Handbook on the Northeast and Southeast Asian Economies
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Handbook on the Northeast and Southeast Asian Economies

Edited by Anis Chowdhury and Iyanatul Islam

This original Handbook on the Northeast and Southeast Asian Economies provides a broad overview of economic and social developments in the countries covered (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Lao, Malaysia, Myanmar, North Korea, The Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Viet Nam). The analytical narratives on the economic transformation of these economies draw on existing literature, and highlight the interactions of socio-political factors. They examine the role of economic policies and the influence exerted by historical and political circumstances.
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Chapter 1: Japan

Craig Freedman


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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