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  • This is one country I barely have to introduce you to. Let's just get it over with.

  • Sushi, geishas, karate!

  • Temples, ramen, anime!

  • Sumos, weird stuff, weird cosplay, poison fish,

  • and I'm not even gonna ask about that...

  • De wa, ikimashou! では, 行きましょう!

  • It's time to learn Geography

  • NOW!

  • Hey everybody, I'm your host Barbs. We have reached the Land of the Rising Sun,

  • Asia's island powerhouse and home to a culture that I'm sure you've heard of. Let's just jump into it.

  • Ah, Japan, you have such a story behind you.

  • First of all, Japan is located right off the east coast of the Asian continent

  • between the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan,

  • stretching all the way from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north with the East China Sea to the south.

  • The country is divided into 47 prefectures, each with incredibly beautiful minimalistic style flags.

  • The prefectures are divided into four different categories: "ken", "to", "fu", and "do".

  • The first level, "ken"

  • (heh heh, "Ken")

  • refers to the 43 plain prefectures. Then you have "to",

  • which means something like "metropolis", and this category only applies to Tokyo City.

  • "Fu" refers to the urban prefectures, which applies only to the cities of Osaka and Kyoto.

  • And finally, "do", which is a unique category translating to something like "circuit"

  • and that applies to all of Hokkaido in the north.

  • Speaking of which, Tokyo, Japan's capital, is the largest city in the world,

  • with its greater metropolitan area including Kanto containing about 37 million people.

  • That's more than the entire population of Canada.

  • However, Tokyo is kinda like 23 smaller cities all smashed into one, divided into units called wards.

  • And the closest thing to a capital one would probably be Chiyoda,

  • where the Emperor, Prime Minister, and Supreme Court are located.

  • After the Greater Toyko Kanto region, you have the next largest cities Osaka and Nagoya coming in at third.

  • Keep in mind, about 90% of people in Japan live in cities, and the vast majority on Honshu and Kyushu

  • The busiest airports, of course, being Tokyo's two twins:

  • Haneda, which is actually in Tokyo,

  • and Narita International, which is like an hour and a half drive away outside of Tokyo.

  • Then you have Osaka's Kansai International

  • Heh heh, "KIX".

  • and Fukoka International on Kyushu.

  • Heh heh, fu-

  • Gotta keep it clean, Keith!

  • Speaking of which, Japan is made up of about 6,850 islands,

  • but about 97% of the land is made up of four main islands:

  • Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku, and Hokkaido.

  • South of the main four, you have the Ryukyu Islands chain

  • which extends just south of Kyushu, partially making up Okinawa Prefecture.

  • You've probably heard of Okinawait's where Uma Thurman got that sword that she used to kill Lucy Liu.

  • It's also where these two isla- *ahem* never mind...

  • Nonetheless, Japan can still kind of be separated into ten historical main regions,

  • six of which divided amongst Honshu.

  • Then you have the interesting less-highlighted Kuril Islands dispute with Russia in the north.

  • Basically, Russia administers all of them but Japan claims these two islands closest to Hokkaido:

  • Iturup (or Etoro-futo) and Kunashir (or Kunashiri),

  • which is only less than ten miles away from Hokkaido.

  • On a clear day, you can even see it from the coast, but it's like, "Nope! Russia."

  • They even have a statue of Lenin.

  • The Russians and Japanese have kind of had a long dispute over this area

  • at one point Japan even tried to take over all of Sakhalin in the 1800's.

  • Then you have the Dokdo/Takeshima island dispute between them and South Korea.

  • To this day South Korea has a patrol building built on the island and they fiercely guard it.

  • And finally, you have Okinotori-shima,

  • which is probably the loneliest place in Japan as a shallow reef in the middle of the ocean.

  • It looks like it's trying so hard to become an island, complete with three helipads and a research station.

  • There's no diplomatic dispute, but rather a dispute within the UN on whether or not it qualifies as "land"

  • for an exclusive economic zone in the ocean.

  • Whew, okay, all right, that kind of took forever.

  • Getting around in Japan is incredibly easy,

  • often touted as having the best public transportation system in the world.

  • They have highways and trains everywhere, even one that cuts through an office building,

  • as well as the Shinkansen bullet train system that can get you to virtually every corner of Honshu and Kyushu

  • as well as the bottom tip of Hokkaido.

  • But not Shikoku! If you want to go Shikoku,

  • you have to take this slower, local Seto-Ohashi Line across the Seto Bridge.

  • Yeah, Shikoku is kind of like the runt of the litter in Japan.

  • Basically, Japan is like one big massive machine constantly running and moving,

  • with flashing neon lights, vending machines, and robots, and everything,

  • EVERYTHING, even the garbage cans have cartoons, cartoons everywhere!

  • Anyway! Some notable places of interest might include:

  • Tokyo Skytree, the second tallest building in the world,

  • Miyajima Pagoda,

  • Matsumoto, Himeji, and Osaka Castles,

  • the Fushimi Inari Shrine, the Great Buddha Hall,

  • Nakagin Capsule Tower, the vine bridges of Iya Valley,

  • the Ramen Museum,

  • so many weird-themed restaurants and hot springs,

  • the self-mummified monks of sokushinbutsu,

  • That hotel run by robots

  • the Ninja Museum in Iga, Kan-mangafuji Lava Buddhas,

  • the restricted-access Ise Grand Shrine, the most significant of all Shinto shrines,

  • the Shirakawa-go Traditional Village armed with water cannons to protect itself from fires,

  • abandoned theme parks like Greenland and Nara Dreamland,

  • Kochia Hill with red cypress,

  • and the national treasure, Itsu-Kushima Shrine, featured on numerous pieces of art, films, and even banknotes.

  • Now despite the bustling metropolis regions and skyscrapers,

  • Japan does an incredible job at maintaining its natural integrity. Find out how in...

  • Now Japan's land is kind of like a gingerbread house:

  • beautiful on the outside, but potentially dangerous on the inside.

  • First of all, Japan is a straddle volcanic archipelago located on the most precariously-situated section where

  • four major tectonic plates converge: the Pacific, the Philippine, the Eurasian, and the North American Plates.

  • Of course, this means that not only is Japan subject to earthquakes but also tsunamis

  • (which by the way is a Japanese word – “津波”)

  • caused from sub oceanic activities, such as the one recently in Fukushima

  • caused by the epicenter in the Japan Trench off the Pacific.

  • This also means that Japan is a volcanic area, with numerous volcanoes still active

  • like Aogashima, a volcano within a volcano, and Mt. Aso, the largest volcanic caldera.

  • This, in return, also blesses Japan with countless natural hot springs

  • which they like to exploit and build bathhouses on calledonsen”, typically indicated with this symbol.

  • All this plate activity and volcanoes means that about 70% of Japan is mountainous,

  • with the highest peak Mt. Fuji overlooking Tokyo,

  • which by the way is still technically an active volcano which erupted about 300 years ago.

  • The rift between the Philippine Plate and the Eurasian Plate creates the Japanese Alps

  • which bisects the country on Honshu. This isolated geologic warzone in return, though,

  • kinda blesses Japan with an abundance of unique flora and fauna.

  • Today, about 70% of Japan is forested, with nice natural water sources

  • like the longest river, the Shinano, and the largest lake, Lake Biwa on Honshu.

  • Endemic animals can be found, like

  • Japanese hornets, macaque monkeys, tanukis,

  • giant salamanders, Bob-tail cats, serow,

  • red fox, red crown crane,

  • the national dog the shiba inu, the national bird the green pheasant, and the national fish koi.

  • Speaking of animals, Japan has quite a few feral animal islands and towns,

  • such as Tashirojima the cat island, Okunoshima the rabbit island,

  • the town of Miyajima for deer, Miyagi Zao for foxes,

  • and of course Jigoku-dani where you can see those monkeys in hot springs.

  • With limited space and only about 20% (highly subsidized) arable land,

  • Japan has kinda had to think outside the box, so they said, “Hey! Why not go to the sea?”

  • Today, Japan is disputably the most advanced aquaculture society on the planet.

  • Not only do they have the largest merchant marine fleet in the world,

  • but they also harvest everything from shellfish to seaweed in offshore ocean plots and fish farms.

  • They love fishthey even have the largest fish market in the world, Tsukiji.

  • Speaking of which, we all know about Japanese food

  • I feel like I don't really have to give you a list of notable dishes like sushi, mochi, or ramen.

  • However, Japan is known for making strange flavors of conventional snacks, drinks, and desserts, such as:

  • yogurt Pepsi, spaghetti popsicles,

  • horse and octopus ice cream,

  • pancake juice, wasp crackers,

  • and Kit-Kat has tried pretty much anything under the sun.

  • Itadakimasu! いただきます! (Let's eat!)

  • Speaking of which, Japan is the third-largest world economy by nominal GDP,

  • mostly due to their various technology and automotive industries

  • that have swept over the world by storm since the middle of the 20th Century.

  • The largest automotive companies include Toyota, Mitsubishi, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Suzuki, and Subaru.

  • As well as tech companies and their subsidiaries like

  • Hitachi, Sony, Epson, Canon, Toshiba, Fujitsu, Panasonic, Nikon, and Nintendo.

  • This does, however, cause a problem: Japan is classified as a high-throwaway society

  • in which lots of resources get unnecessarily used and tossed.

  • Like, c'mon Japan! I know you have aesthetic standards

  • but seriously, I don't need one apple in vacuum-sealed plastic wrap!

  • Nonetheless, Japan is often seen as one of, if not the, world leader in robotics and tech science,

  • receiving more Nobel Prizes in science than any other Asian country. And it's kind of impressive

  • I mean, with a high population and limited space, Japanese people know how to consolidate and innovate.

  • Speaking of Japanese people

  • Now, Japanese people are like, you never know what they're gonna come up with next.

  • You know it's probably going to be a little weird, but you're still gonna be a little interested in it.

  • First of all, the country has about 127 million people and is the 10th most populous country in the world

  • (however, Mexico is getting really close to beating them).

  • The country is incredibly homogenous, with over 98% of the populace identifying as ethnically Japanese

  • while the remainder is mostly made up of Koreans, Chinese, and very small Caucasian minorities

  • of Americans and Europeans, and the indigenous Ryukyu and Ainu peoples.

  • They use the Japanese yen as their currency,

  • they surprisingly use the Type A American-style plug outlet,

  • and they drive on the left side of the road.

  • As mentioned like eight seconds ago, Japan has two main indigenous ethnic groups,

  • each with their own languages. You have the Ainu,

  • which predominantly inhabit Hokkaido and some of the Kuril Islands administered by Russia,

  • known for their rustic, scruffy features, where men grew beards and women used to tattoo their lips and arms.

  • Today there are less than 30,000 left, but some estimate that there could be up to 200,000 if you include

  • the other Ainu that have assimilated into the rest of Japan and are kind of faintly aware of their own culture.

  • Otherwise, you have the Ryukyu people or theOkinawans”,

  • which are kind of like theHawaiiansof Japan, known for their own distinct art and traditions and beliefs.

  • Now, everybody in the world has had at least a little bit of exposure to some kind of Japanese culture,

  • whether it be samurais, geishas, sumos, kabuki, shamisen music, kimonos,

  • and excessively weird products and advertisements

  • aimed at using nonconformity as a hook to engage viewers.

  • But apart from all that flashy Japan stuff, let's look at the basics first.

  • Japan (no surprise) speaks Japanese which is actually not that hard to learn conversationally,

  • but it's a nightmare when it comes to writing.

  • The Japanese language uses three alphabets: hiragana, katakana, and kanji

  • (technically four if you include romaji, but that's kinda like for lazy people).

  • The first two, hiragana and katakana, are syllabaries made up of 46 corresponding base characters each.

  • That means you have two ways to write each syllable.

  • Whereas kanji is basically the list of Chinese characters that they borrowed from China.

  • Most students have to learn about 2000-3000 of these.

  • That means that Chinese people can kind of get by in Japan just by reading the signs

  • as most of the characters have identical meanings, just different pronunciations.

  • It's kind of hard to explain, but the reason why they use three alphabets is because

  • each one kind of plays a role for certain words and contexts.

  • They don't use spaces in writing so each alphabet kind of acts as like word dividers,

  • and katakana is used for technical and foreign words.

  • Well, why don't they just fix the problem by using spaces and discard the other two alphabets?

  • Shut up, that's why!

  • If you didn't grow up here and actually learn this stuff, you're either obsessed with Japan or criminally insane.

  • Sorry, I'm boring the crap out of you guys with language stuffanyway!

  • Let's talk about history. Now I'm sure many of you have seen that video by Bill Wurtz

  • (whom I am totally not jealous of considering that he racked up more views and subscribers in two videos

  • than I have in all these years of working on this channel), but in the quickest way I can summarize it:

  • Yayoi Period, Kofun Period (Yamatos unite Japan),

  • Asuka regime (Chinese culture comes in),

  • Heian Period (aristocrats take over),

  • Kamakura Period (aristocrats lose),

  • Shogun Time!, province wars,

  • Azuchi-Momoyama Period (things are stable),

  • Meiji Restoration (industrialization),

  • World War One (Japan's economy sucks),

  • coup d'états and assassination attempts against the Emperor,

  • military rule, they try to make an Empire and in World War Two attack Pearl Harbor,

  • Nagasaki and Hiroshima, afterwards treaty signed,

  • military kind of dismantled and post-war economic miracle. Done!

  • Japan definitely sticks out from every country on Earth, and it's partially because of their belief system.

  • Japan is the only country in the world that practices Shintoism, which obviously enough started in Japan.

  • If you don't know anything about Shintoism,

  • basically it's a very ritualistic belief system that reveres a multitude ofkami”,

  • which translates to something along the lines ofgodsorspiritsoressence”. It's hard to explain,

  • but basically a kami can be manifested in almost anything and everything.

  • There are kami for harvests, kami for war, kami for good luck, and so on.

  • Today, about 80% of Japanese people practice Shinto to some extent,

  • whether it be going to temples or shrines and lighting incense and praying. However, most of them

  • will not say that they identify asShintoistssince there are no formal rituals to deem yourself a practitioner.

  • Otherwise, about 35% might say that they identify as Buddhist and a small 3% are Christians.

  • Today there are about 81,000 Shinto shrines and about 85,000 appointed Shinto priests all over the country.

  • Technically, Shintoism is also important because it's claimed that the Emperor is a direct descendant of

  • Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun, which means that the Emperor has the highest authority in Shintoism,

  • though today it's more seen as like a moral tradition and patriotic practice

  • rather than believing that the Emperor actually has divine status.

  • Oh yeah, and Japan has an Imperial Family with Akihito holding the throne since 1989

  • and to this day Japan is the only country with an emperor.

  • Some people will say that Shintoism is partially the reason why Japan also has a vibrant, complex industry

  • of cartoons and anime, many of which were inspired by Shinto-driven legends and kami. They often rank as

  • the top video game producing and playing country in the worldeverybody knows Mario, Sonic, and Pikachu.

  • In a sense, Japanese people have always admittedly kind of been escapist, creating their own worlds

  • and it might be due to their long history of diplomatic isolation.

  • In another sense, though, honor and diligence culture is of huge importance;

  • having a degree and respectable title is always flaunted.

  • The problem, though, is that Japan has the largest aging population in the world in which

  • over 26% of the country is 65 or older; in contrast, only about 12.4% are 1 to 14 years old.