Japanese people (Japanese: 日本人, Hepburn: nihonjin) are a nation
and an ethnic group that is native to Japan and makes
up 98.5% of the total population of that country. Worldwide,
approximately 129 million people are of Japanese descent; of these,
approximately 125 million are residents of Japan. People of
Japanese ancestry who live outside
Japan are referred to as nikkeijin
(日系人), the Japanese diaspora. The term ethnic Japanese is often
used to refer to Japanese people, as well as to more specific ethnic
groups in some contexts, such as
Yamato people and Ryukyuan people.
5.1 Theories of origins
5.2 Jōmon people
5.3 Yayoi people
9 See also
11 External links
Main article: Japanese language
Japanese language is a Japonic language that is related to the
Ryukyuan languages and was treated as a language isolate in the past.
The earliest attested form of the language, Old Japanese, dates to the
Japanese phonology is characterized by a relatively small
number of vowel phonemes, frequent gemination, and a distinctive pitch
accent system. The modern
Japanese language has a tripartite writing
system using hiragana, katakana, and kanji. The language includes
native Japanese words and a large number of Chinese cognates. In Japan
the adult literacy rate in the
Japanese language exceeds 99%.
Japanese dialects are spoken in regions of Japan.
Main article: Religion in Japan
Shinto festival in Hyōgo Prefecture
Japanese religion has traditionally been syncretic in nature,
combining elements of
Shinto, a polytheistic religion with no book of religious canon, is
Japan's native religion.
Shinto was one of the traditional grounds for
the right to the throne of the Japanese imperial family, and was
codified as the state religion in 1868 (State Shinto), but was
abolished by the American occupation in 1945. Mahayana
Japan in the sixth century and evolved into many different sects.
Today, the largest form of
Japanese people is the Jōdo
Shinshū sect founded by Shinran.
A large majority of
Japanese people profess to believe in both Shinto
and Buddhism. Japanese people's religion functions mostly
as a foundation for mythology, traditions, and neighborhood
activities, rather than as the single source of moral guidelines for
one's life.
About one million, or slightly under 1%, of Japan's population are
Christians. A larger proportion of members of the Japanese
diaspora practice Christianity; about 60% of
Japanese Brazilians and
90% of Japanese Mexicans are Roman Catholics, while about 37%
Japanese Americans are Christians (33%
Protestant and 4%
Main article: Japanese literature
Bisque doll of Momotarō,
a character from
Japanese literature and folklore
Certain genres of writing originated in and are often associated with
Japanese society. These include the haiku, tanka, and I Novel,
although modern writers generally avoid these writing styles.
Historically, many works have sought to capture or codify traditional
Japanese cultural values and aesthetics. Some of the most famous of
these include Murasaki Shikibu's
The Tale of Genji
The Tale of Genji (1021), about Heian
court culture; Miyamoto Musashi's
The Book of Five Rings
The Book of Five Rings (1645),
concerning military strategy; Matsuo Bashō's
Oku no Hosomichi
Oku no Hosomichi (1691),
a travelogue; and Jun'ichirō Tanizaki's essay "In Praise of Shadows"
(1933), which contrasts Eastern and Western cultures.
Following the opening of
Japan to the West in 1854, some works of this
style were written in English by natives of Japan; they include
Bushido: The Soul of
Nitobe Inazō (1900), concerning samurai
The Book of Tea
The Book of Tea by
Okakura Kakuzo (1906), which deals with
the philosophical implications of the Japanese tea ceremony. Western
observers have often attempted to evaluate Japanese society as well,
to varying degrees of success; one of the most well-known and
controversial works resulting from this is Ruth Benedict's The
Chrysanthemum and the Sword (1946).
Twentieth-century Japanese writers recorded changes in Japanese
society through their works. Some of the most notable authors included
Natsume Sōseki, Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, Osamu Dazai, Fumiko Enchi,
Akiko Yosano, Yukio Mishima, and Ryōtarō Shiba. Popular contemporary
authors such as Ryū Murakami, Haruki Murakami, and Banana Yoshimoto
have been translated into many languages and enjoy international
Yasunari Kawabata and
Kenzaburō Ōe were awarded the
Nobel Prize in Literature.
Japanese art and Japanese architecture
The print Red Fuji from Katsushika Hokusai's series, Thirty-six Views
of Mount Fuji
Decorative arts in
Japan date back to prehistoric times. Jōmon
pottery includes examples with elaborate ornamentation. In the Yayoi
period, artisans produced mirrors, spears, and ceremonial bells known
as dōtaku. Later burial mounds, or kofun, preserve characteristic
clay haniwa, as well as wall paintings.
Beginning in the Nara period, painting, calligraphy, and sculpture
flourished under strong Confucian and Buddhist influences from China.
Among the architectural achievements of this period are the Hōryū-ji
and the Yakushi-ji, two Buddhist temples in Nara Prefecture. After the
cessation of official relations with the
Tang dynasty in the ninth
Japanese art and architecture gradually became less
influenced by China. Extravagant art and clothing was commissioned by
nobles to decorate their court, and although the aristocracy was quite
limited in size and power, many of these pieces are still extant.
Tōdai-ji was attacked and burned during the Genpei War, a
special office of restoration was founded, and the
Tōdai-ji became an
important artistic center. The leading masters of the time were Unkei
Painting advanced in the
Muromachi period in the form of ink wash
painting under the influence of Zen
Buddhism as practiced by such
masters as Sesshū Tōyō. Zen Buddhist tenets were also elaborated
into the tea ceremony during the Sengoku period. During the Edo
period, the polychrome painting screens of the
Kanō school were made
influential thanks to their powerful patrons (including the
Tokugawas). Popular artists created ukiyo-e, woodblock prints for sale
to commoners in the flourishing cities.
Pottery such as
Imari ware was
highly valued as far away as Europe.
Noh is a traditional, spare dramatic form that developed
in tandem with kyōgen farce. In stark contrast to the restrained
refinement of noh, kabuki, an "explosion of color", uses every
possible stage trick for dramatic effect. Plays include sensational
events such as suicides, and many such works were performed in both
kabuki and bunraku puppet theaters.
Since the Meiji Restoration,
Japan has absorbed elements of Western
culture and has given them a "Japanese" feel or modification into it.
Its modern decorative, practical and performing arts works span a
spectrum ranging from the traditions of
Japan to purely Western modes.
Products of popular culture, including J-pop, J-rock, manga and anime
have found audiences and fans around the world.
Theories of origins
Shakōki-dogū (遮光器土偶) (1000–400 BC), "goggle-eyed type"
figurine. Tokyo National Museum.
Main article: Genetic and anthropometric studies on Japanese people
Archaeological evidence indicates that
Stone Age people lived in the
Japanese archipelago during the
Paleolithic period between 39,000 and
21,000 years ago.
Japan was then connected to mainland
at least one land bridge, and nomadic hunter-gatherers crossed to
Japan. Flint tools and bony implements of this era have been excavated
In the 18th century,
Arai Hakuseki suggested that the ancient stone
Japan were left behind by the Shukushin. Later, Philipp Franz
von Siebold argued that the
Ainu people were indigenous to Japan.
Iha Fuyū suggested that Japanese and
Ryukyuan people have the same
ethnic origin, based on his 1906 research on the Ryukyuan
languages. In the Taishō period,
Torii Ryūzō claimed that
Yamato people used Yayoi pottery and Ainu used Jōmon pottery.
After World War II, Kotondo Hasebe and Hisashi Suzuki claimed that the
Japanese people was not newcomers in the
Yayoi period (300
BCE – 300 CE) but the people in the Jōmon period. However,
Kazuro Hanihara announced a new racial admixture theory in 1984
and a "dual structure model" in 1991. According to Hanihara,
modern Japanese lineages began with Jōmon people, who moved into the
Japanese archipelago during
Paleolithic times from their homeland in
southeast Asia, followed by a second wave of immigration, from
Japan during the Yayoi period. Following a
population expansion in
Neolithic times, these newcomers then found
their way to the
Japanese archipelago sometime during the Yayoi
period. As a result, admixture was common in the island regions of
Kyūshū, Shikoku, and Honshū, but did not prevail in the outlying
Okinawa and Hokkaidō, and the Ryukyuan and Ainu people
continued to dominate there.
Mark J. Hudson claims that the main
ethnic image of
Japanese people was biologically and linguistically
formed from 400 BCE to 1,200 CE. Currently, the most well-regarded
theory is that present-day Japanese are descendants of both the
Jōmon people and the immigrant Yayoi people.
Some of the world's oldest known pottery pieces were developed by the
Jōmon people in the Upper
Paleolithic period, dating back as far as
16,000 years. The name "Jōmon" (縄文 Jōmon) means "cord-impressed
pattern", and comes from the characteristic markings found on the
Jōmon people were
Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, though at
least one middle to late Jōmon site (Minami Mizote (南溝手), ca.
1200–1000 BC) had a primitive rice-growing agriculture. They relied
primarily on fish for protein. Some, including anthropologist Joseph
Powell, believe that the Jōmon migrated from South
Asia or Southeast
Asia and became the Ainu of today. Research suggests that the Ainu
retain a certain degree of uniqueness in their genetic make-up, while
having some affinities with other regional populations in
well as the Nivkhs of the Russian Far East.
Mark J. Hudson posits that
Japan was settled by a Proto-Mongoloid
population in the
Pleistocene who became the Jōmon, and that their
features can be seen in the Ainu and Ryukyuan people. The Jōmon
shared some physical characteristics, such as relatively abundant body
hair, with Caucasians, but anthropological genetics shows them to
derive from a separate genetic lineage from that of Europeans.
Beginning around 300 BC, the
Yayoi people entered the Japanese islands
and intermingled with the Jōmon. The Yayoi brought wet-rice farming
and advanced bronze and iron technology to Japan. The more productive
paddy field systems allowed the communities to support larger
populations and spread over time, in turn becoming the basis for more
advanced institutions and heralding the new civilization of the
The estimated population of
Japan in the late
Jōmon period was about
one hundred thousand, compared to about three million by the Nara
period. Taking the growth rates of hunting and agricultural societies
into account, it is calculated that about one and half million
immigrants moved to
Japan in the period.
Japanese colonial empire
Japanese colonial empire and Greater East
Location of Imperial Japan
During the Japanese colonial period of 1895 to 1945, the phrase
"Japanese people" was used to refer not only to residents of the
Japanese archipelago, but also to people from colonies who held
Japanese citizenship, such as
Taiwanese people and Korean people. The
official term used to refer to ethnic Japanese during this period was
"inland people" (内地人, naichijin). Such linguistic distinctions
facilitated forced assimilation of colonized ethnic identities into a
single Imperial Japanese identity.
After the end of World War II, many
Nivkh people and
Orok people from
southern Sakhalin, who held Japanese citizenship in Karafuto
Prefecture, were forced to repatriate to
Hokkaidō by the Soviet Union
as a part of Japanese people. On the other hand, many
who had held Japanese citizenship until the end of the war were left
stateless by the Soviet occupation.
Article 10 of the Constitution of
Japan defines the term "Japanese"
based upon Japanese nationality. The concept of "ethnic groups" in
Japanese census statistics differs from the concept applied in many
other countries. For example, the
United Kingdom Census queries the
respondent's "ethnic or racial background", regardless of
nationality. The Japanese Statistics Bureau, however, asks only
about nationality in the census. Because the census equates
nationality with ethnicity, its figures erroneously assume that
naturalized Japanese citizens and Japanese nationals with multi-ethnic
backgrounds are ethnically Japanese. John Lie, Eiji
Oguma, and other scholars problematize the widespread belief that
Japan is ethnically homogeneous, arguing that it is more accurate to
Japan as a multiethnic society, although such claims
have long been rejected by conservative elements of Japanese society
such as former Japanese Prime Minister Tarō Asō, who once described
Japan as being a nation of "one race, one civilization, one language
and one culture".
Main article: Japanese diaspora
Japantown Peace Plaza during the Northern
The term nikkeijin (日系人) is used to refer to
Japanese people who
Japan and their descendants.
Japan was recorded as early as the 12th century to the
Philippines and Borneo, and in the 16th and 17th centuries,
thousands of traders from
Japan also migrated to the
assimilated into the local population.:pp. 52–3 However,
Japanese people did not become a mass phenomenon until
the Meiji era, when
Japanese people began to go to Brazil, the United
States, the Philippines, China, Canada, and Peru. There was also
significant emigration to the territories of the Empire of Japan
during the colonial period, but most of these emigrants and settlers
Japan after the end of
World War II
World War II in Asia.
According to the Association of Nikkei and Japanese Abroad, there are
about 2.5 million nikkeijin living in their adopted countries. The
largest of these foreign communities are in the Brazilian states of
São Paulo and Paraná. There are also significant cohesive
Japanese communities in the Philippines, East Malaysia, Peru,
Buenos Aires, Córdoba and
Misiones in Argentina, the U.S states of
Hawaii, California, and Washington, and the Canadian cities of
Vancouver and Toronto. Separately, the number of Japanese citizens
living abroad is over one million according to the Ministry of Foreign
Ethnic groups of Japan
Ethnic issues in Japan
List of Japanese people
Demographics of Japan
Yamato people, the dominant majority
Azumi people, an ancient group of peoples who inhabited parts of
Emishi, a group of people who lived in the northeastern Tōhoku region
Kuzu, an ancient people of
Japan believed to have lived along the
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