and largest city
|Tokyo (de facto)|
|Recognised regional languages||Aynu itak, Ryukyuan languages, Eastern Japanese, Western Japanese, and several other Japanese dialects|
|Ethnic groups||98.5% Japanese, 0.5% Korean, 0.4% Chinese, 0.6% other|
|Government||constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy|
- See also Empire of Japan
Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of China, Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea in the south. The characters that make up Japan's name mean "sun-origin", which is why Japan is sometimes identified as the "Land of the Rising Sun".
Japan comprises over three thousand islands, the largest of which are Honshū, Hokkaidō, Kyūshū and Shikoku, together accounting for 97% of land area. Most of the islands are mountainous, many volcanic; for example, Japan’s highest peak, Mount Fuji, is a volcano. Japan has the world's tenth largest population, with about 128 million people. The Greater Tokyo Area, which includes the capital city of Tokyo and several surrounding prefectures, is the largest metropolitan area in the world, with over 30 million residents.
Archaeological research indicates that people were living on the islands of Japan as early as the Upper Paleolithic period. The first written mention of Japan begins with brief appearances in Chinese history texts from the first century AD. Influence from the outside world followed by long periods of isolation has characterized Japan's history. Thus, its culture today is a mixture of outside influences and internal developments. Since adopting its present constitution while under US occupation in 1947, Japan has maintained a unitary constitutional monarchy with an emperor and an elected parliament, the Diet.
- Situated off the eastern edge of the Asian continent, the Japanese archipelago is bounded on the n by the Sea of Okhotsk, on the e and s by the Pacific Ocean, on the sw by the East China Sea, and on the w by the Sea of Japan. The total area of Japan is 377,835 sq km (145,883 sq mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by Japan is slightly smaller than the state of California. It extends 3,008 km (1,869 mi) ne–sw and 1,645 km (1,022 mi) se–nw and has a total coastline of 29,751 km (18,486 mi). The five districts are Honshū, Hokkaidō, Kyūshū, Shikoku, and Okinawa. Each of the five districts consists of a main island of the same name and hundreds of surrounding islands. Of the thousands of lesser islands, four are of significance: Tsushima, in the straits between Korea and Japan; Amami Oshima, of the northern Ryukyu Islands at the southern end of the Japanese archipelago; Sado Island in the Sea of Japan off central Honshū; and Awaji Island, lying between Shikoku and Honshū. Two groups of islands returned to Japan by the United States in 1968 are located some 1,300 km (800 mi) due east of the Ryukyus: the Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands, about 885 km (550 mi) south of Tokyo, and the Kazan (Volcano) Islands, directly south of the Ogasawara group. Japan's principal island is Honshū, on which are located the capital city of Tokyo, the principal cities and plains, and the major industrial areas. This island is divided into five regions: Tohoku, from north of Kanto to Tsugaru Strait; Kanto, embracing seven prefectures in the Tokyo-Yokohama region; the Chubu, or central, region, from west of Tokyo to the Nagoya area; Kinki, including the important cities of Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, and Nara; and Chugoku, a narrow peninsula thrusting westward from Kinki between the Sea of Japan and the Inland Sea, which lies between southern Honshū and the island of Shikoku. The Japanese government maintains that the Habomai island group and Shikotan, lying just off Hokkaidō and constituting fringe areas of the Kurils, belong to Japan and should be returned to Japanese administration. These islands and the Kuril Islands are occupied by Russia, whose claims are not formally recognized by Japan. Japan's capital city, Tokyo, is located on the east coast of the island of Honshū. [...]
- According to a 2002 report by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, about 49.9% of the population practice Shintoism and 44.2% practice Buddhism. Religious identities are not mutually exclusive, however, and many Japanese maintain affiliations with both a Buddhist temple and a Shinto shrine. Shinto, originally concerned with the worship of spirits of nature, grew under the influence of Chinese Confucianism to include worship of family and imperial ancestors, and thus provided the foundation of Japanese social structure. Shinto became an instrument of nationalism after 1868, as the government officially sponsored and subsidized it, requiring that it be taught in the schools and that all Japanese belong to a state Shinto shrine. After World War II, Shinto was abolished as a state religion, and the emperor issued an imperial prescript denying divine origin. Today, Shinto exists as a private religious organization. Buddhism is considered by some the most important religion in Japan. Introduced through China and Korea around ad 552, Buddhism spread rapidly throughout Japan and has had considerable influence on the nation's arts and its social institutions. There are 13 sects (shu ) and 56 denominations, the principal shu being Tendai, Shingon, Jodo, Zen, Soto, Obaku, and Nichiren. Japanese Buddhism was founded on the Mahayana school, which emphasizes the attainment of Buddhahood, whereas the Hinayana Buddhism of India emphasizes obedience to commandments and personal perfection. The great temples and gardens of Japan, the famous Japanese tea ceremony (chanoyu ), and Japanese flower-arranging arts (ikebana ) owe their development to the influence of Buddhism. Religions designated as other are practiced by about 6% of the population (including 0.9% practicing Christianity). "Other" faiths that were founded in Japan include Tenrikyo, Seichounoie, Sekai Kyusei Kyo, Perfect Liberty, and Risho Koseikai. Christianity, introduced to Japan by the Jesuit St. Francis Xavier in 1549, was first encouraged by feudal lords but then banned in 1613, often under penalty of death. After that time, a unique sect known as "hidden Christians" developed, with no tradition of churches or public displays of faith and a syncretic doctrine that incorporated local ideas and history. The prohibition against Christianity was in force until 1873, following the reopening of Japan to international relations in 1854. Following World War II, when the emperor lost his claim to divinity, some Japanese gave up Shinto and converted to Christianity or Judaism. After World War II, a considerable number of new religious groups sprouted up. One of these, the Soka-Gakkai, a Buddhist offshoot, controlled a political party (Komeito ), the third-strongest political group in Japan, until politics and religion were officially separated in 1970. In addition to the established and new religions, Confucianism, an ethical system originating in China, has strongly influenced Japanese society since the earliest periods, providing underpinnings for some characteristically Japanese attitudes. [...]