Population and ethnography
According to Countryaah, Japan’s population is 97 percent Japanese. Modern Japanese society – until the end of the Edo period (Tokugawa period) – was divided into four caste-like strata, samurai (warriors and administrators), peasants, craftsmen and traders. These four layers constituted the category of ryomin (‘recognized citizens’), who must avoid contact with the ritually unclean, ‘castless’ semesters (‘despised citizens’). The latter consisted of hinin (‘non-humans’), which were beggars, prostitutes, jugglers and shavers, as well as eta (‘very dirty’), among others. were butchers and diggers.
In 1871 the name semin was changed to burakumin (‘villagers’) and discrimination against them was forbidden. However, Burakumin, whose number is estimated at 2-3 million, is still an oppressed, despised and underprivileged minority in Japanese society. The same applies to some extent to the Koreans (number: about 700,000), most of whom are descendants of workers who, during Japan’s annexation of Korea (1910-45), more or less voluntarily immigrated to Japan. In addition, in Japan, there are another 200,000 Koreans in the form of temporary workers and students.
The original population of Hokkaido, ainu (24,000), was forcibly assimilated with Japanese society during the 19th century; since the 1970s, attempts have been made to assert and revive ainus cultural identity. In the 1990s, the country’s authorities allowed ainu to be a specific ethnic minority, and in 2008, they were recognized as a indigenous population in Japan.
Also, the indigenous population of the Ryukyu Islands, who speak one with the Japanese closely related language, are counted as the country’s minorities. In addition, there are small groups of Taiwanese, mainland Chinese, Tatars and Russians. Many have lived in Japan for a long time, others have come as labor immigrants in recent years.
Japan has had a very slow population increase in recent decades and since 2005, the number of deaths has exceeded the number born. Immigration is very small and does not compensate for this natural decline. The latest population forecast indicates that the country’s population may be below 100 million by 2050.
There are a number of reasons for the decline, including the late marriages. The average age of firstborns in Japan is close to 30 years. The infant mortality rate is 2 per thousand. Not in any other country in the world is the average life expectancy as high as in Japan, 81 years for men and 87 years for women. Together with the low birth rate, this means that a very large proportion of the Japanese are older than 64 years, 28 percent in 2019, while the proportion younger than 15 years is 12 percent. Nowadays, smaller age groups are emerging into working age, and the proportion aged 15-64 is gradually decreasing.
The population is aging at a much faster rate than it is in Western Europe and the United States. This presents Japan with increasing problems, both in terms of production and in terms of care and care for the old. The rapid shift in age composition cannot be affected to any great extent unless there is a very extensive immigration.
In 2019, Japan’s average population density was 335 residents per km2, but as 3/4 of the country is too hilly for settlement, the density is much higher in the built-up areas. More than 3/4 of the population lives in localities with more than 5,000 residents. In the three largest urban regions, Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, all located on the south coast of Honshus, 45 percent of the country’s population lives within a radius of 50 km from each center. The largest individual cities in 2018 were Tokyo (9.6 million residents), Yokohama (3.7 million), Osaka (2.7 million) and Nagoya (2.3 million).
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The official language is Japanese, which is spoken throughout the island, from Hokkaido in the north to the Ryukyu Islands in the south. There are considerable dialectal differences, but a national language based on the Tokyo dialect is used throughout the country. In addition to Japanese, some residents of Ainu descent speak at Hokkaido ainu.
Japanese religion is characterized by its diversity. Earliest we meet shinto, who grew out of the people’s religion and whose myth is written down in the first work of Japanese literature, Kojiki (712), Shinto’s sacred writing. Kojiki presents a cosmogony that, through two gods (Izanagi and Izanami), leads to the creation of Japan and the world. The sun goddess, Amaterasu, symbolizes Japan more than any other god. From her is also considered the emperor dynasty descended which with today’s emperor is believed to have ruled the country for 125 generations. The Temple of the Sun Goddess is located in Ise and is the foremost among about 100,000 Shinto temples. The only commandment is the demand for external and internal purity, a command that is followed both consciously and unconsciously by the Japanese. Shinto became an early national religion early on, not least in modern times 1868-1945. Today, state and shinto are separate,
Confucianism came to Japan together with Chinese culture about 400. Japan then received the ethics that is not in shinto, with a sense of duty and discipline typical of the Japanese of today.
Some of Chinese culture was made up of Buddhism, and it was already before 600 an accepted second religion in Japan (along with Shinto). Prince Shotoku (574-622) is said to be the one who introduced Buddhism into the country. Ancient Buddhism, which dominated the ninth century, was both esoteric and intellectual. The most significant of the old schools was Tendai, founded by Saicho (Dengyo daishi); from it was towards the end of Heian and during the Kamakura period the new Buddhism that would become the entire people’s, “faith Buddhism”, popular from the 13th century with the Amida schools (Jodo and Jodo Shinshu) and Nichiren school. In the Iodos schools faith was required, in the Nichiren schools proper worship. When Zen Buddhism came in the 12th century, the monk life was emphasized again. After the 13th century we find no new Buddhism, but during the Muromachi period (the Ashikoga period) a rich culture emerged, inspired by Zen Buddhism. Buddhism and Shinto grew together early in a religious symbiosis.
Christianity reached Japan in the 16th century; several hundred thousand were converted before the great persecution began and Christianity was banned in 1614. It lived on in secret, and was again allowed in 1869. In today’s highly secularized Japan, there are about one million Christians, half Catholics and half Protestants.
Invisible are the hundreds of new religions that have emerged in modern times. They are mostly Shinto or Buddhist. Since 1970, the Christian element has increased. In the ancestral cult, all religions, Shinto, Confucianism, Buddhism and Christianity meet. In the homes there are ancestral salters for daily simple cult acts, and at different times of the year the spirits of the dead are welcomed and celebrated.
After the sentimental sect Aum Shinrikyo’s gas attack in Tokyo in 1995, Japanese religious skepticism has increased.