Japan calls itself the Land of the Rising Sun because ancient Japanese thought it was the first land to see the rising sun. Japan is a chain of islands off the coast of East Asia. Most people live on four large islands, especially Honshu, the largest island. Only some land is good for farm- ing. To create more farmland, people built terraces into hillsides and drained swamps. Japan is part of the Ring of Fire, an area with many earthquakes and active volca- noes. Seismographs, machines that reg- ister movements in the earth’s crust, are used to record the thousands of earth- quakes that strike Japan each year. The cli- mate varies with latitude. The northern island of Hokkaido has long winters and cool summers. Southern Honshu has hot summers and mild winters. Monsoons affect Japan and vary by season. Typhoons occur from late summer to early fall. They are tropical hurricanes that cause floods and landslides. Japan is one of the most densely pop- ulated countries. Although Japan is about the same size as California, it has nearly four times that state’s population. In crowded cities, prices for land and hous- ing are high. To solve problems of pollu- tion and waste disposal, Japan recycles 50 percent of its solid waste. More than 99 percent of Japan’s people share a common heritage and language. They also share a religion, Shinto. Shinto- ists worship forces of nature and their ancestors’ spirits. Most Japanese also practice Buddhism. As Japan grew more modern, its middle class grew. Today, most Japanese are middle class.

What do Japanese people share that gives them unity?
Map Skills List Japan’s four big islands from south to north.


When Japan had its first contact with the West, it was a wealthy and highly developed civiliza- tion. It welcomed Portuguese visitors in 1543. Later, Japan worried that European nations would try to conquer it. In 1639, it ordered Europeans to leave and closed its doors to the West. Beginning in 1853, Western nations forced Japan to sign unequal treaties. In 1868, the new Meiji government began to make Japan more modern and industrial. By 1900, it ended the unequal treaties with the West. Japan has few natural resources. It fought to take control of weaker nations that had resources. In the early 1900s, Japan won wars against China and Russia. In 1910, it made Korea part of Japan. The worldwide depression that began in 1929 ruined Japanese businesses. Military leaders wanted an overseas empire to gain markets and raw materials. Japan became a military dictatorship. The new leaders pro- moted militarism, the glorification of the military and a readiness for war. Japan sided with Nazi Germany during World War II. It attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941. In August 1945, Japan surrendered, after the United States dropped atomic bombs on two Japanese cities. United States troops occupied Japan until 1952. They began democratic reforms. Japan was not allowed to rebuild its military. After World War II, Japan had the world’s fastest-growing economy. It imported raw materials and exported fin- ished goods. One reason for Japan’s suc- cess is its educated work force.
Since World War II, how has Japan dealt with a lack of natural resources?
Chart Skills Why has Japan been economically successful?


North Korea is a Communist country. South Korea is not. But both countries’ people share a common history and culture.After World War II, the Soviet Union took charge of North Korea and set up a Communist government. The United States supervised southern Korea. Elec- tions were held in South Korea, and United States troops left in 1949. In 1950, North Korea attacked South Korea to unite the country under commu- nism. United Nations forces, including United States troops, helped South Korea. In 1953, a cease-fire ended the war. A demilitarized zone—an area with no troops or weapons allowed—separates the two Koreas. North Korea has rich natural resources and its rivers have been harnessed for electric power. South Korea has more than twice as many people and is densely populated. Almost a quarter of its people live in Seoul, the capital. Its flatter land and warmer climate make it more suitable for agriculture than North Korea. Communist countries traded with North Korea. South Korea traded with the United States and Japan. South Korea built indus- tries and nuclear power plants. As its economy grew, so did the mid- dle class. South Korea’s economy and standard of living are stronger than that of its neighbor.Many Koreans want the two parts to unite, but North Korea wants communism while South Korea does not. In the late 1990s, North Korea suffered flooding, famine, and economic disaster.


What caused Korea to separate into two countries?
Chart Skills Which of the Koreas has a larger population?