Modern Japan can be classified four periods.
Edo period (1600-1868)
The Edo period was characterized by relative peace and stability under the tight control of the Tokugawa shogunate, which is the most powerful family in this time period in Japan. The Tokugawa shogunate took a great deal of time to suppress social unrest. For example, the penalties were quite cruel even for the most minor offenses consisting of crucifixion, beheading and death by boiling, and for criminals of higher social class the penalties would be the option of seppuku. After the Christian-led Shimabara Rebellion of 1638, the religion was completely outlawed. To prevent the foreign ideas influencing Japanese, the third Tokugawa shogun, lemitsu, implemented the sakoku, which did not be allowed to travel abroad, even return from overseas and the international trade was forbidden except China and Korea. The terminology about this in this time period was called “closed country”.
Japanese’s population was doubled to thirty million due to the agricultural growth. The infrastructure such as roads and bridges was started to construct, and the number of private schools was dramatically increased and raised literacy to thirty percent with the highest rate in the world at this time period.
By the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the shogunate showed signs of weakening. In 1853, the US government aimed to end Japan’s isolationist policies. The shugunate had no defense against Perry’s gunboats and had to agree to his demands that American ships be permitted to acquire provisions and trade at Japanese ports. The US, UK, Russia and other western powers all contracted the unequal treaties, which claimed Japan must allow citizens of these countries to visit on Japanese territory and trade through Japanese ports.
Meiji Period (1868-1912)
In this time period, the most powerful leader is the Meiji government, who are regarded as some of the most successful statement in human history, desired Japan to become to modern nation-state that could stand equal to the western imperialist powers. The major government priorities included the introduction of railways, telegraph lines and a universal education system. The Meiji government promoted widespread Westernization and hired hundreds of advisers from western nations with expertise in such fields as education, mining, baking, law, military affairs, and transportation to remodel Japan’s institutions. For example, the introduction of European literacy styles to Japan sparked a boom in new works of prose fiction so that many famous writers were occurred in this time period.
During the Meiji period, Japan underwent a rapid transition towards an industrial economy. Both the Japanese government and private entrepreneurs adopted western technology and knowledge to create factories capable of producing a wide range of goods. By the end of the period, the majority of Japan’s exports were manufactured goods. The most successful businesses were family-owned, such as Mitsubishi and Sumitomo.
Taisho and early Showa Period (1912-1945)
The political power shifted from the oligarchic clique to the parliament and the democratic parties.
After World War One, the economical situation changed to be worse in Japan. The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the worldwide depression of 1929 intensified the crisis.
During the 1930s, the government has been completely controlled by the military. “Many political enemies were assassinated, and communists persecuted. Indoctrination and censorship in education and media were further intensified”.
Already earlier, Japan followed the example of Western nations and forced China into unequal economical and political treaties. In July 1937, the second Sino-Japanese War broke out. The Japanese force succeeded in occupying almost the whole coast of China and committed severe war atrocities on the Chinese population, especially during the fall of the capital Nan Jing. However, the Chinese government never surrendered completely, and the war continued on a lower scale until 1945.
Post War History (since 1945)
After World War Two has ended, Japan was devastated. All the large cities, the industries and the transportation networks were severely damaged. A severe shortage of food continued for several years. The 1973 oil crisis shocked the Japanese economy which was heavily depended on oil. The reaction was a shift to high technology industries.
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Reasons and Conditions of Immigration to the United States
Based on the information from website, Japanese has been one of the largest Asian ethnic group in Hawaii and the western states since the 1880s. The first immigration was to Hawaii between 1885 and 1895. Thousands of Japanese citizens were employed by the sugar cane and pineapple factories, and these Japanese workers improve the productivity of the sugar cane and pineapple factories. However, the working conditions were super bad for them—the local employers only spoke English and they treated Japanese workers like horses or cattle, requiring them to get up at 4:00 am to start working with seven days a week. In order to obtain better working conditions around half of these Japanese finally immigrated to California, Oregon and Washington State.
There is a table, which can generally illustrate the Japanese immigrations.
|Country of origin||Japan|
|Primary regions of U.S. settlement||Hawaii, West Coast|
|Earliest significant arrivals||1880’s|
|Peak immigration period||1900-1920’s|
|Twenty-first century legal residents||62,096 (7,762 per year)|
*Immigrations who obtained legal permanent resident status in the United States.
Source: Department of Homeland Security, Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, 2008
In 1908, Japanese employers had to fight for short working hours, better and safe working conditions and reasonable wages. However, the strike did not work very well but increased the political power for the immigrations. Therefore, the Japanese immigrations had to left Hawaii to search for better jobs, mostly in California. In California, Japanese started to work their own business because they could work in the California. Japanese farmers could utilize their techniques to compete with other farmers such as growing strawberries between rows of grapevines. In addition, they excel in saving money, they therefore could buy the land and get more benefits from their hard working.
During the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, over 600,000 Japanese Americans were living and working in the U.S. and most of them were still in the western coats. The Japanese Americans especially for the third and forth generation can be well integrated into American society. Some research claimed that half of Japanese were married with Americans. Japanese Americans performed successfully in many professional fields such as engineering.
Education Experience in the Country
The following information is based on the interview of Reo Watanabe who is from Japan.
In Japan, the kindergarten is not mandatory. They only have private schools for kindergarten so it is not free. The government required students to finish from the first grade to ninth grade. The elementary school is from first grade to sixth grade, and the middle high school is from seventh to ninth grade. From tenth to twelfth they called junior high school but junior high school is not mandatory. From elementary school to middle high school, students are not be required to pay the tuition, but students have to pay for junior high school because it is not mandatory. In Japan, there are both private and public junior high schools but the tuition of public schools is much lower than the tuition of private schools. In addition, the collage is also divided into public and private, and it is optional for students, of course, students would pay less in public collages than in private collages.
There are around 40-50 students in one classroom of elementary school and high school, and around 100 students in one classroom of collages.
Nowadays, teachers tend to create a more relaxed atmosphere and free conversations for students. The students are allowed to present their questions after teacher’s presentation. However, Japanese students like other Asian students will not speak in the class because they do not like making mistakes. In fact, the real reason is that they might be lack of ideas. In Japan, students’ participation is not required by the teacher in the class. Thus, the students will be more likely to keep silent.
The Responsibilities of Japanese Teachers
The responsibilities of Japanese teachers are not only for the high quality of academy of students but also they focused on the development of human characters of students such as independent, justice, social skills, responsibility and the issues related to different cultures. Japanese teachers regarded the teaching career as their missions. Therefore, the requirement of being a teacher in Japan is quite strict and they also have specific assessment for teachers, for example, in Japan they have national improvement and school’s professional improvement to evaluate teachers. In addition, teacher should establish a trust relationship with students in order to know their students deeply. Furthermore, in class if the students made some academic mistakes the teacher will not directly point out the mistake instead of finding the mistakes by students themselves, and the teacher will not give certain penalties because of the academic mistakes the students made.
The students have three semesters in one year, and they have their own fixed classroom where the students take all the courses, except for practical trainings and laboratory work. During elementary education, one teacher teaches all the courses in each class. From elementary school to junior high school (only for public schools), the school provides school lunch on a standardized menu for students, and the students can eat in the classroom. In addition, the students are required to wear the uniform. Besides, Japanese students are not required to drive cars, instead of walking or riding bicycles if the distance is not too far. On other cases, if the distance between home and school is too far, the students can choose to take the public trains and buses. It is quite convenient as well.
The University Entrance Examinations is quite important for Japanese students. In this examination, they are required to take Japanese, mathematics, science, social studies and English. It is different between private junior high school and public junior high school in the examination. Private high schools take their own examinations, while for public high schools are standardized within each prefecture. Success or failure on a University Entrance Examination can influence a student’s entire future, since the prospect of finding a good job depends on the school attended. Therefore, the pressure for high school students is quite huge, which might come from teachers and their parents.
Although Japanese students experience the big pressure, they indeed do some activities in their spare time, for example, Japanese students usually spend approximately two hours in doing their daily homework and three hours on weekends, and during their spare time, they usually watch TV, listen to the radio, read books and interact with peers outside of school.
Language Characteristics—similarities and differences between the language spoken and English:
In Japanese, particles and verbs are the most important characteristics.
- The basic structure of a Japanese sentence is SOV.
The simple sentence below would demonstrate this characteristic.
- “Tanakasan wa ocha o nomimashita”. (Tanaka drank tea.)
This sentence can be divided into three parts, “Tanakasan wa” “ocha o” “nomimashita”. In the part “Tanakasan wa”, “Tanakasan” is a noun, the name of a person (“Tanaka” is a family name, and “san” is similar to Mr. or Ms.). “Wa” is a particle. In the part “ocha o”, “ocha” is a noun, meaning “tea”. “O” is a particle. “Nomimashita” is the past tense of a verb, meaning “drank”.
The words are in order of subject, object and verb. The basic word order of a Japanese sentence is SOV. What are the meanings of the particles “wa” and “o”? “O” is the object marker. “O” marks “ocha” as the object. “Wa” is the subject marker (at this stage, I will refrain from further explanation).
Some people may think it is a bizarre language, structuring sentence in a SOV pattern or utilizing postpositions. However, it is not weird at all. Actually, there is a report says that about half of the language using the SOV sentence structure. Languages such as English, Chinese and Russian use SVO sentence structure, therefore it appears that SOV order is exception. However, from a different perspective of view, SOV order is one of the two sentence structures which are used most widely in the world.
Further, it is pointed out in general linguistics that prepositions are often used in SVO languages, and SOV languages have a tendency to use postpositions. This implies that the languages of the world can be classified into two typical types, one is “SVO, preposition” type and the other is “SOV, postposition” type. Japanese belongs to the latter type, as well as Korean and Turkish. It is not a peculiar language, but it just belongs to “another type” of language. For the people whose mother tongue is the “SVO, preposition” type of language, it may be difficult to learn Japanese, but it brings with it a rich experience and a completely new world to learn a language in that is different from your own.
- Particles are important
The simple sentence below would demonstrate this characteristic.
“Tanakasan wa Satosan to kissaten de ocha o nomimashita”. (Tanaka drank tea at a coffee shop with Sato.)
This sentence can be divided into five parts, “Tanakasan wa” “Satosan to” “kissaten de” “ocha o” “nomimashita”. “Tanakasan” is a noun, the name of a person (“Tanaka” is a family name, and “san” is similar to Mr. or Ms.). “Wa” is a particle, and the subject marker. “Wa” marks “Tanakasan” as the subject. “Satosan” is the name of a person, and “to” is a particle similar in meaning to “with”. “Satosan to” means “with Sato”. “Kissaten” is a noun meaning “coffee shop”, and “de” is a particle similar in meanign to “at”. In the part “ocha o”, “ocha” is a noun, meaning “tea”. “O” is a particle, and the object marker. “O” marks “ocha” as the object. “Nomimashita” is the past tense of a verb, meaning “drank”.
The fundamental sentence structure of Japanese has the verb at the end, after several “noun + particle phrases “. Particles mark a noun’s role in a sentence. “Tanakasan” is the subject, “ocha (tea)” is the object, and “Satosan” is the partner of the action. “Kissaten (coffee shop)” is the place of the action. These are the “roles” of each noun. The particle following the noun marks the role of the noun in a sentence.
Such “roles” of nouns are marked somehow in all languages. How are they denoted in English or Chinese? Subject and object are marked by the order of the words, and other “roles” of nouns are marked by prepositions. In Japanese, particles come after all nouns to mark their role. Since particles come after nouns in Japanese, they are called “postpositions” instead of prepositions.
Because of the characteristics of Japanese that mentioned above, particles are very important. Each particle can be generalized, such as “de” being used in one situation, and “to” in another, so they can be and are necessary to be learned at early stage. However, there are some exceptions. This is similar to some English prepositions, for example when “in” and “on” are used in certain situations. This can be confusing for non-native speakers of English sometimes. It is advisable to learn “general rule” and “exceptions of rule”.
- Japanese writing system
Japanese writing system is a mix of three character types: logographic kanji, which are adopted Chinese characters; syllabic kana; and the Latin script (rōmaji) is used sometimes. Kana itself comprises of two parts: hiragana, “used primarily for native or naturalized Japanese words and grammatical elements”, and katakana, “used primarily for foreign words and names, loanwords, onomatopoeia, scientific names, and sometimes for emphasis”. A Japanese sentence is always a combination of kanji and kana. The Japanese writing system is said to be the most complex writing system in the world because the mixture of scripts.
“Katakana are used to write transliteration of foreign words and names, such as コンピュータ (konpyūta, “computer”) and ロンドン (Rondon, “London”). (Some foreign borrowings that have become naturalized may not be rendered in katakana.)”
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Values and Beliefs
Shinto and Buddhism are Japan’s two major religions. Shinto has a long history with the Japanese culture. Buddhism was adopted from China in the 6th century. Since then, those two religions have been co-existing relatively and harmoniously, and to some degree, they have even complemented each other. The majority of Japanese consider themselves Buddhist, Shintoist or both. Religion in everyday life seems not that important for most Japanese people today. Those The religious rituals at ceremonies such as birth, weddings, and funerals are often held at a shrine or temple on New Year and participants often have religious background.
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What are the perspectives on females and males?
Similar to in the U.S., Japanese ladies have a distance to go to achieve full equality. “Part of the equality is the option to continue traditional ways if she chooses. Family life involves a negotiation with the husband about childcare, household chores, chores, care for parents, and other aspects of life. Much of Japanese television we see on the ‘net smacks of misogyny and degraded roles of women. Japanese game shows are famous for their zany antics and nudity. Although, men are also portrayed negatively. Men are often shown in these game shows as being driven by sex and comradery.”
For more information about the perspectives on females and males in Japan, please visit
What is the general view on authority?
It is difficult to imagine a Japanese vision of the social order without the influence of Confucianism because prior to the advent of Chinese influence in the 6th century, Japan did not have a stratified society. Confucianism emphasizes harmony among heaven, nature, and human society achieved through each person’s accepting his or her social role and contributing to the social order by proper behavior. An often quoted phrase from the Confucian essay “Da Xue” (The Great Learning) explains, “Their persons being cultivated, their families were regulated. Their families being regulated, their states were rightly governed. Their states being rightly governed, the whole kingdom was made tranquil and happy.”
“This view means that hierarchy is natural. Relative status differences define nearly all social interaction. Age or seniority, gender, educational attainment, and place of employment are common distinctions that guide interaction. Without some knowledge of the other’s background, age and gender may be an individual’s only guidelines. A Japanese person may prefer not to interact with a stranger, to avoid potential errors in etiquette. The business cards or calling cards so frequently exchanged in Japan are valuable tools of social interaction because they provide enough information about another person to facilitate normal social exchange. Japan scholar Edwin O. Reischauer noted that whereas Americans often act to minimize status differences, Japanese find it awkward, even unbecoming, when a person does not behave in accordance with status expectations.
The Japanese language is one means of expressing status differences, and it contributes to the assumption that hierarchy is natural. Verb endings regularly express relationships of superiority or inferiority. Japanese has a rich vocabulary of honorific and humble terms that indicate a person’s status or may be manipulated to express what the speaker desires the relationship to be. Men and women employ somewhat different speech patterns, with women making greater use of polite forms. Certain words are identified with masculine speech and others with feminine. For example, there are a number of ways to say the pronoun “I,” depending on the formality of the occasion, the gender of the speaker, and the relative status of the speaker and listener. As is appropriate in a culture that stresses the value of empathy, one person cannot speak without considering the other.
The term hierarchy implies a ranking of roles and a rigid set of rules, and Japan has its share of bureaucracy. But the kind of hierarchical sense that pervades the whole society is of a different type, which anthropologist Robert J. Smith calls “diffuse order.” For example, in pre-modern times, local leaders were given a great deal of autonomy in exchange for assuming total responsibility for affairs in their localities. In contemporary Japan also, responsibility is collective and authority diffuse. The person seeming to be in charge is, in reality, bound into the web of group interdependence as tightly as those who appear to be his subordinates. Leadership thus calls not for a forceful personality and sharp decision-making skills but for sensitivity to the feelings of others and skills in mediation. Even in the early 1990s, leaders were expected to assume responsibility for a major problem occurring in or because of their groups by resigning their posts, although they may have had no direct involvement in the situation.”
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What are the roles families? What is the role of the family or involvement in their children’s education?
The major changes that occurred over Japan after World War II focused on a greater freedom for women in Japan. Women got equal rights and were now allowed to obtain an education and a profession or career. The Japanese people also were granted more individual freedom for choosing the person they were to marry. Arranged marriages dwindled and people began to marry for love. These changes did not bring about a more individualistic society but rather a more dependent society because of the changing roles of mother and father. Contemporary families in Japan are nuclear families with a mother, a father and two children. The father of the family works long hours in the city and devotes 6 days a week to his work in general. The role of the mother focuses on her household and children. The typical lifestyle for a contemporary Japanese family, with the development of new technology has become much easier and made life much more efficient. Members of the family now have leisure time to enjoy and have begun taking family vacations in order to spend more time together and this also allows the father to take some time off from work and enjoy watching his children grow.
“Typical Roles of the Father in a Contemporary Japanese Family:
- The father works six days a week, late into the night, often entertaining those he works with and takes Sundays off to be with his family and enjoy some down time.
- Financial support comes from the father.
- Because of the strenuous hours of work the father puts into work each week, he is treated as a guest in his own home. His dinner is always prepared when he arrives, his clothes laid out and anything else he might need is taken care of by his wife.
- Although he has final say over major purchases and decisions, he rarely exercises that right. He turns his salary over to his wife so that she can do the budgeting and allocating for the family.
Typical Roles of the Mother in a Contemporary Japanese Family:
- The mother of the family is in charge of her children’s well-being and education.
- She is the most informed about what is best for her children and explores all of their options extensively before deciding things about her children’s futures.
- Motherhood and nurturing of children are valued highly in Japanese society and considered to be of the utmost importance.
- Very seldom does a mother leave her children with a babysitter or a day care provider, she devotes her life to them and feels that they will be best under her care. If a mother cannot care for her children, their grandmother is the next best option.
- A mother and her children have a physical and emotional closeness that provides great comfort and a relaxed disposition in her children.”
For more information about family roles in Japan, please visit
General Information about the Holiday, Food…
“Matsuri is a Japanese expression for a festival or holiday. On Japan, festivals are often held in places such as a local shrine or temple, in spite of they might be secular.
There are no specific matsuri days for all of Japan; dates vary from area to area, and even within a specific area, but festival days do tend to cluster around traditional holidays such as Setsubun or Obon. Almost every locale has at least one matsuri in late summer/early autumn, usually related to the rice harvest.
Cherry blossom festivals
Japan celebrates the entire season of the cherry blossoms. There are festivals in nearly every region of Japan, and some locations, food is available or a park may be decorated with lanterns. Some locations of cherry blossom festivals include:
- Yaedake Cherry Blossom Festival in Okinawa. This festival takes place from late January – mid February
- Matsue Jozan Koen Festival in Matsue-city, Shimane. This festival has a feature of illuminating the cherry blossom trees at night. This festival takes place late March-early April.
- Tsuyama Kakuzan Koen Cherry Blossom Festival in Tsuyama-city, Okayama. Japanese tea ceremonies and music performers are held at these festivals. This festival is held early-mid April.
- Takato Joshi Koen Cherry Blossom Festival in Takato-machi Ina-city, Nagano prefecture. The trees in this region have pink blossoms. This festival is held early April.
- Takada Koen Cherry Blossom Festival in Joetsu-city, Niigata prefecture. This festival is held early-mid April.
- Kitakai Tenshochi Cherry Blossom Festival in Kitakami-city, Iwate. This festival is held mid April-early May.
Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival held in Hirosaki Koen Hirosaki-city, Aomori prefecture. This festival is held late April-early May (Mishima, Cherry Blossom Festivals 2010).”
For more information about family roles in Japan, please visit
First, the basic Japanese sentence structure is mainly based on SOV (subject + object + verb). It is quite different in English. For example, for English leaners they have to follow the sentence structure such as subject + verb + object. Therefore, for English teachers if their students are Japanese students the teachers should pay more attention on the sentence structure in order to let their students get used to use English sentence structure.
Second, it is quite different for the usage of particles between Japanese and English. In Japanese, the particles are important and they come after all nouns and make their role. By the contrast, the particles in English are sometime placed before the nouns, for example, an apple or the desk. Therefore, English teachers are also required to give Japanese students more practice to be familiar with the usage of particles in English.
Third, Japanese get used to pronounce English words by the same pronunciations of Katakana, which is one of characters in Japanese writing system. That means Japanese students’ pronunciations are readily influenced by their mother language, and they therefore might have serious accent when they speak English. This is also a significant consideration for the English teacher in Japanese English class.
Fourth, teachers should also pay more attention on the performance of Japanese students. They tend to keep silent and are not willing to share their own opinions in the classroom. As an English teacher, we should encourage Japanese students to express their thoughts and let Japanese students provide more engagement in the class.