The Japanese are a strong civilization, but they cannot gather food via herding or hunting. They can build Shrines around huntable and herdable animals to gain a slow trickle of whatever resource you want, even experience; if you have a high-level Home City. The Shrines available also act as houses; they support 10 population. The Japanese may also build Cherry Orchards, which are built from freely-obtained Rickshaws. As a special advantage, most cards in the Japanese Home City may be sent twice.
Each Asian civilization has special monks instead of Explorers, Japanese monks are the only explorer type units in the game to also be considered Archer for purposes of Carib anti-villager bonuses (x1.3 damage vs. Settlers) and other archer specific upgrades. Japan starts with two monks, they do not have any sniper abilities, but can stun Treasure Guardians and have powerful martial arts attacks. The Japanese monks also build shrines and if the card Mountain Warrior is sent they will receive twice the normal resources or experience for treasures.
Due to the inclusion of the card TEAM Chonindo with Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties (Japanese) and the Portuguese card TEAM Fish Market, the two civilizations are very difficult to defeat on maps featuring water if working together. The result of both cards being played is +18% to Fishing Boat gather rates, this almost compensates for the Port card being much weaker than the normal Fish Market card (+25%). It also stacks with the Japanese Fish Market card to give Japan a theoretical +43% greater gather rate in the Discovery Age (78% for whales) and +73% to the gather rates in the Colonial Age (+108% for whales), in the Fortress Age the gather rates for the Fune can be increased by another 125% for a total of +233% to the gather rates.
The base gather rate for a Fune is 0.67 for fish and 0.5 for whales, which is identical to a normal fishing boat. This means the Fune will gather resources much faster than a fishing boat with the above trick.
Like other Asian civilizations, the Japanese advances in age by buildings wonders. These are the wonder available to the Japanese:
Toshogu Shrine- It give exports once built. It has a passive ability which enhance the resource trickle rate of other Shrines.
Great Buddha- It sends Naginata Riders when builts. It also unlocks the 'Informers' ability which give the player the vision of their enemy for a limited amount of time.
Golden Pavilion- It sends the shipment of Yumi Archers when built. It has an active ability which gives the player an option to increase the attack of ranged units or to increase the speed of military units or to increase melee damage infantry and cavalry or to increase the hitpoints of infantry or cavalry units. It also gives the ability to research special technologies.
Shogunate- It grants a Daimyo if used to age to Fortress Age or above (It gives the ability to train that damiyo in Fortress Age if used to age to Colonial Age). It also has a ability to train dead Damiyos. It also have an passive ability that makes military units train faster and be cheaper.
Torii Gates- It give Samurais and barracks/stable Rickshaw once built. It also increase all the experience incomes (killing units, building unit, experience tickle rate etc.).