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Key country data

Capital: Tokyo
Area: 378 k km2
Population: 127.3 mln
Languages: Japanese
Currency: Japanese yen (JPY)
Voltage: 100V/50Hz/60Hz, Plug type A/B
Time zone: UTC+9
Political system: Constitutional monarchy with ceremonial monarch
Main religions: Shintoism, Buddhism, Christianity


In the introduction of Buddhism and the use of Chinese characters for writing in the sixth century, Japan entered its classical period (710-1185). During this time the first permanent capital was established at Nara, and later at Heian-kyo (Kyoto). Early in the classical period the Japanese were influenced by Chinese cultural and scholarly ideals, but by the 10th century they had evolved a unique and sophisticated culture of their own. Throughout Japanese history the emperor, although spiritually venerated, has rarely had any political power. Overall control was always held by the clan leader (daimyo) with the strongest army. Such leaders became known as the shogun; their warrior soldiers were called samurai.

During the 264-year-long Tokugawa era, the Japanese were prohibited from journeying outside Japan and foreigners were not allowed in. In contrast, during the Meiji era (1868-1912), anything Japanese was despised, and many historical buildings and relics were destroyed, while Western cultures were admired. There was even a cult of marrying foreigners to improve the nation’s bloodstock.

The Japanese have a rich and varied cultural history, and classical performing arts such as noh and kabuki and the elegant pleasures of pastimes such as the tea ceremony continue to flourish. However, the principal source of Japanese entertainment and nightlife is the network of bars, restaurants, coffee shops and tea houses that are an integral part of even the smallest Japanese town.

Traditional meals in Japan are cooked and presented with the intention of inspiring the spirit as well as the senses. The ingredients and menu are chosen to take into account the season location and occasion. Tableware is selected to harmonize with the texture and appearance of the food which, according to the Japanese, must be tasted with the tongue, the heart and the eye to by truly enjoyed.



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