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Sovereign state in East Asia, situated on an archipelago of five main and over 6,800 smaller islands
Top 10 Japan related articles
- 1 Etymology
- 2 History
- 3 Geography
- 4 Politics
- 5 Economy
- 6 Infrastructure
- 7 Demographics
- 8 Culture
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Anthem: "Kimigayo" (君が代)
(English: "His Imperial Majesty's Reign")
Japanese territory in dark green; claimed but uncontrolled territory in light green
and largest city
|House of Councillors|
|House of Representatives|
|February 11, 660 BC|
|November 29, 1890|
|May 3, 1947|
|377,975 km2 (145,937 sq mi) (61st)|
• 2020 estimate
• 2015 census
|334/km2 (865.1/sq mi) (24th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2020 estimate|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2020 estimate|
• Per capita
medium · 78th
very high · 19th
|Currency||Japanese yen (¥) (JPY)|
|Time zone||UTC+09:00 (JST)|
|ISO 3166 code||JP|
Japan (Japanese: 日本, Nippon [ɲippoꜜɴ] (
Japan is the 11th most populous country in the world, as well as one of the most densely populated and urbanized. About three-fourths of the country's terrain is mountainous, concentrating its population of 126.2 million on narrow coastal plains. Japan is administratively divided into 47 prefectures and traditionally divided into eight regions. The Greater Tokyo Area is the most populous metropolitan area in the world, with more than 37.4 million residents.
The islands of Japan were inhabited as early as the Upper Paleolithic period, though the first mentions of the archipelago appear in Chinese chronicles from the 1st century AD. Between the 4th and 9th centuries, the kingdoms of Japan became unified under an emperor and imperial court based in Heian-kyō. Starting in the 12th century, however, political power was held by a series of military dictators (shōgun), feudal lords (daimyō), and a class of warrior nobility (samurai). After a century-long period of civil war, the country was reunified in 1603 under the Tokugawa shogunate, which enacted a foreign policy of isolation. In 1854, a United States fleet forced Japan to open trade to the West, leading to the end of the shogunate and the restoration of imperial power in 1868. In the Meiji era, the Empire of Japan adopted a Western-style constitution and pursued industrialization and modernization. Japan invaded China in 1937; in 1941, it entered World War II as an Axis power. After suffering defeat in the Pacific War and two atomic bombings, Japan surrendered in 1945 and came under an Allied occupation, during which it adopted a post-war constitution. It has since maintained a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy with an elected legislature known as the National Diet.
Japan is a great power and a member of numerous international organizations, including the United Nations (since 1956), the OECD, and the G7. Although it has renounced its right to declare war, the country maintains a modern military ranked as the world's fourth most powerful. Following World War II, Japan experienced record economic growth, becoming the second-largest economy in the world by 1990. As of 2019, the country's economy is the third-largest by nominal GDP and fourth-largest by purchasing power parity. Japan is a global leader in the automotive and electronics industries and has made significant contributions to science and technology. Ranked "very high" on the Human Development Index, Japan has the world's second-highest life expectancy, though it is currently experiencing a decline in population. Culturally, Japan is renowned for its art, cuisine, music, and popular culture, including its prominent animation and video game industries.
Japan Intro articles: 74
The name for Japan in Japanese is written using the kanji 日本 and pronounced Nippon or Nihon. Before it was adopted in the early 8th century, the country was known in China as Wa (倭) and in Japan by the endonym Yamato. Nippon, the original Sino-Japanese reading of the characters, is favored today for official uses, including on banknotes and postage stamps. Nihon is typically used in everyday speech and reflects shifts in Japanese phonology during the Edo period. The characters 日本 mean "sun origin", in reference to Japan's relatively eastern location. It is the source of the popular Western epithet "Land of the Rising Sun".
The name Japan is based on the Chinese pronunciation and was introduced to European languages through early trade. In the 13th century, Marco Polo recorded the early Mandarin or Wu Chinese pronunciation of the characters 日本國 as Cipangu. The old Malay name for Japan, Jepang or Jepun, was borrowed from a southern coastal Chinese dialect and encountered by Portuguese traders in Southeast Asia, who brought the word to Europe in the early 16th century. The first version of the name in English appears in a book published in 1577, which spelled the name as Giapan in a translation of a 1565 Portuguese letter.
Japan Etymology articles: 13
Prehistoric to classical history
A Paleolithic culture from around 30,000 BC constitutes the first known habitation of the islands of Japan. This was followed from around 14,500 BC (the start of the Jōmon period) by a Mesolithic to Neolithic semi-sedentary hunter-gatherer culture characterized by pit dwelling and rudimentary agriculture. Decorated clay vessels from the period are among the oldest surviving examples of pottery. From around 1000 BC, Yayoi people began to enter the archipelago from Kyushu, intermingling with the Jōmon; the Yayoi period saw the introduction of practices including wet-rice farming, a new style of pottery, and metallurgy from China and Korea.
Japan first appears in written history in the Chinese Book of Han, completed in 111 AD. The Records of the Three Kingdoms records that the most powerful state on the archipelago in the 3rd century was Yamato; according to legend, the kingdom was founded in 660 BC by Emperor Jimmu. Buddhism was introduced to Japan from Baekje (a Korean kingdom) in 552, but the subsequent development of Japanese Buddhism was primarily influenced by China. Despite early resistance, Buddhism was promoted by the ruling class, including figures like Prince Shōtoku, and gained widespread acceptance beginning in the Asuka period (592–710).
After defeat in the Battle of Baekgang by the Chinese Tang dynasty, the Japanese government devised and implemented the far-reaching Taika Reforms. It nationalized all land in Japan, to be distributed equally among cultivators, and ordered the compilation of a household registry as the basis for a new system of taxation. The Jinshin War of 672, a bloody conflict between Prince Ōama and his nephew Prince Ōtomo, became a major catalyst for further administrative reforms. These reforms culminated with the promulgation of the Taihō Code, which consolidated existing statutes and established the structure of the central and subordinate local governments. These legal reforms created the ritsuryō state, a system of Chinese-style centralized government that remained in place for half a millennium.
The Nara period (710–784) marked an emergence of a Japanese state centered on the Imperial Court in Heijō-kyō (modern Nara). The period is characterized by the appearance of a nascent literary culture with the completion of the Kojiki (712) and Nihon Shoki (720), as well as the development of Buddhist-inspired artwork and architecture. A smallpox epidemic in 735–737 is believed to have killed as much as one-third of Japan's population. In 784, Emperor Kanmu moved the capital from Nara to Nagaoka-kyō, then to Heian-kyō (modern Kyoto) in 794. This marked the beginning of the Heian period (794–1185), during which a distinctly indigenous Japanese culture emerged. Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji and the lyrics of Japan's national anthem "Kimigayo" were written during this time.
Japan's feudal era was characterized by the emergence and dominance of a ruling class of warriors, the samurai. In 1185, following the defeat of the Taira clan in the Genpei War, samurai Minamoto no Yoritomo was appointed shōgun and established a military government at Kamakura. After Yoritomo's death, the Hōjō clan came to power as regents for the shōguns. The Zen school of Buddhism was introduced from China in the Kamakura period (1185–1333) and became popular among the samurai class. The Kamakura shogunate repelled Mongol invasions in 1274 and 1281 but was eventually overthrown by Emperor Go-Daigo. Go-Daigo was defeated by Ashikaga Takauji in 1336, beginning the Muromachi period (1336–1573). However, the succeeding Ashikaga shogunate failed to control the feudal warlords (daimyōs) and a civil war began in 1467, opening the century-long Sengoku period ("Warring States").
During the 16th century, Portuguese traders and Jesuit missionaries reached Japan for the first time, initiating direct commercial and cultural exchange between Japan and the West. Oda Nobunaga used European technology and firearms to conquer many other daimyōs; his consolidation of power began what was known as the Azuchi–Momoyama period (1573–1603). After Nobunaga was assassinated in 1582 by Akechi Mitsuhide, his successor Toyotomi Hideyoshi unified the nation in 1590 and launched two unsuccessful invasions of Korea in 1592 and 1597.
Tokugawa Ieyasu served as regent for Hideyoshi's son Toyotomi Hideyori and used his position to gain political and military support. When open war broke out, Ieyasu defeated rival clans in the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. He was appointed shōgun by Emperor Go-Yōzei in 1603 and established the Tokugawa shogunate at Edo (modern Tokyo). The shogunate enacted measures including buke shohatto, as a code of conduct to control the autonomous daimyōs, and in 1639 the isolationist sakoku ("closed country") policy that spanned the two and a half centuries of tenuous political unity known as the Edo period (1603–1868). Modern Japan's economic growth began in this period, resulting in roads and water transportation routes, as well as financial instruments such as futures contracts, banking and insurance of the Osaka rice brokers. The study of Western sciences (rangaku) continued through contact with the Dutch enclave at Dejima in Nagasaki. The Edo period also gave rise to kokugaku ("national studies"), the study of Japan by the Japanese.
In 1854, Commodore Matthew Perry and the "Black Ships" of the United States Navy forced the opening of Japan to the outside world with the Convention of Kanagawa. Similar treaties with Western countries in the Bakumatsu period brought economic and political crises. The resignation of the shōgun led to the Boshin War and the establishment of a centralized state nominally unified under the emperor (the Meiji Restoration). Adopting Western political, judicial, and military institutions, the Cabinet organized the Privy Council, introduced the Meiji Constitution, and assembled the Imperial Diet. During the Meiji era (1868–1912), the Empire of Japan emerged as the most developed nation in Asia and as an industrialized world power that pursued military conflict to expand its sphere of influence. After victories in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905), Japan gained control of Taiwan, Korea and the southern half of Sakhalin. The Japanese population doubled from 35 million in 1873 to 70 million by 1935.
The early 20th century saw a period of Taishō democracy (1912–1926) overshadowed by increasing expansionism and militarization. World War I allowed Japan, which joined the side of the victorious Allies, to capture German possessions in the Pacific and in China. The 1920s saw a political shift towards statism, the passing of laws against political dissent, and a series of attempted coups. This process accelerated during the 1930s, spawning a number of Radical Nationalist groups that shared a hostility to liberal democracy and a dedication to expansion in Asia. In 1931, Japan invaded and occupied Manchuria; following international condemnation of the occupation, it resigned from the League of Nations two years later. In 1936, Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact with Nazi Germany; the 1940 Tripartite Pact made it one of the Axis Powers.
The Empire of Japan invaded other parts of China in 1937, precipitating the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945). In 1940, the Empire invaded French Indochina, after which the United States placed an oil embargo on Japan. On December 7–8, 1941, Japanese forces carried out surprise attacks on Pearl Harbor, as well as on British forces in Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong, and declared war on the United States and the British Empire, beginning World War II in the Pacific. After Allied victories during the next four years, which culminated in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, Japan agreed to an unconditional surrender. The war cost Japan its colonies, China and the war's other combatants tens of millions of lives, and left much of Japan's industry and infrastructure destroyed. The Allies (led by the United States) repatriated millions of ethnic Japanese from colonies and military camps throughout Asia, largely eliminating the Japanese empire and its influence over its conquered territories. The Allies also convened the International Military Tribunal for the Far East to prosecute Japanese leaders for war crimes.
In 1947, Japan adopted a new constitution emphasizing liberal democratic practices. The Allied occupation ended with the Treaty of San Francisco in 1952, and Japan was granted membership in the United Nations in 1956. A period of record growth propelled Japan to become the second-largest economy in the world; this ended in the mid-1990s after the popping of an asset price bubble, beginning the "Lost Decade". In the 21st century, positive growth has signaled a gradual economic recovery. On March 11, 2011, Japan suffered one of the largest earthquakes in its recorded history, triggering the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. On May 1, 2019, after the historic abdication of Emperor Akihito, his son Naruhito became the new emperor, beginning the Reiwa era.