice continues in modern Kabuki.
A typical Kabuki program may include a dance based upon a no play or a kyogen, part of doll theater jidaimono, and acts from plays written especially for the Kabuki in the 18th and 19th centuries. No important Kabuki plays were written after 1900, and this theater is in many ways a living museum of the Japanese performing arts. It is now based in Tokyo theaters and attracts large audiences.
The performance of a Kabuki program requires highly skilled actors, trained from childhood in dance, voice, and acrobatics, who are capable of playing a wide variety of parts, including female roles. An actor who plays the part of a woman is called an onnagata. Among the Kabuki characters are horses, foxes, dogs, and demons, all played by actors.
Kabuki visual effects are varied and spectacular. Huge settings change on a revolving stage in plain view of the audience. Scenery and actors rise from or disappear into the stage floor on elevators. Actors perform portions of the program in the midst of the audience on the hanamichi, a runway about six feet wide extending from the rear of the auditorium to the stage. Music, most frequently that of the samisen, is used throughout, the musicians performing either on the stage or in a room at the side of it.
In some Kabuki plays the actors wear striking white, red, and black makeup to create the effect of power and strength. Elaborate costumes, which can be changed on stage, may weigh as much as 50 pounds. Masses of warriors dance and somersault in scenes of battle. The dramatic poses of an actor are accompanied by the beating of wooden clappers on the stage.

Television, Western Music, and Motion Pictures

Thanks to television, no, bunraku, and Kabuki are now seen by larger audiences than ever. The Japanese government television station regularly broadcasts performances, from short excerpts to long Kabuki programs. The entire nine-hour bunraku production of the 11-act 'Kanadehon Chushingura' has been televised. The national network also televises modern plays, opera, modern dance, ballet, and the programs of its own symphony orchestra.
Western music, which has been taught in Japanese schools since the 1870s, is as popular as the traditional music of ancient Japan. Many Japanese cities have permanent orchestras and thriving musical conservatories. Internationally known orchestra, ballet, and opera companies visit Japan. Similarly, the works of contemporary Japanese composers trained in Western music, such as Toru Takemitsu and Toshiro Mayazumi, are played in Europe and the United States.
Motion pictures have been another Western influence on the Japanese performing arts. Filmmaking in Japan began early in the 20th century with screen adaptations of traditional literary masterpieces and Kabuki drama. The cinematic art declined during the war years of the 1930s and 1940s.
After World War II many Japanese films became internationally famous for their artistic and technical quality. Akira Kurosawa's 'Rashomon' won the grand prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1951. Other notable films are 'The Rickshaw Man', 'Bushido: Samurai Saga', 'Seven Samurai', and 'Kagemusha'. Styles ranged from the avant-garde 'Woman in the Dunes' to the violent 'In the Realm of the Senses'.


The martial arts in Japan originated with medieval warriors, the samurai, who mastered at least one or two of them for use in battle. Today they are more important as competitive sports and as aids to physical and mental fitness. The martial arts were traditionally acquired through the family, but schools to teach them now thrive in Japan.
Sumo (Japanese wrestling) is one of the country's most popular sports. Professional sumo matches are held in rings of sand between two huge wrestlers dressed only in mawashi (loincloths). The actual bout is preceded by a ritual during which the wrestlers face each other, squatting and touching the ground with their fists. The match does not begin until both wrestlers come up at the same time. It ends only when a wrestler has been pushed out of the ring or when any part of a wrestler's body except his feet touches the ground. Several professional sumo tournaments are held each year in Japan. A grand champion wrestler is called Yokozuna.
Judo developed from jujitsu, an art of self-defense that was popular during the Tokugawa period. Judo has three basic strategies attacking the opponent's vital points, throwing the opponent, and grappling. One referee and two assistants preside at a judo match. The winner is the first man to throw his opponent to the floor, to lift his opponent over his shoulders, to pin him down until he gives up, or to pin him for at least 30 seconds. If neither contestant accomplishes any of these goals, the match is awarded to the more aggressive of the two. Colored belts are worn to indicate degrees of mastery in judo.
Aikido also developed from jujitsu. In aikido, the purpose is to throw the opponent to the floor or to attack him at his weakest point by applying a painful hold. The opponent is then easier to overcome. Opponents in aikido try to stay apart from each other as much as possible. Aikido does not require great muscular strength. It is practiced to enhance body flexibility and to foster graceful movement.
Karate evolved in ancient China and was introduced into Japan in the 17th century. Only in the 20th century, however, did it gain wide popularity. Karate involves jabbing, hitting, and kicking at the most vulnerable parts of the opponent's body. One of the most destructive of the martial arts, karate is usually practiced on tiles, boards, and other hard objects rather than on human opponents.
Kendo (Japanese fencing) developed in ancient Japan. In kendo, two opponents hit or jab at each other with bamboo swords. Both wear protective bamboo armor, leg padding, and thick gloves. In a match, a point is given to the fencer who makes a clean hit on the throat, head, body, or hand of his opponent. The first to make two points is declared the winner.
Kyudo (Japanese archery) was used in early Japan for fishing and hunting. Later it became a military art. In medieval times, samurai displayed their skill as bowmen in exhibitions. After the introduction of firearms in the 16th century, however, kyudo declined as an effective technique of combat and became a sport. Kyudo archers use a seven-foot bow made of wood glued to bamboo. Arrows consist of a bamboo shaft, three feathers, and an arrowhead. Each contestant in a match usually shoots 10 to 20 arrows. The contestant hitting the target with the greatest number of arrows is the winner.


Shinto originated in early Japan as a combination of nature and ancestor worship. Among its many gods were the creator, the moon, stars, mountains, rivers, seas, fire, and some animals and vegetables. Modern Shinto teaches that the gods are present in the mind of the individual. Shinto became the state religion after the Meiji Restoration of 1868. As such, it assumed that the Japanese were descendants of the sun-goddess Amaterasu and members of one family headed by the emperor. The nationalists and militarists who rose to power in the 1930s adapted Shinto to their purposes, telling the Japanese that they were destined to rule the world. After World War II, state support of Shinto was abolished and the emperor disclaimed his divinity. Shinto is now split among many sects. Some of them place greater stress on rituals than on philosophic content. Shinto is valued because it creates a bond between the individual, his ancestors, and his nation.
Confucianism, which originated in China, was introduced into Japan from Korea around the 3rd century AD. Its ethical teachings were adopted primarily by the aristocracy, though the principles of absolute obedience to one's father and lord also greatly influenced the samurai. During World War II, Confucian rules were used to arouse patriotism. After the war, Confucianism was excluded from the Japanese educational curriculum. (See also Confucius.)
Buddhism arose in India and was introduced into Japan from Korea in the 6th century. Japanese Buddhism teaches that all men should aim to become Buddha. The worship of ancestors through funeral and memorial rites are the most universal practices. Christianity was introduced into Japan in the 16th century by Francis Xavier, a Spanish Jesuit. During the Tokugawa shogunate, Japanese Christians were severely persecuted. After Japan was opened to the West in the 19th century, Japanese Christians became involved in social-welfare movements.



The islands of Japan are the exposed tops of massive undersea ridges that rise from the floor of the Pacific Ocean on the eastern edge of the Asian continental shelf. The islands lie between the Japan Deep a north-south, 28,000-foot-deep trench in the Pacific and the 10,000-12,000-foot-deep Sea of Japan. The Japan Deep is east of the islands; the Sea of Japan, west of the islands.
The islands of Japan are geologically young and unstable. They have been subjected to considerable folding, faulting, and volcanic activity. As a result, the land surface of the Japanese islands is dominated by mountains and hills which divide them into hundreds of subunits. This creates a landscape of great variety and beauty and gives Japanese life a small-scale compactness. The largest and highest mountain mass, part of which is known as the Japanese Alps, is in central Honshu. From it mountain chains extend northward to Hokkaido and southwest to Shikoku and Kyushu. These mountain chains are gouged by many short river valleys and interrupted by many small lowland plains.
Only one fourth of Japan's land surface has a slope of less than 15 degrees. Most Japanese plains have been formed by river deposits and lie along the seacoast of the nation. The largest lowland, the Kanto Plain of east-central Honshu, has an area of only about 6,000 square miles. It contains the city of Tokyo. Among the nation's smaller plains are the Nobi (Nagoya) Plain and the Kansai (Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe) Plain.
The numerous rivers of Japan are short and have small drainage basins. Only two of them are more than 200 miles long the Shinano and the Tone, both on Honshu. Of the two, the Shinano is the longest (228 miles) and the Tone drains the largest area (about 7,100 square miles).
Japan's rivers generally have steep gradients and carry heavy loads of sediment from the mountains to the lowlands. On the lowlands they are usually shallow and braided and flow through gravel-filled beds. Often they have built-up natural levees and are elevated above the river plains. Their flow rates vary greatly with the seasonal rain.
Although of little use for navigation, the rivers of Japan are used intensively for irrigation, urban water supply, and the generation of electricity. Floods are common, especially during the typhoon season, and are highly destructive in the heavily populated river valleys and plains. Japan has few lakes. The largest is Lake Biwa, in west-central Honshu.
Japan's coastline is unusually long in relation to the nation's total land area. The Pacific coast has many deep indentations, among them Tokyo and Ise bays on Honshu and the Inland Sea between Honshu and Shikoku. The indentations are separated by rugged peninsulas and headlands. Among them are the Boso and Izu peninsulas. The west coast of Kyushu is also deeply indented, and there are many small offshore islands. The Sea of Japan coast of Honshu, however, is much straighter and has long stretches of sand dunes and beach ridges.
Japan's numerous volcanoes and frequent earthquakes are evidence of the instability of the rocks underlying the country. It has about 200 volcanoes and volcanic groups, of which about 60 have been active in recorded history. Some of the volcanoes are cone-shaped and rise to the highest elevations in Japan, while others are calderas, or lake-filled depressions where cones once stood.
Mount Fuji (12,389 feet), the famous volcanic cone, is the highest peak in Japan. It has been dormant since 1707. Mount Asama in central Honshu and Mount Sakurajima in southern Kyushu are well-known active volcanoes. Among the most notable calderas are Mount Aso in Kyushu and Mount Akan in Hokkaido. There are hot springs in the volcanic zones.
Undersea earthquakes in the northern Pacific basin stir up unusually large tsunamis, or "tidal waves," which are very destructive when they reach the Japanese coast. Severe earthquakes that do damage over small areas occur about every five or six years in Japan. One of the worst was the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, which combined with fire and tsunami to wipe out much of Tokyo and Yokohama. More than 100,000 lives were lost.


For a small nation, Japan has a great variety of climatic conditions. This is because its islands have a long latitudinal spread and are in the zone where the conflicting air masses of the Asian continent and of the Pacific Ocean meet and interact. The continental air masses make for more extreme temperatures, both in winter and in summer, and result in large annual temperature ranges. But their effect is moderated by the strong marine influence, which also produces high humidity and abundant rainfall. Japan's rugged topography also makes for many local variations in weather and climate.
During the winter, Japan is primarily under the influence of cold air masses moving out of Siberia, deep in the Asian interior. Biting northwest winds pass over the Sea of Japan and cross the islands of Japan. Moisture picked up over the Sea of Japan is deposited on Japan's west coast in the form of heavy snows that are among the deepest in the world.
During the summer, Japan is under the influence of air moving in from the Pacific Ocean. Southeast winds prevail, making the summer months warm and humid. The cycle of the seasons brings frequent, often sharp, changes in the weather, especially during the spring and autumn months.
Japan's climate, especially along the coasts, is also affected by two ocean currents the warm Kuroshio, or Japan Current, from the south, and the cold Oyashio, or Okhotsk Current, from the north. The two currents meet off northeastern Honshu. The Kuroshio, on the lee side of Japan in winter, has little warming effect on land temperatures. The Tsushima Current, a branch of the Kuroshio, passes into the Sea of Japan by way of Korea Strait and slightly warms offshore waters. The Oyashio reduces summer temperatures and creates dense fog banks off the coasts of northeastern Honshu and Hokkaido.
Virtually all of Japan except parts of eastern Hokkaido averages more than 40 inches of precipitation annually. Several coastal mountain areas in Honshu get more than 120 inches. Areas around the Inland Sea, in eastern Honshu north of Tokyo Bay, and in western Hokkaido average 40 to 60 inches. The Sea of Japan coast gets more precipitation in winter, largely in the form of snow, than it does in summer. The reverse is true for the Pacific coast, where summer precipitation exceeds that of winter. In northern Hokkaido, snow falls an average of 130 days per year; along the Sea of Japan, 80 days; on the Pacific coast south and west of Tokyo Bay, only 10 days.
Japan has rainy seasons in June and in September, though there is some precipitation throughout the year. The main, June rainy season is called the baiu, or tsuyu, and has many days of continuous rain. The September rainy season is called the shurin. It is associated with occasional typhoons, tropical storms like the hurricanes of southeastern North America. These move to the north and northeast in a clockwise arc from their spawning grounds east of the Philippines. When they strike Japan, they cause destructive floods and landslides. However, they also restore water levels in rivers and reservoirs, which drop during the dry days of late summer.
Typhoons bring roughly one third of the rain that falls annually on the Pacific coast. In 1959, one of the worst typhoons of modern times tore through the city of Nagoya and across central Honshu. Approaching typhoons are carefully watched by the Japan Meteorological Agency, and special radio and television bulletins are issued on their progress.
Seasonal temperatures in Japan increase from north to south. Average January temperatures are 15 to 20 F in Hokkaido; 35 to 40 in central Honshu; and 45 in southern Kyushu. There is little difference in winter temperatures between the west and east coasts, though the skies are more overcast on the west coast and clearer and sunnier on the east coast. Summers are sultry throughout Japan. July temperatures average 77 to 80 in Kyushu, Shikoku, and southern and central Honshu; 72 to 75 in northern Honshu; and a cooler 65 to 70 in Hokkaido.
The clear, hot weather of summer arrives in mid-July, following the baiu rains. It is ended by the shurin rains. The length of the frost-free, or growing, season ranges from 250 days or more along the Pacific coast south from Tokyo Bay to only 120 days in central Hokkaido. Early autumn frosts in northern Japan and late spring frosts in central and southern Japan pose a seasonal threat to farming.

Plant and Animal Life

The trees, shrubs, and flowering plants of Japan are as varied as its topography and climate. Forests cover most of the land surface that has not been cleared by man. Coniferous, broadleaf, and mixed forests are the three main types. Among the conifers, pine, cypress, hemlock, cedar, fir, and spruce are commercially valuable. The numerous broadleafs include oak, maple, ash, birch, beech, poplar, chestnut, and horse chestnut. Subtropical forms such as bamboo and palms grow as far north as central Honshu.
Many native plant species have been destroyed or reduced by humans, and new species from the Asian mainland have had to be introduced. Large virgin-forest areas have been preserved in parks.
Large mammals include bear, badger, otter, mink, deer, fox, and walrus. One monkey, the Japanese macaque, is found as far north as Hokkaido. Adjacent seas are the home of whales and porpoises. Japanese bird species include many water and wading birds, hawks, pheasants, peacocks, doves, owls, and woodpeckers. Among the reptiles are sea turtles, tortoises, lizards, and snakes. The sea abounds with hundreds of fish species. Salmon, sardine, sea bream, tuna, trout, mackerel, cod, and mullet are among those caught by commercial fishermen. Tropical varieties accompany the warm waters of the Kuroshio as far north as Tokyo Bay. The raising of goldfish for decorative purposes is a Japanese specialty.


Ancient Japan (to 1185)

Japan has been inhabited since the Stone Age. The early Japanese were primitive hunters, gatherers, and farmers. They lived in small villages, growing rice in paddies and irrigated fields. They had no writing system, and they worshiped nature gods and family ancestors. Chieftains headed clanlike tribes.
According to legend, the Japanese state was founded in 660 BC by Jimmu, the first emperor. In fact, it emerged by the 6th century AD, when one family of chieftains became dominant. Their base was the Yamato region at the eastern end of the Inland Sea. Claiming the sun-goddess Amaterasu as their ancestor, this family founded the imperial dynasty which has reigned in Japan ever since.
The Japanese made borrowings from the civilization of the T'ang Dynasty in neighboring China. These included the Buddhist religion, Confucian ethics, and Chinese writing, art, architecture, and dress. In 604 the Yamato ruler Prince Shotoku (573-622) began to infuse the life of the imperial court with Chinese ideals, and in 607 the court's first official emissaries were sent to China.
The Chinese model of government was also imported. The Taika reforms, beginning in 645, trans-formed the Yamato ruler into an absolute sovereign the emperor. An elaborate bureaucracy was established. Large landholdings were abolished; some farmland was redistributed among the peasants; and regular tax collections were begun. However, in order to encourage agricultural development, the Yamato regime allowed tax exemptions on newly cultivated land. This practice actually stimulated the growth of huge estates called shoen. Similar to the manors of medieval Europe, the shoen were owned by powerful families, court aristocrats, or religious institutions and worked by thousands of peasants.
In 710 an imperial capital was built at Nara on the model of Ch'ang-an, the Chinese capital. In 794 the capital was moved to Heian-kyo (Kyoto). From the 8th to the 11th century an aristocracy controlled by the Fujiwara family dominated Japan. This period was a classic age of art and literature. Japan's culture was no longer one largely borrowed from China but had become distinctively Japanese.

The Feudal Age (1185-1600)

Beginning in the 11th century the samurai, provincial warriors who resembled medieval European knights, began to assume power. They often managed the estates of aristocrats, and sometimes they held land in their own right.
Rivalry between two warrior clans the Taira and the Minamoto led to the Heiji War (1159-60). The Taira won, but a revolt begun in 1180 ended in 1185 with the victory of the Minamoto.
Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-99) then established a new government at Kamakura, and in 1192 he was named shogun, or chief military commander, by the imperial court. He was authorized to appoint military governors (shugo) in the provinces and land stewards (jito) on many private estates. His administrative organization, called the bakufu (camp government), served as a model for a series of later regimes.
The Kamakura shogunate successfully repelled Mongol invasions in 1274 and in 1281. It was overthrown by a domestic revolt in 1333, and Takauji Ashikaga (1305-58) established a new regime. A dispute between rival families over the succession to the shogunate led to the Onin War (1467-77). Centralized control disappeared as the country was plunged into civil wars which lasted until the late 1500s.
During this period, warrior leaders fought each other for land and vassals. The emperor and shogun became politically insignificant. Local lords known as daimyo divided the country into feudal domains. Their vassals served both as warriors and as government officials. The daimyo taxed the peasantry, who made up the bulk of the population.
Meanwhile, Japan was developing trade contacts with the outside world. Official trade missions to China had begun in 1404. Japanese traders were active along the coasts of Korea and China. Japanese adventurers and pirates also operated in eastern Asian waters, some reaching Siam and the Philippines.
Later in the feudal period, the first Europeans arrived in Japan, known to them as Xipangu from the tales of Marco Polo. Portuguese traders came first, in 1543. They were soon followed by Spanish, English, and Dutch traders.
In the hope of attracting European trade, the Japanese encouraged conversions to Christianity. After the arrival of the Jesuit priest Francis Xavier in 1549, the Christian missionary movement enjoyed great success in Japan.

National Unification (1600-1853)

Feudal division and disorder in Japan ended in the late 16th century. The powerful daimyo leader Nobunaga Oda (1534-82) began to subdue the smaller daimyo. By 1590 Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1536-98), one of his generals, succeeded in defeating the rival Hojo family. Although he never became shogun, Hideyoshi took control of the whole country. In 1592-93 and in 1597-98 he led invasions of Korea as part of an unsuccessful plan to conquer China.
The political consolidation of Japan continued under Ieyasu Tokugawa (1542-1616), one of several men chosen to govern the country after Hideyoshi's death in Korea in 1598. After winning a battle against his rivals at Sekigahara in 1600, Ieyasu organized the daimyo into a federation under a new bakufu at Edo, the present city of Tokyo. He was named shogun in 1603.
For the next two centuries, under the Tokugawa shogunate, Japan enjoyed extraordinary peace and stability. Ieyasu and his successors built an elaborate system of controls over the daimyo, including limits on their military strength. The country was closed to all outside contact. Fearing that Japan was being prepared for foreign conquest, the government expelled the Christian missionaries, prohibited the Christian religion, and persecuted many Japanese converts to Christianity. It gradually cut back foreign trade until by 1641 only Dutch and Chinese merchants were permitted to trade at the single port of Nagasaki. Japanese were forbidden to leave the country.
As a result of internal peace, a national market developed and the economy flourished. New rice lands were cultivated, and advances were made in farming techniques. Osaka and Edo became great commercial centers. By the 18th century Edo, with a population of more than 500,000, was larger than any city in Europe. A new urban culture, reflecting the tastes of merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans, emerged in both Osaka and Edo. The cultural standards of the peasantry rose as well, and by the middle of the 19th century almost half of the entire male population of Japan could read and write.

The Modernization of Japan (1853-1905)

The seclusion of Japan ended in 1853 with the arrival of a United States naval fleet commanded by Commo. Matthew C. Perry. He had been instructed to open Japan to foreign trade and diplomatic contact. The Edo bakufu, afraid of United States military superiority, signed a treaty of friendship during a second visit by Perry in 1854.
The Netherlands, Russia, Great Britain, and France followed the lead of the United States. By 1859 the bakufu had been pressured into signing a series of "unequal treaties" opening several Japanese ports to foreign trade. Western nationals were given the right of extraterritoriality, or exemption from local law. Tariff rates that the Japanese government could not alter were established.
Many Japanese regarded the surrender to the West as a national humiliation, and the bakufu's authority declined rapidly. There were growing demands for the expulsion of the foreigners and for the restoration of political power to the emperor. These demands were supported by the court and two powerful daimyo domains in western Japan Satsuma and Choshu. In 1868 the Tokugawa shogun was forced to abdicate. A new government was established under the young emperor Mutsuhito, who took the reign name of Meiji ("enlightened government"). This transfer of power from the Tokugawa shogunate to the Meiji emperor is known as the Meiji Restoration. It is regarded as the beginning of Japan's modern era.
Leaders of the new government were former samurai of Satsuma and Choshu, such as Toshimichi Okubo (1830-78), Koin Kido (1833-77), and Takamori Saigo (1827-77). They wished to end the "unequal treaties" and to catch up militarily with the Western nations. Their first task, however, was to create internal order. A centralized administration replaced the daimyo system; many class distinctions were abolished; and a conscript army was built up. In 1868 Edo was renamed Tokyo ("eastern capital") and designated the new imperial capital.
During the 1870s the army quelled a number of rebellions by former samurai who objected to rapid modernization. The ill-fated Satsuma rebellion of 1877 was led by Saigo, who had resigned from the government in 1873. It was the last major challenge to the new regime. The imperial government also laid the foundations for an industrial economy. Modern money and banking systems were introduced. Railroads, telegraph and telephone lines, and factories using the newest technology were built. Private enterprises were subsidized, and laws permitting the private ownership of land were enacted.
Leaders like Arinori Mori (1847-89) helped create a modern educational system. Compulsory universal education was instituted in 1872. By 1905 nearly 95 percent of Japanese school-age children were in school, and Japan soon achieved one of the highest literacy rates in the world.
A constitution was drafted in the 1880s under the direction of the political leader Hirobumi Ito (1841-1909), who took as his model the institutions of the German empire. The constitution, finally promulgated in 1889, gave strong executive powers to the emperor and a privy council. A prime minister headed a cabinet whose members were individually responsible to the emperor. Legislative powers were exercised by a two-house parliament, or Diet. The upper house, or House of Peers, consisted mainly of a new nobility created in 1884. The lower house, or House of Representatives, was elected by male taxpayers over 25 years of age.
By the 1890s Japan's rapid modernization had made it the most powerful nation in Asia. Extraterritoriality was relinquished by Great Britain, the United States, and the other Western powers by 1899. But Meiji leaders like Ito and Aritomo Yamagata (1838-1922) remained suspicious of Western imperialism. Using its growing economic and military power, Japan sought to build an empire of its own.
To achieve this objective Japan fought two major wars. After its victory in the first, the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, Japan forced the enormous but weak Chinese empire to cede Taiwan (Formosa) and the Penghu Islands (Pescadores). Japan was also supposed to get the Liaotung Peninsula in Manchuria, but Russia forced Japan not to accept it. Instead, in 1898, Russia took the peninsula itself.
The second war was fought in 1904-5 against Russia, now Japan's chief rival in eastern Asia. Japan won from Russia the southern half of Sakhalin Island and a leasehold in Liaotung, together with the South Manchurian Railway. In 1910 Japan annexed Korea. In 1915 Japan extended its hold in Manchuria after presenting "Twenty-one Demands" to the Chinese government. The empire of Japan had become a recognized world power.

Imperial Japan (1905-45)

After 1905 Japan faced a change in national leadership. The Meiji emperor died on July 30, 1912, and was succeeded by his son Yoshihito, who became known as the Taisho emperor. Yoshihito soon showed signs of mental illness, and Crown Prince Hirohito served as regent from November 1921 until he became the Showa emperor on Dec. 25, 1926.
More important, the original Meiji leaders had all died by the early 1920s. At first they were replaced by younger proteges, such as Taro Katsura (1848-1913) and Kimmochi Saionji (1849-1940). Gradually, however, under the leadership of men like Kei Hara (1856-1921) and Komei Kato (1860-1926), political parties in the Diet gained increasing control over the government. Between 1918 and 1932 most Japanese prime ministers were leaders of political parties in the lower house of the Diet.
The emergence of party government was accompanied by a flourishing of democratic ideas. Intellectuals like Sakuzo Yoshino (1878-1933) advocated greater attention to the needs of the common man. Some social-welfare legislation was approved, and in 1925 universal manhood suffrage was instituted.
By the 1920s Japan had begun to encounter severe economic problems. Contributing to these economic problems was the fact that the rate of economic development was beginning to slow down. Agricultural production had reached a plateau, and domestic food supplies were no longer adequate. Imports of rice had to be increased greatly. By the late 1920s and early 1930s the countryside faced hard times.


For nearly 2,000 years an intimate relationship existed between Japan and China. In the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century that relationship was disrupted by Japanese wars of conquest waged against imperial and republican China. In recent years the rift between the two countries has been prolonged by basic political differences, and it was not until 1978 that a formal peace treaty finally was concluded.

Historical Background

During much of Japan's history its relationship to China was that of pupil to teacher. As early as the 1st century AD, Japanese travelers visited the Chinese imperial court. They brought back treasures that enriched Japanese life the Buddhist religion, Confucian ethics, written language, literature, art, architecture, music, and methods of government.
In the late 19th century the coming of the Industrial Revolution to Asia changed this relationship. Japan emerged from more than two centuries of self-imposed isolation, recognizing that industrialization was a means of gaining equality with the Western powers. Mastering Western techniques, it soon built factories and created a modern army and navy.
China was slower in acquiring the new technology. It was hampered by the actions of competing industrial nations which, eager to get its markets and raw materials, carved China into spheres of influence.
In 1894-95, armed with modern weapons, Japan warred China and seized Taiwan (Formosa). In the 1930s Japanese armies conquered Manchuria and carved from it a puppet state called Manchukuo. Japan's greed for the resources of China led to its brutal conquest and occupation of a large part of northern and eastern China before and during World War II.
The Japanese today have mixed feelings toward China. They are grateful for their rich inheritance from ancient China. They are also torn by feelings of guilt and shame over the indignities Japan's armies committed against the Chinese during the war years. Some Japanese are convinced that their country's old associations with China make Japan the one nation that knows China best. Others believe that the Japanese do not truly understand the type of leaders who now govern China.
It is an irony of history that Japan is today the custodian of the old Chinese virtues, the elaborate system of interpersonal obligations prescribed by Confucius. Within this framework, the Japanese have built a stable industrial, political, and social structure. Their skills and hard work have helped Japan become the world's third-ranking industrial power.
The situation in China has been different. New ideas have stirred the Chinese imagination. First democracy and then Communism gained ascendancy. Under the leadership of Mao Tse-tung, China was torn by revolutionary change and Communism has been the sole political system since 1949. Confucianism, with its accent on the family, has been shattered on the Chinese mainland. It has survived, however, on the island of Taiwan, where the defeated Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek established a Chinese government-in-exile the Republic of China.

Present Relations

Japan's official posture toward Communist China since the end of World War II has generally been supportive of and consistent with American policy. In early 1952 Japan had little choice but to conclude a peace treaty with the Nationalist regime, thereby recognizing the government on Taiwan as the legitimate government of China.
The Japanese are bound to the United States by a security treaty that guarantees Japan protection against outside attack. Air and naval bases authorized by the treaty have been established by the United States on Japanese soil. A primary concern of successive Japanese governments seems to have been the avoidance of any official position on China that might jeopardize this alliance.
The present conservative government of Japan seems inclined to continue a close relationship with the United States well into the 1980s, and perhaps beyond. It has taken steps to expand and strengthen Japan's military establishment, the National Self-Defense Force, to a quota of about 270,000 men, with a total defense budget that amounted to some 6 1/2 billion dollars (1,690 billion yen) in 1977. However, Japan's leaders have refused to become upset over Communist China's possession of nuclear weapons, a situation that many observers believed would create new tensions between the two countries. The Japanese government has said that it would not retaliate by equipping Japan with nuclear weapons. Whatever Communist China has hitherto believed about the possibility and danger of a remilitarized Japan, it cannot deny that since 1945 no Japanese soldier has been involved in an overseas conflict. And until Japan's no-war constitution is revised, none can be.
Communist China's sensitivity to the alliance of Taiwan and South Korea with Japanese security interests was heightened when Okinawa reverted to Japan in 1972. China feared that the return of the island to Japanese control would further Japan's economic and political influence on Taiwan.
Japan's continued recognition of the Republic of China was also deeply resented by the People's Republic of China. By pursuing a policy that claimed to separate politics from economics, however, Japan was able to develop lucrative trade relations with both Chinas. Carried out through unofficial agreements between Communist China and leading members of Japan's Liberal-Democratic party, the value of Japan's trade with mainland China almost equaled that of Japan's official trade with Taiwan.
In late 1971, when United States President Richard M. Nixon announced an impending visit to the People's Republic of China, the news was received with shock by the Japanese government of Eisaku Sato. A reappraisal of Japan's own policy toward China, as well as a change in Japan's political leadership, was inevitable.
When a new cabinet was formed under Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka the following summer, Communist China responded favorably, and Japan acted quickly on the conciliatory gestures. In September 1972