Prologue

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(Reading time: 3 minutes)

The Land of the Rising Sun is not just a beautiful metaphor for a land far to the east, where the sun rises, but the literal meaning of the name Japan. It’s somewhat curious, because from Japan, America is to the east and the lands far to the east, where the sun rises, are those European ones…

The four Japanese home islands – Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu – have been inhabited by people since 50,000 BC. From the 1st century AD, there are preserved historical records, and there is much to talk about.

Primarily in the period between the 12th and 19th centuries, that is, during the time when Japan long isolated itself from the surrounding world, the country was ruled by shoguns in the name of the emperor and protected by samurais. Or they attempted to kill them, depending on whom they served.

In politics and intrigue, the Japanese were in no way inferior to Europe, but minimal influence from the outside world, especially Western religions, gave rise to a state whose exotic status still holds true in today’s globalized world.

Minimal, not none; Christianity eventually managed to make its way to the islands (in the 16th century), although it was a Pyrrhic victory. Truly significant changes came during the Meiji period (turn of the 19th and 20th centuries), when the Japanese abolished feudalism (for comparison, it ended with the arrival of the Renaissance in Europe in the 15th century) and began to rapidly adopt modern advancements of the technologically far more advanced Western civilization. It only took a few decades, and Japan underwent a transformation from a romantic land somewhere in the distance to a world power on the threshold of your home, actually already in the living room.

The Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars led to the acquisition of Taiwan, half of Sakhalin, and later Korea as well. After World War I, Japan was granted dominion over several Pacific islands for its participation on the side of the Allies. And with a taste for more.

World War I ended, at that time they probably didn’t even call it the First, just World War, which was not supposed to be repeated, and if it did, certainly not in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, on October 24, 1929, the crash of the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street occurred, and the world darkened with an economic crisis. In response, Japanese military leaders began to seek opportunities for the violent expansion of territory in Asia, which was supposed to help them solve domestic economic problems (does this remind you of something?). The Second Sino-Japanese War began and a year later, the Second World War…

…Japan lost the Second World War on the side of the Axis, lost most of its overseas territories, and understandably transitioned from militarism to pacifism.

It only took a few decades again, and Japan is rightfully perceived again as one of the most powerful states in the world (it is also part of the G7 group), strengthening its military and soft power mentioned in the epilogue to South Korea, of course. Unlike South Koreans, in the sense that people know, “this” is Japan:

Anime, car manufacturers (Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Lexus…), Fujitsu, Game Boy, geisha (they are NOT prostitutes), Ghibli, hentai, judo, karaoke, karate, kimono, manga, origami, PlayStation, ramen, Sony, sumo, sushi…

…these are just examples of advancements from the Japanese islands that we now consider everyday parts of our lives. They gave something to the world, the world gave something to them, but they have preserved their culture. Start diluting it and you will destroy it; in this, Japanese isolationism has long been shown to be the right choice and in some form continues to this day (98.5% of the population are ethnic Japanese).

Visiting, seeing, admiring, occasionally marveling, and taking something away is perfectly fine, however. “A guest into the house is a god into the house” applies universally in most of the world, and Japan is no exception. Verified by a delegation of two people – a man and a woman.

-mj-

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