With more than 4,000 years of recorded history, China was a pioneer of human civilization yet had many social and political setbacks over time. Culturally, it has always been a destination of fascination, particularly because it developed with relatively little outside influence (except Buddhism came from India) in spite of bordering 14 countries. But this quasi-isolation left China ill-prepared to cope with technologically superior countries from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s. This sparked an internal revolution in the early 1900s against the old regime, culminating in a dominant communist government in 1949. Today, it is making a comeback as one of the world’s superpowers.
Japan has one of the most unique cultures in the world with elaborate social etiquette and extremes from ttea ceremonies to hostess clubs. This small country, comprised of five main islands (Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and Okinawa), has also been an economic tiger in Asia for more than a century. While “tossed out of the #sumo ring” a few times in recent decades in terms of GDP, it has always been a cultural force.