Edited by Anis Chowdhury and Iyanatul Islam
Chapter 1: Japan
Craig Freedman Political history Japan has a total land area of 377 864 square kilometres; only 13.6 per cent is cultivated. Approximately 70 per cent of the land is covered by largely uninhabited mountains, grasslands, forests or waterways. Most of the population of 127 450 000 (2002 oﬃcial estimate) is huddled together on 4 per cent of the entire land. Half the population is centred around Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, living in a low-rise sprawl consisting of single or double storey dwellings. Until quite recently, the history of Japan has always been a case of too many people living on too little land, or in purely economic terms a country chronically rich in labour resources but traditionally capital poor. Without any substantial natural resources of note to fall back on, the Japanese have, over the centuries, come to see themselves as a country lacking the luxury of being able to aﬀord mistakes. Japan, in fact, does not diﬀer greatly from a number of European countries in lacking a generous natural endowment. However, Japan has come to view itself as a unique case whether justiﬁed or not. It can be persuasively argued that Japanese reluctance to take chances resulted in the transformation, but not rejection, of many aspects of the feudal system. Certainly from Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s (1536–98) misconceived adventure in Korea until Japan’s even more foolhardy ambitions in World War II, the Japanese were hesitant to pursue goals beyond their capacity. A continuation and preservation of...
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