Japan is made up of thousands of islands. More than half of Japan is mountainous and covered by forests. “The population of Japan is about 125,000,000 people, including approximately 2 million foreign residents,” (japan-guide). In Japan, outside appearances hold a great deal of value to people. Social ranking and status also play a major role in Japanese culture. In Japan, the age of everyone is known by everyone else. “Vertical ranking, mainly based on age, determines everything from where desks are placed in a classroom to the order in which cups of tea are distributed” (Newsome). The language is also different depending on age. Farming, fishing and forestry are the main sources of sustainability in Japan. There is not a lot of farming land and this makes it more difficult to produce large crops. This causes domestically grown food to cost more so people prefer to buy cheaper imported food. “Major agricultural products include foodstuffs (wheat, barley, maize, potatoes, rice, soybeans, sugar beets, and sugar cane), fruits, meat products (beef veal chicken horse, lamb, pork, and turkey), fishery products, and forestry products (timber)” (Encyclopedia of the Nations). About 70 percent of Japan is covered in forests. Of this 70 percent, 40 of it is man-made. Reforestation is necessary in Japan. The fishing industry in Japan is very large, but they still have to import a lot of fishery products. The need for importing fishery products is caused by “coastal water pollution and disputes over fishing in international waters,” according to Encyclopedia of the Nations.
In relation to the large fishing industry in Japan, whaling has been important in Japan for over 1,000 years. Whaling was very important in the history of Japan. “Whaling in Japan dates back to the seventh century during the Yamato-Asuka period in ancient Japan,” (facts-about-japan). Whaling techniques improved in the 17th century which greatly improved the industry. Whaling provided food, oil, and other materials for the Japanese, especially in historic times. The Japanese didn’t like using boats with guns to kill the whales because they felt “it promoted indiscriminate killing of whales,” (facts-about-japan). In many whaling villages there were shrines built to worship the whales that were being hunted. During the 1900s, whales became a major part of the Japanese diet. This time period was after the Second World War and food items were scarce, so the Japanese referred back to whaling. In 1962 whaling was at its peak, but got banned approximately twenty years later.
Table manners and etiquette are very important in Japan. In most restaurants and homes, people sit on the floor at low tables. There are formal and non-formal ways to sit at these tables. “The formal way of sitting for both genders is kneeling (seiza),” (japan-guide). The non-formal ways of sitting vary based on gender. The informal way for males to sit is with legs crossed, and the informal way for females to sit is with legs off to one side. There is also a proper seating arrangement. “The most important guest sits in the honored seat (kamiza) which is located farthest from the entrance,” (japan-guide). The shimoza is where the host or least important person sits. This seat is nearest the entrance. In Japan it is common for everyone at the table to share dishes. All of the dishes are put in the center of the table and there are special chopsticks to use to move this food to an individual plate. It is considered rude to blow your nose, talk about toilet related topics, or burp at the table. It is considered polite to finish all of your food, to use chopsticks properly, and to move all of the dishes back to their original places after you are finished eating. “You should also say Itadakimasu which means ‘I receive’ before eating and Gochisosama which means ‘Thank you for the meal’ after eating,” (Namioka, p.61-62). Drinking