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Japan (Japanese: 日本; Nippon [ɲippoɴ] or Nihon [ɲihoɴ]; formally 日本国 ￼Nippon-kokuor Nihon-koku, lit. 'State of Japan') is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies off the eastern coast of the Asian continent and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East C
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Japan (Japanese: 日本; Nippon [ɲippoɴ] or Nihon [ɲihoɴ]; formally 日本国 ￼Nippon-kokuor Nihon-koku, lit. 'State of Japan') is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies off the eastern coast of the Asian continent and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Seaand the Philippine Sea in the south.
Nippon or Nihon
Anthem: Kimigayo "君が代"
"His Imperial Majesty's Reign"
Government Seal of Japan
Go-Shichi no Kiri
Japanese territory in dark green; claimed, but uncontrolled land shown in light green
and largest city
35°41′N 139°46′EOfficial languagesNone[note 1]National languageJapaneseEthnic groups
51.8% Folk Shinto / None
4% Shinto sects
7% No answer
Demonym(s)JapaneseGovernmentUnitary parliamentaryconstitutional monarchy
• Prime Minister
• Speaker of the House of Representatives
• President of the House of Councillors
• Chief Justice
Naoto ŌtaniLegislatureNational Diet
• Upper house
House of Councillors
• Lower house
House of RepresentativesFormation
• National Foundation Day
February 11, 660 BC
• Meiji Constitution
November 29, 1890
• Current constitution
May 3, 1947
• San Francisco
April 28, 1952Area
377,973 km2(145,936 sq mi)(61st)
• Water (%)
• January 2019 census
334/km2 (865.1/sq mi) (41st)GDP (PPP)2019 estimate
$5.749 trillion (4th)
• Per capita
$45,565 (31st)GDP (nominal)2019 estimate
$5.176 trillion (3rd)
• Per capita
$41,021 (26th)Gini (2011)37.9
medium · 76thHDI (2017)￼ 0.909
very high · 19thCurrencyYen (¥) / En 円 (JPY)Time zoneUTC+9 (JST)Date format
Driving sideleftCalling code+81ISO 3166 codeJPInternet TLD.jp
The kanji that make up Japan's name mean 'sun origin', and it is often called the "Land of the Rising Sun". Japan is a stratovolcanicarchipelago consisting of about 6,852 islands. The four largest are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku, which make up about ninety-seven percent of Japan's land area and often are referred to as home islands. The country is divided into 47 prefectures in eight regions, with Hokkaido being the northernmost prefecture and Okinawa being the southernmost one. Japan is the 2nd most populous island country. The population of 126 million (2019) is the world's eleventh largest, of which 98.5% are ethnic Japanese. 90.7% of people live in cities, while 9.3% live in the countryside. About 13.8 million people live in Tokyo, the capital of Japan. The Greater Tokyo Area is the most populous metropolitan area in the world with over 38 million people.
Archaeological research indicates that Japan was inhabited as early as the Upper Paleolithic period. The first written mention of Japan is in Chinese history texts from the 1st century AD. Influence from other regions, mainly China, followed by periods of isolation, particularly from Western Europe, has characterized Japan's history.
From the 12th century until 1868, Japan was ruled by successive feudal military shōgunswho ruled in the name of the Emperor. Japan entered into a long period of isolation in the early 17th century, which was ended in 1853 when a United States fleet pressured Japan to open to the West. After nearly two decades of internal conflict and insurrection, the Imperial Court regained its political power in 1868 through the help of several clans from Chōshūand Satsuma – and the Empire of Japan was established. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, victories in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War and World War Iallowed Japan to expand its empire during a period of increasing militarism. The Second Sino-Japanese War of 1937 expanded into part of World War II in 1941, which came to an end in 1945 following the Japanese surrender. Since adopting its revised constitution on May 3, 1947, during the occupation led by SCAP, the sovereign stateof Japan has maintained a unitaryparliamentary constitutional monarchy with an Emperor and an elected legislature called the National Diet.
Japan is a member of the ASEAN Plus mechanism, UN, the OECD, the G7, the G8, and the G20, and is considered a great power. Its economy is the world's third-largest by nominal GDP and the fourth-largest by purchasing power parity. It is also the world's fourth-largest exporter and fourth-largest importer.
Japan benefits from a highly skilled and educated workforce; it has among the world's largest proportion of citizens holding a tertiary education degree. Although it has officially renounced its right to declare war, Japan maintains a modern military with the world's eighth-largest military budget, used for self-defense and peacekeeping roles; it ranked as the world's fourth most-powerful military in 2015. Japan is a highly developed country with a very high standard of living and Human Development Index. Its population enjoys the highest life expectancyand third lowest infant mortality rate in the world, but is experiencing issues due to an aging population and low birthrate. Japan is renowned for its historical and extensive cinema, influential music industry, anime, video gaming, rich cuisine and its major contributions to science and modern technology.
Main article: Names of Japan
The Japanese word for Japan is 日本, which is pronounced Nihon or Nippon and literally means "the origin of the sun". The character nichi (日) means "sun" or "day"; hon (本)means "base" or "origin". The compound therefore means "origin of the sun" and is the source of the popular Western epithet "Land of the Rising Sun".
The earliest record of the name Nihonappears in the Chinese historical records of the Tang dynasty, the Old Book of Tang. At the end of the seventh century, a delegation from Japan requested that Nihon be used as the name of their country. This name may have its origin in a letter sent in 607 and recorded in the official history of the Sui dynasty. Prince Shōtoku, the Regent of Japan, sent a mission to China with a letter in which he called himself "the Emperor of the Land where the Sun rises" (日出處天子). The message said: "Here, I, the emperor of the country where the sun rises, send a letter to the emperor of the country where the sun sets. How are you[?]".
The "King of Na gold seal", said to have been granted to Na king of Wa (Japan)by Emperor Guangwu of Han in 57 CE. The seal reads "漢委奴國王". Tokyo National Museum
Prior to the adoption of Nihon, other terms such as Yamato (大和, or "Great Wa") and Wakoku (倭国) were used. The term Wa (和) is a homophone of Wo 倭 (pronounced "Wa" by the Japanese), which has been used by the Chinese as a designation for the Japanese as early as the third century Three Kingdomsperiod. Another form of Wa (委), Wei in Chinese) was used for an early state in Japan called Nakoku during the Han dynasty.However, the Japanese disliked some connotation of Wa 倭 (which has been associated in China with concepts like "dwarf" or "pygmy"), and it was therefore replaced with the substitute character Wa (和), meaning "togetherness, harmony".
The English word Japan possibly derives from the historical Chinese pronunciation of 日本. Japan was recorded by Marco Polo as Cipangu. In modern Shanghainese, a Wu dialect, the pronunciation of characters 日本Japan is Zeppen [zəʔpən]. The old Malay word for Japan, Japun or Japang, was borrowed from a southern coastal Chinese dialect, probably Fukienese or Ningpo – and this Malay word was encountered by Portuguesetraders in Southeast Asia in the 16th century. These Early Portuguese tradersthen brought the word to Europe. The first record of this name in English is in a book published in 1577 and spelled Giapan, in a translation of a 1565 letter written by a Portuguese Jesuit Luís Fróis.
From the Meiji Restoration until the end of World War II, the full title of Japan was Dai Nippon Teikoku (大日本帝國), meaning "the Empire of Great Japan". Today, the name Nihon-koku/Nippon-koku (日本国) is used as a formal modern-day equivalent with the meaning of "the State of Japan". Countries like Japan whose long form does not contain a descriptive designation are generally given a name appended by the character koku (国), meaning "country", "nation" or "state".
Main article: History of Japan
Prehistoric and ancient history
Emperor Jimmu (神武天皇 Jinmu-tennō), the first Emperor of Japandated as 660 BCE – in modern Japan his accession is marked as National Foundation Day on February 11
A Paleolithic culture around 30,000 BC constitutes the first known habitation of the Japanese archipelago. This was followed from around 14,000 BC (the start of the Jōmon period) by a Mesolithic to Neolithicsemi-sedentary hunter-gatherer culture characterized by pit dwelling and rudimentary agriculture, including by ancestors of contemporary Ainu people and Yamato people. The Jōmon pottery and 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, starting around 500 BC, saw the introduction of practices like wet-ricefarming, a new style of pottery and metallurgy, introduced from China and Korea.
Japan first appears in written history in the Chinese Book of Han. According to the Records of the Three Kingdoms, the most powerful kingdom on the archipelago during the third century was called Yamataikoku.
Buddhism was introduced to Japan from Baekje, Korea and was promoted by Prince Shōtoku, but the subsequent development of Japanese Buddhism was primarily influenced by China. Despite early resistance, Buddhism was promoted by the ruling class and gained widespread acceptance beginning in the Asuka period (592–710). Due to the defeat in Battle of Baekgang by Chinese Tang empire, the Japanese government devised and implemented the far-reaching Taika Reforms. The Reform began with land reform, based on Confucian ideas and philosophiesfrom China. 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 true aim of the reforms was to bring about greater centralization and to enhance the power of the imperial court, which was also based on the governmental structure of China. Envoys and students were dispatched to China to learn seemingly everything from the Chinese writing system, literature, religion, and architecture, to even dietary habits at this time. Even today, the impact of the reforms can still be seen in Japanese cultural life. After the reforms, the Jinshin War of 672, a bloody conflict between Prince Ōama and his nephew Prince Ōtomo, two rivals to the throne, 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 government and its 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 the centralized Japanese state centered on the Imperial Court in Heijō-kyō(modern Nara). The Nara period is characterized by the appearance of a nascent literature as well as the development of Buddhist-inspired art and architecture. The smallpox epidemic of 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, noted for its art, poetry and prose. Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji 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 by Saichō and Shingon by Kūkai. Pure Land Buddhism (Jōdo-shū, Jōdo Shinshū) became greatly popular in the latter half of the 11th century.
Samurai warriors facing Mongols during the Mongol invasions of Japan; Suenaga, 1293
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, sung in the epic Tale of Heike, samurai Minamoto no Yoritomo was appointed shōgunby Emperor Go-Toba. In 1192, the shōgun Yoritomo and the Minamoto clan established a feudal military government in Kamakura.What distinguishes Japan from other countries is that Japan was near continuously ruled by the military class with the shōgunand the samurai in the top of the Japanese social structure for 676 years (from 1192 till 1868 CE). The Emperor was above the shōgunand revered as the sovereign, but merely a figurehead. The Imperial Court nobility was a nominal ruling court with little influence. The actual ruling class were Japanese military figures: the shōgun (military dictator), daimyo(feudal lords) and the samurai (militarynobility and officers). 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 shogunaterepelled Mongol invasions in 1274 and 1281, but was eventually overthrown by Emperor Go-Daigo. Emperor Go-Daigo was himself defeated by Ashikaga Takauji in 1336.
Ashikaga Takauji established the shogunate in Muromachi, Kyoto. This was the start of the Muromachi period (1336–1573). The Ashikaga shogunate achieved glory at the age of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and the culture based on Zen Buddhism (the art of Miyabi) prospered. This evolved to Higashiyama Culture, and prospered until the 16th century. On the other hand, the succeeding Ashikaga shogunate failed to control the feudal warlords (daimyōs) and a civil war (the Ōnin War) began in 1467, opening the century-long Sengoku period ("Warring States").
During the 16th century, Portuguese traders, and Jesuit missionaries like the Spanish Francis Xavier reached Japan for the first time, initiating direct commercial and culturalexchange between Japan and the West. This allowed Oda Nobunaga to obtain European technology and firearms, which he used 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 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. Tokugawa Ieyasu was appointed shōgun by Emperor Go-Yōzei in 1603 and established the Tokugawa shogunate in 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). The study of Western sciences, known as 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.
Emperor Meiji (1868–1912), in whose name imperial rule was restored at the end of the Tokugawa shogunate
On March 31, 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. Subsequent 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).
Plunging itself through an active process of Westernization during the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japan adopted Western political, judicial and military institutions and Western cultural influences integrated with its traditional culture for modern industrialization. The Cabinet organized the Privy Council, introduced the Meiji Constitution, and assembled the Imperial Diet. The Meiji Restoration transformed the Empire of Japan into an industrialized world power that pursued military conflict to expand its sphere of influence. Although France and Britain showed some interest, the European powers largely ignored Japan and instead concentrated on the much greater attractions of China. France was also set back by its failures in Mexico and defeat by the Germans. 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. In addition to imperialistic success, Japan also invested much more heavily in its own economic growth, leading to a period of economic flourishing in the country which lasted until the Great Depression. Japan's population grew from 35 million in 1873 to 70 million by 1935.
The Japanese Empire in 1939
In World War I, Japan joined the Allies and captured German possessions, and made advances into China. The early 20th century saw a period of Taishō democracy (1912–1926), but the 1920s saw a fragile democracy buckle under a political shift towards statism, the passing of laws against political dissentand a series of attempted coups. This process accelerated during the 1930s, spawning a number of new Radical Nationalist groups which shared a hostility to liberal democracy and a dedication to expansion in Asia. Japanese expansionismand militarization along with the totalitarianism and ultranationalism reshaped the country. In 1931 Japan invaded and occupied Manchuria and following international condemnation of this occupation, it quit the League of Nations in 1933. In 1936, Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact with Germany and the 1940 Tripartite Pact made it one of the Axis Powers.
Japanese officials surrendering to the Allies on September 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay, ending World War II
The Empire of Japan invaded other parts of China in 1937, precipitating the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945). The Imperial Japanese Army swiftly captured the capital Nanjing and conducted the Nanjing Massacre. 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, British forces in Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kongand declared war on the United States and the British Empire, bringing the United States and the United Kingdom into World War II in the Pacific. After Allied victories across the Pacific 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 on August 15. 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 restoring the independence of its conquered territories.The Allies also convened the International Military Tribunal for the Far East on May 3, 1946, to prosecute some senior generals for war crimes.
In 1947, during the post-war Shōwa period, Japan adopted a new constitutionemphasizing 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. Japan later achieved rapid growth to become the second-largest economy in the world, until surpassed by China in 2010. This ended in the mid-1990s when Japan suffered a major recession. In the beginning of 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; this triggered the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, one of the worst disasters in the history of nuclear power. On May 1, 2019, after the historic abdication of Emperor Akihito on April 30 and the first since 1817, his son Naruhito became the new Emperor. In addition to the new Emperor, Japan changed its Imperial Era from Heisei to Reiwa.