Japan

Japan

Overview
Japan is an island nation in East Asia
East Asia
East Asia or Eastern Asia is a subregion of Asia that can be defined in either geographical or cultural terms...

. Located in the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan
Sea of Japan
The Sea of Japan is a marginal sea of the western Pacific Ocean, between the Asian mainland, the Japanese archipelago and Sakhalin. It is bordered by Japan, North Korea, Russia and South Korea. Like the Mediterranean Sea, it has almost no tides due to its nearly complete enclosure from the Pacific...

, China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

, South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

 and Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk
Sea of Okhotsk
The Sea of Okhotsk is a marginal sea of the western Pacific Ocean, lying between the Kamchatka Peninsula on the east, the Kuril Islands on the southeast, the island of Hokkaidō to the far south, the island of Sakhalin along the west, and a long stretch of eastern Siberian coast along the west and...

 in the north to the East China Sea
East China Sea
The East China Sea is a marginal sea east of China. It is a part of the Pacific Ocean and covers an area of 1,249,000 km² or 750,000 square miles.-Geography:...

 and Taiwan
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

 in the south. The characters
Kanji
Kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters hanzi that are used in the modern Japanese writing system along with hiragana , katakana , Indo Arabic numerals, and the occasional use of the Latin alphabet...

 that make up Japan's name mean "sun-origin", which is why Japan is sometimes referred to as the "Land of the Rising Sun".

Japan is an archipelago
Archipelago
An archipelago , sometimes called an island group, is a chain or cluster of islands. The word archipelago is derived from the Greek ἄρχι- – arkhi- and πέλαγος – pélagos through the Italian arcipelago...

 of 6,852 islands.
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Timeline

660 BC   Traditional date for the foundation of Japan by Emperor Jimmu.

708   Copper coins are minted in Japan for the first time (Traditional Japanese date: August 10, 708).

1180   First Battle of Uji, starting the Genpei War in Japan.

1183   Taira no Munemori and the Taira clan take the young Emperor Antoku and the three sacred treasures and flee to western Japan to escape pursuit by the Minamoto clan. (Traditional Japanese date: Twenty-fifth Day of the Seventh Month of the Second Year of Juei).

1188   Accession to the throne of Japan by emperor Antoku.

1192   Minamoto Yoritomo becomes Seii Tai Shōgun and the ''de facto'' ruler of Japan. (Traditional Japanese date: July 12, 1192)

1253   Nichiren, a Japanese Buddhist monk, propounds ''Nam Myoho Renge Kyo'' for the very first time and declares it to be the essence of Buddhism, in effect founding Nichiren Buddhism.

1281   The Mongolian fleet of Kublai Khan is destroyed by a typhoon while approaching Japan.

1293   An earthquake strikes Kamakura, Kanagawa, Japan, killing about 30,000.

1549   The Jesuit priest Francis Xavier's ship reaches Japan.

1573   Battle of Mikatagahara, in Japan; Takeda Shingen defeats Tokugawa Ieyasu.

 
Encyclopedia
Japan is an island nation in East Asia
East Asia
East Asia or Eastern Asia is a subregion of Asia that can be defined in either geographical or cultural terms...

. Located in the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan
Sea of Japan
The Sea of Japan is a marginal sea of the western Pacific Ocean, between the Asian mainland, the Japanese archipelago and Sakhalin. It is bordered by Japan, North Korea, Russia and South Korea. Like the Mediterranean Sea, it has almost no tides due to its nearly complete enclosure from the Pacific...

, China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

, South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

 and Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk
Sea of Okhotsk
The Sea of Okhotsk is a marginal sea of the western Pacific Ocean, lying between the Kamchatka Peninsula on the east, the Kuril Islands on the southeast, the island of Hokkaidō to the far south, the island of Sakhalin along the west, and a long stretch of eastern Siberian coast along the west and...

 in the north to the East China Sea
East China Sea
The East China Sea is a marginal sea east of China. It is a part of the Pacific Ocean and covers an area of 1,249,000 km² or 750,000 square miles.-Geography:...

 and Taiwan
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

 in the south. The characters
Kanji
Kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters hanzi that are used in the modern Japanese writing system along with hiragana , katakana , Indo Arabic numerals, and the occasional use of the Latin alphabet...

 that make up Japan's name mean "sun-origin", which is why Japan is sometimes referred to as the "Land of the Rising Sun".

Japan is an archipelago
Archipelago
An archipelago , sometimes called an island group, is a chain or cluster of islands. The word archipelago is derived from the Greek ἄρχι- – arkhi- and πέλαγος – pélagos through the Italian arcipelago...

 of 6,852 islands. The four largest islands are Honshū
Honshu
is the largest island of Japan. The nation's main island, it is south of Hokkaido across the Tsugaru Strait, north of Shikoku across the Inland Sea, and northeast of Kyushu across the Kanmon Strait...

, Hokkaidō
Hokkaido
, formerly known as Ezo, Yezo, Yeso, or Yesso, is Japan's second largest island; it is also the largest and northernmost of Japan's 47 prefectural-level subdivisions. The Tsugaru Strait separates Hokkaido from Honshu, although the two islands are connected by the underwater railway Seikan Tunnel...

, Kyūshū
Kyushu
is the third largest island of Japan and most southwesterly of its four main islands. Its alternate ancient names include , , and . The historical regional name is referred to Kyushu and its surrounding islands....

 and Shikoku
Shikoku
is the smallest and least populous of the four main islands of Japan, located south of Honshū and east of the island of Kyūshū. Its ancient names include Iyo-no-futana-shima , Iyo-shima , and Futana-shima...

, together accounting for ninety-seven percent of Japan's land area. Japan has the world's tenth-largest population, with over 127 million people. The Greater Tokyo Area
Greater Tokyo Area
The Greater Tokyo Area is a large metropolitan area in Kantō region, Japan, consisting of most of the prefectures of Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama, and Tokyo . In Japanese, it is referred to by various terms, including the , , and others....

, which includes the de facto capital city
Capital of Japan
The capital of Japan, where the seat of the Government of Japan and home of the Emperor are located, is de facto. While this is generally not in dispute, the capital de jure is unclear. There is a dispute as to exactly when Tokyo became the capital. Some state that it occurred when Tokyo...

 of Tokyo
Tokyo
, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...

 and several surrounding prefectures
Prefectures of Japan
The prefectures of Japan are the country's 47 subnational jurisdictions: one "metropolis" , Tokyo; one "circuit" , Hokkaidō; two urban prefectures , Osaka and Kyoto; and 43 other prefectures . In Japanese, they are commonly referred to as...

, is the largest metropolitan area
World's largest cities
This article ranks the world's largest cities, in population or land area, using a variety of ranking methods.-Ambiguities in measuring the "size" of a city:...

 in the world, with over 30 million residents.

Archaeological research indicates that people lived in Japan as early as the Upper Paleolithic
Upper Paleolithic
The Upper Paleolithic is the third and last subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age as it is understood in Europe, Africa and Asia. Very broadly it dates to between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago, roughly coinciding with the appearance of behavioral modernity and before the advent of...

 period. The first written mention of Japan is in Chinese history
History of China
Chinese civilization originated in various regional centers along both the Yellow River and the Yangtze River valleys in the Neolithic era, but the Yellow River is said to be the Cradle of Chinese Civilization. With thousands of years of continuous history, China is one of the world's oldest...

 texts from the 1st century AD. Influence from other nations followed by long periods of isolation has characterized Japan's history
History of Japan
The history of Japan encompasses the history of the islands of Japan and the Japanese people, spanning the ancient history of the region to the modern history of Japan as a nation state. Following the last ice age, around 12,000 BC, the rich ecosystem of the Japanese Archipelago fostered human...

. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries victory in the First Sino-Japanese War
First Sino-Japanese War
The First Sino-Japanese War was fought between Qing Dynasty China and Meiji Japan, primarily over control of Korea...

, the Russo-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...

, and World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 allowed Japan to expand its empire during a period of increasing militarism. The Second Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

 of 1937 expanded into part of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, which was brought to an end in 1945 by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
During the final stages of World War II in 1945, the United States conducted two atomic bombings against the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, the first on August 6, 1945, and the second on August 9, 1945. These two events are the only use of nuclear weapons in war to date.For six months...

. Since adopting its revised constitution
Constitution of Japan
The is the fundamental law of Japan. It was enacted on 3 May, 1947 as a new constitution for postwar Japan.-Outline:The constitution provides for a parliamentary system of government and guarantees certain fundamental rights...

 in 1947, Japan has maintained a unitary constitutional monarchy with an emperor
Emperor of Japan
The Emperor of Japan is, according to the 1947 Constitution of Japan, "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." He is a ceremonial figurehead under a form of constitutional monarchy and is head of the Japanese Imperial Family with functions as head of state. He is also the highest...

 and an elected parliament called the Diet
Diet of Japan
The is Japan's bicameral legislature. It is composed of a lower house, called the House of Representatives, and an upper house, called the House of Councillors. Both houses of the Diet are directly elected under a parallel voting system. In addition to passing laws, the Diet is formally...

.

A major economic power, Japan has the world's third-largest economy by nominal GDP and third-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It is also the world's fourth-largest exporter and fourth-largest importer. Although Japan has officially renounced its right to declare war
Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution
Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution is a clause in the National Constitution of Japan that prohibits an act of war by the state. The Constitution came into effect on May 3, 1947, immediately following World War II. In its text, the state formally renounces war as a sovereign right and bans...

, it maintains a modern military force in self-defense and peacekeeping roles. After Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

, Japan has the lowest homicide rate (including attempted homicide) in the world. According to both UN
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 and WHO
World Health Organization
The World Health Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations that acts as a coordinating authority on international public health. Established on 7 April 1948, with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the agency inherited the mandate and resources of its predecessor, the Health...

 estimates, Japan has the longest life expectancy of any country in the world. According to the UN, it has the third lowest infant mortality
Infant mortality
Infant mortality is defined as the number of infant deaths per 1000 live births. Traditionally, the most common cause worldwide was dehydration from diarrhea. However, the spreading information about Oral Re-hydration Solution to mothers around the world has decreased the rate of children dying...

 rate.

Etymology



The English word Japan is an exonym. The Japanese
Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

 names for Japan are and ; both names are written using the kanji
Kanji
Kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters hanzi that are used in the modern Japanese writing system along with hiragana , katakana , Indo Arabic numerals, and the occasional use of the Latin alphabet...

 . The Japanese name Nippon is used for most official purposes, including on Japanese yen
Japanese yen
The is the official currency of Japan. It is the third most traded currency in the foreign exchange market after the United States dollar and the euro. It is also widely used as a reserve currency after the U.S. dollar, the euro and the pound sterling...

, postage stamps
Postage stamps and postal history of Japan
The story of the postage stamps and postal history of Japan begins with official government posts, which had existed for some time prior to 1630, when they were reformed.- Foreign post offices :...

, and for many international sporting events. Nihon is a more casual term and is used in contemporary speech. Japanese people
Japanese people
The are an ethnic group originating in the Japanese archipelago and are the predominant ethnic group of Japan. Worldwide, approximately 130 million people are of Japanese descent; of these, approximately 127 million are residents of Japan. People of Japanese ancestry who live in other countries...

 refer to themselves as and to their language as . Both Nippon and Nihon mean "sun-origin" and are often translated as Land of the Rising Sun. This nomenclature comes from Japanese missions to Imperial China and refers to Japan's eastward position relative to China. Before Nihon came into official use, Japan was known as or .

The English word for Japan came to the West via early trade routes
Nanban trade
The or the in Japanese history extends from the arrival of the first Europeans to Japan in 1543, to their near-total exclusion from the archipelago in 1614, under the promulgation of the "Sakoku" Seclusion Edicts.- Etymology :...

. The early Mandarin or possibly Wu Chinese (吳語) word for Japan was recorded by Marco Polo
Marco Polo
Marco Polo was a Venetian merchant traveler from the Venetian Republic whose travels are recorded in Il Milione, a book which did much to introduce Europeans to Central Asia and China. He learned about trading whilst his father and uncle, Niccolò and Maffeo, travelled through Asia and apparently...

 as Cipangu. In modern Shanghainese
Shanghainese
Shanghainese , or the Shanghai language , is a dialect of Wu Chinese spoken in the city of Shanghai and the surrounding region. It is classified as part of the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. Shanghainese, like other Wu dialects, is largely not mutually intelligible with other Chinese varieties...

, a Wu dialect, the pronunciation of characters 'Japan' is Zeppen zəʔpən. The old Malay
Malay language
Malay is a major language of the Austronesian family. It is the official language of Malaysia , Indonesia , Brunei and Singapore...

 word for Japan, Jepang, was borrowed from a Chinese language — Jih'pen'kuo —, and this Malay word was encountered by Portuguese
Portuguese Empire
The Portuguese Empire , also known as the Portuguese Overseas Empire or the Portuguese Colonial Empire , was the first global empire in history...

 traders in Malacca
Portuguese Malacca
Portuguese Malacca was the territory of Malacca that, for 130 years , was a Portuguese colony.- History :From the writing of the Portuguese historian Emanuel Godinho de Erédia in the middle of the 16th century, the site of the old city of Malacca was named after the Myrobalans, fruit-bearing trees...

 in the 16th century. Portuguese traders
Nanban trade
The or the in Japanese history extends from the arrival of the first Europeans to Japan in 1543, to their near-total exclusion from the archipelago in 1614, under the promulgation of the "Sakoku" Seclusion Edicts.- Etymology :...

 were the first to bring the word to Europe. It was first recorded in English in a 1565 letter, spelled Giapan.

Prehistory and ancient history



A Paleolithic
Japanese Paleolithic
The began around 50,000 to 30,000 BC, when the earliest stone tool implements have been found, and continued to around 14,000 BC, at the end of the last ice age, which corresponds to the beginning of the Mesolithic Jōmon period...

 culture around 30,000 BC constitutes the first known habitation of Japan. This was followed from around 14,000 BC (the start of the Jōmon period
Jomon period
The is the time in Japanese prehistory from about 14,000 BC to 300 BC.The term jōmon means "cord-patterned" in Japanese. This refers to the pottery style characteristic of the Jōmon culture, and which has markings made using sticks with cords wrapped around them...

) by a Mesolithic
Mesolithic
The Mesolithic is an archaeological concept used to refer to certain groups of archaeological cultures defined as falling between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic....

 to Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 semi-sedentary hunter-gatherer
Hunter-gatherer
A hunter-gatherer or forage society is one in which most or all food is obtained from wild plants and animals, in contrast to agricultural societies which rely mainly on domesticated species. Hunting and gathering was the ancestral subsistence mode of Homo, and all modern humans were...

 culture, who include ancestors of both the contemporary Ainu people
Ainu people
The , also called Aynu, Aino , and in historical texts Ezo , are indigenous people or groups in Japan and Russia. Historically they spoke the Ainu language and related varieties and lived in Hokkaidō, the Kuril Islands, and much of Sakhalin...

 and Yamato people
Yamato people
is a name for the dominant native ethnic group of Japan. It is a term that came to be used around the late 19th century to distinguish the residents of the mainland Japan from other minority ethnic groups who have resided in the peripheral areas of Japan, such as the Ainu, Ryukyuan, Nivkh, Ulta, as...

, characterized by pit dwelling and rudimentary agriculture. Decorated clay vessels from this period are some of the oldest surviving examples of pottery in the world. Around 300 BC, the Yayoi people began to enter the Japanese islands, intermingling with the Jōmon. The Yayoi period
Yayoi period
The is an Iron Age era in the history of Japan traditionally dated 300 BC to 300 AD. It is named after the neighbourhood of Tokyo where archaeologists first uncovered artifacts and features from that era. Distinguishing characteristics of the Yayoi period include the appearance of new...

, starting around 500 BC, saw the introduction of practices like wet-rice farming
Rice
Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima . As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and the West Indies...

, a new style of pottery, and metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy is a domain of materials science that studies the physical and chemical behavior of metallic elements, their intermetallic compounds, and their mixtures, which are called alloys. It is also the technology of metals: the way in which science is applied to their practical use...

, introduced from China and Korea.

The Japanese first appear in written history in the Chinese Book of Han
Book of Han
The Book of Han, Hanshu or History of the Former Han Dynasty |Fan Ye]] . Various scholars have estimated that the earliest material covered in the book dates back to between 206 and 202 BCE...

. According to the Records of Three Kingdoms
Records of Three Kingdoms
Records of Three Kingdoms , is regarded as the official and authoritative historical text on the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history covering the years 184-280 CE. Written by Chen Shou in the 3rd century, the work combines the smaller histories of the rival states of Cao Wei , Shu Han and...

, the most powerful kingdom on the archipelago during the 3rd century was called Yamataikoku
Yamataikoku
or is the Sino-Japanese name of an ancient country in Wa during the late Yayoi period . The Chinese history Sanguo Zhi first recorded Yemetaiguo or Yemayiguo as the domain of shaman Queen Himiko...

. Buddhism was first introduced to Japan from Baekje
Baekje
Baekje or Paekche was a kingdom located in southwest Korea. It was one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, together with Goguryeo and Silla....

, but the subsequent development of Japanese Buddhism
Buddhism in Japan
The history of Buddhism in Japan can be roughly divided into three periods, namely the Nara period , the Heian period and the post-Heian period . Each period saw the introduction of new doctrines and upheavals in existing schools...

 was primarily influenced by China. Despite early resistance, Buddhism was promoted by the ruling class and gained widespread acceptance beginning in the Asuka period
Asuka period
The , was a period in the history of Japan lasting from 538 to 710 , although its beginning could be said to overlap with the preceding Kofun period...

 (592–710).

The Nara period
Nara period
The of the history of Japan covers the years from AD 710 to 794. Empress Gemmei established the capital of Heijō-kyō . Except for 5 years , when the capital was briefly moved again, it remained the capital of Japanese civilization until Emperor Kammu established a new capital, Nagaoka-kyō, in 784...

 (710–784) of the 8th century marked the emergence of a strong Japanese state, centered on an imperial court in Heijō-kyō
Heijo Palace
' in Nara, was the Imperial Palace of Japan , during most of the Nara period. The Palace was located in the north end of the capital city, Heijō-kyō...

 (modern Nara
Nara, Nara
is the capital city of Nara Prefecture in the Kansai region of Japan. The city occupies the northern part of Nara Prefecture, directly bordering Kyoto Prefecture...

). The Nara period is characterized by the appearance of a nascent literature
Japanese literature
Early works of Japanese literature were heavily influenced by cultural contact with China and Chinese literature, often written in Classical Chinese. Indian literature also had an influence through the diffusion of Buddhism in Japan...

 as well as the development of Buddhist-inspired art and architecture
Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara
The UNESCO World Heritage Site Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara encompasses eight places in the old capital Nara in Nara Prefecture, Japan. Five are Buddhist temples, one is a Shinto shrine, one is a Palace and one a primeval forest. The properties include 26 buildings designated by the Japanese...

. The smallpox
Smallpox
Smallpox was an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning "spotted", or varus, meaning "pimple"...

 epidemic of 735–737 is believed to have killed as much as one-third of Japan's population. In 784, Emperor Kammu
Emperor Kammu
was the 50th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession. Kammu reigned from 781 to 806.-Traditional narrative:Kammu's personal name was . He was the eldest son of Prince Shirakabe , and was born prior to Shirakabe's ascension to the throne...

 moved the capital from Nara to Nagaoka-kyō
Nagaoka-kyo
was the capital of Japan from 784 to 794. Its location was reported as Otokuni District, Yamashiro Province, and Nagaokakyō, Kyoto, which took its name from the capital...

 before relocating it to Heian-kyō
Heian-kyo
Heian-kyō , was one of several former names for the city now known as Kyoto. It was the capital of Japan for over one thousand years, from 794 to 1868 with an interruption in 1180....

 (modern Kyoto
Kyoto
is a city in the central part of the island of Honshū, Japan. It has a population close to 1.5 million. Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, it is now the capital of Kyoto Prefecture, as well as a major part of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto metropolitan area.-History:...

) in 794.

This marked the beginning of the Heian period
Heian period
The is the last division of classical Japanese history, running from 794 to 1185. The period is named after the capital city of Heian-kyō, or modern Kyōto. It is the period in Japanese history when Buddhism, Taoism and other Chinese influences were at their height...

 (794–1185), during which a distinctly indigenous Japanese culture emerged, noted for its art
Japanese art
Japanese art covers a wide range of art styles and media, including ancient pottery, sculpture in wood and bronze, ink painting on silk and paper and more recently manga, cartoon, along with a myriad of other types of works of art...

, poetry
Japanese poetry
Japanese poets first encountered Chinese poetry during the Tang Dynasty. It took them several hundred years to digest the foreign impact, make it a part of their culture and merge it with their literary tradition in their mother tongue, and begin to develop the diversity of their native poetry. For...

 and prose
Japanese literature
Early works of Japanese literature were heavily influenced by cultural contact with China and Chinese literature, often written in Classical Chinese. Indian literature also had an influence through the diffusion of Buddhism in Japan...

. Lady Murasaki's
Murasaki Shikibu
Murasaki Shikibu was a Japanese novelist, poet and lady-in-waiting at the Imperial court during the Heian period. She is best known as the author of The Tale of Genji, written in Japanese between about 1000 and 1012...

 The Tale of Genji
The Tale of Genji
is a classic work of Japanese literature attributed to the Japanese noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu in the early 11th century, around the peak of the Heian period. It is sometimes called the world's first novel, the first modern novel, the first psychological novel or the first novel still to be...

and the lyrics of Japan's national anthem Kimigayo were written during this time.

Buddhism began to spread during the Heian era chiefly through two major sects, Tendai
Tendai
is a Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism, a descendant of the Chinese Tiantai or Lotus Sutra school.Chappell frames the relevance of Tendai for a universal Buddhism:- History :...

 by Saichō
Saicho
was a Japanese Buddhist monk credited with founding the Tendai school in Japan, based around the Chinese Tiantai tradition he was exposed to during his trip to China beginning in 804. He founded the temple and headquarters of Tendai at Enryaku-ji on Mt. Hiei near Kyoto. He is also said to have...

, and Shingon by Kūkai
Kukai
Kūkai , also known posthumously as , 774–835, was a Japanese monk, civil servant, scholar, poet, and artist, founder of the Shingon or "True Word" school of Buddhism. Shingon followers usually refer to him by the honorific titles of and ....

. Pure Land Buddhism
Pure Land Buddhism
Pure Land Buddhism , also referred to as Amidism in English, is a broad branch of Mahāyāna Buddhism and currently one of the most popular traditions of Buddhism in East Asia. Pure Land is a branch of Buddhism focused on Amitābha Buddha...

 greatly becomes popular in the latter half of the 11th century.

Feudal era


Japan's feudal era was characterized by the emergence and dominance of a ruling class of warriors, the samurai
Samurai
is the term for the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan. According to translator William Scott Wilson: "In Chinese, the character 侍 was originally a verb meaning to wait upon or accompany a person in the upper ranks of society, and this is also true of the original term in Japanese, saburau...

. In 1185, following the defeat of the Taira clan
Taira clan
The was a major Japanese clan of samurai in historical Japan.In reference to Japanese history, along with Minamoto, Taira was a hereditary clan name bestowed by the emperors of the Heian Period to certain ex-members of the imperial family when they became subjects...

, sung in the epic Tale of Heike, samurai Minamoto no Yoritomo
Minamoto no Yoritomo
was the founder and the first shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate of Japan. He ruled from 1192 until 1199.-Early life and exile :Yoritomo was the third son of Minamoto no Yoshitomo, heir of the Minamoto clan, and his official wife, a daughter of Fujiwara no Suenori, who was a member of the...

 was appointed shogun
Shogun
A was one of the hereditary military dictators of Japan from 1192 to 1867. In this period, the shoguns, or their shikken regents , were the de facto rulers of Japan though they were nominally appointed by the emperor...

 and established a base of power in Kamakura
Kamakura, Kanagawa
is a city located in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, about south-south-west of Tokyo. It used to be also called .Although Kamakura proper is today rather small, it is often described in history books as a former de facto capital of Japan as the seat of the Shogunate and of the Regency during the...

. After his death, the Hōjō clan
Hojo clan
See the late Hōjō clan for the Hōjō clan of the Sengoku Period.The in the history of Japan was a family who controlled the hereditary title of shikken of the Kamakura Shogunate. In practice, the family had actual governmental power, many times dictatorial, rather than Kamakura shoguns, or the...

 came to power as regents for the shoguns. The Zen
Zen
Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism founded by the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma. The word Zen is from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chán , which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "meditation" or "meditative state."Zen...

 school of Buddhism was introduced from China in the Kamakura period
Kamakura period
The is a period of Japanese history that marks the governance by the Kamakura Shogunate, officially established in 1192 in Kamakura by the first shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo....

 (1185–1333) and became popular among the samurai class. The Kamakura shogunate
Kamakura shogunate
The Kamakura shogunate was a military dictatorship in Japan headed by the shoguns from 1185 to 1333. It was based in Kamakura. The Kamakura period draws its name from the capital of the shogunate...

 repelled Mongol invasions
Mongol invasions of Japan
The ' of 1274 and 1281 were major military efforts undertaken by Kublai Khan to conquer the Japanese islands after the submission of Goryeo to vassaldom. Despite their ultimate failure, the invasion attempts are of macrohistorical importance, because they set a limit on Mongol expansion, and rank...

 in 1274 and 1281, but was eventually overthrown by Emperor Go-Daigo
Kemmu restoration
The is the name given to both the three year period of Japanese history between the Kamakura period and the Muromachi period, and the political events that took place in it...

. Go-Daigo was himself defeated by Ashikaga Takauji
Ashikaga Takauji
was the founder and first shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate. His rule began in 1338, beginning the Muromachi period of Japan, and ended with his death in 1358...

 in 1336.
Ashikaga Takauji establishes the shogunate in Muromachi, Kyoto. It is a start of Muromachi Period
Muromachi period
The is a division of Japanese history running from approximately 1336 to 1573. The period marks the governance of the Muromachi or Ashikaga shogunate, which was officially established in 1338 by the first Muromachi shogun, Ashikaga Takauji, two years after the brief Kemmu restoration of imperial...

 (1336–1573). The Ashikaga shogunate
Ashikaga shogunate
The , also known as the , was a Japanese feudal military regime, ruled by the shoguns of the Ashikaga clan.This period is also known as the Muromachi period and gets its name from Muromachi Street of Kyoto where the third shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu established his residence...

 receives glory in the age of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu
Ashikaga Yoshimitsu
was the 3rd shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate who ruled from 1368 to 1394 during the Muromachi period of Japan. Yoshimitsu was the son of the second shogun Ashikaga Yoshiakira....

, and the culture based on Zen Buddhism (art of Miyabi
Miyabi
Miyabi is one of the traditional Japanese aesthetic ideals, though not as prevalent as Iki or Wabi-sabi. In modern Japanese, the word is usually translated as "elegance," "refinement," or "courtliness" and sometimes refers to a "heart-breaker"....

) has prospered. It evolves to Higashiyama Culture, and has prospered until the 16th century. On the other hand, the succeeding Ashikaga shogunate failed to control the feudal warlords (daimyo
Daimyo
is a generic term referring to the powerful territorial lords in pre-modern Japan who ruled most of the country from their vast, hereditary land holdings...

), and a civil war (the Ōnin War
Onin War
The ' was a civil war that lasted 10 years during the Muromachi period in Japan. A dispute between Hosokawa Katsumoto and Yamana Sōzen escalated into a nationwide war involving the Ashikaga shogunate and a number of daimyo in many regions of Japan....

) began in 1467, opening the century-long Sengoku period
Sengoku period
The or Warring States period in Japanese history was a time of social upheaval, political intrigue, and nearly constant military conflict that lasted roughly from the middle of the 15th century to the beginning of the 17th century. The name "Sengoku" was adopted by Japanese historians in reference...

 ("Warring States").

During the 16th century, traders and Jesuit
Society of Jesus
The Society of Jesus is a Catholic male religious order that follows the teachings of the Catholic Church. The members are called Jesuits, and are also known colloquially as "God's Army" and as "The Company," these being references to founder Ignatius of Loyola's military background and a...

 missionaries
Missionary
A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism or ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care and economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin...

 from Portugal reached Japan for the first time, initiating direct commercial
Nanban trade
The or the in Japanese history extends from the arrival of the first Europeans to Japan in 1543, to their near-total exclusion from the archipelago in 1614, under the promulgation of the "Sakoku" Seclusion Edicts.- Etymology :...

 and cultural exchange between Japan and the West. Oda Nobunaga
Oda Nobunaga
was the initiator of the unification of Japan under the shogunate in the late 16th century, which ruled Japan until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. He was also a major daimyo during the Sengoku period of Japanese history. His opus was continued, completed and finalized by his successors Toyotomi...

 conquered many other daimyo using European technology and firearms; after he was assassinated in 1582, his successor Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Toyotomi Hideyoshi
was a daimyo warrior, general and politician of the Sengoku period. He unified the political factions of Japan. He succeeded his former liege lord, Oda Nobunaga, and brought an end to the Sengoku period. The period of his rule is often called the Momoyama period, named after Hideyoshi's castle...

 unified the nation in 1590. Hideyoshi invaded Korea twice, but following defeats by Korean and Ming
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

 Chinese forces and Hideyoshi's death, Japanese troops were withdrawn in 1598. This age is called Azuchi-Momoyama Period
Azuchi-Momoyama period
The came at the end of the Warring States Period in Japan, when the political unification that preceded the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate took place. It spans the years from approximately 1573 to 1603, during which time Oda Nobunaga and his successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, imposed order...

 (1573–1603).

Tokugawa Ieyasu
Tokugawa Ieyasu
 was the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan , which ruled from the Battle of Sekigahara  in 1600 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Ieyasu seized power in 1600, received appointment as shogun in 1603, abdicated from office in 1605, but...

 served as regent for Hideyoshi's son
Toyotomi Hideyori
was the son and designated successor of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the general who first united all of Japan. His mother, Yodo-dono, was the niece of Oda Nobunaga....

 and used his position to gain political and military support. When open war broke out, he defeated rival clans in the Battle of Sekigahara
Battle of Sekigahara
The , popularly known as the , was a decisive battle on October 21, 1600 which cleared the path to the Shogunate for Tokugawa Ieyasu...

 in 1600. Ieyasu was appointed shogun in 1603 and established the Tokugawa shogunate
Tokugawa shogunate
The Tokugawa shogunate, also known as the and the , was a feudal regime of Japan established by Tokugawa Ieyasu and ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family. This period is known as the Edo period and gets its name from the capital city, Edo, which is now called Tokyo, after the name was...

 at Edo
Edo
, also romanized as Yedo or Yeddo, is the former name of the Japanese capital Tokyo, and was the seat of power for the Tokugawa shogunate which ruled Japan from 1603 to 1868...

 (modern Tokyo
Tokyo
, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...

). The Tokugawa shogunate enacted measures including buke shohatto
Buke shohatto
The was a collection of edicts issued by Japan's Tokugawa shogunate governing the responsibilities and activities of daimyō and the rest of the samurai warrior aristocracy. These formed the basis of the bakuhan taisei which lay at the foundation of the Tokugawa regime...

, as a code of conduct to control the autonomous daimyo; and in 1639, the isolationist sakoku
Sakoku
was the foreign relations policy of Japan under which no foreigner could enter nor could any Japanese leave the country on penalty of death. The policy was enacted by the Tokugawa shogunate under Tokugawa Iemitsu through a number of edicts and policies from 1633–39 and remained in effect until...

("closed country") policy that spanned the two and a half centuries of tenuous political unity known as the Edo period
Edo period
The , or , is a division of Japanese history which was ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family, running from 1603 to 1868. The political entity of this period was the Tokugawa shogunate....

 (1603–1868). The study of Western sciences, known as rangaku
Rangaku
Rangaku is a body of knowledge developed by Japan through its contacts with the Dutch enclave of Dejima, which allowed Japan to keep abreast of Western technology and medicine in the period when the country was closed to foreigners, 1641–1853, because of the Tokugawa shogunate’s policy of national...

, continued through contact with the Dutch enclave at Dejima
Dejima
was a small fan-shaped artificial island built in the bay of Nagasaki in 1634. This island, which was formed by digging a canal through a small peninsula, remained as the single place of direct trade and exchange between Japan and the outside world during the Edo period. Dejima was built to...

 in Nagasaki
Nagasaki
is the capital and the largest city of Nagasaki Prefecture on the island of Kyushu in Japan. Nagasaki was founded by the Portuguese in the second half of the 16th century on the site of a small fishing village, formerly part of Nishisonogi District...

. The Edo period also gave rise to kokugaku
Kokugaku
Kokugaku was a National revival, or, school of Japanese philology and philosophy originating during the Tokugawa period...

("national studies"), the study of Japan by the Japanese.

Modern era


On March 31, 1854, Commodore Matthew Perry and the "Black Ships
Black Ships
The Black Ships was the name given to Western vessels arriving in Japan in the 16th and 19th centuries.In 1543 Portuguese initiated the first contacts, establishing a trade route linking Goa to Nagasaki...

" of the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 forced the opening of Japan to the outside world with the Convention of Kanagawa
Convention of Kanagawa
On March 31, 1854, the or was concluded between Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the U.S. Navy and the Tokugawa shogunate.-Treaty of Peace and Amity :...

. Subsequent similar treaties with Western countries in the Bakumatsu period brought economic and political crises. The resignation of the shogun led to the Boshin War
Boshin War
The was a civil war in Japan, fought from 1868 to 1869 between forces of the ruling Tokugawa shogunate and those seeking to return political power to the imperial court....

 and the establishment of a centralized state
Abolition of the han system
The was an act, in 1871, of the new Meiji government of the Empire of Japan to replace the traditional feudal domain system and to introduce centralized government authority . This process marked the culmination of the Meiji Restoration in that all daimyo were required to return their authority...

 nominally unified under the Emperor (the Meiji Restoration
Meiji Restoration
The , also known as the Meiji Ishin, Revolution, Reform or Renewal, was a chain of events that restored imperial rule to Japan in 1868...

). Adopting Western political, judicial and military institutions, the Cabinet
Cabinet of Japan
The of Japan is the executive branch of the government of Japan. It consists of the Prime Minister and up to fourteen other members, called Ministers of State. The Prime Minister is designated by the Diet, and the remaining ministers are appointed and dismissed by the Prime Minister...

 organized the Privy Council
Privy Council (Japan)
was an advisory council to the Emperor of Japan that operated from 1888 to 1947.-Functions:Modeled in part upon the Privy Council of the United Kingdom, this body advised the throne on matters of grave importance including:...

, introduced the Meiji Constitution
Meiji Constitution
The ', known informally as the ', was the organic law of the Japanese empire, in force from November 29, 1890 until May 2, 1947.-Outline:...

, and assembled the Imperial Diet
Diet of Japan
The is Japan's bicameral legislature. It is composed of a lower house, called the House of Representatives, and an upper house, called the House of Councillors. Both houses of the Diet are directly elected under a parallel voting system. In addition to passing laws, the Diet is formally...

. The Meiji Restoration transformed the Empire of Japan
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

 into an industrialized world power that pursued military conflict to expand its sphere of influence. After victories in the First Sino-Japanese War
First Sino-Japanese War
The First Sino-Japanese War was fought between Qing Dynasty China and Meiji Japan, primarily over control of Korea...

 (1894–1895) and the Russo-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...

 (1904–1905), Japan gained control of Taiwan, Korea, and the southern half of Sakhalin
Sakhalin
Sakhalin or Saghalien, is a large island in the North Pacific, lying between 45°50' and 54°24' N.It is part of Russia, and is Russia's largest island, and is administered as part of Sakhalin Oblast...

. Japan's population grew from 35 million in 1873 to 70 million in 1935.


The early 20th century saw a brief period of "Taishō democracy
Taisho period
The , or Taishō era, is a period in the history of Japan dating from July 30, 1912 to December 25, 1926, coinciding with the reign of the Taishō Emperor. The health of the new emperor was weak, which prompted the shift in political power from the old oligarchic group of elder statesmen to the Diet...

" overshadowed by increasing expansionism
Expansionism
In general, expansionism consists of expansionist policies of governments and states. While some have linked the term to promoting economic growth , more commonly expansionism refers to the doctrine of a state expanding its territorial base usually, though not necessarily, by means of military...

 and militarization
Japanese militarism
refers to the ideology in the Empire of Japan that militarism should dominate the political and social life of the nation, and that the strength of the military is equal to the strength of a nation.-Rise of militarism :...

. World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 enabled Japan, on the side of the victorious Allies
Allies of World War I
The Entente Powers were the countries at war with the Central Powers during World War I. The members of the Triple Entente were the United Kingdom, France, and the Russian Empire; Italy entered the war on their side in 1915...

, to widen its influence and territorial holdings
Japan during World War I
Japan participated in ' from 1914 to 1918 as one of the major Entente Powers and played an important role in securing the sea lanes in South Pacific and Indian Oceans against the German Kaiserliche Marine...

. It continued its expansionist policy by occupying Manchuria
Manchuria
Manchuria is a historical name given to a large geographic region in northeast Asia. Depending on the definition of its extent, Manchuria usually falls entirely within the People's Republic of China, or is sometimes divided between China and Russia. The region is commonly referred to as Northeast...

 in 1931; as a result of international condemnation of this occupation
Lytton Report
was a report generated by a League of Nations commission in December 1931 to try to determine the causes of the Mukden Incident which led to the Empire of Japan’s seizure of Manchuria.- The Commission :The Lytton Commission was headed by V. A. G. R...

, Japan resigned from the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 two years later. In 1936, Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact
Anti-Comintern Pact
The Anti-Comintern Pact was an Anti-Communist pact concluded between Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan on November 25, 1936 and was directed against the Communist International ....

 with Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

, and the 1940 Tripartite Pact
Tripartite Pact
The Tripartite Pact, also the Three-Power Pact, Axis Pact, Three-way Pact or Tripartite Treaty was a pact signed in Berlin, Germany on September 27, 1940, which established the Axis Powers of World War II...

 made it one of the Axis Powers. In 1941, Japan negotiated the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact.

The Empire of Japan invaded other parts of China in 1937, precipitating the Second Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

 (1937–1945). In 1940, the Empire then invaded French Indochina, after which the United States placed an oil embargo on Japan. On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the US naval base
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

 at Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor, known to Hawaiians as Puuloa, is a lagoon harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, west of Honolulu. Much of the harbor and surrounding lands is a United States Navy deep-water naval base. It is also the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet...

 and declared war, bringing the US into World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. After the Soviet invasion of Manchuria and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
During the final stages of World War II in 1945, the United States conducted two atomic bombings against the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, the first on August 6, 1945, and the second on August 9, 1945. These two events are the only use of nuclear weapons in war to date.For six months...

 in 1945, Japan agreed to an unconditional surrender
Surrender of Japan
The surrender of Japan in 1945 brought hostilities of World War II to a close. By the end of July 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy was incapable of conducting operations and an Allied invasion of Japan was imminent...

 on August 15. The war cost Japan and the rest of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere
Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere
The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was a concept created and promulgated during the Shōwa era by the government and military of the Empire of Japan. It represented the desire to create a self-sufficient "bloc of Asian nations led by the Japanese and free of Western powers"...

 millions of lives and left much of the nation's industry and infrastructure destroyed. The Allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 (led by the US) repatriated millions of ethnic Japanese
Japanese diaspora
The Japanese diaspora, and its individual members known as , are Japanese emigrants from Japan and their descendants that reside in a foreign country...

 from colonies and military camps throughout Asia, largely eliminating the Japanese empire and restoring the independence of its conquered territories. The Allies also convened the International Military Tribunal for the Far East
International Military Tribunal for the Far East
The International Military Tribunal for the Far East , also known as the Tokyo Trials, the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, or simply the Tribunal, was convened on April 29, 1946, to try the leaders of the Empire of Japan for three types of crimes: "Class A" crimes were reserved for those who...

 on May 3, 1946 to prosecute some Japanese leaders for war crimes
Japanese war crimes
Japanese war crimes occurred during the period of Japanese imperialism, primarily during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II. Some of the incidents have also been described as an Asian Holocaust and Japanese war atrocities...

. However, the bacteriological research units
Unit 731
was a covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army that undertook lethal human experimentation during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II. It was responsible for some of the most notorious war crimes carried out by Japanese...

 and members of the imperial family involved in the war were exonerated from criminal prosecutions by the Supreme Allied Commander
Supreme Allied Commander
Supreme Allied Commander is the title held by the most senior commander within certain multinational military alliances. It originated as a term used by the Western Allies during World War II, and is currently used only within NATO. Dwight Eisenhower served as Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary...

 despite calls for trials for both groups.

In 1947, Japan adopted a new constitution
Constitution of Japan
The is the fundamental law of Japan. It was enacted on 3 May, 1947 as a new constitution for postwar Japan.-Outline:The constitution provides for a parliamentary system of government and guarantees certain fundamental rights...

 emphasizing liberal democratic practices. The Allied occupation ended with the Treaty of San Francisco
Treaty of San Francisco
The Treaty of Peace with Japan , between Japan and part of the Allied Powers, was officially signed by 48 nations on September 8, 1951, at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco, California...

 in 1952 and Japan was granted membership in the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 in 1956. Japan later achieved rapid growth
Japanese post-war economic miracle
The Japanese post-war economic miracle is the name given to the historical phenomenon of Japan's record period of economic growth following World War II, spurred mainly by Japanese economic policy, in particular through the Ministry of International Trade and Industry...

 to become the second-largest economy in the world. This ended in the mid-1990s when Japan suffered a major recession
Japanese asset price bubble
The was an economic bubble in Japan from 1986 to 1991, in which real estate and stock prices were greatly inflated. The bubble's collapse lasted for more than a decade with stock prices initially bottoming in 2003, although they would descend even further amidst the global crisis in 2008. The...

. In the beginning of the 21st century, positive growth has signaled a gradual economic recovery. On March 11, 2011, Japan suffered the strongest earthquake in its recorded history
2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami
The 2011 earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tohoku, also known as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, or the Great East Japan Earthquake, was a magnitude 9.0 undersea megathrust earthquake off the coast of Japan that occurred at 14:46 JST on Friday, 11 March 2011, with the epicenter approximately east...

; this triggered the Fukushima I nuclear accidents, one of the worst disasters in the history of nuclear power
Nuclear power
Nuclear power is the use of sustained nuclear fission to generate heat and electricity. Nuclear power plants provide about 6% of the world's energy and 13–14% of the world's electricity, with the U.S., France, and Japan together accounting for about 50% of nuclear generated electricity...

.

Politics


Japan is a constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

 where the power of the Emperor
Emperor of Japan
The Emperor of Japan is, according to the 1947 Constitution of Japan, "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." He is a ceremonial figurehead under a form of constitutional monarchy and is head of the Japanese Imperial Family with functions as head of state. He is also the highest...

 is very limited. As a ceremonial figurehead, he is defined by the constitution
Constitution of Japan
The is the fundamental law of Japan. It was enacted on 3 May, 1947 as a new constitution for postwar Japan.-Outline:The constitution provides for a parliamentary system of government and guarantees certain fundamental rights...

 as "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people". Power is held chiefly by the Prime Minister of Japan
Prime Minister of Japan
The is the head of government of Japan. He is appointed by the Emperor of Japan after being designated by the Diet from among its members, and must enjoy the confidence of the House of Representatives to remain in office...

 and other elected members of the Diet, while sovereignty is vested in the Japanese people. Akihito
Akihito
is the current , the 125th emperor of his line according to Japan's traditional order of succession. He acceded to the throne in 1989.-Name:In Japan, the emperor is never referred to by his given name, but rather is referred to as "His Imperial Majesty the Emperor" which may be shortened to . In...

 is the current Emperor of Japan; Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan
Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan
is the eldest son of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, which makes him the heir apparent to the Chrysanthemum Throne of Japan.-Early life and education:...

, stands as next in line to the throne.

Japan's legislative organ is the National Diet, a bicameral parliament
Parliament
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...

. The Diet consists of a House of Representatives
House of Representatives of Japan
The is the lower house of the Diet of Japan. The House of Councillors of Japan is the upper house.The House of Representatives has 480 members, elected for a four-year term. Of these, 180 members are elected from 11 multi-member constituencies by a party-list system of proportional representation,...

 with 480 seats, elected by popular vote every four years or when dissolved, and a House of Councillors
House of Councillors
The is the upper house of the Diet of Japan. The House of Representatives is the lower house. The House of Councillors is the successor to the pre-war House of Peers. If the two houses disagree on matters of the budget, treaties, or designation of the prime minister, the House of Representatives...

 of 242 seats, whose popularly-elected members serve six-year terms. There is universal suffrage
Universal suffrage
Universal suffrage consists of the extension of the right to vote to adult citizens as a whole, though it may also mean extending said right to minors and non-citizens...

 for adults over 20 years of age, with a secret ballot
Secret ballot
The secret ballot is a voting method in which a voter's choices in an election or a referendum are anonymous. The key aim is to ensure the voter records a sincere choice by forestalling attempts to influence the voter by intimidation or bribery. The system is one means of achieving the goal of...

 for all elected offices. In 2009, the social liberal Democratic Party of Japan
Democratic Party of Japan
The is a political party in Japan founded in 1998 by the merger of several opposition parties. Its socially liberal platform is generally considered center-left in the Japanese political spectrum...

 took power after 54 years of the liberal conservative Liberal Democratic Party
Liberal Democratic Party (Japan)
The , frequently abbreviated to LDP or , is a centre-right political party in Japan. It is one of the most consistently successful political parties in the democratic world. The LDP ruled almost continuously for nearly 54 years from its founding in 1955 until its defeat in the 2009 election...

's rule. The Prime Minister of Japan is the head of government and is appointed by the Emperor after being designated by the Diet from among its members. The Prime Minister is the head of the Cabinet and appoints and dismisses the Ministers of State
Minister of State
Minister of State is a title borne by politicians or officials in certain countries governed under a parliamentary system. In some countries a "minister of state" is a junior minister, who is assigned to assist a specific cabinet minister...

. Naoto Kan
Naoto Kan
is a Japanese politician, and former Prime Minister of Japan. In June 2010, then-Finance Minister Kan was elected as the leader of the Democratic Party of Japan and designated Prime Minister by the Diet to succeed Yukio Hatoyama. On 26 August 2011, Kan announced his resignation...

 was designated by the Diet to replace Yukio Hatoyama
Yukio Hatoyama
is a Japanese politician who served as Prime Minister of Japan between 16 September 2009 and 2 June 2010, and was the first ever Prime Minister from the modern Democratic Party of Japan....

 as the Prime Minister of Japan on June 2, 2010. Although the Prime Minister is formally appointed by the Emperor, the Constitution of Japan explicitly requires the Emperor to appoint whoever is designated by the Diet. Emperor Akihito formally appointed Kan as the country's 94th Prime Minister on June 8.

Historically influenced by Chinese law
Chinese law
Chinese law is one of the oldest legal traditions in the world. In the 20th and 21st century, law in China has been a complex mix of traditional Chinese approaches and Western influences....

, the Japanese legal system developed independently during the Edo period through texts such as Kujikata Osadamegaki
Kujikata Osadamegaki
Kujikata Osadamegaki was a two-volume rulebook for Japanese judicial bureaucrats during the Edo Period...

. However, since the late 19th century the judicial system
Judicial system of Japan
In the judicial system of Japan, the postwar constitution guarantees that "all judges shall be independent in the exercise of their conscience and shall be bound only by this constitution and the Laws"...

 has been largely based on the civil law
Civil law (legal system)
Civil law is a legal system inspired by Roman law and whose primary feature is that laws are codified into collections, as compared to common law systems that gives great precedential weight to common law on the principle that it is unfair to treat similar facts differently on different...

 of Europe, notably Germany. For example, in 1896, the Japanese government established a civil code based on a draft of the German Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch
Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch
The Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch is the civil code of Germany. In development since 1881, it became effective on January 1, 1900, and was considered a massive and groundbreaking project....

; with post–World War II modifications, the code remains in effect. Statutory law originates in Japan's legislature and has the rubber stamp
Rubber stamp (politics)
A rubber stamp, as a political metaphor, refers to a person or institution with considerable de jure power but little de facto power; one that rarely disagrees with more powerful organs....

 of the Emperor. The Constitution requires that the Emperor promulgate legislation passed by the Diet, without specifically giving him the power to oppose legislation. Japan's court system is divided into four basic tiers: the Supreme Court
Supreme Court of Japan
The Supreme Court of Japan , located in Chiyoda, Tokyo is the highest court in Japan. It has ultimate judicial authority to interpret the Japanese constitution and decide questions of national law...

 and three levels of lower courts. The main body of Japanese statutory law is called the Six Codes
Six Codes
Six Codes, , refers to the six main legal codes that make up the main body of law in Republic of China , Republic of Korea and Japan ....

.

Foreign relations and military




Japan is a member of the G8
G8
The Group of Eight is a forum, created by France in 1975, for the governments of seven major economies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In 1997, the group added Russia, thus becoming the G8...

, APEC
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation is a forum for 21 Pacific Rim countries that seeks to promote free trade and economic cooperation throughout the Asia-Pacific region...

, and "ASEAN Plus Three", and is a participant in the East Asia Summit
East Asia Summit
The East Asia Summit is a forum held annually by leaders of, initially, 16 countries in the East Asian region. Membership will expand to 18 countries including the United States and Russia at the Sixth EAS in 2011. EAS meetings are held after annual ASEAN leaders’ meetings...

. Japan signed a security pact with Australia in March 2007 and with India in October 2008. It is the world's third largest donor of official development assistance
Official development assistance
Official development assistance is a term compiled by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to measure aid. The DAC first compiled the term in 1969. It is widely used by academics and journalists as a convenient indicator of...

 after the United States and France, donating US$9.48 billion in 2009.

Japan has close economic and military relations with the United States; the US-Japan security alliance acts as the cornerstone of the nation's foreign policy. A member state of the United Nations since 1956, Japan has served as a non-permanent Security Council
United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of...

 member for a total of 19 years, most recently for 2009 and 2010. It is one of the G4 nations
G4 nations
The G4 is an alliance among Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan for the purpose of supporting each other’s bids for permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council. Unlike the G8 , where the common denominator is the economy and long-term political motives, the G4's primary aim is the...

 seeking permanent membership in the Security Council.

Japan is engaged in several territorial disputes with its neighbors: with Russia over the South Kuril Islands
Kuril Islands dispute
The Kuril Islands dispute , also known as the , is a dispute between Japan and Russia over sovereignty over the South Kuril Islands. The disputed islands, which were occupied by Soviet forces during the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation at the end of World War II, are under Russian...

, with South Korea over the Liancourt Rocks
Liancourt Rocks
The Liancourt Rocks, also known as Dokdo or Tokto in Korean or in Japanese, are a group of small islets in the Sea of Japan . Sovereignty over the islets is disputed between Japan and South Korea...

, with China and Taiwan over the Senkaku Islands
Senkaku Islands
The , also known as the Diaoyu Islands or Diaoyutai Islands or the Pinnacle Islands, are a group of disputed uninhabited islands in the East China Sea...

, and with China over the EEZ around Okinotorishima
Okinotorishima
is an atoll, which in English has multiple designations . Its original name was Parece Vela Spanish for "looks like a sail"...

. Japan also faces an ongoing dispute with North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

 over the latter's abduction of Japanese citizens
North Korean abductions of Japanese
The abductions of Japanese citizens from Japan by agents of the North Korean government happened during a period of six years from 1977 to 1983. Although only 17 Japanese are officially recognized by the Japanese government as having been abducted, there may have been as many as 70 to 80...

 and its nuclear weapons and missile program
North Korea and weapons of mass destruction
North Korea has declared that it has nuclear weapons and is believed by many to have nuclear weapons. The CIA assesses that North Korea also has a substantial arsenal of chemical weapons...

 (see also Six-party talks
Six-party talks
The six-party talks aim to find a peaceful resolution to the security concerns as a result of the North Korean nuclear weapons program.There has been a series of meetings with six participating states:* The Democratic People's Republic of Korea ;...

).

Japan maintains one of the largest military budgets of any country in the world. Japan contributed non-combatant troops to the Iraq War but subsequently withdrew its forces. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force
The , or JMSDF, is the naval branch of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, tasked with the naval defense of Japan. It was formed following the dissolution of the Imperial Japanese Navy after World War II....

 is a regular participant in RIMPAC
RIMPAC
RIMPAC, the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, is the world's largest international maritime exercise. Conducted biennially , it is hosted and administered by the United States Navy, with the United States Marine Corps, United States Coast Guard, and Hawaii National Guard forces under the leadership of...

 maritime exercises.

Japan's military is restricted by Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which renounces Japan's right to declare war or use military force in international disputes. Japan's military is governed by the Ministry of Defense, and primarily consists of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force
Japan Ground Self-Defense Force
The , or JGSDF, is the army of Japan. The largest of the three services of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, the Ground Self-Defense Force operates under the command of the chief of the ground staff, based in the city of Ichigaya, Tokyo. The present chief of ground staff is General Yoshifumi Hibako...

 (JGSDF), the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force
The , or JMSDF, is the naval branch of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, tasked with the naval defense of Japan. It was formed following the dissolution of the Imperial Japanese Navy after World War II....

 (JMSDF) and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force
Japan Air Self-Defense Force
The , or JASDF, is the aviation branch of the Japan Self-Defense Forces responsible for the defense of Japanese airspace and other aerospace operations. The JASDF carries out combat air patrols around Japan, while also maintaining an extensive network of ground and air early warning radar systems...

 (JASDF). The forces have been recently used in peacekeeping operations; the deployment of troops to Iraq marked the first overseas use of Japan's military since World War II. Nippon Keidanren has called on the government to lift the ban on arms exports so that Japan can join multinational projects such as the Joint Strike Fighter.

Administrative divisions



Japan consists of forty-seven prefectures, each overseen by an elected governor, legislature and administrative bureaucracy. Each prefecture is further divided into cities, towns and villages. The nation is currently undergoing administrative reorganization by merging
Merger and dissolution of municipalities of Japan
Municipal mergers and dissolutions carried out in Japan can take place within one municipality or between multiple municipalities and are required to be based upon consensus.- Merger policy:...

 many of the cities, towns and villages with each other. This process will reduce the number of sub-prefecture administrative regions and is expected to cut administrative costs.

Geography




Japan has a total of 6,852 islands extending along the Pacific coast of Asia. The country, including all of the islands it controls, lies between latitudes 24° and 46°N, and longitudes 122° and 146°E. The main islands, from north to south, are Hokkaidō
Hokkaido
, formerly known as Ezo, Yezo, Yeso, or Yesso, is Japan's second largest island; it is also the largest and northernmost of Japan's 47 prefectural-level subdivisions. The Tsugaru Strait separates Hokkaido from Honshu, although the two islands are connected by the underwater railway Seikan Tunnel...

, Honshū
Honshu
is the largest island of Japan. The nation's main island, it is south of Hokkaido across the Tsugaru Strait, north of Shikoku across the Inland Sea, and northeast of Kyushu across the Kanmon Strait...

, Shikoku
Shikoku
is the smallest and least populous of the four main islands of Japan, located south of Honshū and east of the island of Kyūshū. Its ancient names include Iyo-no-futana-shima , Iyo-shima , and Futana-shima...

 and Kyūshū
Kyushu
is the third largest island of Japan and most southwesterly of its four main islands. Its alternate ancient names include , , and . The historical regional name is referred to Kyushu and its surrounding islands....

. The Ryūkyū Islands
Ryukyu Islands
The , also known as the , is a chain of islands in the western Pacific, on the eastern limit of the East China Sea and to the southwest of the island of Kyushu in Japan. From about 1829 until the mid 20th century, they were alternately called Luchu, Loochoo, or Lewchew, akin to the Mandarin...

, including Okinawa
Okinawa Island
Okinawa Island is the largest of the Okinawa Islands and the Ryukyu Islands of Japan, and is home to Naha, the capital of Okinawa Prefecture. The island has an area of...

, are a chain to the south of Kyūshū. Together they are often known as the Japanese Archipelago
Japanese Archipelago
The , which forms the country of Japan, extends roughly from northeast to southwest along the northeastern coast of the Eurasia mainland, washing upon the northwestern shores of the Pacific Ocean...

. About 73 percent of Japan is forested, mountainous, and unsuitable for agricultural, industrial, or residential
Housing in Japan
Housing in Japan includes modern and traditional styles. Two patterns of residences are predominant in contemporary Japan: the single-family detached house and the multiple-unit building, either owned by an individual or corporation and rented as apartments to tenants, or owned by occupants...

 use. As a result, the habitable zones, mainly located in coastal areas, have extremely high population densities. Japan is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

The islands of Japan are located in a volcanic
Volcano
2. Bedrock3. Conduit 4. Base5. Sill6. Dike7. Layers of ash emitted by the volcano8. Flank| 9. Layers of lava emitted by the volcano10. Throat11. Parasitic cone12. Lava flow13. Vent14. Crater15...

 zone on the Pacific Ring of Fire
Pacific Ring of Fire
The Pacific Ring of Fire is an area where large numbers of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur in the basin of the Pacific Ocean. In a horseshoe shape, it is associated with a nearly continuous series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, and volcanic belts and/or plate movements...

. They are primarily the result of large oceanic movements occurring over hundreds of millions of years from the mid-Silurian to the Pleistocene as a result of the subduction
Subduction
In geology, subduction is the process that takes place at convergent boundaries by which one tectonic plate moves under another tectonic plate, sinking into the Earth's mantle, as the plates converge. These 3D regions of mantle downwellings are known as "Subduction Zones"...

 of the Philippine Sea Plate beneath the continental Amurian Plate
Amurian Plate
The Amurian Plate is a proposed continental tectonic plate covering Manchuria, the Korean Peninsula, Western Japan, and Primorsky Krai...

 and Okinawa Plate
Okinawa Plate
The Okinawa Plate is a long narrow tectonic plate stretching from the northern end of Taiwan to the southern tip of the island of Kyūshū. To the east lies the Ryukyu Trench and the Pacific Plate. It is separated from the Yangtze Plate by a rift that forms the Okinawa Trough which is a Back arc...

 to the south, and subduction of the Pacific Plate
Pacific Plate
The Pacific Plate is an oceanic tectonic plate that lies beneath the Pacific Ocean. At 103 million square kilometres, it is the largest tectonic plate....

 under the Okhotsk Plate
Okhotsk Plate
The Okhotsk Plate is a tectonic plate covering the Sea of Okhotsk, the Kamchatka Peninsula, Sakhalin Island and Tōhoku and Hokkaidō in Japan. It was formerly considered a part of the North American Plate, but recent studies indicate that it is an independent plate, bounded on the north by the...

 to the north. Japan was originally attached to the eastern coast of the Eurasian continent. The subducting plates pulled Japan eastward, opening the Sea of Japan
Sea of Japan
The Sea of Japan is a marginal sea of the western Pacific Ocean, between the Asian mainland, the Japanese archipelago and Sakhalin. It is bordered by Japan, North Korea, Russia and South Korea. Like the Mediterranean Sea, it has almost no tides due to its nearly complete enclosure from the Pacific...

 around 15 million years ago. Japan has 108 active volcanoes. Destructive earthquake
Earthquake
An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves. The seismicity, seismism or seismic activity of an area refers to the frequency, type and size of earthquakes experienced over a period of time...

s, often resulting in tsunami
Tsunami
A tsunami is a series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water, typically an ocean or a large lake...

, occur several times each century. The 1923 Tokyo earthquake
1923 Great Kanto earthquake
The struck the Kantō plain on the Japanese main island of Honshū at 11:58:44 am JST on September 1, 1923. Varied accounts hold that the duration of the earthquake was between 4 and 10 minutes...

 killed over 140,000 people. More recent major quakes are the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake and the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake
2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami
The 2011 earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tohoku, also known as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, or the Great East Japan Earthquake, was a magnitude 9.0 undersea megathrust earthquake off the coast of Japan that occurred at 14:46 JST on Friday, 11 March 2011, with the epicenter approximately east...

, a 9.0-magnitude quake which hit Japan on March 11, 2011, and triggered a large tsunami.

Climate



The climate of Japan is predominantly temperate
Temperate
In geography, temperate or tepid latitudes of the globe lie between the tropics and the polar circles. The changes in these regions between summer and winter are generally relatively moderate, rather than extreme hot or cold...

, but varies greatly from north to south. Japan's geographical features divide it into six principal climatic zones: Hokkaidō, Sea of Japan, Central Highland
Central Highland (Japan)
The , or , is an inland region on central Honshū in Japan.It comprises most of Nagano and Yamanashi Prefectures, as well as the Hida and Tōnō areas of Gifu Prefecture....

, Seto Inland Sea, Pacific Ocean, and Ryūkyū Islands
Ryukyu Islands
The , also known as the , is a chain of islands in the western Pacific, on the eastern limit of the East China Sea and to the southwest of the island of Kyushu in Japan. From about 1829 until the mid 20th century, they were alternately called Luchu, Loochoo, or Lewchew, akin to the Mandarin...

. The northernmost zone, Hokkaido, has a temperate climate with long, cold winters and cool summers. Precipitation
Precipitation (meteorology)
In meteorology, precipitation In meteorology, precipitation In meteorology, precipitation (also known as one of the classes of hydrometeors, which are atmospheric water phenomena is any product of the condensation of atmospheric water vapor that falls under gravity. The main forms of precipitation...

 is not heavy, but the islands usually develop deep snowbanks in the winter. In the Sea of Japan zone on Honshū's west coast, northwest winter winds bring heavy snowfall. In the summer, the region is cooler than the Pacific area, though it sometimes experiences extremely hot temperatures because of the foehn wind. The Central Highland has a typical inland climate, with large temperature differences between summer and winter, and between day and night; precipitation is light. The mountains of the Chūgoku
Chugoku region
The , also known as the , is the westernmost region of Honshū, the largest island of Japan. It consists of the prefectures of Hiroshima, Okayama, Shimane, Tottori and Yamaguchi. It has a population of about 7.8 million.- History :...

 and Shikoku
Shikoku
is the smallest and least populous of the four main islands of Japan, located south of Honshū and east of the island of Kyūshū. Its ancient names include Iyo-no-futana-shima , Iyo-shima , and Futana-shima...

 regions shelter the Seto Inland Sea from seasonal winds, bringing mild weather year-round. The Pacific coast experiences cold winters with little snowfall and hot, humid summers because of the southeast seasonal wind. The Ryukyu Islands have a subtropical climate, with warm winters and hot summers. Precipitation is very heavy, especially during the rainy season.

The average winter temperature in Japan is 5.1 °C (41.2 °F) and the average summer temperature is 25.2 °C (77.4 °F). The highest temperature ever measured in Japan—40.9 °C (105.6 °F)—was recorded on August 16, 2007. The main rainy season
East Asian rainy season
The East Asian rainy season, commonly called the plum rain , is caused by precipitation along a persistent stationary front known as the Meiyu front for nearly two months during the late spring and early summer between eastern China, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan...

 begins in early May in Okinawa, and the rain front gradually moves north until reaching Hokkaidō in late July. In most of Honshū, the rainy season begins before the middle of June and lasts about six weeks. In late summer and early autumn, typhoons often bring heavy rain.

Biodiversity


Japan has nine forest ecoregions which reflect the climate and geography of the islands. They range from subtropical moist broadleaf forests
Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests
Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests , also known as tropical moist forests, are a tropical and subtropical forest biome....

 in the Ryūkyū and Bonin Islands, to temperate broadleaf and mixed forests
Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests
Mixed forests are a temperate and humid biome. The typical structure of these forests includes four layers. The uppermost layer is the canopy composed of tall mature trees ranging from 33 to 66 m high. Below the canopy is the three-layered, shade-tolerant understory that is roughly 9 to...

 in the mild climate regions of the main islands, to temperate coniferous forests in the cold, winter portions of the northern islands. Japan has over 90,000 species of wildlife
Wildlife of Japan
The Wildlife of Japan includes its flora, fauna and natural habitats. The islands of Japan stretch a long distance from north to south and cover a wide range of climatic zones. This results in a high diversity of wildlife despite Japan's isolation from the mainland of Asia. In the north of the...

, including the brown bear
Brown Bear
The brown bear is a large bear distributed across much of northern Eurasia and North America. It can weigh from and its largest subspecies, the Kodiak Bear, rivals the polar bear as the largest member of the bear family and as the largest land-based predator.There are several recognized...

, the Japanese macaque
Japanese Macaque
The Japanese macaque , historically known as saru , but now known as Nihonzaru to distinguish it from other primates, is a terrestrial Old World monkey species native to Japan....

, the Japanese raccoon dog
Tanuki
is the common Japanese name for the Japanese raccoon dog . They have been part of Japanese folklore since ancient times...

, and the Japanese giant salamander
Japanese giant salamander
The Japanese giant salamander is endemic to Japan, where it is known as , literally meaning "giant pepper fish". With a length of up to almost 1.5 meters , it is the second largest salamander in the world, only being surpassed by the very similar and closely related Chinese giant salamander The...

. A large network of national parks has been established to protect important areas of flora and fauna as well as thirty-seven Ramsar wetland sites
Ramsar sites in Japan
The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. Adopted in 1971, it entered into force in 1975 and as of March 2011 has 160 Contracting Parties. Japan was the twenty-fourth party to accede, on 17 October 1980...

.

Environment



In the period of rapid economic growth after World War II, environmental policies were downplayed by the government and industrial corporations; as a result, environmental pollution
Four Big Pollution Diseases of Japan
The were a group of manmade diseases all caused by environmental pollution due to improper handling of industrial wastes by Japanese corporations. Although some cases of these diseases occurred as early as 1912, most occurred in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s....

 was widespread in the 1950s and 1960s. Responding to rising concern about the problem, the government introduced several environmental protection laws in 1970. The oil crisis in 1973
1973 oil crisis
The 1973 oil crisis started in October 1973, when the members of Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries or the OAPEC proclaimed an oil embargo. This was "in response to the U.S. decision to re-supply the Israeli military" during the Yom Kippur war. It lasted until March 1974. With the...

 also encouraged the efficient use of energy due to Japan's lack of natural resources. Current environmental issues include urban air pollution
Air pollution
Air pollution is the introduction of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or cause damage to the natural environment or built environment, into the atmosphere....

 (NOx
NOx
NOx is a generic term for the mono-nitrogen oxides NO and NO2 . They are produced from the reaction of nitrogen and oxygen gases in the air during combustion, especially at high temperatures...

, suspended particulate matter, and toxics), waste management
Waste management
Waste management is the collection, transport, processing or disposal,managing and monitoring of waste materials. The term usually relates to materials produced by human activity, and the process is generally undertaken to reduce their effect on health, the environment or aesthetics...

, water eutrophication
Eutrophication
Eutrophication or more precisely hypertrophication, is the movement of a body of water′s trophic status in the direction of increasing plant biomass, by the addition of artificial or natural substances, such as nitrates and phosphates, through fertilizers or sewage, to an aquatic system...

, nature conservation, climate change, chemical management and international co-operation for conservation.

Japan is one of the world's leaders in the development of new environment-friendly technologies, and is ranked 20th best in the world in the 2010 Environmental Performance Index
Environmental Performance Index
The Environmental Performance Index is a method of quantifying and numerically benchmarking the environmental performance of a country's policies. This index was developed from the Pilot Environmental Performance Index, first published in 2002, and designed to supplement the environmental targets...

. As a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol
Kyoto Protocol
The Kyoto Protocol is a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change , aimed at fighting global warming...

, and host of the 1997 conference which created it, Japan is under treaty obligation to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions and to take other steps to curb climate change.

Economy




Some of the structural features for Japan's economic growth developed in the Edo period, such as the network of transport routes, by road
Kaido
were ancient roads in Japan dating from the Edo period. Major examples include the Edo Five Routes, all of which started at Edo...

 and water, and the futures contract
Futures contract
In finance, a futures contract is a standardized contract between two parties to exchange a specified asset of standardized quantity and quality for a price agreed today with delivery occurring at a specified future date, the delivery date. The contracts are traded on a futures exchange...

s, banking and insurance of the Osaka rice brokers. During the Meiji period from 1868, Japan expanded economically with the embrace of the market economy
Market economy
A market economy is an economy in which the prices of goods and services are determined in a free price system. This is often contrasted with a state-directed or planned economy. Market economies can range from hypothetically pure laissez-faire variants to an assortment of real-world mixed...

. Many of today's enterprises were founded at the time, and Japan emerged as the most developed nation in Asia. The period of overall real economic growth from the 1960s to the 1980s has been called the Japanese post-war economic miracle
Japanese post-war economic miracle
The Japanese post-war economic miracle is the name given to the historical phenomenon of Japan's record period of economic growth following World War II, spurred mainly by Japanese economic policy, in particular through the Ministry of International Trade and Industry...

: it averaged 7.5 percent in the 1960s and 1970s, and 3.2 percent in the 1980s and early 1990s. Growth slowed markedly in the 1990s during what the Japanese call the Lost Decade
Lost Decade (Japan)
The is the time after the Japanese asset price bubble's collapse within the Japanese economy, which occurred gradually rather than catastrophically...

, largely because of the after-effects of the Japanese asset price bubble
Japanese asset price bubble
The was an economic bubble in Japan from 1986 to 1991, in which real estate and stock prices were greatly inflated. The bubble's collapse lasted for more than a decade with stock prices initially bottoming in 2003, although they would descend even further amidst the global crisis in 2008. The...

 and domestic policies intended to wring speculative excesses from the stock and real estate markets. Government efforts to revive economic growth met with little success and were further hampered by the global slowdown in 2000
Dot-com bubble
The dot-com bubble was a speculative bubble covering roughly 1995–2000 during which stock markets in industrialized nations saw their equity value rise rapidly from growth in the more...

. The economy showed strong signs of recovery after 2005; GDP growth for that year was 2.8 percent, surpassing the growth rates of the US and European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 during the same period.

, Japan is the third largest national economy in the world, after the United States and China, in terms of nominal GDP, and the fourth largest national economy in the world, after the United States, China and India in terms of purchasing power parity
Purchasing power parity
In economics, purchasing power parity is a condition between countries where an amount of money has the same purchasing power in different countries. The prices of the goods between the countries would only reflect the exchange rates...

. , Japan's public debt was more than 200 percent of its annual gross domestic product, the largest of any nation in the world. In August 2011, Moody
Moody
Moody may refer to:Places:* Moody, Alabama, USA* Moody, Missouri, USA* Moody, Texas, USA* Moody County, South Dakota, USA* Port Moody, British Columbia, Canada* Moody's Corner, Nova Scotia, Canada* Moody, South Australia, Australia...

's rating has cut Japan's long-term sovereign debt rating one notch from Aa3 to Aa2 inline with the size of the country's deficit and borrowing level. The large budget deficits and government debt since the 2009 global recession and followed by eartquake and tsunami in March 2011 made the rating downgrade. The service sector accounts for three quarters of the gross domestic product. Japan has a large industrial capacity, and is home to some of the largest and most technologically advanced producers of motor vehicles, electronics
Electronics
Electronics is the branch of science, engineering and technology that deals with electrical circuits involving active electrical components such as vacuum tubes, transistors, diodes and integrated circuits, and associated passive interconnection technologies...

, machine tool
Machine tool
A machine tool is a machine, typically powered other than by human muscle , used to make manufactured parts in various ways that include cutting or certain other kinds of deformation...

s, steel
Steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

 and nonferrous metals, ships, chemical substance
Chemical substance
In chemistry, a chemical substance is a form of matter that has constant chemical composition and characteristic properties. It cannot be separated into components by physical separation methods, i.e. without breaking chemical bonds. They can be solids, liquids or gases.Chemical substances are...

s, textile
Textile
A textile or cloth is a flexible woven material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibres often referred to as thread or yarn. Yarn is produced by spinning raw fibres of wool, flax, cotton, or other material to produce long strands...

s, and processed foods
Food processing
Food processing is the set of methods and techniques used to transform raw ingredients into food or to transform food into other forms for consumption by humans or animals either in the home or by the food processing industry...

. Agricultural businesses in Japan
Agriculture, forestry, and fishing in Japan
Agriculture, forestry, and fishing form the primary sector of industry of the Japanese economy, together with the Japanese mining industry, but together they account for only 1.3% of gross national product...

 cultivate 13 percent of Japan's land, and Japan accounts for nearly 15 percent of the global fish catch, second only to China. As of 2010, Japan's labor force consisted of some 65.9 million workers. Japan has a low unemployment rate of around four percent. Almost one in six Japanese, or 20 million people, lived in poverty in 2007. Housing in Japan
Housing in Japan
Housing in Japan includes modern and traditional styles. Two patterns of residences are predominant in contemporary Japan: the single-family detached house and the multiple-unit building, either owned by an individual or corporation and rented as apartments to tenants, or owned by occupants...

 is characterized by limited land supply in urban areas.
Japan's exports amounted to US$4,210 per capita in 2005. Japan's main export markets are China (18.88 percent), the United States (16.42 percent), South Korea (8.13 percent), Taiwan (6.27 percent) and Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

 (5.49 percent) as of 2009. Its main exports are transportation equipment, motor vehicles, electronics, electrical machinery and chemicals. Japan's main import markets as of 2009 are China (22.2 percent), the US (10.96 percent), Australia (6.29 percent), Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

 (5.29 percent), United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates, abbreviated as the UAE, or shortened to "the Emirates", is a state situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman, and Saudi Arabia, and sharing sea borders with Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Iran.The UAE is a...

 (4.12 percent), South Korea (3.98 percent) and Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

 (3.95 percent). Its main imports are machinery and equipment, fossil fuel
Fossil fuel
Fossil fuels are fuels formed by natural processes such as anaerobic decomposition of buried dead organisms. The age of the organisms and their resulting fossil fuels is typically millions of years, and sometimes exceeds 650 million years...

s, foodstuffs (in particular beef), chemicals, textiles and raw materials for its industries. By market share measures, domestic markets are the least open of any OECD country. Junichiro Koizumi
Junichiro Koizumi
is a Japanese politician who served as Prime Minister of Japan from 2001 to 2006. He retired from politics when his term in parliament ended.Widely seen as a maverick leader of the Liberal Democratic Party , he became known as an economic reformer, focusing on Japan's government debt and the...

's administration began some pro-competition reforms, and foreign investment in Japan has soared.

Japan ranks 12th of 178 countries in the 2008 Ease of Doing Business Index
Ease of Doing Business Index
The Ease of Doing Business Index is an index created by the World Bank. Higher rankings indicate better, usually simpler, regulations for businesses and stronger protections of property rights...

 and has one of the smallest tax revenues of the developed world. The Japanese variant of capitalism has many distinct features: keiretsu
Keiretsu
A is a set of companies with interlocking business relationships and shareholdings. It is a type of business group. The keiretsu has maintained dominance over the Japanese economy for the greater half of the twentieth century....

 enterprises are influential, and lifetime employment and seniority-based career advancement are relatively common in the Japanese work environment
Japanese work environment
Many both in and outside of Japan share an image of the Japanese work environment that is based on a lifetime-employment model used by large companies as well as a reputation of long work-hours and strong devotion to one's company...

. Japanese companies are known for management methods like "The Toyota Way
The Toyota Way
The Toyota Way is a set of principles and behaviors that underlie the Toyota Motor Corporation's managerial approach and production system. Toyota first summed up its philosophy, values and manufacturing ideals in 2001, calling it “The Toyota Way 2001.” It consists of principles in two key areas:...

", and shareholder activism is rare. Some of the largest enterprises in Japan include Toyota, Nintendo
Nintendo
is a multinational corporation located in Kyoto, Japan. Founded on September 23, 1889 by Fusajiro Yamauchi, it produced handmade hanafuda cards. By 1963, the company had tried several small niche businesses, such as a cab company and a love hotel....

, NTT DoCoMo
NTT DoCoMo
is the predominant mobile phone operator in Japan. The name is officially an abbreviation of the phrase, "do communications over the mobile network", and is also from a compound word dokomo, meaning "everywhere" in Japanese. Docomo provides phone, video phone , i-mode , and mail services...

, Canon, Honda
Honda
is a Japanese public multinational corporation primarily known as a manufacturer of automobiles and motorcycles.Honda has been the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer since 1959, as well as the world's largest manufacturer of internal combustion engines measured by volume, producing more than...

, Takeda Pharmaceutical, Sony
Sony
, commonly referred to as Sony, is a Japanese multinational conglomerate corporation headquartered in Minato, Tokyo, Japan and the world's fifth largest media conglomerate measured by revenues....

, Panasonic, Toshiba
Toshiba
is a multinational electronics and electrical equipment corporation headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. It is a diversified manufacturer and marketer of electrical products, spanning information & communications equipment and systems, Internet-based solutions and services, electronic components and...

, Sharp
Sharp Corporation
is a Japanese multinational corporation that designs and manufactures electronic products. Headquartered in Abeno-ku, Osaka, Japan, Sharp employs more than 55,580 people worldwide as of June 2011. The company was founded in September 1912 and takes its name from one of its founder's first...

, Nippon Steel
Nippon Steel
, also referred to as , was formed in 1970. Nippon Steel Corporation is the world's 4th largest steel producer by volume.-Early years:Nippon Steel was created by the merger of two giants, Yawata Iron & Steel and Fuji Iron & Steel...

, Nippon Oil
Nippon Oil
The , or NOC or Shin-Nisseki is a Japanese petroleum company. Its businesses include the exploration, importation, and refining of crude oil; the manufacture and sale of petroleum products, including fuels and lubricants; and other energy-related activities.Its products are sold under the brand...

, and Seven & I Holdings Co. It has some of the world's largest banks, and the Tokyo Stock Exchange
Tokyo Stock Exchange
The , called or TSE for short, is located in Tokyo, Japan and is the third largest stock exchange in the world by aggregate market capitalization of its listed companies...

 (known for its Nikkei 225
Nikkei 225
The , more commonly called the Nikkei, the Nikkei index, or the Nikkei Stock Average , is a stock market index for the Tokyo Stock Exchange . It has been calculated daily by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper since 1950. It is a price-weighted average , and the components are reviewed once a year...

 and Topix
TOPIX
Tokyo stock Price IndeX, commonly known as TOPIX, along with the Nikkei 225, is an important stock market index for the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Japan, tracking all domestic companies of the exchange's First Section. It is calculated and published by the TSE...

 indices) stands as the second largest in the world by market capitalization
Market capitalization
Market capitalization is a measurement of the value of the ownership interest that shareholders hold in a business enterprise. It is equal to the share price times the number of shares outstanding of a publicly traded company...

. Japan is home to 326 companies from the Forbes Global 2000
Forbes Global 2000
The Forbes Global 2000 is an annual ranking of the top 2000 public companies in the world by Forbes magazine. The ranking is based on a mix of four metrics: sales, profit, assets and market value...

 or 16.3 percent (as of 2006).

Science and technology


Japan is a leading nation in scientific research, particularly technology, machinery and biomedical research
Biomedical research
Biomedical research , in general simply known as medical research, is the basic research, applied research, or translational research conducted to aid and support the body of knowledge in the field of medicine...

. Nearly 700,000 researchers share a US$130 billion research and development
Research and development
The phrase research and development , according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, refers to "creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of man, culture and society, and the use of this stock of...

 budget, the third largest in the world. Japan is a world leader in fundamental scientific research, having produced fifteen Nobel laureates
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

 in either physics, chemistry or medicine, three Fields medalists
Fields Medal
The Fields Medal, officially known as International Medal for Outstanding Discoveries in Mathematics, is a prize awarded to two, three, or four mathematicians not over 40 years of age at each International Congress of the International Mathematical Union , a meeting that takes place every four...

, and one Gauss Prize laureate. Some of Japan's more prominent technological contributions are in the fields of electronics, automobiles, machinery, earthquake engineering
Earthquake engineering
Earthquake engineering is the scientific field concerned with protecting society, the natural and the man-made environment from earthquakes by limiting the seismic risk to socio-economically acceptable levels...

, industrial robot
Industrial robot
An industrial robot is defined by ISO as an automatically controlled, reprogrammable, multipurpose manipulator programmable in three or more axes...

ics, optics
Optics
Optics is the branch of physics which involves the behavior and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of instruments that use or detect it. Optics usually describes the behavior of visible, ultraviolet, and infrared light...

, chemicals, semiconductor
Semiconductor
A semiconductor is a material with electrical conductivity due to electron flow intermediate in magnitude between that of a conductor and an insulator. This means a conductivity roughly in the range of 103 to 10−8 siemens per centimeter...

s and metals. Japan leads the world in robotics
Robotics
Robotics is the branch of technology that deals with the design, construction, operation, structural disposition, manufacture and application of robots...

 production and use, possessing more than half (402,200 of 742,500) of the world's industrial robots.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
The , or JAXA, is Japan's national aerospace agency. Through the merger of three previously independent organizations, JAXA was formed on October 1, 2003, as an Independent Administrative Institution administered by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and the...

 (JAXA) is Japan's space agency; it conducts space, planetary, and aviation research, and leads development of rockets and satellites. It is a participant in the International Space Station
International Space Station
The International Space Station is a habitable, artificial satellite in low Earth orbit. The ISS follows the Salyut, Almaz, Cosmos, Skylab, and Mir space stations, as the 11th space station launched, not including the Genesis I and II prototypes...

: the Japanese Experiment Module
Japanese Experiment Module
The Japanese Experiment Module , also known with the nickname , is a Japanese science module for the International Space Station developed by JAXA. It is the largest single ISS module. The first two pieces of the module were launched on space shuttle missions STS-123 and STS-124...

 (Kibo) was added to the station during Space Shuttle
Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle was a manned orbital rocket and spacecraft system operated by NASA on 135 missions from 1981 to 2011. The system combined rocket launch, orbital spacecraft, and re-entry spaceplane with modular add-ons...

 assembly flights in 2008. Japan's plans in space exploration
Space exploration
Space exploration is the use of space technology to explore outer space. Physical exploration of space is conducted both by human spaceflights and by robotic spacecraft....

 include: launching a space probe
Space probe
A robotic spacecraft is a spacecraft with no humans on board, that is usually under telerobotic control. A robotic spacecraft designed to make scientific research measurements is often called a space probe. Many space missions are more suited to telerobotic rather than crewed operation, due to...

 to Venus
Venus
Venus is the second planet from the Sun, orbiting it every 224.7 Earth days. The planet is named after Venus, the Roman goddess of love and beauty. After the Moon, it is the brightest natural object in the night sky, reaching an apparent magnitude of −4.6, bright enough to cast shadows...

, Akatsuki; developing the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter to be launched in 2013; and building a moon base
Colonization of the Moon
The colonization of the Moon is the proposed establishment of permanent human communities on the Moon. Advocates of space exploration have seen settlement of the Moon as a logical step in the expansion of humanity beyond the Earth. Recent indication that water might be present in noteworthy...

 by 2030. On September 14, 2007, it launched lunar explorer "SELENE
SELENE
SELENE , better known in Japan by its nickname after the legendary Japanese moon princess, was the second Japanese lunar orbiter spacecraft. Produced by the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science and the National Space Development Agency , both now part of the Japan Aerospace Exploration...

" (Selenological and Engineering Explorer) on an H-IIA
H-IIA
H-IIA is an active expendable launch system operated by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency . The liquid-fueled H-IIA rockets have been used to launch satellites into geostationary orbit, to launch a lunar orbiting spacecraft, and to launch an interplanetary...

 (Model H2A2022) carrier rocket from Tanegashima Space Center
Tanegashima Space Center
The is one of Japan's space development facilities. It is located on Tanegashima, an island located 115 km south of Kyūshū. It was established in 1969 when the National Space Development Agency of Japan was formed...

. SELENE is also known as Kaguya, after the lunar princess of The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter
The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter
, also known as , is a 10th century Japanese folktale. It is considered the oldest extant Japanese narrative and an early example of proto-science fiction....

. Kaguya is the largest lunar mission since the Apollo program. Its purpose is to gather data on the moon's origin and evolution. It entered a lunar orbit on October 4, flying at an altitude of about 100 km (62 mi). The probe's mission was ended when it was deliberately crashed by JAXA into the Moon on 11 June 2009.

Infrastructure


As of 2008, 46.4 percent of energy in Japan is produced from petroleum
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

, 21.4 percent from coal
Coal
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...

, 16.7 percent from natural gas
Natural gas
Natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, typically with 0–20% higher hydrocarbons . It is found associated with other hydrocarbon fuel, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is an important fuel source and a major feedstock for fertilizers.Most natural...

, 9.7 percent from nuclear power
Nuclear power in Japan
Nuclear energy was a national strategic priority in Japan, but there has been concern about the ability of Japan's nuclear plants to withstand seismic activity...

, and 2.9 percent from hydro power. Nuclear power produced 25.1 percent of Japan's electricity, as of 2009. However, in the wake of the Tohoku earthquake and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster
Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster
The is a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns, and releases of radioactive materials at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, following the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011. The plant comprises six separate boiling water reactors originally designed by General Electric ,...

, some nuclear reactors have been taken off-line and reliance on fossil fuels is higher. Given its heavy dependence on imported energy, Japan has aimed to diversify its sources and maintain high levels of energy efficiency.

Japan's road spending has been extensive. Its 1.2 million kilometers of paved road are the main means of transportation. A single network of high-speed, divided, limited-access toll road
Toll road
A toll road is a privately or publicly built road for which a driver pays a toll for use. Structures for which tolls are charged include toll bridges and toll tunnels. Non-toll roads are financed using other sources of revenue, most typically fuel tax or general tax funds...

s connects major cities and is operated by toll-collecting enterprises. New and used cars are inexpensive; car ownership fees and fuel levies are used to promote energy efficiency. However, at just 50 percent of all distance traveled, car usage is the lowest of all G8 countries.

Dozens of Japanese railway companies compete in regional and local passenger transportation markets; major companies include seven JR enterprises, Kintetsu Corporation, Seibu Railway
Seibu Railway
is a conglomerate based in Tokorozawa, Japan, with principal business areas in railways, tourism and real estate. Seibu Railway's operations are concentrated in northwest Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture; the name "Seibu" is an abbreviation of "west Musashi," referring to the historic name for this area...

 and Keio Corporation. Some 250 high-speed Shinkansen
Shinkansen
The , also known as THE BULLET TRAIN, is a network of high-speed railway lines in Japan operated by four Japan Railways Group companies. Starting with the Tōkaidō Shinkansen in 1964, the network has expanded to currently consist of of lines with maximum speeds of , of Mini-shinkansen with a...

 trains connect major cities and Japanese trains are known for their safety and punctuality. Proposals for a new Maglev
JR-Maglev
JR-Maglev is a magnetic levitation train system developed by the Central Japan Railway Company and Railway Technical Research Institute . JR-Maglev MLX01 is one of the latest designs of a series of Maglev trains in development in Japan since the 1970s...

 route between Tokyo and Osaka are at an advanced stage. There are 173 airports in Japan; the largest domestic airport, Haneda Airport, is Asia's second-busiest airport
World's busiest airports by passenger traffic
The world's busiest airports by passenger traffic are measured by number of total passengers . One passenger is described as someone who arrives in, departs from, or transfers through the airport on a given day...

. The largest international gateways are Narita International Airport
Narita International Airport
is an international airport serving the Greater Tokyo Area of Japan. It is located east of Tokyo Station and east-southeast of Narita Station in the city of Narita, and the adjacent town of Shibayama....

, Kansai International Airport
Kansai International Airport
is an international airport located on an artificial island in the middle of Osaka Bay, southwest of Ōsaka Station, located within three municipalities, including Izumisano , Sennan , and Tajiri , in Osaka Prefecture, Japan. The airport is off the Honshu shore. The airport serves as an...

 and Chūbu Centrair International Airport
Chubu Centrair International Airport
is an airport on an artificial island in Ise Bay, Tokoname City in Aichi Prefecture, south of Nagoya in central Japan.Centrair is classified as a first class airport and is the main international gateway for the Chūbu region of Japan...

. Nagoya Port
Nagoya Port
The , located in Ise Bay, is the largest and busiest trading port in Japan, accounting for about 10% of the total trade value of Japan. Notably, this port is the largest exporter of cars in Japan and where the Toyota Motor Corporation exports most of its cars...

 is the country's largest and busiest port, accounting for 10 percent of Japan's trade value.

Demographics



Japan's population is estimated at around 127.3 million. Japanese society is linguistically
Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

 and culturally homogeneous, composed of 98.5% ethnic Japanese, with small populations of foreign workers. Zainichi Koreans, Zainichi Chinese
Chinese people in Japan
Chinese people in Japan consist of migrants from China to Japan and their descendants. They have a history going back for centuries.- Population and distribution :...

, Filipinos
Filipinos in Japan
Filipinos in Japan formed a population of 202,592 individuals at year-end 2007, making them Japan's fourth-largest foreign community, according to the statistics of the Ministry of Justice. Their population reached as high as 245,518 in 1998, but fell to 144,871 individuals in 2000 before...

, Brazilians mostly of Japanese descent, and Peruvians
Peruvian people
Peru is a multiethnic country formed by the combination of different groups over five centuries, so people in Peru usually treat their nationality as a citizenship rather than an ethnicity. Amerindians inhabited Peruvian territory for several millennia before Spanish Conquest in the 16th century;...

 mostly of Japanese descent
Japanese Peruvian
Japanese Peruvians are people of Japanese ancestry who were born in or immigrated to Peru. The immigrants from Japan are called the Issei generation. Second and third generation Peruvians are referred to as nisei and sansei in Japanese...

 are among the small minority groups in Japan. In 2003, there were about 134,700 non-Latin American Western
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 and 345,500 Latin American
Latin Americans
Latin Americans are the citizens of the Latin American countries and dependencies. Latin American countries are multi-ethnic, home to people of different ethnic and national backgrounds. As a result, some Latin Americans don't take their nationality as an ethnicity, but identify themselves with...

 expatriates, 274,700 of whom were Brazilians
Brazilians in Japan
There is a significant community of Brazilians in Japan, consisting largely but not exclusively of Brazilians of Japanese ethnicity.-Migration history:...

 (Japanese descendants, or nikkeijin, along with their spouses), the largest community of Westerners.

The most dominant native ethnic group is the Yamato people
Yamato people
is a name for the dominant native ethnic group of Japan. It is a term that came to be used around the late 19th century to distinguish the residents of the mainland Japan from other minority ethnic groups who have resided in the peripheral areas of Japan, such as the Ainu, Ryukyuan, Nivkh, Ulta, as...

; primary minority groups include the indigenous Ainu
Ainu people
The , also called Aynu, Aino , and in historical texts Ezo , are indigenous people or groups in Japan and Russia. Historically they spoke the Ainu language and related varieties and lived in Hokkaidō, the Kuril Islands, and much of Sakhalin...

 and Ryukyuan peoples, as well as social minority groups like the burakumin
Burakumin
are a Japanese social minority group. The burakumin are one of the main minority groups in Japan, along with the Ainu of Hokkaidō, the Ryukyuans of Okinawa and Japanese residents of Korean and Chinese descent....

. There are persons of mixed ancestry incorporated among the 'ethnic Japanese' or Yamato, such as those from Ogasawara Archipelago where roughly one-tenth of the Japanese population can have European, American, Micronesian and/or Polynesian backgrounds, with some families going back up to seven generations. In spite of the widespread belief that Japan is ethnically homogeneous (in 2009, the foreign-born workers made up only 1.7% of the total population), also due to the absence of ethnicity and/or race statistics for Japanese nationals, it is probably more accurate to describe it as a multiethnic society
Multiethnic society
A multiethnic society is one with members belonging to more than one ethnic group, in contrast to societies which are ethnically homogenous. In practice, virtually all contemporary national societies are multiethnic...

, according to John Lie
John Lie
John Lie is Class of 1959 Professor of sociology and Dean of International and Area Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. His principal academic interests are social theory, political economy, social identity, and East Asia....

.

Japan has the longest overall life expectancy
Life expectancy
Life expectancy is the expected number of years of life remaining at a given age. It is denoted by ex, which means the average number of subsequent years of life for someone now aged x, according to a particular mortality experience...

 rate of any country in the world. The Japanese population is rapidly aging
Aging of Japan
The ageing of Japan outweighs all other nations with the highest proportion of elderly citizens, 21% over the age of 65. In 1989, only 11.6% of the population was 65 years or older, but projections were that 25.6% would be in that age category by 2030...

 as a result of a post–World War II baby boom followed by a decrease in birth rates. In 2009, about 22.7 percent of the population was over 65, by 2050 almost 40 percent of the population will be aged 65 and over, as projected in December 2006. The changes in demographic structure have created a number of social issues, particularly a potential decline in workforce population and increase in the cost of social security benefits like the public pension
Pension
In general, a pension is an arrangement to provide people with an income when they are no longer earning a regular income from employment. Pensions should not be confused with severance pay; the former is paid in regular installments, while the latter is paid in one lump sum.The terms retirement...

 plan. A growing number of younger Japanese are preferring not to marry or have families.

Japan's population is expected to drop to 95 million by 2050, demographers and government planners are currently in a heated debate over how to cope with this problem. Immigration
Immigration
Immigration is the act of foreigners passing or coming into a country for the purpose of permanent residence...

 and birth incentives are sometimes suggested as a solution to provide younger workers to support the nation's aging population. Japan accepts a steady flow of 15,000 new Japanese citizens by naturalization (帰化) per year. According to the UNHCR, in 2007 Japan accepted just 41 refugees for resettlement, while the US took in 50,000.

Japan suffers from a high suicide rate
Suicide in Japan
Suicide in Japan has become a significant problem nationally. Factors in suicide include unemployment , depression, and social pressures. In 2007, the National Police Agency revised the categorization of motives for suicide into a division of 50 reasons with up to three reasons listed for each...

. In 2009, the number of suicides exceeded 30,000 for the twelfth straight year. Suicide is the leading cause of death for people under 30.

Religion


Upper estimates suggest that 84–96 percent of the Japanese population subscribe to Buddhism
Buddhism in Japan
The history of Buddhism in Japan can be roughly divided into three periods, namely the Nara period , the Heian period and the post-Heian period . Each period saw the introduction of new doctrines and upheavals in existing schools...

 or Shinto
Shinto
or Shintoism, also kami-no-michi, is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the Japanese people. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past. Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written...

, including a large number of followers of a syncretism
Syncretism
Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. The term means "combining", but see below for the origin of the word...

 of both religions
Shinbutsu Shugo
, literally "syncretism of kami and buddhas" is the syncretism of Buddhism and kami worship which was Japan's religion until the Meiji period...

. However, these estimates are based on people affiliated
Danka system
The , also known as is a system of voluntary and long-term affiliation between Buddhist temples and households in use in Japan since the Heian period. In it, households financially support a Buddhist temple which, in exchange, provides for their spiritual needs...

 with a temple, rather than the number of true believers. Other studies have suggested that only 30 percent of the population identify themselves as belonging to a religion. Nevertheless the level of participation remains high, especially during festivals
Japanese festivals
Japanese festivals are traditional festive occasions. Some festivals have their roots in Chinese festivals but have undergone dramatic changes as they mixed with local customs....

 and occasions such as the first shrine visit
Hatsumode
is the first shrine visit of the New Year in Japan. Some people visit a Buddhist temple instead. Many visit on the first, second, or third day of the year as most are off work on those days. Generally, wishes for the new year are made, new o-mamori are bought, and the old ones are returned to the...

 of the New Year
Japanese New Year
The is one of the most important annual festivals, with its own unique customs, and has been celebrated for centuries. Due to the importance of the holiday and the preparations required, the preceding days are quite busy, particularly the day before, known as Ōmisoka.The Japanese New Year has been...

. Taoism
Taoism
Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...

 and Confucianism
Confucianism
Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius . Confucianism originated as an "ethical-sociopolitical teaching" during the Spring and Autumn Period, but later developed metaphysical and cosmological elements in the Han...

 from China have also influenced Japanese beliefs and customs. Fewer than one percent of Japanese are Christian
Christianity in Japan
Christianity is a minority religion in Japan, with less than one percent claiming Christian belief or affiliation. Nearly all known traditional denominations of Christianity, including Roman Catholicism, Protestantism and Orthodox Christianity are represented in Japan today.The root of the Japanese...

. In addition, since the mid-19th century numerous new religious movements
Shinshukyo
is a Japanese term used to describe domestic new religious movements. They are also known as in Japanese, and are most often called simply Japanese new religions in English. Japanese theologians classify all religious organizations founded since the middle of the 19th century as Shinshūkyō. Thus,...

 have emerged in Japan.

Languages


More than 99 percent of the population speaks Japanese
Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

 as their first language. It is an agglutinative language
Agglutinative language
An agglutinative language is a language that uses agglutination extensively: most words are formed by joining morphemes together. This term was introduced by Wilhelm von Humboldt in 1836 to classify languages from a morphological point of view...

 distinguished by a system of honorifics reflecting the hierarchical nature of Japanese society, with verb forms and particular vocabulary indicating the relative status of speaker and listener. Japanese writing
Japanese writing system
The modern Japanese writing system uses three main scripts:*Kanji, adopted Chinese characters*Kana, a pair of syllabaries , consisting of:...

 uses kanji
Kanji
Kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters hanzi that are used in the modern Japanese writing system along with hiragana , katakana , Indo Arabic numerals, and the occasional use of the Latin alphabet...

 (Chinese character
Chinese character
Chinese characters are logograms used in the writing of Chinese and Japanese , less frequently Korean , formerly Vietnamese , or other languages...

s) and two sets of kana
Kana
Kana are the syllabic Japanese scripts, as opposed to the logographic Chinese characters known in Japan as kanji and the Roman alphabet known as rōmaji...

 (syllabaries
Syllabary
A syllabary is a set of written symbols that represent syllables, which make up words. In a syllabary, there is no systematic similarity between the symbols which represent syllables with the same consonant or vowel...

 based on simplified Chinese characters), as well as the Latin alphabet
Latin alphabet
The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most recognized alphabet used in the world today. It evolved from a western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, which was adopted and modified by the Etruscans who ruled early Rome...

 and Arabic numerals
Arabic numerals
Arabic numerals or Hindu numerals or Hindu-Arabic numerals or Indo-Arabic numerals are the ten digits . They are descended from the Hindu-Arabic numeral system developed by Indian mathematicians, in which a sequence of digits such as "975" is read as a numeral...

.

Besides Japanese, the Ryukyuan languages
Ryukyuan languages
The Ryukyuan languages are spoken in the Ryukyu Islands, and make up a subgroup of the Japonic, itself controversially a subgroup of Altaic....

, also part of the Japonic language family
Japonic languages
Japonic languages is a term which identifies and characterises the Japanese which is spoken on the main islands of Japan and the Ryukyuan languages spoken in the Ryukyu Islands. This widely accepted linguistics term was coined by Leon Serafim....

, are spoken in Okinawa; however, few children learn these languages. The Ainu language
Ainu language
Ainu is one of the Ainu languages, spoken by members of the Ainu ethnic group on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaidō....

, which is unrelated to Japanese or any other known language, is moribund, with only a few elderly native speakers remaining in Hokkaido. Most public and private schools require students to take courses in both Japanese and English.

Education


Primary schools, secondary schools and universities were introduced in 1872 as a result of the Meiji Restoration. Since 1947, compulsory education in Japan comprises elementary and middle school, which together last for nine years (from age 6 to age 15). Almost all children continue their education at a three-year senior high school, and, according to the MEXT
Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (Japan)
The , also known as MEXT or Monkashō, is one of the ministries of the Japanese government.The Meiji government created the first Ministry of Education in 1871....

, as of 2005 about 75.9 percent of high school graduates attend a university, junior college, trade school, or other higher education
Higher education in Japan
- University entrance :University entrance is based largely on the scores that students achieved in entrance examinations . Private institutions accounted for nearly 80% of all university enrollments in 1991, but with a few exceptions, the public national universities are the most highly regarded...

 institution. The two top-ranking universities in Japan are the University of Tokyo
University of Tokyo
, abbreviated as , is a major research university located in Tokyo, Japan. The University has 10 faculties with a total of around 30,000 students, 2,100 of whom are foreign. Its five campuses are in Hongō, Komaba, Kashiwa, Shirokane and Nakano. It is considered to be the most prestigious university...

 and Kyoto University
Kyoto University
, or is a national university located in Kyoto, Japan. It is the second oldest Japanese university, and formerly one of Japan's Imperial Universities.- History :...

. The Programme for International Student Assessment
Programme for International Student Assessment
The Programme for International Student Assessment is a worldwide evaluation in OECD member countries of 15-year-old school pupils' scholastic performance, performed first in 2000 and repeated every three years...

 coordinated by the OECD currently ranks the overall knowledge and skills of Japanese 15-year-olds as sixth best in the world.

Health



In Japan, health care is provided by national and local governments. Payment for personal medical services is offered through a universal health insurance system that provides relative equality of access, with fees set by a government committee. People without insurance through employers can participate in a national health insurance program administered by local governments. Since 1973, all elderly persons have been covered by government-sponsored insurance. Patients are free to select the physicians or facilities of their choice.

Culture


Japanese culture has evolved greatly from its origins. Contemporary culture combines influences from Asia, Europe and North America. Traditional Japanese arts include crafts
Japanese handicrafts
The many and varied traditional handicrafts of Japan are officially recognised and protected and, owing to the folk art movement, are much in demand. Some enjoy status as a meibutsu or regional specialty. Each craft demands a set of specialized skills...

 such as ceramics, textiles
Kimono
The is a Japanese traditional garment worn by men, women and children. The word "kimono", which literally means a "thing to wear" , has come to denote these full-length robes...

, lacquerware
Japanese lacquerware
Japanese lacquerware is a broad category of fine and decorative arts, as lacquer has been used in paintings, prints, and on a wide variety of objects from Buddha statues to bento boxes for food.A number of terms are used in Japanese to refer to lacquerware...

, swords and dolls
Japanese traditional dolls
Japanese traditional dolls are known by the name in Japan, which literally means human shape.There are various types of Japanese dolls, some representing children and babies, some the imperial court, warriors and heroes, fairy-tale characters, gods and demons, and also people of the daily life of...

; performances of bunraku
Bunraku
, also known as Ningyō jōruri , is a form of traditional Japanese puppet theater, founded in Osaka in 1684.Three kinds of performers take part in a bunraku performance:* Ningyōtsukai or Ningyōzukai—puppeteers* Tayū—the chanters* Shamisen players...

, kabuki
Kabuki
is classical Japanese dance-drama. Kabuki theatre is known for the stylization of its drama and for the elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers.The individual kanji characters, from left to right, mean sing , dance , and skill...

, noh
Noh
, or - derived from the Sino-Japanese word for "skill" or "talent" - is a major form of classical Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 14th century. Many characters are masked, with men playing male and female roles. Traditionally, a Noh "performance day" lasts all day and...

, dance
Japanese traditional dance
There are two types of Japanese traditional dance: Odori, which originated in the Edo period, and Mai, which originated in the western part of Japan. Odori grew out of Kabuki drama and is more oriented toward male sentiments. Mai is traditionally performed in Japanese rooms instead of on the stage...

, and rakugo
Rakugo
is a Japanese verbal entertainment. The lone sits on the stage, called the . Using only a paper fan and a small cloth as props, and without standing up from the seiza sitting position, the rakugo artist depicts a long and complicated comical story...

; and other practices, the tea ceremony
Japanese tea ceremony
The Japanese tea ceremony, also called the Way of Tea, is a Japanese cultural activity involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha, powdered green tea. In Japanese, it is called . The manner in which it is performed, or the art of its performance, is called...

, ikebana
Ikebana
is the Japanese art of flower arrangement, also known as .-Etymology:"Ikebana" is from the Japanese and . Possible translations include "giving life to flowers" and "arranging flowers".- Approach :...

, martial arts
Japanese martial arts
Japanese martial arts refers to the enormous variety of martial arts native to Japan. At least three Japanese terms are often used interchangeably with the English phrase "Japanese martial arts": , literally meaning "martial way", , which has no perfect translation but means something like science,...

, calligraphy
Japanese calligraphy
is a form of calligraphy, or artistic writing, of the Japanese language. For a long time, the most esteemed calligrapher in Japan had been Wang Xizhi, a Chinese calligrapher in the 4th century but after the invention of Hiragana and Katakana, the Japanese unique syllabaries, the distinctive...

, origami
Origami
is the traditional Japanese art of paper folding, which started in the 17th century AD at the latest and was popularized outside Japan in the mid-1900s. It has since then evolved into a modern art form...

, onsen
Onsen
An is a term for hot springs in the Japanese language, though the term is often used to describe the bathing facilities and inns around the hot springs. As a volcanically active country, Japan has thousands of onsen scattered along its length and breadth...

, Geisha
Geisha
, Geiko or Geigi are traditional, female Japanese entertainers whose skills include performing various Japanese arts such as classical music and dance.-Terms:...

 and games. Japan has a developed system for the protection and promotion of both tangible and intangible Cultural Properties
Cultural Properties of Japan
As defined by the Japanese government's Agency for Cultural Affairs, the are tangible properties and intangible properties created or developed in JapanDespite the official definition, some Cultural Properties of Japan were created in China, Korea or other...

 and National Treasures
National treasures of Japan
National Treasures are the most precious of Japan's Tangible Cultural Properties, as determined and designated by the Agency for Cultural Affairs...

. Sixteen sites
World Heritage Sites in Japan
Japan accepted the UNESCO World Heritage Convention on 30 June 1992. As of 27 June 2011, Sixteen properties have been inscribed on the World Heritage List: twelve cultural sites and four natural sites...

 have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Art




The Shrines of Ise have been celebrated as the prototype of Japanese architecture. Largely of wood, traditional housing
Minka
are private residences constructed in any one of several traditional Japanese building styles.In the context of the four divisions of society, minka were the dwellings of farmers, artisans, and merchants , but this connotation no longer exists in the modern Japanese language, and any traditional...

 and many temple buildings
Japanese Buddhist architecture
Japanese Buddhist architecture is the architecture of Buddhist temples in Japan, consisting of locally developed variants of architectural styles born in China...

 see the use of tatami
Tatami
A is a type of mat used as a flooring material in traditional Japanese-style rooms. Traditionally made of rice straw to form the core , with a covering of woven soft rush straw, tatami are made in standard sizes, with the length exactly twice the width...

 mats and sliding doors
Shoji
In traditional Japanese architecture, a shōji is a door, window or room divider consisting of translucent paper over a frame of wood which holds together a lattice of wood or bamboo...

 that break down the distinction between rooms and indoor and outdoor space. Japanese sculpture
Japanese sculpture
The sculpture of Japan started from the clay figure. Japanese sculpture received the influence of the Silk Road culture in the 5th century, and received a strong influence from Chinese sculpture afterwards. The influence of the Western world was received since the Meiji era. The sculptures were...

, largely of wood, and Japanese painting
Japanese painting
is one of the oldest and most highly refined of the Japanese visual arts, encompassing a wide variety of genres and styles. As with the history of Japanese arts in general, the long history of Japanese painting exhibits synthesis and competition between native Japanese aesthetics and adaptation of...

 are among the oldest of the Japanese arts, with early figurative paintings dating back to at least 300 BC. The history of Japanese painting exhibits synthesis and competition between native Japanese aesthetics
Japanese aesthetics
The modern study of a Japanese aesthetics in the Western sense only started a little over two hundred years ago. But, by the term Japanese aesthetic, we tend to mean not this modern study, but a set of ancient ideals that include wabi , sabi , and yûgen...

 and adaptation of imported ideas. The interaction between Japanese and European art has been significant: for example ukiyo-e
Ukiyo-e
' is a genre of Japanese woodblock prints and paintings produced between the 17th and the 20th centuries, featuring motifs of landscapes, tales from history, the theatre, and pleasure quarters...

 prints, which began to be exported in the 19th century in the movement known as Japonism
Japonism
Japonism, or Japonisme, the original French term, was first used in 1872 by Jules Claretie in his book L'Art Francais en 1872 and by Philippe Burty in Japanisme III. La Renaissance Literaire et Artistique in the same year...

, had a significant influence on the development of modern art in the West, most notably on post-Impressionism
Post-Impressionism
Post-Impressionism is the term coined by the British artist and art critic Roger Fry in 1910 to describe the development of French art since Manet. Fry used the term when he organized the 1910 exhibition Manet and Post-Impressionism...

. Famous ukiyo-e
Ukiyo-e
' is a genre of Japanese woodblock prints and paintings produced between the 17th and the 20th centuries, featuring motifs of landscapes, tales from history, the theatre, and pleasure quarters...

 artists include Hokusai
Hokusai
was a Japanese artist, ukiyo-e painter and printmaker of the Edo period. He was influenced by such painters as Sesshu, and other styles of Chinese painting...

 and Hiroshige
Hiroshige
was a Japanese ukiyo-e artist, and one of the last great artists in that tradition. He was also referred to as Andō Hiroshige and by the art name of Ichiyūsai Hiroshige ....

. The fusion of traditional woodblock printing
Woodblock printing
Woodblock printing is a technique for printing text, images or patterns used widely throughout East Asia and originating in China in antiquity as a method of printing on textiles and later paper....

 and Western art led to the creation of manga
Manga
Manga is the Japanese word for "comics" and consists of comics and print cartoons . In the West, the term "manga" has been appropriated to refer specifically to comics created in Japan, or by Japanese authors, in the Japanese language and conforming to the style developed in Japan in the late 19th...

, a comic book format that is now popular within and outside Japan. Manga-influenced animation for television and film is called anime
Anime
is the Japanese abbreviated pronunciation of "animation". The definition sometimes changes depending on the context. In English-speaking countries, the term most commonly refers to Japanese animated cartoons....

. Japanese-made video game console
Video game console
A video game console is an interactive entertainment computer or customized computer system that produces a video display signal which can be used with a display device to display a video game...

s have been popular since the 1980s.

Music



Japanese music is eclectic and diverse. Many instruments
Traditional Japanese musical instruments
Traditional Japanese musical instruments comprise a wide range of string, wind, and percussion instruments.-Plucked:*Biwa - pear-shaped lute*Ichigenkin - one-string zither*Koto - long zither*Junanagen - 17-stringed zither...

, such as the koto
Koto (musical instrument)
The koto is a traditional Japanese stringed musical instrument, similar to the Chinese guzheng, the Mongolian yatga, the Korean gayageum and the Vietnamese đàn tranh. The koto is the national instrument of Japan. Koto are about length, and made from kiri wood...

, were introduced in the 9th and 10th centuries. The accompanied recitative
Recitative
Recitative , also known by its Italian name "recitativo" , is a style of delivery in which a singer is allowed to adopt the rhythms of ordinary speech...

 of the Noh
Noh
, or - derived from the Sino-Japanese word for "skill" or "talent" - is a major form of classical Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 14th century. Many characters are masked, with men playing male and female roles. Traditionally, a Noh "performance day" lasts all day and...

 drama dates from the 14th century and the popular folk music, with the guitar-like shamisen
Shamisen
The , also called is a three-stringed, Japanese musical instrument played with a plectrum called a bachi. The Japanese pronunciation is usually "shamisen" but sometimes "jamisen" when used as a suffix . -Construction:The shamisen is a plucked stringed instrument...

, from the sixteenth. Western classical music
Classical music
Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times...

, introduced in the late 19th century, now forms an integral part of Japanese culture. The imperial court ensemble Gagaku
Gagaku
Gagaku is a type of Japanese classical music that has been performed at the Imperial Court in Kyoto for several centuries. It consists of three primary repertoires:#Native Shinto religious music and folk songs and dance, called kuniburi no utamai...

 has influenced the work of some modern Western composers. Notable classical composers from Japan include Toru Takemitsu
Toru Takemitsu
was a Japanese composer and writer on aesthetics and music theory. Largely self-taught, Takemitsu possessed consummate skill in the subtle manipulation of instrumental and orchestral timbre...

 and Rentarō Taki. Popular music in post-war Japan has been heavily influenced by American and European trends, which has led to the evolution of J-pop
J-pop
, an abbreviation for Japanese pop, is a musical genre that entered the musical mainstream of Japan in the 1990s. Modern J-pop has its roots in 1960s music, such as The Beatles, and replaced kayōkyoku in the Japanese music scene...

, or Japanese popular music. Karaoke
Karaoke
is a form of interactive entertainment or video game in which amateur singers sing along with recorded music using a microphone and public address system. The music is typically a well-known pop song minus the lead vocal. Lyrics are usually displayed on a video screen, along with a moving symbol,...

 is the most widely practiced cultural activity in Japan. A 1993 survey by the Cultural Affairs Agency
Agency for Cultural Affairs
The is a special body of the Japanese Ministry of Education . It was set up in 1968 to promote Japanese arts and culture. As of April 2007, it is led by the Commissioner for Cultural Affairs, Tamotsu Aoki....

 found that more Japanese had sung karaoke that year than had participated in traditional pursuits such as flower arranging (ikebana) or tea ceremonies.

Literature




The earliest works of Japanese literature include the Kojiki
Kojiki
is the oldest extant chronicle in Japan, dating from the early 8th century and composed by Ō no Yasumaro at the request of Empress Gemmei. The Kojiki is a collection of myths concerning the origin of the four home islands of Japan, and the Kami...

and Nihon Shoki
Nihon Shoki
The , sometimes translated as The Chronicles of Japan, is the second oldest book of classical Japanese history. It is more elaborate and detailed than the Kojiki, the oldest, and has proven to be an important tool for historians and archaeologists as it includes the most complete extant historical...

chronicles and the Man'yōshū poetry anthology, all from the 8th century and written in Chinese characters. In the early Heian period, the system of phonograms
Phonogram (linguistics)
A phonogram is a grapheme which represents a phoneme or combination of phonemes, such as the letters of the Latin alphabet or the Japanese kana...

 known as kana (Hiragana
Hiragana
is a Japanese syllabary, one basic component of the Japanese writing system, along with katakana, kanji, and the Latin alphabet . Hiragana and katakana are both kana systems, in which each character represents one mora...

 and Katakana
Katakana
is a Japanese syllabary, one component of the Japanese writing system along with hiragana, kanji, and in some cases the Latin alphabet . The word katakana means "fragmentary kana", as the katakana scripts are derived from components of more complex kanji. Each kana represents one mora...

) was developed. The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter
The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter
, also known as , is a 10th century Japanese folktale. It is considered the oldest extant Japanese narrative and an early example of proto-science fiction....

is considered the oldest Japanese narrative. An account of Heian court life is given in The Pillow Book
The Pillow Book
is a book of observations and musings recorded by Sei Shōnagon during her time as court lady to Empress Consort Teishi during the 990s and early 11th century in Heian Japan. The book was completed in the year 1002....

by Sei Shōnagon
Sei Shonagon
Sei Shōnagon , was a Japanese author and a court lady who served the Empress Teishi around the year 1000 during the middle Heian period. She is best known as the author of The Pillow Book .-Name:...

, while The Tale of Genji
The Tale of Genji
is a classic work of Japanese literature attributed to the Japanese noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu in the early 11th century, around the peak of the Heian period. It is sometimes called the world's first novel, the first modern novel, the first psychological novel or the first novel still to be...

by Murasaki Shikibu
Murasaki Shikibu
Murasaki Shikibu was a Japanese novelist, poet and lady-in-waiting at the Imperial court during the Heian period. She is best known as the author of The Tale of Genji, written in Japanese between about 1000 and 1012...

 is often described as the world's first novel.

During the Edo period, the chōnin
Chonin
was a social class that emerged in Japan during the early years of the Tokugawa period. The majority of chōnin were merchants, but some were craftsmen, as well. Nōmin were not considered chōnin...

 ("townspeople") overtook the samurai aristocracy as producers and consumers of literature. The popularity of the works of Saikaku, for example, reveals this change in readership and authorship, while Bashō
Matsuo Basho
, born , then , was the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan. During his lifetime, Bashō was recognized for his works in the collaborative haikai no renga form; today, after centuries of commentary, he is recognized as a master of brief and clear haiku...

 revivified the poetic tradition of the Kokinshū with his haikai
Haikai
Haikai is a poetic genre that includes a number of forms which embrace the aesthetics of haikai no renga, and what Bashō referred to as the "poetic spirit" , including haiku, renku , haibun, haiga and senryū ."Haikai" is sometimes used as an abbreviation for "haikai no...

 (haiku
Haiku
' , plural haiku, is a very short form of Japanese poetry typically characterised by three qualities:* The essence of haiku is "cutting"...

) and wrote the poetic travelogue Oku no Hosomichi
Oku no Hosomichi
, translated alternately as The Narrow Road to the Deep North and The Narrow Road to the Interior, is a major work by the Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō considered "one of the major texts of classical Japanese literature."...

. The Meiji era saw the decline of traditional literary forms as Japanese literature integrated Western influences. Natsume Sōseki
Natsume Soseki
, born ', is widely considered to be the foremost Japanese novelist of the Meiji period . He is best known for his novels Kokoro, Botchan, I Am a Cat and his unfinished work Light and Darkness. He was also a scholar of British literature and composer of haiku, Chinese-style poetry, and fairy tales...

 and Mori Ōgai
Mori Ogai
was a Japanese physician, translator, novelist and poet. is considered his major work.- Early life :Mori was born as Mori Rintarō in Tsuwano, Iwami province . His family were hereditary physicians to the daimyō of the Tsuwano Domain...

 were the first "modern" novelists of Japan, followed by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa
Ryunosuke Akutagawa
was a Japanese writer active in the Taishō period in Japan. He is regarded as the "Father of the Japanese short story". He committed suicide at age of 35 through an overdose of barbital.-Early life:...

, Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, Yasunari Kawabata
Yasunari Kawabata
was a Japanese short story writer and novelist whose spare, lyrical, subtly-shaded prose works won him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968, the first Japanese author to receive the award...

, Yukio Mishima
Yukio Mishima
was the pen name of , a Japanese author, poet, playwright, actor and film director, also remembered for his ritual suicide by seppuku after a failed coup d'état...

 and, more recently, Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami
is a Japanese writer and translator. His works of fiction and non-fiction have garnered him critical acclaim and numerous awards, including the Franz Kafka Prize and Jerusalem Prize among others.He is considered an important figure in postmodern literature...

. Japan has two Nobel Prize-winning
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

 authors—Yasunari Kawabata
Yasunari Kawabata
was a Japanese short story writer and novelist whose spare, lyrical, subtly-shaded prose works won him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968, the first Japanese author to receive the award...

 (1968) and Kenzaburō Ōe
Kenzaburo Oe
is a Japanese author and a major figure in contemporary Japanese literature. His works, strongly influenced by French and American literature and literary theory, deal with political, social and philosophical issues including nuclear weapons, social non-conformism and existentialism.Ōe was awarded...

 (1994).

Cuisine



The primary staple is Japanese rice
Japanese rice
Japanese rice, or japonica, is a short-grain variety of rice which is characterized by its unique stickiness and texture. It also comes in a variety called mochigome which is used for making mochi...

. In the early modern era ingredients such as red meats that had previously not been widely used in Japan were introduced. Japanese cuisine is known for its emphasis on seasonality of food
Seasonal Food
Seasonality of food refers to the times of year when a given type food is at its peak, either in terms of harvest or its flavour. This is usually the time when the item is the cheapest and the freshest on the market. The food's peak time in terms of harvest usually coincides with when its flavour...

, quality of ingredients and presentation. Japanese cuisine offers a vast array of regional specialties
Japanese regional cuisine
Japanese cuisine has a vast array of regional specialities known as kyōdo ryōri in Japanese, many of them originating from dishes prepared using local ingredients and traditional recipes....

 that use traditional recipes and local ingredients. The Michelin Guide
Michelin Guide
The Michelin Guide is a series of annual guide books published by Michelin for over a dozen countries. The term normally refers to the Michelin Red Guide, the oldest and best-known European hotel and restaurant guide, which awards the Michelin stars...

 has awarded Japanese cities more Michelin stars than the rest of the world combined.

Sports




Traditionally, sumo
Sumo
is a competitive full-contact sport where a wrestler attempts to force another wrestler out of a circular ring or to touch the ground with anything other than the soles of the feet. The sport originated in Japan, the only country where it is practiced professionally...

 is considered Japan's national sport. Japanese martial arts
Japanese martial arts
Japanese martial arts refers to the enormous variety of martial arts native to Japan. At least three Japanese terms are often used interchangeably with the English phrase "Japanese martial arts": , literally meaning "martial way", , which has no perfect translation but means something like science,...

 such as judo
Judo
is a modern martial art and combat sport created in Japan in 1882 by Jigoro Kano. Its most prominent feature is its competitive element, where the object is to either throw or takedown one's opponent to the ground, immobilize or otherwise subdue one's opponent with a grappling maneuver, or force an...

, karate
Karate
is a martial art developed in the Ryukyu Islands in what is now Okinawa, Japan. It was developed from indigenous fighting methods called and Chinese kenpō. Karate is a striking art using punching, kicking, knee and elbow strikes, and open-handed techniques such as knife-hands. Grappling, locks,...

 and kendo
Kendo
, meaning "Way of The Sword", is a modern Japanese martial art of sword-fighting based on traditional Japanese swordsmanship, or kenjutsu.Kendo is a physically and mentally challenging activity that combines strong martial arts values with sport-like physical elements.-Practitioners:Practitioners...

 are also widely practiced and enjoyed by spectators in the country. After the Meiji Restoration, many Western sports were introduced in Japan and began to spread through the education system. Japan hosted the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 1964
1964 Summer Olympics
The 1964 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XVIII Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event held in Tokyo, Japan in 1964. Tokyo had been awarded with the organization of the 1940 Summer Olympics, but this honor was subsequently passed to Helsinki because of Japan's...

. Japan has hosted the Winter Olympics twice: Nagano in 1998
1998 Winter Olympics
The 1998 Winter Olympics, officially the XVIII Olympic Winter Games, was a winter multi-sport event celebrated from 7 to 22 February 1998 in Nagano, Japan. Seventy-two nations and 2,176 participans contested in seven sports and 72 events at 15 venues. The games saw the introduction of Women's ice...

 and Sapporo in 1972
1972 Winter Olympics
The 1972 Winter Olympics, officially known as the XI Olympic Winter Games, were a winter multi-sport event which was celebrated from February 3 to February 13, 1972 in Sapporo, Hokkaidō, Japan...

.

The Japanese professional baseball league was established in 1936. Today baseball
Baseball in Japan
Baseball is one of the most popular sports in Japan. It was introduced to Japan in 1872 by Horace Wilson, who taught at the Kaisei School in Tokyo. The first baseball team was called the Shimbashi Athletic Club and was established in 1878. Baseball has been a popular sport ever since...

 is the most popular spectator sport in the country. Since the establishment of the Japan Professional Football League
J. League
The or is the top division of and is the top professional association football league in Japan. It is one of the most successful leagues in Asian club football and the only league given top class 'A' ranking by the AFC. Currently, J. League Division 1 is the first level of the Japanese...

 in 1992, association football
Football in Japan
Association football is one of the most popular sports in Japan. Its nationwide organization, Japan Football Association, administers the professional football league, J...

 has also gained a wide following. Japan was a venue of the Intercontinental Cup
Intercontinental Cup (football)
The European/South American Cup, commonly referred to as the World Club Championship, Intercontinental Cup or Toyota Cup, was a football competition endorsed by UEFA and CONMEBOL, contested between the winners of the European Cup and the South American Copa Libertadores...

 from 1981 to 2004 and co-hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup
2002 FIFA World Cup
The 2002 FIFA World Cup was the 17th staging of the FIFA World Cup, held in South Korea and Japan from 31 May to 30 June. It was also the first World Cup held in Asia, and the last in which the golden goal rule was implemented. Brazil won the tournament for a record fifth time, beating Germany 2–0...

 with South Korea. Japan has one of the most successful football teams in Asia, winning the Asian Cup
AFC Asian Cup
The AFC Asian Cup is an international association football tournament run by the Asian Football Confederation . It is the second oldest continental football championship in the world after Copa América. The winning team becomes the champion of Asia and automatically qualifies for the FIFA...

 four times. Also, Japan recently won the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2011. Golf is also popular in Japan, as are forms of auto racing like the Super GT
Super GT
The Super GT series, formerly known as the All-Japan Grand Touring Car Championship or JGTC , is a grand touring car race series promoted by the GT-Association...

 series and Formula Nippon
Formula Nippon
Formula Nippon is a type of formula racing and the top level of single-seater racing in Japan.Formula Nippon evolved from the Japanese Formula 2000 series begun in 1973 by way of the Japanese Formula Two and Japanese Formula 3000 championships...

.

External links


Government
  • Kantei.go.jp, official prime ministerial
    Prime Minister of Japan
    The is the head of government of Japan. He is appointed by the Emperor of Japan after being designated by the Diet from among its members, and must enjoy the confidence of the House of Representatives to remain in office...

     and cabinet site
  • Kunaicho.go.jp, official site of the Imperial House of Japan
    Imperial House of Japan
    The , also referred to as the Imperial Family or the Yamato Dynasty, comprises those members of the extended family of the reigning Emperor of Japan who undertake official and public duties. Under the present Constitution of Japan, the emperor is the symbol of the state and unity of the people...

  • National Diet Library


News media

Tourism

General information
  • Japan from UCB Libraries GovPubs
  • Energy Profile for Japan from the US Energy Information Administration
    Energy Information Administration
    The U.S. Energy Information Administration is the statistical and analytical agency within the U.S. Department of Energy. EIA collects, analyzes, and disseminates independent and impartial energy information to promote sound policymaking, efficient markets, and public understanding of energy and...

     containing the 1889 and 1946 Constitutions
  • Japan: Land of the Rising Sun – slideshow by Life magazine