Chapter 7: Background to Trade Policy in Japan
THE CONTEXT OF GOVERNANCE IN JAPAN A Cultural Perspective The national territory of Japan consists of a chain of islands that stretch for roughly 1200 miles along the coast of China. The climate in the north is sub-Arctic, in the south it is sub-tropical. A central mountain chain dominates most islands. Urbanization is largely confined to the coastal plains in the central and southern islands. The coastal coves are separated by the geography of water and mountains. The pressure of population density on the land has been substantial. It is commonly stated that Japan, with a population of 125 million, has almost half the population of the US in a territory the size of California. In reality, the population is jammed into an area that is, at best, half the size of California (Meyer, 1993). China became a major cultural influence on the development of Japan during the 6th century. It left a legacy of similarities in culture and written language but a very different spoken language. An important factor in the evolution of Japan was the thousand-year period of almost endless warfare that ran from 600 to 1600 AD. The feudal lords dominated each coastal strip and cove. These wars gradually led to the unification of Japan into a series of regional states. Tokugawa Ieyasu finally unified all of Japan into one feudal state in 1603 (Meyer, 1993). The culture that emerged reflected the values of the feudal warrior, as summarized in the “Code of Bushido”. Hierarchy was fundamental...
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