Country Listing

Japan Table of Contents




A Japanese view of the West, an 1850s woodblock print of a contemporary American merchant ship by Hiroshige II
Courtesy Chadbourne Collection, Library of Congress

Japan's geography--particularly its insular character, its limited endowment of natural resources, and its exposed location near potentially hostile giant neighbors--has played an important role in the development of its foreign policy. In premodern times, Japan's semi-isolated position on the periphery of the Asian mainland was an asset (see Physical Setting , ch. 2). It permitted the Japanese to exist as a self-sufficient society in a secure environment. It also allowed them to borrow selectively from the rich civilization of China while maintaining their own cultural identity. Insularity promoted a strong cultural and ethnic unity, which underlay the early development of a national consciousness that has influenced Japan's relations with outside peoples and cultures throughout its history.

Data as of January 1994