Japan is a country which attracts many people, from all over the world, in Asia, Europe or America; but it is also maybe one of the most difficult cultures to understand. Why this country is so special? I would answer, even if I’m not a specialist, that it is maybe because of its history and more precisely because of two eras, the two most important ones I think, which are the Edo era and the Meiji era. Moreover Japan is an island and its insularity may also help us to explain why Japanese feel special.
So, my two points will be about the Edo and the Meiji eras, the two periods I assume they deeply influenced the Japanese mentality.
The Edo era was the one of the unification of Japan thanks to Ieyasu Tokugawa who became the shogun in 1603, that is to say the military and political chief of the country. From 1603 to 1868, the country was under a sclerotic government which divided the population into different classes, who were unequal and which lived in autarky from 1638 to 1854, which is called the Sakoku rei, in English it is the closure of the country. During more than two centuries, Japan developed and lived alone and refused interactions with almost every country. This era is the reason of the specificity of the Japanese culture since there wasn’t any foreign influence and it could be developed easily. Thus, the Edo era may explain the specificity of the Japanese culture, the fact it’s different from everywhere in Asia.
In 1853, the Admiral Perry came in Japan and forced Japan to be opened again since the archaic army couldn’t resist against these invaders. Then, in 1868, after a civil war, the Emperor Mutsuhito became the ruler of Japan and decided to modernize the country according to its five charter oath he promulgated in which he said that Japan would abandon the Edo’s legacy, they would modernize by all means and that they would seek knowledge all over the world in order to develop the country. This is a deep shift with the previous era and this is the explanation of the fast development of Japan which made up their backwardness towards the Western powers in about 50 years which is totally wonderful and unbelievable. The Meiji era explains how Japan became that developed and modernized despite its tradition and its past.
So, we may assume that Edo is the explanation of the Japanese’s specificity and Meiji the explanation of its development, the reason why it was the first non Western power. All these reasons may explain why Japan is that interesting.