Made In… Japan

The land that brought you the kimono, sushi, bonsai, karate and the bright lights of Tokyo is ripe with fascinating facts, history and artistry…

Japan has once again retained its #1 spot in the Future Brand Country Index rankings 2020, a position it has held since the index was launched in 2014.

Japan is joined in the top five by Switzerland, Germany, and Canada, with the UAE and New Zealand entering the top ten for the first time in 9th and 10th place respectively.

The Country Index draws on qualitative and quantitative data gathered from over 2,500 influential individuals, including chief executives, civil servants, and other high-ranking professionals across the globe. Each individual surveyed by FutureBrand’s research partner, QRi Consulting, has traveled internationally in the last two years and has either visited or is familiar with the countries they rated.

Japan earned high reputations in such benchmarks as the reliability of products made in the country and services offered there, as well as its healthy meals, natural beauty and unique culture.

Japan’s more popular consumer brands seem to be capitalizing on the country’s unique heritage and culture, rather than its history of technology innovation. Japan’s efficiency, architecture, art, traditions, crafts and worldwide known pop culture (including manga, anime, and video games) makes the country special like no other.

As Japan is the world’s 3rd largest economy, it has many worldwide famous company and product brands. Not only automobile and high-tech industry such as Toyota and Sony, but also many other famous and popular brands that may not be recognized as Japanese brands.

30,000 years ago…

People first came to Japan about 30,000 years ago. At the time, the main islands were connected to Siberia and Korea by bridges of dry land, allowing people to cross on foot. The first society, called the Jomon culture, arose about 12,000 years ago. Around the same time, the Ainu people arrived by boat from Siberia. The Jomon and Ainu survived for thousands of years, hunting, fishing and gathering plants.

In 300 BC, the Yayoi people came to Honshu Island from Korea and China. The Yayoi were skilled weavers, tool makers and farmers, and they were the first people in Japan to cultivate rice in flooded paddy fields.

In 660 BC, Japan’s first emperor, Jimmu Tenno, came to power. For many years following, Japan was governed by a string of emperors, until the 12th century AD when military rulers, called shoguns, took control by force.

Between the 4th and 9th centuries AD, the kingdoms of Japan became unified under an emperor and his imperial court based in Heian-kyō. Beginning in the 12th century, political power was held by a series of military dictators (shōgun) and feudal lords (daimyō), and enforced by a class of warrior nobility (samurai).

From the 12th century to the demise of feudalism in the 19th century, the samurai was a powerful warrior class in Japan. A samurai essentially had a license to kill, with the authority to strike down any commoner who compromised their honor. Ritual suicide (known as seppuku) was a respected practice for a samurai who brought dishonor to his lord.

Europeans first arrived in Japan in 1543 AD, bringing with them a range of new technologies and cultural practices. But in 1635, the ruling shogun closed Japan to foreigners and forbade Japanese to travel abroad, beginning a state of isolation that would last more than 200 years.

After a century-long period of civil war, the country was reunified in 1603 under the Tokugawa shogunate, which enacted an isolationist foreign policy.

In 1854, a United States fleet forced Japan to open trade to the West, which led to the end of the shogunate and the restoration of imperial power in 1868.

In the Meiji period, the Empire of Japan adopted a Western-styled constitution and pursued a program of industrialization and modernization. The shoguns were overthrown and emperors returned. This was a time of great change and modernisation for Japan.

In 1937, Japan invaded China; in 1941, it entered World War II as an Axis power. After suffering defeat in the Pacific War and two atomic bombings, Japan surrendered in 1945 and came under a seven-year Allied occupation, during which it adopted a new constitution.

Since 1947, Japan has maintained a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy with a bicameral legislature, the National Diet.

Today…

Japan is an archipelago, or string of 6,852 islands, on the eastern edge of Asia. The islands were originally attached to the eastern coast of Asia, until tectonic activity caused them to split off, creating the Sea of Japan around 15 million years ago.

There are four main islands – Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu with nearly 4,000 smaller islands. Japan”s nearest mainland neighbors are the Siberian region of Russia in the north, and Korea and China farther south.

Almost four-fifths of Japan is covered with mountains. The Japanese Alps run down the centre of the largest island, Honshu. The highest peak and Japan’s most famous mountain is Mount Fuji, a cone-shaped volcano considered sacred by many Japanese.

Three of the tectonic plates that form the Earth’s crust meet nearby and often move against each other, causing earthquakes. More than a thousand earthquakes hit Japan every year. Japan also has about 200 volcanoes, 60 of which are still active.

The Japanese people have a deep affection for the beauty of the landscape. The ancient Shinto religion says natural features like mountains, waterfalls and forests have their own spirit or soul.

The bow is an important form of greeting in Japan, and Japanese people work hard to perfect it, with the lower bows indicating more respect.

The kimono is a traditional Japanese garment worn by both men and women. It consists of a long robe-like dress that is wrapped around the body, with the left side always covering the right. The obi is the belt that keeps the kimono secure. A single kimono can cost over $10,000.

Geisha, known for their elaborate hairstyles and white makeup, have been entertaining in Japan since the 18th century. The white powder covers most of the geisha’s face and neck, though unpainted spaces creating a W shape is usually left on the neck, which is considered alluring.

Traditional Japanese rooms are tiled with Tatami, or mats made with rice straw. A mat’s length is always twice its width, and its size is standardized depending on the region. For that reason, room size is often indicated by the number of mats needed to cover the space.

Japan is famous for its immaculate gardens, which are meticulously planned and maintained and are considered a high art. “Borrowed scenery” is an important element in garden design; it means the garden’s landscape includes elements from outside its boundaries, such as mountains, to form a backdrop.

Japan is home to the Japanese macaque, or snow monkey, which lives in colder climates than other primates. The Nagano Prefecture is known for its macaques, who bathe in hot springs in the winter.

Over a thousand tame sika deer roam the streets of Nara, Japan. Once considered heavenly creatures, the deer are now classified as a national treasure (though some are being culled for destroying plant life), and can be seen bowing to tourists in exchange for crackers that are sold on site.

The world’s largest seafood market is the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. The market employs over 60,000 people and opens at 3:00 am most mornings, with its famous wholesale tuna auctions beginning at five.

Discover Tokyo…

Japan will be hosting its second summer Olympics, and its fourth overall, in Tokyo in 2021 (Postponed from 2020 due to Covid). The motto for the Games is “Discover Tokyo,” and the mascot, chosen by Japanese schoolchildren, are a blue and white superhero and pink and white superhero, who have the power to teleport.

Artisans:

The high-quality designs of Japanese artists and artisans and their tireless work and craftsman ethics, are legendary.

In the videos below, film makers visit their inner sanctuaries to spread light on how they work.

The products displayed are not really luxury, but if their craftsmanship die out their goods will one day become valuable collections.

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