Meiji Restoration Districts receive a +1 adjacency bonus for each adjacent district, instead of +0.5.
- Land units in Coastal tiles and naval units in Coast tiles receive +5 Combat Strength.
- +50% Production towards Encampment, Holy Site and Theatre Square districts.
- Units are immune to Hurricane damage.
- Civilisations at war with Japan receive +100% unit damage from hurricanes while in Japanese territory
The samurai, a high combat strength unit that does not lose combat strength when damage and gains an extra 10 combat strength against anti-cavalry units. They are cheap to build and combine well with early support units, which makes them good for capturing cities. Unfortunately the samurai is stuck in Military Tactics, which is a weird dead end in the tech tree that I often skip over, in most of my games as Japan I forgot to build a samurai before they went out of date 🙃.
The Electronics Factory replaces the Factory in the Industrial Zone. It provides a culture bonus (+4) after researching Electricity. This provides an extra culture boost later on in the game. Note that while the Electronics Factory provides production to other cities within six tiles like a standard factory, the additional culture after discovering Electricity only goes to the city that builds it.
Because you can build encampments, holy sites and theatre squares quickly, Japan has great potential for domination, religious and cultural victories. If you can grab a religion and pick the belief that allows you to produce faith and culture with holy site buildings, you can become a cultural powerhouse early on in the game. Similarly the Jesuit Education belief can be used to convert faith into cultural and scientific buildings later on in the game.
But it doesn't stop there. Meiji restoration is an incredible bonus too. It makes the other victory types possible too. Diplomatic victories often depend on the envoys and governors you pick up in the civics tree; with a large cultural output you can establish suzerainty of enough city states to increase your diplomatic favour. Your military bonuses can help you defend and, if necessary, liberate city state allies. High production of faith can make it easier to perform the religious conversion missions city states often give you throughout the game.
You can also go for science in a big way. A strong culture game often means a strong spy game for tech boosts, and strong religious output combined with the Jesuit Education beliefs and the Wat religious building means you can quickly catch up if you're building campuses later on in the game.
Finally you can hold out for a score victory. Because you should be able to place districts with good adjacency bonuses in new and old cities alike, you can keep powering along and thwarting the AI's attempts to win by other means.
It will suck if you don't get to found your own religion. When I play against random leaders with Hojo, the computer tends to pick strong faith opponents. I tend to assume that I need to get a religion founded quickly and default to doing so unless another opportunity presents itself. (For example, if I spawn next to the Kumasi city state I am going to emphasis becoming their suzerain and getting a stack of trade routes online.)
Once or twice I've found that focussing on the Meiji restoration ability can leave me short of troops! I'll start dropping map tacks everywhere and planning the perfect configuration of districts. And then AI will realise I have two slingers, a warrior and a scout, declare a surprise war and clean me out with a few swordsmen and horsemen. It's just not cool to watch that +8 commercial hub get stomped by enemy troops.
The Gathering Storm expansion added natural disasters and so Hojo gets an additional ability/bonus. All Japanese units are immune to hurricane damage, while units from civilisations at war with Japan receive 100% damage from hurricanes in Japanese territory. This sounds pretty cool but it's not something that you as a player have any control over, so it is unlikely to prove decisive in a game even if you set disasters to max.
I haven't played against an AI Japan in recent games. I often turn off religious victory in both my solo games and when I play multiplayer with Ingrid. This might alter the choice of civilisations and leaders that get 'randomly' selected.
Prior to the Rise and Fall expansion, I remember several games where Japan would forward settle me quite aggressively. However, I don't remember this happening since the loyalty mechanics were introduced (some civs still do). These days Hojo tends to turtle in games, though you do get the occasional flood of missionaries and apostles. If you have a religion and you're on his border, it might be good to have an inquisition and buy a few apostles.
Despite cheap encampments Hojo is not a warmonger, though he will chastise you if you don't have many troops. Perhaps this tendency was added to make the AI avoid the noodling focus on adjacency bonuses that sometimes beset me when I played as Japan.
If you're rolling a new game and randomly get Hojo as your leader, you should be ok. His bonuses and abilities are quite nice, especially as they are effective across the whole time span of the game. Many civs have bonuses that are tied to a specific era, not so Japan. You have to be careful not to miss the opportunity to build samurais, but otherwise a pretty strong and solid Civ.