Japan has an extremely low percentage of arable land, and the domesticated animal was introdued relatively late in their development, as was trade with the West. Surely they should be even behind Africa in their development, as Africans certainly had the head start over them in all of these aspects.
Im curious as to what apologists like Mr. Diamond have to say about this.
And for a large part of their history, they were far behind the rest of the world. They owe much of their early development (and their later development) to trade and cultural/technological diffusion rather than independent development. The Japanese did not develop wet rice agriculture (one of the major early agricultural advances of the Far East), rather, it was introduced to them (along with other advances in architecture, social organization, writing, and philosophy, to name a few) by Korea and China.
Furthermore, Japan's availability of arable land is not as low as many believe, There are many regions in both Western and Eastern Japan that have been settled for centuries that have wide open fields and gentle slopes that are easily arable through wet rice agriculture as well as through conventional methods. Considering Japan's population has not always been over 100 million people, it isn't that difficult to imagine the land sustaining early populations.
I believe culture plays an important role, and I am astonished why there are, to my knowledge, no research into how children are brought up in different cultures. In many societies, like the Japanese, quite a few African, Arabian ++ this is a task where women are given the main responsibility. The early years of a child's upbringing are very crucial to whereas the child will develop strength, curiosity to the outside world, attitude to authorities, creativity, identity within the group, and especially their attitudes towards the sexes. I am a mother myself, and has travelled extensively, and lived in different cultures around the globe. I see there are some major differences that shape us. I belong to a special culture myself, and bring up my children to survive in the wilderness in a harsh climate. They have attended an international school when we lived abroad for a few years, and I notice some interesting differences even now in our globalised world. I'd love to see a book on this subject.
another factor which both those on the "environment" and "IQ" sides do not consider is the exceptionally wet climate of Japan and cold and super-fertile oceans which allowed it to feed massively more people sustainably than the amount of arable land it has would suggest. For instance, Japan, though a fifth the size of sub-Zambezian Africa, has about five times more surface runoff, in addition to some of the most productive and fertile oceans in the world on all sides. When this is factored in, especially when one considers fishing is much more congitively difficult than even hunting large terrestrial mammals, then Japan's status is very natural.