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Alternate meaning: Japan (band)

Japan (Nippon/Nihon 日本, literal meaning: "Source of Sun") is a country in eastern East Asia, made up of an island chain between the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan, east of the Korean peninsula. Known as the Land of the Rising Sun, it has a huge but presently stagnant economy, 13 centuries of recorded history, and a distinctly ethnocentric culture.

The Japanese name Nippon is used on stamps and for international sporting events, while Nihon is used more often within Japan. Zipang, Zipangu or Jipangu (where the ending -gu (国) means "country") is the archaic name for Japan, from Portuguese. That was first introduced by Marco Polo's book, with spelling Cipangu.

Nippon 日本国
(In Detail)
National motto: None
Official language Japanese
Capital Tokyo
Emperor Akihito
Prime ministerKoizumi Junichiro
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 60th
377,835 km²
 - Total (2000)
 - Density
Ranked 9th
Currency Yen
Time zone UTC +9
National anthem Kimi Ga Yo
Internet TLD.JP
Calling Code81

Table of contents

History Main article: History of Japan

Traditional Japanese legend maintains that 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 by way of the Korean pennisula. The emperors were the nominal rulers, but actual power was usually held by powerful court nobles, regents, or shoguns (military governors).

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 200 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. Japan's new ambitions led to invasion wars that exploited and killed thousands of people in mainland China (1895) and Russia (1905) in which Japan wrongfully acquired Korea, Taiwan 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), and an attack on US based in Pearl Harbor (1941), the former 9.11 attack, in World War II. This military expansion, which included repeated attempts to use Togo Balloon Bombs[?] for bombing mainland U.S.A., ended after Japan unconditionally surrendered to the United States and her Allies on August 15, 1945.

In the meantime Hiroshima and Nagasaki were obliterated by two atomic bombs. These two atomic bombs, killing and mutulating many people, conclusively ended World War II.

Post-war devastated Japan, now restored to its present size without returning back the Sea of Korea[?] and the Loochoo Islands[?], remained under US tutelage until 1952, when it embarked on a remarkable economic recovery that returned prosperity to the islands. Okinawa remained under US occupation until 1972 to stabilize Far East Asia, and a major military presence remains there to this day.

Politics Main article: Politics of Japan

Japan is academically considered a constitutional monarchy with a bicameral parliament, the Kokkai or Diet but most of Japanese feel strange to the term monarchy and quite a few scholars argue Japan is a republic nation. Japan has a royal family led by an Emperor, but under the new constitution he holds no power at all, not even emergency reserve power. 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. There is universal adult suffrage with a secret ballot for all elective offices.

Prefectures Main article: Prefectures of Japan

Japan is subdivided into 47 prefectures (in order from north to south):

The order of this list is commonly accepted in Japan.

Geography 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[?] (Jap. 1679-1875), Hokkaido, Honshu (or the mainland), Shikoku, and Kyushu. Mairuppo[?] in the Kuriru retto is over 800km to the northeast of Hokkaido; 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 (Fujisan) 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.

Because the islands run almost directly north-south, the climate varies considerably. Sapporo, on the northern island, has warm summers and long, cold winters with heavy snowfall. Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe, in central and western parts of the largest island of Honshu, experience relatively mild winters with little or no snowfall and hot, humid summers. Hakata[?], on the island of Kyushu, has a climate with mild winters and short summers. Okinawa is subtropical. The Kuriru retto are fogbound. Attached to Nemuro[?], they 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.

Economy 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 most technologically powerful economy in the world after the US and third largest economy in the world after the US and China. 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.

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 aftereffects 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.

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".

Demographics Main article: Demographics of Japan

Japanese society is ethnically and linguistically very uniform with 99% of the population speaking Japanese. The other 1% consists of an immigrant population of primarily Koreans, Chinese and Loochoos[?], as well as the tiny indigenous minority of the Ainu on Hokkaido. The government of Japan, as an official policy, does not acknowledge full citizenship of many foreigners who have lived in Japan for many decades and generations.

Most Japanese people do not believe in any particular religion. Many people, especially those in younger generations, are opposed to religions because of historical reason and development of science. During World War II people were required to believe in Shintoism and prohibited to believe any other religion. Many others are neutral on 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 funeral at a Buddhist temple. A number of new religions established after or slightly before World War II are also influential.

See also: Religions of Japan

Culture Main article: Culture of Japan

Holidays Notes: Single days between two national holidays are taken as a bank holiday. This applies to May 4, which is a holiday each year. When a national holiday falls on Sunday the following Monday is being taken as a holiday.

Date English Name Local Name Remarks
January 1 New Year's Day 元日  
January 2 Bank Holiday    
January 3 Bank Holiday    
Moveable Monday Coming-of-age Day 成人の日 2nd Monday of January
February 11 National Foundation Day 建国記念日  
March 20 or 21 Vernal Equinox Day 春分の日  
April 29 Greenery Day[?] みどりの日 Golden Week
May 3 Constitution Memorial Day 健保記念日
May 4 Bank Holiday  
May 5 Children's Day[?] 子供の日
Moveable Monday Maritime Day 海の日 3rd Monday of July
Moveable Monday Respect-for-the-aged Day 敬老の日 3rd Monday of September
September 23 or 24 Autumnal Equinox Day 秋分の日  
Moveable Monday Health-Sports Day 体育の日 2nd Monday of October
November 3 Culture Day 文化の日  
November 23 Labor Thanksgiving Day 勤労感謝の日  
December 23 The Emperor's Birthday[?] 天皇誕生日  

See also: Japanese calendar

Miscellaneous topics

External Links


  • Kantei.go.jp (http://www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/index-e) - Official prime ministerial and cabinet site
  • Sangi-in.go.jp (http://www.sangiin.go.jp/eng/index.htm) - Official site of the House of Councillors
  • Shugi-in.go.jp (http://www.shugiin.go.jp/index.nsf/html/index_e.htm) - Official site of the House of Representatives
  • Courts.go.jp (http://www.courts.go.jp/english/ehome.htm) - Official site of the Japanese Supreme Court
  • Kunaicho.go.jp (http://www.kunaicho.go.jp) - Official site of the Imperial family (in Japanese)


  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs (http://www.mofa.go.jp/) - Detailed papers on Japan's foreign policy, education programs, culture & life.
  • Japan Zone (http://www.japan-zone.com/index.shtml) - Japan Travel Guide, Japanese Popular Culture, History and Japanese Etiquette
  • World-wide press freedom index (http://www.rsf.fr/article.php3?id_article=4116) - Rank 26 out of 139 countries (3 way tie)
  • lookjapan.com (http://www.lookjapan.com/) -- an online magazine about Japan

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