The great mystery of Japanese civilization is how it maintains its extraordinary unique quality while at the same time borrowing so heavily from other cultures. No society has undergone greater changes than Japan since the mid-19th century when it was forced out of its isolation. Many of these are then result of adopting foreign technologies and customs; a good example is the change from Buddhist vegetarians to meat-eaters.
Yet although hundreds of thousands of Japanese immigrated to Manchuria, Hawaii, the continental U.S. and Brazil, when it was under extreme population pressure in the late 18th century, few foreigners came to settle there. The large Korean minority – statistics are cloudy because many Zainichi, native-born for as many as three or four generations – is virtually Japan’s only immigrant population. And despite their lack of Japanese citizenship, Japanese ethnic Koreas are largely assimilated.