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(In Detail)
National motto: None
Official language Japanese
Capital Tokyo
Largest City Tokyo
Emperor Akihito
Independence660 BC
Prime ministerKoizumi Junichiro
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 60th
377,835 km²
 - Total (2003)
 - Density
Ranked 10th
GDP (base PPP)
 - Total (2002)
 - GDP/head
Ranked 3rd
3,55 trillions $
28,000 $
Currency Yen
Time zone UTC +9
National anthem Kimi Ga Yo
Internet TLD.JP
Calling Code81

Table of contents
1 Introduction
2 History
3 Politics
4 Prefectures
5 Geography
6 Economy
7 Demographics
8 Culture
9 Miscellaneous topics
10 External Links


Japan (Nippon/Nihon 日本, literally "the origin of thesun") is a country in Far East Asia located between the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan, and east of the Korean peninsula. Japan is also known as "The Land of the Rising Sun."

Japan comprises a chain of islands, the largest of which are, from south to north, Shikoku (四国), Kyushu (九州), Honshu (本州, the largest island), and Hokkaido (北海道).

The Japanese name Nippon is used on stamps and for international sporting events, while Nihon is used more often within Japan. It is from the Chinese version of the name that the English Japan was derived. The early Mandarin Chinese word for Japan was recorded by Marco Polo as Cipangu. In Malay the Chinese word became Japang and was thus encountered by Portuguese traders in Moluccas in the 16th century. It is thought the Portuguese traders were the first to bring the word to Europe. It was first recorded in English in 1577 spelled Giapan.


Main article: History of Japan

People who live in Japan are descendants of those who came from the Asian continent through Sakhalin, Korea and China, especially around Beijing and Shanghai, and from the South by marine route.

According to traditional Japanese history, Japan was founded in the 7th century BC by the ancestral Emperor Jimmu. During the 5th and 6th centuries, the Chinese writing system and Buddhism were introduced with other Chinese cultures via the Korean penisula or directly from China. The emperors were the nominal rulers, but actual power was usually held by powerful court nobles, regents, or shoguns (military governors).

Ancient political structure held that, once battles between rivals were finished, the victoriuous Shogun would migrate to the capital Heian (fully Heian-kyo-to, 'kyo-to' meaning capital city, and the full name now shortened to the suffix, 'Kyoto') to rule under the grace of the Emperor. However, in the year 1185, general Minamoto no Yoritomo was the first to break this tradition, refusing to relocate and subsequently holding power in Kamakura, just south of present-day Yokohama. While this Kamakura Shogunate was somewhat stable, Japan soon fell into warring factions, and suffered through what became known as the Warring States or Sengoku Period. In the year 1600, at the Battle of Sekigahara, Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu either coopted or defeated his enemies, and formed the Tokugawa Shogunate in the small fishing village of Edo (formerly transcribed as 'Yeddo'), what is now known as Tokyo (eastern capital).

During the 16th century, traders from Portugal, the Netherlands, England, and Spain arrived, as did Christian missionaries. During the early part of the 17th century, Japan's shogunate suspected that they were actually forerunners of a military conquest by European powers and ultimately barred all relations with the outside world except for severely restricted contacts with Dutch and Chinese merchants at Nagasaki (Dejima). This isolation lasted for 251 years, until Commodore Matthew Perry forced the opening of Japan to the West with the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854.

Within several years, renewed contact with the West profoundly altered Japanese society. The shogunate was forced to resign, and the emperor was restored to power. The Meiji Restoration of 1868 initiated many reforms. The feudal system was abolished, and numerous Western institutions were adopted, including a Western legal system and government, along with other economic, social and military reforms that transformed Japan into a world power. As results of Sino-Japanese war and Russo-Japanese war, Japan acquired Taiwan, Korea, and other territories.

The early 20th century saw Japan come under increasing influence of an expansionist military, leading to the invasion of Manchuria, a second Sino-Japanese War (1937). Japanese leaders felt it was necessary to attack the US naval base in Pearl Harbor (1941) to ensure Japanese supremacy in the Pacific. However, the entry of the United States into World War II would slowly tilt the balance in the Pacific against the Japanese. After a long Pacific campaign, Japan lost Okinawa in the Ryukyu islands and was pushed back to the four main islands. The United States made fierce attacks on Tokyo, Osaka, and other cities by strategic bombing, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki with two atomic bombs. Japan eventually agreed to an unconditional surrender to the United States on August 15, 1945.

A defeated post-war Japan remained under US occupation until 1952, whereafter it embarked on a remarkable economic recovery that returned prosperity to the islands. The Ryukyu islands remained under US occupation until 1972 to stabilize East Asia, and a major military presence remains there to this day. The Soviet Union seized the Kuril islands north of Hokkaido at the end of WWII, and despite the collapse of the Soviet state and friendly relations between countries, Russia has refused to return these islands.


Main article: Politics of Japan

Japan is academically considered a constitutional monarchy with a bicameral parliament, the Kokkai or Diet but most Japanese feel strange about the term monarchy and quite a few scholars argue Japan is a republic. Japan has a royal family led by an Emperor, but under the current constitution he holds no power at all, not even emergency reserve powers. The executive branch is responsible to the Diet, consisting of a cabinet composed of a prime minister and ministers of state, all of whom must be civilians. The prime minister must be a member of the Diet and is designated by his colleagues. The prime minister has the power to appoint and remove ministers, a majority of whom must be Diet members. Sovereignty, previously embodied in the emperor, is vested by the constitution in the Japanese people, and the Emperor is defined as the symbol of the state.

The legislative branch consists of a House of Representatives (Shugi-in) of 480 seats, elected by popular vote every four years, and a House of Councillors (Sangi-in) of 247 seats, whose popularly elected members serve six-year terms. Each house contains officials elected either directly or proportionally by party. There is universal adult suffrage with a secret ballot for all elective offices.


Main article: Prefectures of Japan

Japan is subdivided into 47 prefectures (ordered by ISO 3166-2):

The order of this list is from the north to the south, which is commonly accepted in Japan.


Main article: Geography of Japan

Japan, a country of islands, extends along the eastern or Pacific coast of Asia. The main islands, running from north to south, are Karafuto (Japanese: 1679-1875), Hokkaido, Honshu (or the mainland), Shikoku, and Kyushu. Mairuppo in the Kuriru retto is over 800km to the northeast of Hokkaido; Naha on Okinawa in the Ryukyu retto is over 600 km to the southwest of Kyushu. About 3,000 smaller islands are included in the archipelago. About 73% of the country is mountainous, with a chain running through each of the main islands. Japan's highest mountain is the famous Mount Fuji at 3,776 m . Oyakobayama, at the northern end of Kuriru retto, is a beautifully formed snow-clad peak (2337m) rising directly out of the sea. Since so little flat area exists, many hills and mountainsides are cultivated all the way to the summits. As Japan is situated in a volcanic zone along the Pacific deeps, frequent low intensity earth tremors and occasional volcanic activity are felt throughout the islands. Destructive earthquakes occur several times a century, often resulting in tsunamis. Hot springs are numerous and have been developed as resorts.

The Japanese Archipelago extends from north to south along the eastern coast of Eurasian Continent or the farthermost west of Pacific Ocean. Japan belongs to the temperate zone with distinct four seasons, but varies from cool temperate in north to subtropical in south. The climate is also affected by the seasonal winds blown from the continent to the ocean in winters and vise versa in summers.

Late June and early July are a rainy season except Hokkaido as a seasonal rain front or baiu zensen (梅雨前線) stays above Japan. In the late summer and early autumn typhoons, grown from tropical depressions generated near the equator, track from the south-west to the north-east and often bring heavy rain.

Its varied geographical features divide Japan into six principal climatic zones.

  • Hokkaido: Belonging to the cool temperate zone, Hokkaido has long, cold winters and cool summers. Chishima (Kuriru) or Northeast Islands are fogbound. Precipitation is not large.
  • Sea of Japan: The northwest seasonal wind in winters give heavy snowfalls. In summers it is less hot than in the Pacific area but sometimes experiences extreme hot temperature due to the Foehn wind phenomenon.
  • Chuo-kochi or Central highland: A typical inland climate gives large temperature differences between summers and winters and between days and nights. Precipitation is not large throughout a year.
  • Setonaikai or Inland Sea: The mountains in Chugoku and Shikoku regions block the seasonal winds and bring mild climate and many fine days throughout a year.
  • Pacific Ocean: It experiences cold winters with little snowfall and hot, humid summers due to the southeast seasonal wind.
  • Nansei-shoto (Ryukyu) or Southwest Islands: It has a subtropical climate with warm winters and hot summers. Precipitation is very large especially affected by the rainy season and typhoons.

The Kuriru retto, attached to Nemuro, comprise 5 'gun': Kunashiri, Etorofu, Uruppu, Rakkoshima and Choka.

Japan has ten regions. Those from north to south are Hokkaido, Tohoku region, Hokuriku region, Kanto region, Chubu region, Kinki region (commonly called Kansai), Chugoku region, Shikoku region, Kyushu region, and Okinawa, the main island in Ryukyu retto. 


Main article: Economy of Japan

Government-industry cooperation, a strong work ethic, mastery of high technology, and a comparatively small defense allocation (1% of GDP) have helped Japan advance with extraordinary rapidity to the rank of second largest economy power in the world only next to the US.

Notable characteristics of the economy include the working together of manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors in closely-knit groups called keiretsu; the powerful enterprise unions and shunto; and the guarantee of lifetime employment for a substantial portion of the urban labour force. Most of the these features are now eroding, however, and the economy is currently characterized by stagnation.

Industry, the most important sector of the economy, is heavily dependent on imported raw materials and fuels. The much smaller agricultural sector is highly subsidised and protected, with crop yields among the highest in the world. Usually self-sufficient in rice, Japan must import about 50% of its requirements of other grain and fodder crops. Japan maintains one of the world's largest fishing fleets and accounts for nearly 15% of the global catch. For three decades overall real economic growth had been spectacular: a 10% average in the 1960s, a 5% average in the 1970s, and a 4% average in the 1980s. Growth slowed markedly in the 1990s largely because of the after effects of overinvestment during the late 1980s and contractionary domestic policies intended to wring speculative excesses from the stock and real estate markets. Government efforts to revive economic growth have met with little success and were further hampered in 2000-2001 by the slowing of the US and Asian economies. Furthermore, the declining birth rate in Japan has led to speculation that more skilled immigrants will be required if Japan wishes to maintain its current level of production. The demand for cheap labor has created a boom in the illegal employment market made up mostly of fake exchange students from around the globe.

The crowding of habitable land area and the aging of the population are two major long-run problems. Robotics constitutes a key long-term economic strength, with Japan possessing 410,000 of the world's 720,000 "working robots".


Main article: Demographics of Japan

Japanese society is ethnically and linguistically very homogeneous, with small populations of primarily Koreans and Chinese (including Taiwanese), as well as the indigenous Ainu minority on Hokkaido. 99% of the population speaks Japanese as their first language.

Most Japanese people do not believe in any particular religion. Many people, especially those in younger generations, are opposed to religions for historical reasons and the development of science. From the Meiji Era to World War II, Shinto was organized by the government. Many others are ambivalent to religions and use various religions in their life. One may visit a Shinto shrine on New Year's day for the year's success and before school entrance exam to pray to pass. The same person may have a wedding at a Christian church and have his funeral at a Buddhist temple.

See also: Religions of Japan


Main article: Culture of Japan

Miscellaneous topics

External Links



Countries of the world  |  Asia

Alternate meaning: Japan (band)