In the 3d and 4th cent. A.D., the Japanese borrowed the Chinese writing system of ideographic characters. Since Chinese is not inflected and since Chinese writing is ideographic rather than phonetic, the Chinese characters do not completely fill the needs of the inflected Japanese language in the sphere of writing. In the 8th cent. A.D., two phonetic syllabaries, or kana, were therefore devised for the recording of the Japanese language. They are used along with the ideographic characters (or kanji characters) to indicate the syllables that form suffixes and particles. The direction of writing is usually from top to bottom in vertical columns and from right to left. In scientific texts horizontal writing from left to right is sometimes employed. The Roman alphabet has also been used increasingly to transcribe Japanese. Since several thousand characters and two sets of kana are necessary for reading Japanese literature and periodicals, a need for simplification was felt when universal literacy became a national goal. Thus, after World War II, many kanji characters were simplified, and the number generally used was limited to about 2,000. Through another reform, phonetic kana characters are now used to correspond more closely to modern pronunciation than previously was the case. The large number of its speakers and the high level of cultural, economic, and political development of the Japanese people make Japanese one of the leading languages of the world.
See P. G. O'Neill and S. Yanada, An Introduction to Written Japanese (1963); R. A. Miller, The Japanese Language (1967); S. Ono, The Origins of the Japanese Language (1970); H. A. Okamoto, Rule for Conversational Rituals in Japanese (1988).
(1904–05) Conflict between Russia and Japan over territorial expansion in East Asia. After Russia leased the strategically important Port Arthur (now Lüshun, China) and expanded into Manchuria (northeastern China), it faced the increasing power of Japan. When Russia reneged on its agreement with Japan to withdraw troops from Manchuria, the Japanese fleet attacked the Russia naval squadron at Port Arthur and began a siege of the city in February 1904. Japanese land forces cut the Russian army off from coming to aid Port Arthur and pushed it back to Mukden (now Shenyang). The reinforced Russian army took the offensive in October, but poor military leadership blunted its effectiveness. After the long Japanese siege of Port Arthur, in January 1905 the corrupt Russian commander surrendered the garrison without consulting his officers, despite adequate stores and ammunition for its continued defense. Heavy fighting around Mukden ended in March 1905 with the withdrawal of Russian troops under Aleksey Kuropatkin. The decisive naval Battle of Tsushima gave the Japanese the upper hand and brought Russia to the peace table. With the signing of the Treaty of Portsmouth, Russia abandoned its expansionist policy in eastern Asia and Japan gained effective control of Korea and much of Manchuria.
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Scarab beetle (Popillia japonica) that is a major pest of plants. Introduced accidentally from Japan into the U.S. in 1916, Japanese beetles are known to feed on more than 200 species of plant. Their larvae feed underground on roots; adults feed on flowers, fruit, and foliage. They range from Maine to South Carolina, and infestations have occurred in other parts of North America. The adult, about 0.4 in. (10 mm) long, is bright metallic green with coppery-brown wing covers. Control efforts include the use of poisonous sprays and a disease-inducing bacterium and introduction of the beetle's natural enemies (certain parasitic wasp and fly species).
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