Japan, an island empire off the east coast of Asia, separated from Corea and Siberia by the Sea of Japan. Japan Proper comprises four large islands - Honshu (the Japanese mainland), Shikoku, Kyushu, and Yezo - with an area of 147,655 sq. miles (not very much larger than the British Islands), and a pop. in 1903 of 46,732,841 (35,460,507 in Honshu alone). The empire of Japan includes also nearly 4000 small islands, among them the Liu Kiu (' Loo Choo') and Kurile groups; Formosa and the Pescadores, ceded by China in 1895 (area, 13,500 sq. m. ; pop. close on 3,000,000); and the southern half of Saghalien (q.v.), or Sakhalin, restored by Russia in 1905 (area, 10,000 sq. m.; pop. 15,000). In 1905 some 160,000 Japanese were resident in foreign countries ; and 14,000 foreigners were resident in Japan. The name Japan is a corruption of Marco Polo-s Zipangu, itself a corruption of the Chinese pronunciation of the native name Nihon or Nippon (Land of the Rising Sun').
The islands of Japan appear to be the highest portions of a huge chain of mountains which rises from a deep ocean bed. This chain, though dotted with volcanoes, is not therefore itself of volcanic origin. Earthquakes occur very frequently in Japan, although the western slope is exempt. Japan is one of the most mountainous countries in the world. Its plains and valleys with their foliage of surpassing richness, its forest-clad heights, its alpine peaks towering in grandeur above ravines noisy with waterfalls, its foam-fringed headlands, give it a claim to be considered one of the fairest portions of the earth. The sublime cone of the sacred Fuji-san (Fusi-yama), a rather dormant volcano, rises to a height of 12,365 feet; and there are six peaks between 8000 and 10,000 feet (one an active volcano) in Honshu. The three other large islands also abound in mountains. Yezo has eight active volcanoes. Throughout the empire there are many solfataras and sulphurous springs. The plains, most of the valleys, and many of the lower hills are highly cultivated. Most of the countless rivers are too impetuous for navigation. The harbours are spacious and deep, but not numerous.
The different parts of Japan vary widely in climatic conditions. At Tokyo (Yedo) we find the annual average temperature to be 57.7° F., while in winter the mercury occasionally falls to 16.2°, and in summer it may rise to 96°; at Nagasaki the lowest winter temperature is 23.2°; at Hakodate the annual extremes are 2° and 84*. The ocean current known as the Kuroshiwo (' Black Stream') modifies the climate of the southeast coast; thus, while snow seldom lies more than 5 inches deep at Tokyo, in the upper valleys of Kaga, near the west coast, less than 1° farther north, 18 and 20 feet are common. The rainfall, which varies much in different years, is on an average 145 inches. No month passes without rain, but it is most plentiful in summer. The climate, though somewhat relaxing to Europeans, is fairly salubrious, highly so in the mountains. In Japan the vegetation of the tropics is strangely intermingled with that of the temperate or frigid zone; the tree-fern, bamboo, banana, and palm grow side by side with the pine, oak, and beech, and conifers in great variety. The camellia, the Paulownia, and the chrysanthemum are indigenous. Wild animals are not numerous, but bears, wild boars, monkeys, deer, small foxes, stoats, and squirrels occur; and there are several varieties of the seal and the whale. The Japanese cat has only a stump of a tail. There are numerous water-birds; land-birds are less plentiful. Edible fishes, including salmon, are abundant, and insect life is specially varied. Agriculture is the chief occupation of the Japanese, and they are very careful farmers, thoroughly understanding the rotation of crops. The soil is not naturally very fertile, being mostly derived from igneous rocks, but it is made productive by careful manuring, especially with night-soil from the villages and towns. Rice is the staple production, while barley, wheat, millet, buckwheat, maize, and many varieties of bean and pea are everywhere produced. The culture of tea, introduced from China in 770 a.d., is universal in the middle and south. Sericulture is on the increase, and cotton and hemp are also widely grown. Sugar, tobacco, and many kinds of fruit are grown. Gold, silver, copper, iron, lead, antimony, tin, sulphur, coal, basalt, felspar, greenstones, granites (red and gray), rock-crystal, agate, carnelian, amber, scoriae and pumice-stone, talc, alum, etc. are found. Good building-stone is scarce.
With the exception of the wilds of Yezo, peopled by 12,000 Ainos, the Japanese islands are inhabited by a single race speaking various dialects of the same tongue. Probably the Japanese are the issue of the intermarriage of vic torious Tartar settlers, who entered Japan from the Corean peninsula, with Malays in the south and Ainos in the main island. There are two distinct types of Japanese face, that which is found in art designs being the aristocratic and rarer type. It is distinguished by an oval head and face, a high forehead, a curved nose, narrow and slightly oblique eyes. The complexion is pallid or slightly olive, the face of the men almost hairless, and the expression demure. The commoner and vulgar type, almost universal in the northern districts, is pudding-faced, full-eyed, flat-nosed, and good-humoured in expression. The women soon lose any pretensions to good looks; but the girls, with their rosy cheeks, fascinating manners, and exquisitely tasteful dress, are particularly attractive, and the children are bright and comely - indeed Japan is the paradise of children. The Japanese have many excellent qualities: they are kindly, courteous, law-abiding, cleanly in their habits, frugal, and have a high sense of personal honour. Nowhere are good manners and artistic culture so widespread. On the other hand, the people are deficient in moral earnestness and courage. Although the Japanese are a singularly united people, yet the nation divides itself into two portions, the governing and the governed. The former, representatives of the military class and numbering some 4000 families, are high-spirited and masterful; the rest of the nation are submissive and timid. Japanese towns are very subject to conflagrations, the houses being slight constructions of wood. Many of the customs once characteristic of Japan have, since the abolition of feudalism, become obsolete. Among these is seppuku or hura-kiri, for long a legalised mode of suicide.
The Japanese language belongs structurally, like Corean and Manchurian, to the Altaic family. The introduction of Chinese civilisation in the 6th century a.d. was followed by a wholesale absorption of Chinese words and characters. There are two prevailing religions in Japan- Shinto, the indigenous faith; and Buddhism, introduced from China in 552, and still the dominant religion among the people. Francis Xavier introduced Christianity in 1549, but his work was extinguished in blood. The Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Church both carry on a flourishing work in Japan. Of the Protestant missions those of the Presbyterians and the American Congregationalists are the most flourishing ; American Methodists, Baptists, Anglicans, and others are also actively at work ; and there are some 20,000 converts.
Education is general and compulsory. There is a complete system of local elementary, middle, and normal schools, and two universities at Tokyo and Kyoto. Daily newspapers abound. The Japanese army was organised after European methods in the years 1868-72. Military service is obligatory from 17 to 40 years of age The army on a peace footing comprises 167,630 officers and men, with 632,000 reserves. In 1905 there were over 500,000 men in Manchuria. During the wars of 1895 and 1904-5 the Japanese sanitary and surgical methods and appliances were scientifically perfect. The navy consists of 6 battle-ships, 8 armoured cruisers, 15 protected cruisers, besides numerous torpedo-vessels. The total mileage of railways open is 4650 miles. In the mechanical arts the Japanese have attained to great excellence, especially in metallurgy, and in the manufacture of porcelain, lacquer ware, and silk fabrics; in some of these departments works of art are produced so exquisite in design and execution as to excel the best products of Europe. As to the cotton manufacture, between 1890 and 1900 the import of raw cotton increased sixfold, and in 1902 there were over eighty prosperous cotton - factories. The chief ports are Yokohama, Kobe, Osaka, Nagasaki, and Hakodate. The commercial development of Japan has of late been marvellous. The total value of exports rose from £10,300,000 in 1887 to £28,950,000 in 1903; that of imports, which was £10,500,000 in 1887, was £31,720,000 in 1903. In respect of volume of trade with Japan, Britain (including British possessions) conies first, then the United States, then China. The imports from Great Britain vary from £5,000,000 to over £9,000,000 (from British India, from 5 to 7 millions); the exports to Britain from £1,500,000 to £2,275,000. From Great Britain come chiefly cotton and woollen goods, iron and machinery, and chemicals. The imports from the United States average about £4,700,000, and the exports thither £8,200,000. The staple exports of Japan are raw and manufactured silk, cotton yarn, coal, copper, tea, matting, earthenware, rice, and straw-plaiting. In 1903 over 9000 vessels of 13,570,000 tons entered the ports, of which 1777 vessels of 4,758,534 tons were British. The government is a hereditary monarchy. The imperial diet consists of two Houses - a House of Peers and a House of Representatives. The ordinary revenue varies from £25,700,000 to £29,700,000, and generally covers the expenditure. The public debt in 1904 was £56,500,000.
Before 500 a.d. Japanese history is mere legend. Buddhism was introduced from Corea in 552; and next century Chinese civilisation strongly influenced Japan. About the end of the 12th century, the weakness of the emperor led the Generalissimo (Shogun) to assume a large share of the supreme power, and he handed it on to his descendants. Hence the fable current in Europe that Japan had a Mikado or spiritual emperor who reigned but did not govern, and a ' Tycoon' (Shogun) who did govern though he paid homage to the nominal sovereign. The military caste was now dominant until the reign of Iyeyasu (c. 1600), whose descendants reigned till 1868. Total exclusion of foreigners was the rule till 1543, when the Portuguese effected a settlement; but in 1624 all foreigners were expelled and Christianity interdicted. The policy of isolation was rigidly pursued from 1638 till 1853, when the U.S. Commodore Perry steamed into a Japanese harbour, and extorted a treaty from the frightened Shogun. Soon sixteen other nations had followed the American example, and free ports were opened to foreign commerce. In 1867-68, a sharp civil war broke the feudal power of the daimios or territorial magnates, suppressed the Shogunate, and unified the authority under the Mikado. In a very few years Japanese students took a place of their own in western science; and how thoroughly the Japanese had laid to heart what they had learned from Europe in the military and naval arts was partially revealed by the swift and complete success of the war with China about Corea (q.v.) in 1894, and more impressively by their amazing triumph over the great military empire of Europe in 1904-5, when they defeated the Russians in a succession of bloody battles, took Port Arthur, and utterly destroyed the Russian fleet-so that by the peace the Russians not merely evacuated Manchuria, but recognised Japan's ' preponderance' in Corea, and gave up to Japan the 'leases ' of Port Arthur and the Liao-tung peninsula Russia had wrested from China. In 1905, also, Britain concluded a treaty with Japan, more thorough-going than that of 1902, for mutual support in eastern Asia and India against unprovoked attack, and for the maintenance of the integrity of China and of the ' open door' there.
See the works of Kaempfer (1727), Siebold (1851), Griffis (New York, 1876), Rein (Eng. trans. 1884), Sir E. Arnold (1891), Hearn (1894, 1904), Brinkley (8 vols. 1901-4), Murray (1904) ; Japan by the Japanese, edited by Stead (1904); and books by Okakura, Iyenaga, and other Japanese authors.