ABOUT JAPAN

 

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ABOUT JAPAN

At a Glance

Official Name: Japan (Nippon or Nihon, in Japanese)
Capital: Tokyo
Location: In the Pacific Ocean near the northeastern coast of Asia
Official Language: Japanese
Population: Approximately 125 million (1997)
Area in Square Kilometers: 377,682 sq. km
Area in Square Miles: 145,856 sq. miles, a little smaller than the State of California
Population Density: 331 people/square km
Flag: Red sun centered on a white field
Predominant Religions: Shinto, Buddhism
Cities/Towns/Villages with 0 churches = 1,758 (1997)
Church/population: 1:16,168 (meaning one Protestant church for every 16,168 people)
Church attendance/population: 0.21% (meaning 2.1 people attend Protestant churches for every 1,000 people)

 

 

Size and Population of Japan

The size of Japan (145,000 sq. miles) is a little less than 4% of the United States. Japan is actually smaller than the State of Montana (147,000 sq. miles).

The population, however, is about 50% of the United States. Only 16% of the land is arable. So, take an island about the size of the State of Montana, make only one-sixth of the land suitable for cultivation, and put half of the population of the United States onto it, and you have a pretty good idea of the basic economic problem of Japan - too many people and too little land.

 

Geography:

(from "Operation Japan" published 1997, and DFM Field Focus on Japan, 1989)

Japan is an island country situated off the east coast of Asia in the northwest of the Pacific Ocean. The territory of Japan includes, from north to south, the Aleutians, the Kuriles, the Japanese Isles, and the Nansei Islands. There are four main islands, and they are, in order of their size, Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku. These four islands and 3,000 others form an arc about 3,300 kilometers long from Minami Chishima to the Yaeyama Islands. The four largest islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku. Tokyo and most of Japan's major industrial centers are located on Honshu. The North Pacific Ocean lies to the east, the Philippine Sea to the south, the Sea of Japan to the west. Japan's nearest neighbors are the Philippine Islands on the south and North and South Korea and the Soviet Union on the northwest. A series of mountains crowd an already narrow landscape, and numerous volcanic ranges run through it, forming intricate and sometimes problematic geographical features.

Swift streams tumble down Japan's steep mountainsides, and hundreds of hot springs gush from the ground. Japan has nearly 200 volcanoes, some of which are active. Each year Japan has about 1,500 earthquakes, most of which cause little damage. The Kobe earthquake in 1995, however, killed over 5,000 and left thousands homeless.

Japan's climate is similar to that of the eastern coast of the United States. Like Florida, Kyushu and Shikoku have long, hot summers and mild winters. Honshu, like the Middle Atlantic States, has hot, humid summers with mild winters in the south and colder winters in the north. Hokkaido has cool summers and snowy winters like Maine.

The heaviest rains fall between mid-June and early July and from September to October. Destructive typhoons are frequent.

 

Cultural Background:

(from "Operation Japan" published 1997)

Japan's official history did not begin until the eighth century. However, it is known that Buddhism came to Japan in the sixth century, and prior to this, around the second or third century written language was introduced from China. By this time, the Yamato clan had become the most powerful clan in the nation, and the chiefs of the clan are considered the ancestors of Japan's imperial family. There has been much debate concerning the origin of the Japanese race and language. Recently a number of ancient ruins have been discovered, shedding light on many unanswered questions.

Buddhism has had a large influence on the personal and political life of the people. A major example is the parishioner system established by the Tokugawa government which linked everyone to local Buddhist temples. Ancient folk beliefs, and Taoism and Onmyodo introduced from China, also have left significant marks on the culture of Japan. The Meiji administration introduced the policy to separate Shinto from Buddhism and gave State Shinto the highest position. The accompanying militarism led the country to its ill fate. Syncretistic faith provides the basic spiritual support for most Japanese.

Government Japan has a prime minister and a cabinet. Its Diet (parliament) consists of the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors. The duties of the emperor are largely ceremonial.

Japan's 47 prefectures (states) have elected governors. Municipal mayors also are elected.

 

Christianity in Japan:

Japan, population 125 million, is one of the most unreached countries in the world. Even when counting "Christians" of every sect and variety, they still make up less than 1% of the population. Church attendance for all Protestant churches combined is somewhere around 0.2% (2 for every 1000 people) for Japan as a whole. This percentage drops drastically the farther you get from the major metropolitan areas. If only those who attend Bible-believing, Gospel-preaching churches were counted, the percentage would be only a tiny fraction of this. The vast majority of Japanese (nearly everyone) are Buddhist and Shinto. Needless to say, most Japanese have never even met a Christian, much less attended a church service or heard the Gospel.

The Assemblies of God in Japan is one of the largest Evangelical denominations. Even so, there are only approximately 200 churches and outstations for the entire country. The great majority of churches (approximately 70%) have regular Sunday attendance of between 5 and 20 people. The Assemblies of God has 1 Bible school in Japan with approximately 30 students (each year graduating from 2-10 students). This is one of the largest Bible colleges in the country. Needless to say, Japan is in desperate need of outside help (missionaries) if the masses are ever to be reached with the Gospel.

 

Percentage of Christians and Churches in Japan

Attendance for all Protestant churches in Japan is approximately 0.18% of the population or less than 2 for every 1000 people. (We don't have the exact figures for Catholics, but their numbers are approximately the same--resulting in less than 1% if you count all sects of Christianity.) If you were to count only evangelical Protestants, the percent is about half that, or somewhere around 0.09%.

As of November 1, 1995, there were 1764 cities, towns, and villages in Japan without a single church. Approximately 70% of churches in Japan have fewer than 30 people attending. Nearly 20% of churches have fewer than 10. Probably 95% of Japanese people have never been inside a church, never heard a sermon, never read a tract, don't have a single friend or acquaintance who is a real Christian, and have never heard the Gospel.

 

About the City of Hachinohe

A City With a Long History:

Many remains from the Jomon Era (3000 B.C. or earlier) have been discovered in the Hachinohe area, as represented by the digs at the Korekawa Ruins. These find indicate that people have populated this are since ancient times. When Japan was established as a single country, this area remained independent for a while. Then, however, the Samurai class rose to power and established the Kamakura Government, and this area fell under its control.

In 1334, Moroyuki Nanbu built his castle in the Nejo Area of the city and settled a war that had broken out in the northeast. This action provided the foundation for the establishment of what is now Hachinohe. During and after this period of domestic wars, Hachinohe was governed by the lord of the Nanbu Clan in Morioka (in Iwate Prefecture). However, after the feudal lord's death in 1664, a separate branch of the Nanbu Clan was established in Hachinohe. It became the starting point for Hachinohe's development.

In 1929, a Municipal Organization System was initiated, and Hachinohe was incorporated as a city with a population of about 52,000. Today, its population is more than 240,000 due to rapid concentration of industries, extensive urbanization and the development of the marine industry. Hachinohe was designated a New Industrial City in 1964.

Climate of Hachinohe

Hachinohe City is located in the northeast of Japan. It has cold winters, however, it gets many sunny days and receives less snow than the Japan Sea coast. Even during the rainy season, precipitation is moderate. Unlike most of Japan, Hachinohe has a short summer and usually escapes the sweltering heat and high humidity.

Geography of Hachinohe

Geographically, Hachinohe is located on a flat plain and extends to the Pacific Ocean. Two rivers, the Mabechi and the Niida, both of which originate in Iwate Prefecture, divide the plane into three roughly equal sections. The industrial, fishing and commercial ports, which provide modern large-scale facilities, are arranged along the coastal belt centered on the mouths of these rivers.

Vital Industries in Hachinohe:

Vital industries have formed in Hachinohe due to the city's increasing role as an international distribution base point. In the commercial sector, major stores and outside investors are helping to redevelop shopping districts and modernize shops to improve services for the customer.

Hachinohe's agricultural sector faces a severe natural environment in the summer due to cold east winds. Winter, however, offers generous amounts of sunlight and only moderate amounts of snow. Thus, protected horticulture is flourishing, and strawberries grown in plastic greenhouses are a special product of this area.

Hinode Cement (which is now called Hachinohe Cement) was established in Hachinohe in 1919, the first of a succession of industries to make their home here. Those companies laid the foundation for a flourishing of industry in pre-war Hachinohe. Reclamation along the Mabechi River to form the city's First Industrial Zone in 1956 resulted in a further inflow of enterprises, and led to Hachinohe's development as a sea-front industrial city.

In addition, designation of Hachinohe as a New Industrial City accelerated rearrangement of its infrastructure, while development of the city's Second Industrial Zone and similar areas promoted the setting up of new companies within the city. In 1989, Hachinohe was designated a Teletopia and is now carrying out construction of Hachinohe High-Tech Industrial Park and the Hachinohe Intelligent Plaza.

Hachinohe's harbor has been known as Same-Ura for a very long time, and has become a major point on the Sanriku Coast. In 1960, it was designated a Special Type III fishing port, and has maintained its position as Japan's top or second-ranked commercial fishing port based on tonnage handled annually, thus giving it an important role as a stable supplier of marine products. The port's freezing and cold storage facilities are also among the best in Japan.

Local Festivals:

Enburi - Enburi is the representative folk performance for this area. The festival is held for four days from February 17 every year to pray for a good harvest.
Kabushima Festival - 3rd Sunday in April. This is a traditional festival at Kabushima Shrine.
Hachinohe Port Festival - Late July at the Hamadori area and fishing port. Processions carry portable shrines into the sea.
Hachinohe Sansha Taisai (Three shrines joint festival) - This is the largest festival in the area. It is highlighted by a parade that is up to 2.5 km long for the opening, called "Otoori" (on August 1st) and closing, called "Okaeri" (on August 3rd). "Dashi" (floats) constructed by individual neighborhood groups compete in their gorgeousness as they parade festively along the streets of the city accompanied by the playing of Japanese-style flutes and drums while children boisterously shout chants and pull the floats.
Chrysanthemum Festival & Chrysanthemum Doll Fair - Late October to early November. Displays show prized chrysanthemum plants and dolls made with live chrysanthemums.
 

ABOUT AOMORI PREFECTURE

Geography - Aomori Prefecture

Aomori is located at the northernmost end of the Ou Mountain Range. It embraces the Hakkoda Mountains and both sides of Mutsu Bay, whose east side is Shimokita Peninsula and west side is Tsugaru Peninsula. The mountain range separates the area with the eastern side facing the Pacific Ocean. That area enjoys a milder winter with sunny days and light snowfalls. But at times summer brings a cold wind called "Yamasei," and thick fog can damage the crops. The western side faces the Japan Sea and experiences heavy snow, but sunny days in the summer.

Industry & Economy - Aomori Prefecture

Aomori is famous for its apples, producing close to half of the nation's crop. Other important crops are rapeseed and garlic with 70 to 80% of the nation's total. 30% of the nation's canned mackerel and squid come from Aomori, the highest in the nation. However, the lack of heavy industries along with the hard weather force many to seek employment in the bigger cities during the winter. The prefecture has struggled to revitalize depressed areas. The new atomic power plant at Mutsu city was a bright spot, but the nuclear waste disposal, pollution and environmental issues have turned it into a large disappointment.

Cultural Background - Aomori Prefecture

Since Aomori sits at the northernmost point of Honshu, the area has been called "Mutsu" (end of the road) since antiquity. Though the opening of the Seikan Tunnel joining Aomori and Hokkaido lessened the feeling of remoteness, the traditions and customs established long ago still have a powerful hold. Even in a city like Misawa with many American military bases and Japanese self-defense forces, very little has changed. A national survey showed that the people here were the most reluctant to meet new people. This shows their conservative nature and weakness in making new relationships. However, once a relationship is established, it becomes very deep and warm.

Religious Milieu - Aomori Prefecture

Religious influence is seen in many ways here. The Nebuta Festival (Aug. 3-7) is one of the three major festivals of the Tohoku area and attracts many tourists. Mount Osore is famous for the many spiritual mediums/sorceresses called "Itako." Mt. Iwaki is also an important Shinto site for worship, and the folklore known as "Oshirasama" has deep roots in the people's faith. It is not uncommon to see whole families and communities visiting the temples and shrines during festival times, and even ordinary days.

 

JAPANESE RECIPES

Okonomiyaki (Cabbage Pancakes)

Ingredients 2 cups flour 1 teaspoon baking powder salt 1 cup "dashi" 2 large cabbage leaves 1 egg 4 ounces pork, squid, or beef slices vegetable oil

Sauce and condiments to individual taste: Worcestershire sauce Soy sauce Mayonnaise Tomato catsup Mustard Dried bonito flakes Red pickled ginger, minced Ao-nori (powdered green laver)

1. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together into a large mixing bowl. Adding dashi a little at a time, mix flour swiftly until smooth. Do not over-mix. Cover the bowl with saranwrap and leave for 30 minutes (if left too long, batter will become sticky).

2. Remove hard section of cabbage leaves and cut into thin strips. Add egg, meat, and cabbage to batter and mix lightly.

3. Grease heated skillet well. Pour in batter and flatten out with spatula. When bubbles begin to form and the edges begin to dry, turn over and fry the other side. Brush sauce or mustard (to taste) over pancake. When cake begins to give off aroma, sprinkle with dried bonito flakes, red pickled ginger and/or ao-nori and turn off heat.

Note: Using equal volumes of cabbage and batter is basic to this dish. Cabbage and egg are always used, as is red pickled ginger.

 

Japanese Holidays:

January 1
New Year's Day
January 15
Coming of Age Day
February 11
Commemoration of the Founding of the Nation
March 21
Vernal Equinox Day
April 29
Green Day (Former Emperor's Birthday)
May 3
Constitution Day
May 4
National Holiday
May 5
Children's Day
July 20
Marine Day
September 15
Respect for the Aged Day
September 23
Autumnal Equinox Day
October 10
Sports Day
November 3
Culture Day
November 23
Labor Thanksgiving Day
December 23
Emperor's Birthday