A Brief Histroy
Evern since the end of World War II, Japan has gone under major changes. The occupation was conducted by the United States, under the Supreme Commander Gen. Douglas MacArthur. A new constitution was made, relinquishing all political and military power from the emporer. In 1952 a peace treaty ended the occupation.
The 1973 oil crisis shocked the Japanese economy which was heavily depended on oil. The reaction was a shift to high technology industries.
The Modern Japanese Economy
Ever since the shift to high-tech industries, their imports have been mostly raw materials, while their exports continue to be mostly cars and electronic devices. Even though state-assisted capitalism contributed to their earlier economic miracle, it has also become the culprit of their recent economic problems. In the past, Japan had few European economic competitors, and none in Asia. As time went on, strong competition arose, while the computer-age made for an even more high-speed market that called for swift economic decisions. Ever since the cold war ended, Japan's economic policies that discouraged American imports and investment were perceived as unfair. The Japanese economic system was strict and regulation-laden, which made it difficult for Japanese companies to respond as quickly to competitive challenges as their foreign counterparts. Since the system rejects most foreign produce, Japanese households tend to spend a larger percentage of their income on food.
The Japanese have developed several customs that can be seen daily. They have developed the custom of eating meals sitting on tatami mats, not on chairs. They also roll out the futon on which to sleep on the tatami floor. Therefore, they take their shoes off when entering the house to avoid getting the floor dirty.
Japanese baths are totally different than American baths. The shower and bathtub of the majority of Japanese bathrooms are in the same room but are separated. Before entering the bathtub, washing the body is the rule. Shampooing of the hair can be after or before entering the tub. Everyone in the household uses the same bath water, and is only drained once-a-day to conserve water. The purpose of the bath is to relax and warm the body, NOT to wash.
The Japanese almost always sleep in a futon. It is made up of a fairly heavy mattress, a light blanket that keeps the heat in, and a special bean-type pillow that is comfortable in that it adjusts to the shape of your head.
Traditional Japanese foods are eaten with chopsticks. Learning to use chopsticks is not that difficult and the more they are used the more natural they feel. There are also customs associated with them; the six basic taboos:
1. Never use chopsticks to point at someone.
2. Don't bite the chopsticks.
3. Don't lick the chopsticks.
4. Don't stab food with the chopsticks.
5. Don't stand the chopsticks up in soup or any bowl. They should be either placed on the side of the bowl closest to you or in front of the bowl on a chopstick holder.
6. When taking food from a bowl not your own, or from the middle of the table, never use the end of the chopsticks that enters the mouth. Instead, turn the chopsticks around and pick up the food with the opposite end.