At the turn of the 17th century, Japan entered an age of isolation in which no foreigner could enter the country, nor could any Japanese citizen leave the country under a penalty of death. The Sakoku period of seclusion (which began in 1635) was executed as a means of disposing of the colonial and religious influence brought in by Spain and Portugal, and lasted until 1868.
The Empire of Japan surfaced, following the Sakoku period, and a political, economic and cultural transformation materialized.
During this generation of rapid growth, Japan assumed the form of an imperial power, and colonized Korea and Taiwan. Then, in 1931, in a challenge against the United States and League of Nations, the empire began to occupy Manchuria and small parts of China.
Prior to the start of World War II, the Japanese Army continued to attack many of China's coastal cities. In addition, they ravaged Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam. Consequently, the Japanese empire now stretched across much of the Southeast Pacific.
After a very bloody war on both sides, atomic bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Japan's seemingly unavoidable defeat in World War II caused Emperor Hirohito to surrender in 1945.
Japan recovered within two decades; becoming a staunch ally of the U.S.. The country completely revised its postwar constitution, going as far as to limit the power of their emperor, making it, as it is today, a ceremonial position.
Within the blink-of-an-eye, (it seems) Japan became one of the world's major economic forces; its high-quality automobiles and electronics sold around the world.
On March 11, 2011 a massive, magnitude 9.0, earthquake and subsequent tsunami ravaged the northeastern coast of Japan, causing not only a humanitarian crisis but creating a major dent in the country's economy.
Resulting damage to the Fukushima Nuclear Plant caused a meltdown and release of radioactive material. The Fukushima Daiichi disastrous nuclear meltdown is the largest since the Chernobyl disaster of 1986.
Tourism declined significantly in the wake of the meltdown, but over the past few years, travel to Japan has steadily increased.
Visitors to Japan enjoy the fast-paced culture and excitement of Tokyo and Osaka, the rural coastal villages and wilderness areas, the winter wonderland of Sapporo, and most of all the courteous and respectful Japanese people.
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