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A Short History of Japan

Japan's cultural contributions may stand at the forefront of the world's consciousness today. It's name, often translated as "The Land of the Rising Sun", comes from imperial relation with China and refers to Japan's eastward position relative to the Asian continent. In short, it literally means "the orign of the sun".

Japan developed a unique original culture in its arts of ikebana (flower arrangement), tea ceremony, Japanese gardening, bonsai (the cultivation of miniature trees), origami (the art of paper-folding), yabusame (archery on horseback), sumo wrestling, lacquerware, pottery, performances (bunraku, kabuki, noh and raku-go) as well as a unique cuisine. Today, Japan is one of the world's largest exporters of pop culture. Japanese cartoons, comic books, fashion, films, and music have gained popularity around the world. Japan's youth are trend conscious and their style preferences largely influence the fashion and trends around the world.

It is interesting to note that many Japanese people profess to believe in Buddhism, merely because their family has belonged to some sect of Buddhism. Shinto, though it originated in Japan, is rarely practiced today. Many younger generations feel that religions are something kept at distance. One of the common characteristics of Japanese religiosity is its tendency toward syncretism. The same person may have a wedding at a Christian church, yet holds a funeral at a Buddhist temple.

The culture of Japan is inherently difficult to define, for they are myriad and magical. Japanese traditions and customs have been evolving over a period of thousands of years and reflect the Japanese lifestyle today. Japan's isolation until the arrival of Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry's Black Fleet of American warships in 1853 and the progressive movements of the Meiji era produced a culture distinctively different from any other, and influences of this uniqueness still exist today. To this day, inter-relationships between people are heavily influenced by obligation and duty.

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