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General Introduction

Japan is a stratovolcanic archipelago of 6,852 islands. The four largest islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku, which together comprise about ninety-seven percent of Japan's land area. Japan has the world's tenth-largest population, with over 126 million people. Honshu's Greater Tokyo Area, which includes the de facto capital of Tokyo and several surrounding prefectures, is the largest metropolitan area in the world, with over 30 million residents.

Archaeological research indicates that people lived in Japan 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 nations followed by long periods of isolation has characterized Japan's history. From the 12th century until 1868, Japan was ruled by successive feudal military shoguns in the name of the Emperor. Japan entered into a long period of isolation in the early 17th century, which was only ended in 1853 when a United States fleet pressured Japan to open to the West. Nearly two decades of internal conflict and insurrection followed before the Meiji Emperor was restored as head of state in 1868 and the Empire of Japan was proclaimed, with the Emperor as a divine symbol of the nation. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, victories in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War and World War I allowed 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 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since adopting its revised constitution in 1947, Japan has maintained a unitary constitutional monarchy with an emperor and an elected legislature called the Diet.

Japan is a member of the United Nations, the G7, the G8, and the G-20 major economies. A major economic great power, Japan is a developed country and has the world's third-largest economy by nominal GDP and the world's fourth-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, it maintains a modern military with the world's eighth largest military budget, used for self-defense and peacekeeping roles. Japan ranks third in Asia on the Human Development Index, with the Japanese population enjoying the second highest life expectancy in the world and the infant mortality rate being the third lowest globally

 

Fast Facts

  • Area:  145,834 square miles, Tokyo is the capital and largest city in Japan. , About 1,500 seismic events (mostly tremors) occur every year.
  • Population:  127,000,000 (U.S. is 308.7 million), 67% of the population live in cities.
  • Language: Japanese
  • Main Exports: Motor vehicles, electronic equipment, machine tools, steel, ships, chemicals, textiles, processed foods
  • Religion(s):  Shinto; Buddhism
  • Life Expectancy: On average, men live to be 78 years old, and women live to be 85. (The current world average is 67.)

 

Climate

  • An archipelago in the Pacific, Japan is separated from the east coast of Asia by the Sea of Japan. It is an archipelago of 6,852 islands. The four largest islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku, together accounting for 97% of Japan's land area. Most of the islands are mountainous, many volcanic. Japan has the world's tenth-largest population, with about 128 million people.
  • The climate varies widely from one region to region. Basically, Japan has four distinct seasons. Spring months are March, April, and May. Summer months are June, July, and August. Autumn months are September, October, and November. Winter months are December, January, and February. Summer is hot and humid in general. During the winter, it snows a lot on the Sea of Japan side, and it is dry on the Pacific Ocean side.

 

  •  Winter (December - February)

The temperature rarely drops below 0°C in the plains along the Pacific coast during wintertime. It is also quite dry and very often sunny. Central Japan and Northern Japan are highly reputed regions for winter sports. Southern Japan is comparatively mild and pleasant in winter.

Clothing: overcoats, sweaters, etc.

  • Spring (March - May)

The plum blossom is a good sign that the cold winter will soon end and spring is just around the corner, followed by the cherry blossom at its best in the Tokyo area between the end of March and the beginning of April to bring this beautiful season to a climax. Splendid views of mountains, fields and gardens all blanketed in gentle pink abound in this season.

Clothing: light jackets, light sweaters and other similar kinds of tops.

  • Summer (June - August)

The Japanese summer begins in June with a three to four week rainy season. This is an important time for farmers to plant rice. It becomes seriously hot and humid from July onward and many Japanese enjoy bathing in the sea and relaxing at cool resorts in mountainous areas. Summer is when many interesting festivals and other events are held all over the country.

Clothing: light clothes (cardigans and other similar kinds are handy, since indoors are mostly air-conditioned.)

  • Autumn (September - November)

Autumn always brings such freshness with a light breeze and cool temperature after the hot and humid summer. All forests are dyed in glorious autumn colors. Chrysanthemums create beautiful displays with their abundance of flowers to enchant visitors to parks and gardens. Autumn is also the season for many exhibitions, music concerts and sports tournaments in Japan.

Clothing: light jackets, light sweaters and other similar kinds of tops.

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