It was nearly devastated by a war, but 40 years later it emerged in the 1980s as a worldwide force. Though Japan is a geographically small country, it has the second-largest economy in the world, fueled by its strength in the automotive and electronics industries. Japan also enjoys one of the highest standards of living. To learn more about Japan, use the direct links on The Times' Launch Point Web site:

http://www.latimes.com/launchpoint/ .

Level 1

Kids Web Japan: Get an in-depth look at Japan's culture, history and daily life in this site presented in eight languages, including English, Spanish, French and German.



Kid's Window: Visit a Japanese village, read some Japanese folk tales at the library and stop by a restaurant to order sushi. Finally, attend a Japanese language school and learn about the meanings behind the pictorial symbols of Kanji.



Kabuki for Everyone: Kabuki is a form of Japanese theater in which men play all the parts. Listen to the instruments used in Kabuki theater, watch how a Kabuki actor transforms himself with makeup, and view video clips of actual performances.


Level 2

Japan History: According to 8th century Japanese chronicles, the sun goddess, Amaterasu, gave birth to Japan's first emperor. From the myth of the first emperor's birth to the rise of the Shoguns, follow Japan's historical periods to the present day.



Culture Index: Buddhism is the predominant religion in Japan, with more than 90 million followers. Explore many aspects of Japan's culture including tea ceremonies, holidays, architecture, music and ikebana, the art of arranging cut flowers.



World Surfari: Origami is the Japanese craft of paper folding. Experience this traditional art form firsthand by making your own origami jumping frog. Read about Japan's history and society, including its economy, natural resources and form of government. http://www.supersurf.com/japan/

Level 3

Japan--A Country Study: In Japan, the National Diet is the name given to the legislature, which consists of the House of Councilors and the House of Representatives. Find out more about Japan's government and politics through this comprehensive site.

http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/jptoc.html *

ABC Country Book of Japan: Japan is a chain of more than 1,000 islands with a combined area just a little smaller than California. Learn other important details about this country, whose name means "the land of the rising sun."



Welcome to Edo: Step into the times of the samurai through this virtual journey to Edo, the ancient name for Tokyo. Uncover traditional Japanese culture and customs as you visit teahouses, temples and palaces along the way.


Launch Point is produced by the UC Irvine department of education, which reviews each site for appropriateness and quality. Even so, parents should supervise their children's use of the Internet. This week's column was designed by Dorothy Wallace, Lyen Ha, Kristi McNitt, Stan Woo-Sam and Anna Manring. The physical fitness and exercise column that ran July 13 was designed by Josie Castillo, Becky Lorenzen, Anna Manring and Stan Woo-Sam.


Explorer's Quest:

Like California, with its earthquakes, Japan also has natural hazards. Name three.


See ABC Country Book of Japan.


Find What You Need to Know: Have a project on California history? Need help doing a math problem? Launch Point now covers more than 50 topics for getting your schoolwork done. Go to http://www.latimes.com/launchpoint/ for the full list of subjects and direct links to the best Internet sites.

Answer to last week's Quest: Drinking water while you exercise prevents cramps.

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