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Flag of Japan Coat of arms of Japan
Flag Coat of arms
Anthem: Kimi Ga Yo
Location of Japan
Capital Tokyo
35°41′ N 139°46′ E
Largest city Tokyo
Official language(s) Japanese
Prime Minister
Constitutional monarchy
Junichiro Koizumi
Meiji Restoration
Current constitution
Treaty of San Francisco

January 3, 1868
May 3, 1947
April 28, 1952
• Total

• Water (%)

377,835 km² ( 377,835)
{{{areami²}}} mi²

• 2005 est.
• [[As of |]] census

• Density

127,417,244 ( 10th)

337/km² ( 18th)
• Total
• Per capita
2004 estimate
.817 trillion ( 3rd)
,906 ( 12th)
HDI ( 2003) 0.943 ( 11th) – high
Currency Yen (¥) ( JPY)
Time zone
• Summer ( DST)
( UTC+9)
( UTC+10)
Internet TLD .jp
Calling code +81
Japan ( Japanese: 日本, Nihon or Nippon, literally "sun source") is an East Asian country surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Sea of Japan, the Philippine Sea, the East China Sea, and the Sea of Okhotsk. To the west is Korea (North and South), to the north Russia, and to the southwest People's Republic of China and Taiwan.One of the world's leading industrialized countries, the " Land of the Rising Sun" is composed of over 3,000 islands. The largest and main islands are, from north to south, Hokkaidō, Honshū, Shikoku, and Kyūshū. The Ryukyu Islands, including Okinawa, are southwest of the main islands.

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Government and politics
Geography of Japan

History - Contents

A Middle Jomon vessel (3000 to 2000 BC)
A Middle Jomon vessel (3000 to 2000 BC)
Archaeological research indicates that the earliest inhabitants of the Japanese archipelago migrated over land bridges from Northeast Asia about 30,000 years ago. Other evidence also suggests that some may have later come by sea from Southeast Asia during a period of migration toward the Pacific Ocean.The first signs of civilization appeared around 10,000 BC with the Jomon culture, characterized by a Mesolithic to Neolithic semi-sedentary hunter-gatherer lifestyle of pit dwelling and a rudimentary form of agriculture. Weaving was still unknown and clothes were often made of bark. Around that time, however, the Jomon people started to make clay vessels, decorated with patterns made by impressing the wet clay with braided or unbraided cord and sticks (Jomon means "patterns of plaited cord"). This led to the introduction of possibly the earliest known type of pottery in the world.The start of the Yayoi period around 300 BC, marked the influx of new technologies such as rice farming, shamanism, and iron and bronze-making brought by migrants from Korean peninsula. These formed the basic elements of traditional Japanese culture, still seen today. As the population increased and society became more complex, they wove cloth, lived in permanent farming villages, constructed buildings of wood and stone, accumulated wealth through landownership and the storage of grain, and developed distinct social classes.The Yayoi period was succeeded around 250 AD by the Kofun era, characterized by the establishment of strong military states centered around powerful clans. The Yamato court, concentrated in the Asuka region, suppressed the clans and acquired agricultural lands, increasing their power. Based upon the Chinese model, they developed a central administration and an imperial court system and society was organized into occupation groups ( Ritsuryo). Most people were farmers; others were fishermen, weavers, potters, artisans, armorers, and ritual specialists.

Classical era
The Great Buddha at Todaiji, Nara, originally cast in 752
The Great Buddha at Todaiji, Nara, originally cast in 752
The Japanese did not start writing their own histories until the 5th and 6th centuries, when the Chinese writing system, Buddhism, advanced pottery, ceremonial burial, and other aspects of culture were introduced by aristocrats, artisans, scholars, and monks from Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea.The beginning of Japanese historical writing culminated in the early 8th century with the massive chronicles, Kojiki (The Record of Ancient Matters, 712) and Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan, 720). Though Japan did not appear in written history until 57, when it is first mentioned in Chinese records as the nation of " Wa" (in Chinese, "Wo"), or "dwarf state", these chronicles tell a much different and much more legendary history of Japan, deriving the people of Japan from the gods themselves.According to traditional Japanese mythology, Japan was founded in the 7th century BC by the ancestral Emperor Jinmu, a direct descendant of the Shinto deity Amaterasu. It is claimed that he started a line of emperors that remains unbroken, to this day. However, historians believe the first emperor who actually existed was Emperor Ojin, though the date of his reign is uncertain. Nonetheless, for most of Japan's history, real power has been in the hands of the court nobility, the shoguns, the military, or, more recently, prime ministers.Through the Taika Reform Edicts of 645, Japanese intensified the adoption of Chinese cultural practices and reorganized the government in accordance with the Chinese administrative structure. This paved the way for the dominance of Confucian philosophy in Japan until the 19th century.The Nara period of the 8th century marked the first strong Japanese state, centered around an imperial court, in the city of Heijo-kyo (now Nara). The imperial court later moved briefly to Nagaoka, and later Heian-kyo (now Kyoto), starting a "golden age" of classical Japanese culture called the Heian period which lasted for nearly four centuries and was characterized by the regency regime of the Fujiwara clan.

Medieval era
Japan's medieval era was characterized by the emergence of a ruling class of warriors, the samurai. In the year 1185, general Minamoto no Yoritomo was the first to break the tradition of ruling alongside the emperor in Kyoto, holding power in distant Kamakura. After Yoritomo's death, another warrior clan, the Hojo, came to rule as regents for the shoguns. The shogunate managed to repel Mongol invasions from Mongol-occupied Korea in 1274 and 1281. The Kamakura shogunate lasted another fifty years. Its successor, the Ashikaga shogunate, was much weaker, and Japan soon fell into warring factions. The "Warring States" or Sengoku period ensued.
A group of Portuguese Nanban foreigners, 17th century
A group of Portuguese Nanban foreigners, 17th century
During the 16th century, traders and missionaries from Portugal reached Japan for the first time, initiating the Nanban ("southern barbarian") period of active commercial and cultural exchange between Japan and the West (and even China). During the last quarter of this century, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu established increasingly strong control over the warring states of Japan. Toyotomi reunified the country, and following his death, Tokugawa seized power by defeating his enemies at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, moving the capital to Edo (now Tokyo) and founding the Tokugawa shogunate.The Tokugawa shogunate, suspicious of the influence of Catholic missionaries, barred all relations with Europeans, except for severely restricted contacts with Dutch merchants at the artificial island of Dejima, near Nagasaki. They also became more conscious of trade with China, especially after the Manchu conquered China and established the Qing Dynasty. The Manchus subjugated Korea in 1637, and the Japanese feared an invasion. Thus, the country became more isolated than ever before. This period of isolation lasted for two and a half centuries, a time of tenuous political unity known as the Edo period, considered to be the height of Japan's medieval culture.

Modern era
The Empire of Japan encompassed most of East and Southeast Asia at its height, in 1942
The Empire of Japan encompassed most of East and Southeast Asia at its height, in 1942
In 1854, Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry of the United States forced the opening of Japan to the West with the Convention of Kanagawa. The perceived weakness of the shogunate led many samurai to revolt, leading to the Boshin War of 1867 to 1868. Subsequently, the shogunate resigned, and the Meiji Restoration returned the emperor to power. Japan adopted numerous Western institutions during the Meiji period, including a modern government, legal system, and military. These reforms helped transform the Empire of Japan into a world power, defeating China in the First Sino-Japanese War and Russia in the Russo-Japanese War. By 1910, Japan controlled Korea, Taiwan, and the southern half of Sakhalin.The early 20th century saw a brief period of " Taisho democracy" overshadowed by the rise of Japanese expansionism. World War I enabled Japan, which fought on the side of the victorious Allies, to expand its influence in Asia, and its territorial holdings in the Pacific. In 1936, however, Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact, joining with Germany and Italy to form the Axis alliance. During this period, Japan invaded China, occupying Manchuria in 1931, and continued its expansion into China proper in 1937, starting the Second Sino-Japanese War, which lasted until the end of World War II. In 1941, after US President Franklin D. Roosevelt demanded that Japan withdraw its forces from China, Japan attacked the United States naval base in Pearl Harbor as well as British and Dutch colonies in Southeast Asia, bringing itself and the United States into World War II. After a long campaign in the Pacific Ocean, Japan lost its initial territorial gains, and American forces moved close enough to begin strategic bombing of Tokyo, Osaka, and other major cities, as well as the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese eventually agreed to an unconditional surrender to the Allies on August 15, 1945 ( V-J Day). The Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal was convened on May 3, 1946 to prosecute Japanese war crimes, including atrocities like the Nanking Massacre. Emperor Hirohito, however, was given immunity and retained his title.The war cost millions of lives in Japan and other countries, especially in East Asia, and left much of the country's industries and infrastructure destroyed. Official American occupation lasted until 1952, although U.S. forces still retain important bases in Japan, especially in Okinawa. In 1947, Japan adopted a new pacifist constitution, seeking international cooperation and emphasizing human rights and democratic practices.After the occupation, under a program of aggressive industrial development and U.S. assistance, Japan achieved spectacular growth to become one of the largest economies in the world. Despite a major stock market crash in 1990, from which the country is recovering gradually, Japan remains a global economic power today and is now bidding for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Government and politics - Contents

The Parliament
The Parliament sits in joint session.
The Parliament sits in joint session.
The Constitution of Japan states that the nation's "highest organ of state power" is its bicameral parliament, the National Diet. The Diet consists of a House of Representatives (Lower House or Shūgi-in) containing 480 seats, elected by popular vote every four years or when dissolved, and a House of Councillors (Upper House or Sangi-in) of 242 seats, whose popularly-elected members serve six-year terms. There is universal adult (over 20 years old) suffrage, with a secret ballot for all elective offices.The Cabinet is composed of a Prime Minister and ministers of state, and is responsible to the Diet. The Prime Minister must be a member of the Diet, and is designated by his colleagues. The Prime Minister has the power to appoint and remove ministers, a majority of whom must be Diet members. The liberal conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has been in power since 1955, except for a short-lived coalition government formed from its opposition parties in 1993; the largest opposition party is the liberal-socialist Democratic Party of Japan.

The Imperial Household
The Imperial Palace in Tokyo is the primary residence of the emperor
The Imperial Palace in Tokyo is the primary residence of the emperor
The Imperial Household of Japan is headed by the emperor. The Constitution of Japan defines the emperor to be "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people". He performs ceremonial duties and holds no real power; not even emergency reserve powers. Sovereignty is vested in the Japanese people by the constitution. Though his official status is disputed, on diplomatic occasions the emperor tends to behave (with widespread public support, it should be noted) as though he were a head of state. In academic studies, Japan is generally considered a constitutional monarchy, based largely upon the British system. As of 2006 Japan is the only country in the world which is headed by an emperor. Akihito (明仁) is the current and 125th Emperor of Japan. He assumed the throne after the death of his father, Hirohito, on January 7, 1989. His son, Crown Prince Naruhito, married Masako Owada, who gave birth to a girl, Princess Aiko, in 2001. The Imperial Household Law of 1947 limits succession to males, but there is ongoing and widespread public discussion of the Japanese Imperial succession controversy. It seems likely that the law will be amended to permit women to ascend the throne (as eight have in Japan's recorded history).

Foreign relations
Japan is a member state of the United Nations, the G8, and the G4 nations, and is a major donor in international aid and development efforts, donating 0.19% of its Gross National Income in 2004. [1]Japan has territorial disputes over islands that were controlled by Japan before World War II. They are the four southern islands of the Kuril Islands, administered by Russia, as well as the Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo in Korean, Takeshima in Japanese), administered by South Korea, and the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyutai in Chinese), administered by Japan, but claimed by both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan). The disputes are in part about the control of marine and natural resources, such as possible reserves of crude oil and natural gas.Japan also has an ongoing dispute with North Korea over its abduction of Japanese citizens and nuclear weapons program.

Geography of Japan - Contents

Map of Japan
Japan, a country of islands, extends along the eastern or Pacific coast of Asia. The main islands (sometimes referred to as the Home Islands), running from north to south, are Hokkaido, Honshu (or the mainland), Shikoku, and Kyushu. Naha on Okinawa, in the Ryukyu archipelago, is over 600 km to the southwest of Kyushu. In addition, about 3,000 smaller islands may be counted in the full extent of the archipelago that comprises greater Japan.
  • Area: 377,835 km² (including 3,091 km² of territorial water)
  • Major islands: Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku
  • Coastline: 29,751 km
  • Highest peak: Mount Fuji: 3776 m (12,385 ft)
  • Lowest elevation: Hachinohe Mine -130 m (-426 ft)
Japan is the 18th most densely populated country in the world (see also the list of countries by population density). About 73% of the country is mountainous, and unsuitable for agricultural, industrial, or residential use, due to the generally steep elevations, climate, and risk of landslides caused by earthquakes, soft ground, and heavy rain. This has resulted in an extremely high population density in the habitable zones that are mainly located in coastal areas.Japan is situated in a volcanic zone on the Pacific Ring of Fire, at the juncture of the Philippine Plate, Pacific Plate, Eurasian Plate, and North American Plate. Frequent low-intensity earth tremors and occasional volcanic activity are felt throughout the islands. Destructive earthquakes, often resulting in tsunamis, occur several times each century. Twenty percent of the world's earthquakes magnitude 6.0 and higher are epicentered in Japan. The most recent major quakes include the 2004 Chuetsu Earthquake and the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. Hot springs are numerous, and have been developed as resorts.

Japan is a temperate region with four seasons of varying severity--five, if the rainy season is included. Japan's average temperature for the summer time is 30°C, and for the winter, it is 4.7°C. Because of its great length from north to south, Japan's climate varies from region to region: the far north is very cold in the winter, while the far south is subtropical. The climate is also affected by the seasonal winds, blown from the continent to the ocean in winters and vice versa in summers. The waters of the Kuroshio Current also warm the Pacific side of Japan, sustaining the coral reefs of Japan, the northernmost coral reefs in the world. Due to severe water pollution, these reefs are now dying.Japan's main rainy season begins (tsuyu-iri) in early May in Okinawa, and the stationary rain front responsible for this gradually works its way north until it dissipates in northern Japan before reaching Hokkaido in late July. The rainy season begins in most of Honshu around the 8th of June and ends (tsuyu-ake) around the 20th of July. In late summer and early autumn, typhoons develop from tropical depressions generated near the equator, and track from the southwest to the northeast, often bringing heavy rain.Japan's varied geographical features divide it into six principal climatic zones:
  • Hokkaido: Hokkaido has a temperate climate with long, cold winters and cool summers. Precipitation is not heavy, but the islands usually develop deep snow banks in the winter.
  • Sea of Japan: The northwest wind in the wintertime brings heavy snowfall. In the summer, the region is cooler than the Pacific area, though it sometimes experiences extremely hot temperatures, due to the Föhn wind phenomenon.
  • Central Highlands ( Chuo-kochi): A typical inland climate, with large temperature differences between summer and winter, and between day and night. Precipitation is light.
  • Seto Inland Sea (Seto-naikai): The Mountains of the Chugoku and Shikoku regions block the seasonal winds, bringing mild weather throughout the year.
  • Pacific Ocean: Experiences cold winters with little snowfall and hot, humid summers due to the southeast seasonal wind.
  • Nansei-shoto ( Ryukyu) or Southwest Islands: The Ryukyu Islands have a subtropical climate, with warm winters and hot summers. Precipitation is very heavy, especially during the rainy season. Typhoons are common; in 2004 a record 10 typhoons reached the main islands.

Japan is home to nine forest ecoregions which reflect the climate and geography of the islands. They range from subtropical moist broadleaf forests in the Ryukyu and Bonin islands, to temperate broadleaf and mixed forests in the mild climate regions of the main islands, to temperate coniferous forests in the cold, winter portions of the northern islands.

Japan is commonly divided into regions. Honshu, by far the largest and most populated island, is typically divided into five (or more) regions. The other islands constitute one region each. From north to south, these are:
  • Tohoku - north-eastern Honshu in which Sendai and Fukushima are large cities.
  • Kanto - includes Tokyo, Kawasaki, Yokohama, Yokosuka, and surrounding coastal plain. Also includes Gunma, Saitama, Chiba, Tochigi, and Ibaraki Prefectures.
  • Chubu - mountainous middle region dominated by the Japanese Alps. The Sea of Japan side is the Hokuriku region, and the Pacific side is the Tokai region. The main cities of Hokuriku are Niigata and Kanazawa, and the main cities of Tokai are Nagoya (the nation's fourth largest) and Shizuoka.
  • Kinki or Kansai region - ancient center of culture and commerce, including Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Wakayama, Shiga and Mie Prefectures.
  • Chugoku - includes the cities Hiroshima and Okayama.
Other islands:
  • Hokkaido - major cities are Sapporo and Hakodate.
  • Shikoku - the smallest of the main four islands, known as a destination for Buddhist pilgrims. The main cities are Matsuyama and Takamatsu.
  • Kyushu - southernmost of the four main islands. The main towns include Fukuoka, Kitakyushu and Nagasaki.
  • Okinawa - semitropical southern island chain reaching out to Taiwan. The only major city is Naha.

The Local Government Law of Japan divides the country into 47 prefectures, which carry out administrative duties, independently of the central government. Voters in each prefecture elect a governor and a legislative assembly. Each prefecture has an administrative bureaucracy.

Economy - Contents

Japan's construction industry has been aided by huge civil works projects. One of the most well known is Kansai International Airport, built on an artificial island at a total cost of  billion. A second runway is also under construction which will more than double the airport's land area.
Japan's construction industry has been aided by huge civil works projects. One of the most well known is Kansai International Airport, built on an artificial island at a total cost of billion. A second runway is also under construction which will more than double the airport's land area.
Government-industry cooperation, aid from the United States following World War II, a strong work ethic, mastery of high technology, emphasis on education, and a comparatively small defense allocation have helped Japan advance with extraordinary speed to become the second largest economy in the world, after the U.S. For three decades, overall real economic growth had been spectacular: a 10% average in the 1960s, a 5% average in the 1970s, and a 4% average in the 1980s. Growth slowed markedly in the 1990s largely due to the after-effects of over-investment during the late 1980s and domestic policies intended to wring speculative excesses from the stock and real estate markets. Government efforts to revive economic growth have met with little success and were further hampered in 2000 to 2001 by the slowing of the US and Asia economies. However, the economy has seen signs of strong recovery in 2005. GDP growth for the 2005 fiscal year was 2.8%, with a fourth quarter expansion of 5.5%, which considerably surpassed the growth of the US and European Union for that period. Unlike previous recovery trends, domestic consumption has been the dominant factor in leading the economic expansion. Hence, the Japanese government predicts that recovery will continue into 2006 if the trend continues.Distinguishing characteristics of the Japanese economy include the cooperation of manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, and banks in closely-knit groups called keiretsu; the powerful enterprise unions and shuntō; cozy relations with government bureaucrats, and the guarantee of lifetime employment (shushin koyo) in big corporations and highly unionized blue-collar factories. Recently, Japanese companies have begun to abandon some of these norms in an attempt to increase profitability.The current government of Junichiro Koizumi has enacted or attempted to pass (sometimes with failure) major privatization and foreign-investment laws intended to help stimulate Japan's dormant economy. Although the effectiveness of these laws is still ambiguous, the economy has begun to respond, but Japan's aging population is expected to place further strain on growth in the near future.

Agricultural sector
Japan uses a system of terrace farming to build in a small area due to lack of available land. Japanese agriculture has one of the world's highest levels of productivity per unit area. Japan's small agricultural sector, however, is also highly subsidized and protected, with government regulations that favor small-scale cultivation instead of large-scale agriculture as practiced in North America. Imported rice, the most protected crop, is subject to tariffs of 490% and restricted to a quota of only 3% of the total rice market. Although Japan is usually self-sufficient in rice (except for its use in making rice crackers and processed foods), the country must import about 50% of its requirements of other grain and fodder crops, and relies on imports for most of its supply of meat. Japan maintains one of the world's largest fishing fleets and accounts for nearly 15% of the global catch, prompting some claims that Japan's fishing is leading to depletion in fish stocks such as tuna. Japan has also sparked controversy by supporting quasi-commercial whaling.

Industrial sector
Industry, one-fourth of Japan's GDP, is heavily dependent on imported raw materials and fuels. Internationally, Japan is best known for its automotive, optics, and electronics industries, as the home of big manufacturers such as Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Sony, Matsushita, Toshiba, Suzuki and Hitachi, as well as household names like Nintendo and Nikon Corporation. Japan also holds a large market share in high-technology industries such as semiconductors, industrial chemicals, machine tools, and (in recent years) aerospace. Construction has long been one of Japan's largest industries, with the help of multi-billion-dollar government contracts in the civil sector. Robotics constitutes a key long-term economic strength.

Service sector
Japan's service sector accounts for about three-fourths of its total economic output. Banking, insurance, real estate, retailing, transportation, and telecommunications are all major industries. The Koizumi government is attempting to privatize Japan Post, one of the country's largest providers of savings and insurance services, by 2007.

Society - Contents

Japanese society is ethnically and linguistically homogeneous, with small populations of primarily Ryukyuans (1.5 million), North and South Koreans (1 million), Chinese and Taiwanese (0.5 million), Filipinos (0.5 million), and Brazilians — mostly of Japanese descent — (250,000), as well as the indigenous Ainu minority in Hokkaido. About 99% of the population speaks Japanese as their first language.Japanese citizenship is conferred on an infant when a family member registers the infant's birth in the family registry held by a neighborhood ward office. Simply being born in Japan does not assure citizenship. Monolingual Japanese-speaking minorities often reside in Japan for generations under permanent residency status without acquiring citizenship in their country of birth. People of Japanese heritage returning from overseas have citizenship if their birth in a foreign country was registered in Japan on their behalf by a family member. Sometimes these returnees are not considered truly Japanese and suspected of being descendants of the Burakumin caste of feudal times.The Japanese population is rapidly aging, the effect of a post-war baby boom followed by a decrease in births as the country modernized in the latter part of the 20th century (notable aspects including the shift from agricultural to urban lifestyles and the increasing tendency for women to remain in the workplace). Japan has the highest life expectancy in the world (85.2 years for women and 78.3 years for men in 2002 [2]). By 2007, over 20% of the population will be over the age of 65. The changes in the demographic structure have created a number of social issues, particularly a potential decline in the workforce population and increases in the cost of social securities like the public pension plan.The population started declining in 2005, as the 1.067 million births were exceeded by the 1.077 million deaths. Assuming current birth and death rates, the 2005 population of 128 million would decline to 100 million in 2050, and to 64 million in 2100. The main problem will be the financial crisis that comes from having a higher and higher dependency ratio (nonworking young and old compared to working ages.) Demographers and government planners are currently in a heated debate over how to cope with this problem. [3]. Immigration and birth incentives are sometimes suggested as a possible solution to provide younger workers to support the nation's aging population. Immigration, however, is not publicly popular as recent increased crime rates are often attributed to foreigners living in Japan.

The Toshodaiji Buddhist temple, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Nara.
The Toshodaiji Buddhist temple, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Nara.
The Japanese people's concern towards religion is mostly related to mythology, traditions, and neighborhood activities rather than the source of morality or the guideline for one's life, for which sometimes Confucianism, or even Taoism, tends to serve as the basis for the moral code. When asked to identify their religion, most would profess to believe in either Shintoism (54%) or Buddhism (40%), for simple reasons like their family has belonged to some sect of Buddhism or to avoid contention with religious foreigners. Nonetheless, most of the people are not atheists, and the tendency is often identified with syncretism, secularism, and even irreligion. This results in a variety of practices such as parents and children celebrating Shinto rituals, students praying before exams, couples holding a wedding at a Christian church and funerals being held at Buddhist temples. A minority profess to Christianity (0.7%) and other religions (4.7%) like shamanism, Islam, and Hinduism. Also, since the mid-19th century, many religious sects called Shinkosyukyo, and later shinshukyo, emerged.

Compulsory education was introduced into Japan in 1872 as one result of the Meiji Restoration. Since 1947, compulsory education consists of elementary school and middle school, which lasts for 9 years (from age 6 to age 15). Almost all children continue their education at a three-year senior high school, and 96% of high school graduates attend a university, junior college, trade school, or other post-secondary institution.

Japanese language is an agglutinative language that belongs in the Altaic language family. It is distinguished by a system of honorifics reflecting the hierarchical nature of Japanese society, with verb forms and particular vocabulary which indicate the relative status of speaker and listener.Modern Japanese is written with a mix of Chinese characters ( kanji) and a modified syllabary ( kana), also originally based on Chinese characters. Japanese texts may also include rōmaji (letters from the Latin alphabet) as well as various special symbols. Written Japanese has been heavily influenced by Chinese although the latter belongs to a different language family. Much vocabulary also has been imported from Chinese, or created on Chinese models.The oldest surviving book written in Japan is the Kojiki ( 712). It was written in a mixture of Chinese, used both ideographically, phonetically, and otherwise to create Japanese meanings. The oldest surviving Japanese book written in hiragana is the Tosa Diary ( 935) by Ki no Tsurayuki. Japanese literature reached a high point during the 11th century with the Genji Monogatari ( The Tale of Genji) by Lady Murasaki Shikibu. Many other Japanese literary works were also written by women.

A Japanese traditional dancer
A Japanese traditional dancer
Japanese culture has evolved greatly over the years, from the country's original Jomon culture to its contemporary hybrid culture, which combines a number of influences from Asia, Europe, and America.Historically, China and Korea have been the most influential starting with the development of the Yayoi culture from around 300 BC and culminating with the introduction of rice farming, ceremonial burial, pottery, painting, writing, poetry, etiquette, the Chinese writing system, and Mahayana Buddhism by the 7th century AD. In the pre-modern era, Japan developed a distinct culture, in its arts: ( ikebana, origami, ukiyo-e), crafts ( dolls, lacquerware, pottery), performances ( bunraku, dance, kabuki, noh, rakugo), traditions ( games, onsen, sento, tea ceremony, architecture, gardens, swords), and cuisine.From the mid-19th century onward, Western influence prevailed, with American influence becoming especially predominant following the end of World War II. This influence is apparent in Japan's contemporary popular culture, which combines Asian, European, and, 1950-onward, American influences in its fashion, films, literature, television, video games, and music. Also, the Japanese are the largest spenders of money on luxury goods in the world. Today, Japan is a major exporter of such culture, which has gained popularity around the world, particularly in the other countries of East Asia. Especially notable contributions of modern Japan to the rest of the world include animation (anime) and graphic novels (manga). Japanese culture has attracted many devotees in Europe and North America as well.

Military - Contents

Following centuries of feudalism, Japan established two separate military services in the late 1800s, the Imperial Japanese Army (modeled upon the army of Germany) and the Imperial Japanese Navy (modeled upon the Royal Navy of the UK). Following American Occupation after World War II, the only time in Japan's recorded history where it had been occupied by a foreign power, the Imperial Army was dissolved in 1945 and replaced in 1954 by the Japan Self-Defense Forces. Japan's current constitution prohibits the use of military forces to wage war against other countries. Japan's involvement in the Iraq war, however, marked the first overseas use of its military since World War II.
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