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Japan in the 21st Century

Environment, Economy, and Society

Pradyumna Karan

Publication Year: 2004

The ancient civilization of Japan, with its Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, is also closely associated with all that is new and modern. Looking outward, Japan sees what it has become since Hiroshima: the world’s second-largest economy, a source of fury and wonder, a power without arms. Looking inward, Japan sees old ways shaken and new ones developing at a hectic pace. Japan in the Twenty-first Century offers compelling insights into the current realities of the country and investigates the crucial political, economic, demographic, and environmental challenges that face the nation. A combination of text, maps, and photographs provides an essential understanding of Japan’s geography, cultural heritage, demography, economic and political development, and of many other important issues. Pradyumna P. Karan explores the obstacles and opportunities that will shape Japan and affect the world community in the coming years. He highlights strategies and policies that will facilitate economic and political change and stimulate the development of effective institutions for long-term, sustainable prosperity and economic vitality. Unique field reports drawn from direct observations of events and places in Japan illuminate Japanese traditions and sensibilities. The first full-length English-language textbook on Japan’s geography, culture, politics, and economy to appear in nearly four decades, Japan in the Twenty-first Century will be a vital resource for researchers, academics, general readers, and students of Japan. Pradyumna P. Karan, professor of geography and Japan studies at the University of Kentucky, is the author or editor of numerous books on Asian geography and culture, including The Japanese City and Japan in the Bluegrass.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky


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List of Maps and Figures

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pp. ix-x

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

Japan stands as one of the more intriguing nations in Asia. Despite Japan's important role as the second-largest economy in the world and a major trading and strategic partner of the United States, geographic studies of Japan in the United States have been relatively scarce. The standard English-language geography, Japan: A Geography, by Glenn Trewartha, ...

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1. Japan at the Crossroads: Grappling with Changes

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pp. 1-8

Japan. The name evokes thoughts of electronics, dials, lights, and numbers. This ancient civilization, with its Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, is closely associated with all that is new and modern in our times. Looking outward, Japan sees what it has become since Hiroshima: a source of fury and wonder, the world's second-largest economy, a power without arms. ...

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2. Environmental Challenges and Constraints

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pp. 9-49

What challenges and constraints does the natural environment offer to Japan? What is the influence of nature on the country's society and culture? What impact will the environmental challenges have on Japan's role in the twenty-first century? The Japanese dwell in a dynamic and ever-shifting, even though restricted, natural setting, from cold northern ...

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3. The Cultural Heritage

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pp. 50-76

Because of the acidic volcanic soils of the archipelago, fossils of early humans have rarely been preserved in Japan, but the few fossils of early Homo sapiens that are available indicate that the people were short and had flat faces. The characteristics of the fossils are similar to those found in southern China, and thus the mainland of Asia is the area of origin of the Japanese ...

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4. Japanese Landscapes

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pp. 77-108

The landscape of Japan is extremely complex and intricately organized. It records the occupancy by a culturally distinct and dynamic society of an archipelago bordering the earth's largest continent and on the brink of an ocean trench 35,000 feet (10,668 m) deep! Great tectonic plates collide in this zone, resulting in earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, ...

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5. Regional Reality

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pp. 109-163

Often Japan is described as a homogeneous island nation, but in reality it consists of distinctive constituent regions, each with a unique character. On a broader scale there are differences between eastern and western Japan (Nakamura 1980), between the seat of political and economic power in central Honshu and the outlying peripheral areas (Sugimoto ...

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6. Demographic and Social Challenges

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pp. 164-203

Japan faces a number of demographic challenges as it enters the twenty-first century—falling birthrates, an aging society, shortage of labor—and social problems involving homelessness, minority groups, gender discrimination, and social welfare services. In this chapter the geographic dimension of these challenges and Japan's approach to them are analyzed. It is ...

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7. Rural Landscape, Settlements, and Agriculture

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pp. 204-235

The nature of Japanese agriculture, farm villages, and the countryside has changed radically during the pat half century. Rice continues to be a staple crop, but truck gardening for the urban market has grown in importance. Quality- and labor-intensive production is much more significant. Apples, grapes, strawberries, and other fruits are produced in increasing ...

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8. Urban Settlements

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pp. 236-283

Because Japanese cities have grown at different times (over several centuries), in different geographic regions, and in varied economic settings, they reflect diverse characteristics. Specific features of site and topography influence the form of the city. However, despite intraregional and interregional variations, recurrent national patterns of urbanization are, in ...

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9. The Political Challenge

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pp. 284-311

Japan's political system is one of the most controversial areas in contemporary research. The basic nature of the system is hotly contested. There are three main models: (1) some scholars, such as Edwin Reischauer, have argued that Japan is an advanced democratic system characterized by unity derived from its Confucian past and strongly influenced by ...

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10. The Economic Challenge

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pp. 312-322

Japan has the second-largest market economy in the world, with an aggregate output of more than $4.8 trillion. The per capital gross national product (GNP) was $38,000 in 1997, as compared to $29,000 in the United States. However, once corrections are made for Japan's high cost of housing and various goods, the effective per capita GNP in terms of purchasing ...

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11. Development and Restructuring of Industry

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pp. 323-358

In comparing Japan's history of industrialization and modernization with that of the West, several important differences stand out. In the first place, the process of modernization took place over a much longer period of time in the West. Western capitalism first appeared about five hundred years ago; then the Industrial Revolution occurred in Britain starting about ...

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12. Postindustrial Japan

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pp. 342-358

Since the mod-1970s, when manufacturing employment began to decline, a major transformation has been ushering Japan from the3 industrial into the postindustrial era. The passage into postindustrial society is marked by structural shifts from the production of goods to the provision of services and by the growing importance of technology and information ...

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13. The Challenge of Environmental Preservation

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pp. 359-375

Environmental degradation in Japan has accompanied the development of modern industry since the Meiji period. Environmental problems caused by drainage from the refineries at the Ashio Copper Mine in Tochigi Prefecture, operated by the Furukawa Company, go back to 1878. The provoked intense political struggles in the period 1890 to 1905. ...

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14. Facing the Challenges

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pp. 376-386

As Japan enters the twenty-first century, the country faces several critical challenges to realize the great potential that the new era holds. Earlier chapters of this book have highlighted realities of contemporary Japan and the environmental, social, demographic, political, and economic challenges facing the Nation. Reforms are required in order to meet the needs of ...

Further Readings

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pp. 387-392


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pp. 393-401

E-ISBN-13: 9780813127637
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813123424

Page Count: 416
Publication Year: 2004