Japan (Japanese: 日本, Nippon [ɲippoꜜɴ] (
Anthem: "Kimigayo" (君が代)
("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|
|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 is the eleventh-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 high economic growth, becoming the second-largest economy in the world by 1990 before being surpassed by China in 2010. Despite stagnant economic growth ever since the Lost Decade, the country's economy is still the third-largest in the world by nominal GDP and the fourth-largest by PPP. Japan is a global leader in the automotive and electronics industries and has made significant contributions to science and technology. Ranked the second-highest country on the Human Development Index in Asia after Singapore, Japan also has the world's second-highest life expectancy, though it is currently experiencing a decline in population. Japan has one of the richest cultures in the world, and is renowned for its art, cuisine, music, and popular culture, including its prominent animation and video game industries.
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, Japang or Japun, 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.
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. 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. According to legend, Emperor Jimmu (grandson of Amaterasu) founded a kingdom in central Japan in 660 BC, beginning a continuous imperial line.
Japan first appears in written history in the Chinese Book of Han, completed in 111 AD. 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).
The far-reaching Taika Reforms in 645 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, settling on 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 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. Throughout areas colonized by Japan, many abuses were committed against locals, notably those who were forced to become comfort women. 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.
Japan comprises 6,852 islands extending along the Pacific coast of Asia. It stretches over 3,000 km (1,900 mi) northeast–southwest from the Sea of Okhotsk to the East China and Philippine Seas. The county's five main islands, from north to south, are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu and Okinawa. The Ryukyu Islands, which include Okinawa, are a chain to the south of Kyushu. The Nanpō Islands are south and east of the main islands of Japan. Together they are often known as the Japanese archipelago. As of 2019[update], Japan's territory is 377,975.24 km2 (145,937.06 sq mi). Japan has the sixth longest coastline in the world (29,751 km (18,486 mi)). Because of its many far-flung outlying islands, Japan has the eighth largest Exclusive Economic Zone in the world covering 4,470,000 km2 (1,730,000 sq mi).
About 73 percent of Japan is forested, mountainous and unsuitable for agricultural, industrial or residential use. As a result, the habitable zones, mainly in coastal areas, have extremely high population densities: Japan is one of the most densely populated countries. Approximately 0.5% of Japan's total area is reclaimed land (umetatechi). Late 20th and early 21st century projects include artificial islands such as Chubu Centrair International Airport in Ise Bay, Kansai International Airport in the middle of Osaka Bay, Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise and Wakayama Marina City.
Japan is substantially prone to earthquakes, tsunami and volcanoes because of its location along the Pacific Ring of Fire. It has the 15th highest natural disaster risk as measured in the 2013 World Risk Index. Japan has 108 active volcanoes, which are primarily the result of large oceanic movements occurring from the mid-Silurian to the Pleistocene as a result of the subduction of the Philippine Sea Plate beneath the continental Amurian Plate and Okinawa Plate to the south, and subduction of the Pacific Plate under the Okhotsk Plate to the north. Japan was originally attached to the Eurasian continent; the subducting plates opened the Sea of Japan around 15 million years ago. During the twentieth century several new volcanoes emerged, including Shōwa-shinzan on Hokkaido and Myōjin-shō off the Bayonnaise Rocks. Destructive earthquakes, often resulting in tsunami, occur several times each century. The 1923 Tokyo earthquake killed over 140,000 people. More recent major quakes are the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake and the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake, which triggered a large tsunami.
The climate of Japan is predominantly temperate but varies greatly from north to south. Japan's geographical features divide it into six principal climatic zones: Hokkaido, Sea of Japan, Central Highland, Seto Inland Sea, Pacific Ocean, and Ryukyu Islands. The northernmost zone, Hokkaido, has a humid continental climate with long, cold winters and very warm to cool summers. Precipitation is not heavy, but the islands usually develop deep snowbanks in the winter. In the Sea of Japan zone on Honshu's west coast, northwest winter winds bring heavy snowfall. In the summer, the region is cooler than the Pacific area, though it sometimes experiences extremely hot temperatures because of the foehn. The Central Highland has a typical inland humid continental climate, with large temperature differences between summer and winter, as well as large diurnal variation; precipitation is light, though winters are usually snowy. The mountains of the Chūgoku and Shikoku regions shelter the Seto Inland Sea from seasonal winds, bringing mild weather year-round. The Pacific coast features a humid subtropical climate that experiences milder winters with occasional snowfall and hot, humid summers because of the southeast seasonal wind. The Ryukyu and Nanpō Islands have a subtropical climate, with warm winters and hot summers. Precipitation is very heavy, especially during the rainy season.
The average winter temperature in Japan is 5.1 °C (41.2 °F) and the average summer temperature is 25.2 °C (77.4 °F). The highest temperature ever measured in Japan, 41.1 °C (106.0 °F), was recorded on July 23, 2018. The main rainy season begins in early May in Okinawa, and the rain front gradually moves north until reaching Hokkaido in late July. In late summer and early autumn, typhoons often bring heavy rain. According to the Environment Ministry heavy rainfall and increasing temperatures have caused several problems in the agricultural industry and elsewhere.
Japan has nine forest ecoregions which reflect the climate and geography of the islands. They range from subtropical moist broadleaf forests in the Ryūkyū 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 has over 90,000 species of wildlife, including the brown bear, the Japanese macaque, the Japanese raccoon dog, the large Japanese field mouse, and the Japanese giant salamander. A large network of national parks has been established to protect important areas of flora and fauna as well as 37 Ramsar wetland sites. Four sites have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for their outstanding natural value.
In the period of rapid economic growth after World War II, environmental policies were downplayed by the government and industrial corporations; as a result, environmental pollution was widespread in the 1950s and 1960s. Responding to rising concern, the government introduced several environmental protection laws in 1970. The oil crisis in 1973 also encouraged the efficient use of energy because of Japan's lack of natural resources.
As of 2015[update], more than 40 coal-fired power plants are planned or under construction in Japan, following the switching-off of Japan's nuclear fleet following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Prior to this incident, Japan's emissions had been on the decline, largely because their nuclear power plants created no emissions. Japan ranks 20th in the 2018 Environmental Performance Index, which measures a nation's commitment to environmental sustainability. Japan is the world's fifth largest emitter of carbon dioxide. As the host and signatory of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, Japan is under treaty obligation to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions and to take other steps to curb climate change. The official goals of the Japanese government are to reduce emissions in 2030 by 26% comparing to 2013 levels and 80% in 2050. Current environmental issues include urban air pollution (NOx, suspended particulate matter, and toxics), waste management, water eutrophication, nature conservation, climate change, chemical management and international co-operation for conservation.
Japan is a unitary state and constitutional monarchy in which the power of the Emperor is limited to a ceremonial role. He is defined in the Constitution as "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people". Executive power is instead wielded by the Prime Minister of Japan and his Cabinet, whose sovereignty is vested in the Japanese people. Naruhito is the current Emperor of Japan, having succeeded his father Akihito upon his accession to the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1, 2019.
Japan's legislative organ is the National Diet, a bicameral parliament. It consists of a lower House of Representatives with 465 seats, elected by popular vote every four years or when dissolved, and an upper House of Councillors with 245 seats, whose popularly-elected members serve six-year terms. There is universal suffrage for adults over 18 years of age, with a secret ballot for all elected offices. The Diet is currently dominated by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has enjoyed near-continuous electoral success since 1955. The prime minister is the head of government and is appointed by the emperor after being designated from among the members of the Diet. As the head of the Cabinet, the prime minister has the power to appoint and dismiss Ministers of State. Following the LDP victory in the 2012 general election, Shinzō Abe replaced Yoshihiko Noda as the prime minister.
Historically influenced by Chinese law, the Japanese legal system developed independently during the Edo period through texts such as Kujikata Osadamegaki. However, since the late 19th century, the judicial system has been largely based on the civil law of Europe, notably Germany. In 1896, Japan established a civil code based on the German Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, which remains in effect with post–World War II modifications. The Constitution of Japan, adopted in 1947, is the oldest unamended constitution in the world. Statutory law originates in the legislature, and the constitution requires that the emperor promulgate legislation passed by the Diet without giving him the power to oppose legislation. The main body of Japanese statutory law is called the Six Codes. Japan's court system is divided into four basic tiers: the Supreme Court and three levels of lower courts.
Japan is divided into 47 prefectures, each overseen by an elected governor, legislature, and administrative bureaucracy. Each prefecture is further divided into cities, towns and villages. In the following table, the prefectures are grouped by region:
A member state of the United Nations since 1956, Japan has served as a non-permanent Security Council member for a total of 22 years. It is one of the G4 nations seeking permanent membership in the Security Council. Japan is a member of the G7, APEC, and "ASEAN Plus Three", and is a participant in the East Asia Summit. Japan signed a security pact with Australia in March 2007 and with India in October 2008. It is the world's fifth largest donor of official development assistance, donating US$9.2 billion in 2014. In 2017, Japan had the fifth largest diplomatic network in the world.
Japan has close economic and military relations with the United States; the US-Japan security alliance acts as the cornerstone of the nation's foreign policy. The United States is a major market for Japanese exports and the primary source of Japanese imports and is committed to defending the country, having military bases in Japan partially for that purpose.
Japan's relationship with South Korea has been strained because of Japan's treatment of Koreans during Japanese colonial rule, particularly over the issue of comfort women. In December 2015, Japan agreed to settle the comfort women dispute with South Korea by issuing a formal apology and paying money to the surviving comfort women. Today, South Korea and Japan have a stronger and more economically-driven relationship. Since the 1990s, the Korean Wave has created a large fanbase in East Asia: Japan is the number one importer of Korean music (K-pop), television (K-dramas), and films. Most recently, South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the 2017 G20 Summit to discuss the future of their relationship and specifically how to cooperate on finding solutions for North Korean aggression in the region.
Japan is engaged in several territorial disputes with its neighbors. Japan contests Russia's control of the Southern Kuril Islands, which were occupied by the Soviet Union in 1945. South Korea's control of the Liancourt Rocks is acknowledged but not accepted as they are claimed by Japan. Japan has strained relations with China and Taiwan over the Senkaku Islands and the status of Okinotorishima.
Japan maintains one of the largest military budgets of any country in the world. The country's military (the Japan Self-Defense Forces) is restricted by Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which renounces Japan's right to declare war or use military force in international disputes. Japan is the highest-ranked Asian country in the Global Peace Index.
The military is governed by the Ministry of Defense, and primarily consists of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. The Maritime Self-Defense Force is a regular participant in RIMPAC maritime exercises. The forces have been recently used in peacekeeping operations; the deployment of troops to Iraq marked the first overseas use of Japan's military since World War II. The Japan Business Federation has called on the government to lift the ban on arms exports so that Japan can join multinational projects such as the Joint Strike Fighter.
The Government of Japan has been making changes to its security policy which include the establishment of the National Security Council, the adoption of the National Security Strategy, and the development of the National Defense Program Guidelines. In May 2014, Prime Minister Shinzō Abe said Japan wanted to shed the passiveness it has maintained since the end of World War II and take more responsibility for regional security. Recent tensions, particularly with North Korea, have reignited the debate over the status of the JSDF and its relation to Japanese society.
Domestic law enforcement
Domestic security in Japan is provided mainly by the prefectural police departments, under the oversight of the National Police Agency and supervised by the Criminal Affairs Bureau of the National Police Agency. As the central coordinating body for the Prefectural Police Departments, the National Police Agency is administered by the National Public Safety Commission. The Special Assault Team comprises national-level counter-terrorism tactical units that cooperate with territorial-level Anti-Firearms Squads and Counter-NBC Terrorism Squads.
Additionally, there is the Japan Coast Guard which guards territorial waters. The coast guard patrols the sea surrounding Japan and uses surveillance and control countermeasures against smuggling, marine environmental crime, poaching, piracy, spy ships, unauthorized foreign fishing vessels, and illegal immigration.
The Firearm and Sword Possession Control Law strictly regulates the civilian ownership of guns, swords and other weaponry. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, among the member states of the UN that report statistics, the incidence rate of violent crimes such as murder, abduction, forced sexual intercourse and robbery is very low in Japan.
Japan is the third largest national economy in the world, after the United States and China, in terms of nominal GDP, and the fourth largest national economy in the world, after the United States, China and India, in terms of purchasing power parity. As of 2017[update], Japan's public debt was estimated at more than 230 percent of its annual gross domestic product, the largest of any nation in the world. The service sector accounts for three quarters of the gross domestic product.
As of 2017[update], Japan's labor force consisted of some 65 million workers. Japan has a low unemployment rate of around three percent. Around 16 percent of the population were below the poverty line in 2013. Housing in Japan is characterized by limited land supply in urban areas.
Japan's exports amounted to US$5,430 per capita in 2017. As of 2017[update], Japan's main export markets were the United States (19.4 percent), China (19 percent), South Korea (7.6 percent), Hong Kong (5.1 percent) and Thailand (4.2 percent). Its main exports are transportation equipment, motor vehicles, iron and steel products, semiconductors and auto parts. Japan's main import markets as of 2017[update] were China (24.5 percent), the United States (11 percent), Australia (5.8 percent), South Korea (4.2 percent), and Saudi Arabia (4.1 percent). Japan's main imports are machinery and equipment, fossil fuels, foodstuffs (in particular beef), chemicals, textiles and raw materials for its industries. By market share measures, domestic markets are the least open of any OECD country.
Japan ranks 34th of 190 countries in the 2018 ease of doing business index and has one of the smallest tax revenues of the developed world. The Japanese variant of capitalism has many distinct features: keiretsu enterprises are influential, and lifetime employment and seniority-based career advancement are relatively common in the Japanese work environment. Japanese companies are known for management methods like "The Toyota Way", and shareholder activism is rare. Japan also has a large cooperative sector, with three of the ten largest cooperatives in the world, including the largest consumer cooperative and the largest agricultural cooperative in the world.
Agriculture and fishery
The Japanese agricultural sector accounts for about 1.4% of the total country's GDP. Only 12% of Japan's land is suitable for cultivation. Because of this lack of arable land, a system of terraces is used to farm in small areas. This results in one of the world's highest levels of crop yields per unit area, with an overall agricultural self-sufficiency rate of about 50% on fewer than 56,000 square kilometers (14,000,000 acres) cultivated. 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. Rice, the most protected crop, is subject to tariffs of 777.7%. There has been a growing concern about farming as the current farmers are aging with a difficult time finding successors.
In 1996, Japan ranked fourth in the world in tonnage of fish caught. Japan ranked seventh and captured 3,167,610 metric tons of fish in 2016, down from an annual average of 4,000,000 tons over the previous decade. In 2010, Japan's total fisheries production was 4,762,469 fish. 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.
Japan has a large industrial capacity and is home to some of the largest and most technologically advanced producers of motor vehicles, machine tools, steel and nonferrous metals, ships, chemical substances, textiles, and processed foods. Japan's industrial sector makes up approximately 27.5% of its GDP. Some major Japanese industrial companies include Canon Inc., Toshiba and Nippon Steel. The country's manufacturing output is the third highest in the world.
Japan is the third largest automobile producer in the world and is home to Toyota, the world's largest automobile company. Despite facing competition from South Korea and China, the Japanese shipbuilding industry is expected to remain strong through an increased focus on specialized, high-tech designs.
Services and tourism
Japan's service sector accounts for about three-quarters of its total economic output. Banking, insurance, real estate, retailing, transportation, and telecommunications are all major industries, with companies such as Mitsubishi UFJ, Mizuho, NTT, TEPCO, Nomura, Mitsubishi Estate, ÆON, Mitsui Sumitomo, Softbank, JR East, Seven & I, KDDI and Japan Airlines listed as some of the largest in the world. Four of the five most circulated newspapers in the world are Japanese newspapers. The six major keiretsus are the Mitsubishi, Sumitomo, Fuyo, Mitsui, Dai-Ichi Kangyo and Sanwa Groups.
Japan attracted 19.73 million international tourists in 2015 and increased by 21.8% to attract 24.03 million international tourists in 2016. In 2008, the Japanese government set up Japan Tourism Agency and set the initial goal to increase foreign visitors to 20 million in 2020. In 2016, having met the 20 million target, the government revised up its target to 40 million by 2020 and to 60 million by 2030. For inbound tourism, Japan was ranked 16th in the world in 2015. Japan is one of the least visited countries in the OECD on a per capita basis, and it was by far the least visited country in the G7 until 2014.
Science and technology
Japan is a leading nation in scientific research, particularly in the natural sciences and engineering. The country ranks second among the most innovative countries in the Bloomberg Innovation Index. Nearly 700,000 researchers share a US$130 billion research and development budget, which relative to gross domestic product is the third highest budget in the world. The country is a world leader in fundamental scientific research, having produced twenty-two Nobel laureates in either physics, chemistry or medicine and three Fields medalists.
Japanese scientists and engineers have contributed to the advancement of agricultural sciences, electronics, industrial robotics, optics, chemicals, semiconductors, life sciences and various fields of engineering. Japan leads the world in robotics production and use, possessing more than 20% of the world's industrial robots as of 2013[update].[needs update] Japan boasts the third highest number of scientists, technicians, and engineers per capita in the world with 83 per 10,000 employees.
The Japanese consumer electronics industry, once considered the strongest in the world, is currently in a state of decline as competition arises in countries like South Korea, the United States and China. However, video gaming in Japan remains a major industry. Japan became a major exporter of video games during the golden age of arcade video games, an era that began with the release of Taito's Space Invaders in 1978 and ended around the mid-1980s. Japanese-made video game consoles have been popular since the 1980s, and Japan dominated the industry until Microsoft's Xbox consoles began challenging Sony and Nintendo in the 2000s. As of 2009[update], $6 billion of Japan's $20 billion gaming market is generated from arcades, which represent the largest sector of the Japanese video game market, followed by home console games and mobile games at $3.5 billion and $2 billion, respectively.[needs update] Japan is now the world's largest market for mobile games; in 2014, Japan's consumer video game market grossed $9.6 billion, with $5.8 billion coming from mobile gaming.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is Japan's national space agency; it conducts space, planetary, and aviation research, and leads development of rockets and satellites. It is a participant in the International Space Station: the Japanese Experiment Module (Kibō) was added to the station during Space Shuttle assembly flights in 2008. The space probe Akatsuki was launched in 2010 and achieved orbit around Venus in 2015. Japan's plans in space exploration include building a moon base by 2030. In 2007, it launched lunar explorer SELENE (Selenological and Engineering Explorer) from Tanegashima Space Center. The largest lunar mission since the Apollo program, its purpose was to gather data on the moon's origin and evolution. It entered a lunar orbit on October 4, 2007, and was deliberately crashed into the Moon on June 11, 2009.
Japan's road spending has been extensive. Its 1.2 million kilometers (0.75 million miles) of paved road are the main means of transportation. As of 2012[update], Japan has approximately 1,215,000 kilometers (755,000 miles) of roads made up of 1,022,000 kilometers (635,000 miles) of city, town and village roads, 129,000 kilometers (80,000 miles) of prefectural roads, 55,000 kilometers (34,000 miles) of general national highways and 8,050 kilometers (5,000 miles) of national expressways. A single network of high-speed, divided, limited-access toll roads connects major cities on Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu (Hokkaido has a separate network). Cars are inexpensive; car ownership fees and fuel levies are used to promote energy efficiency. However, at just 50 percent of all distance traveled, car usage is the lowest of all G8 countries.
Since privatization in 1987, dozens of Japanese railway companies compete in regional and local passenger transportation markets; major companies include seven JR enterprises, Kintetsu, Seibu Railway and Keio Corporation. Some 250 high-speed Shinkansen trains connect major cities and Japanese trains are known for their safety and punctuality. A new Maglev line called the Chūō Shinkansen is being constructed between Tokyo and Nagoya. It is due to be completed in 2027.
There are 175 airports in Japan; the largest domestic airport, Haneda Airport in Tokyo, is Asia's second-busiest airport. The largest international gateways are Narita International Airport, Kansai International Airport and Chūbu Centrair International Airport. Nagoya Port is the country's largest and busiest port, accounting for 10 percent of Japan's trade value.
As of 2017[update], 39% of energy in Japan was produced from petroleum, 25% from coal, 23% from natural gas, 3.5% from hydropower and 1.5% from nuclear power. Nuclear power was down from 11.2 percent in 2010. By May 2012 all of the country's nuclear power plants had been taken offline because of ongoing public opposition following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in March 2011, though government officials continued to try to sway public opinion in favor of returning at least some to service. The Sendai Nuclear Power Plant restarted in 2015, and since then several other nuclear power plants have been restarted. Japan lacks significant domestic reserves and so has a heavy dependence on imported energy. Japan has therefore aimed to diversify its sources and maintain high levels of energy efficiency.
Water supply and sanitation
The government took responsibility for regulating the water and sanitation sector is shared between the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in charge of water supply for domestic use; the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism in charge of water resources development as well as sanitation; the Ministry of the Environment in charge of ambient water quality and environmental preservation; and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications in charge of performance benchmarking of utilities. Access to an improved water source is universal in Japan. 97% of the population receives piped water supply from public utilities and 3% receive water from their own wells or unregulated small systems, mainly in rural areas.
Japan has a population of 126.3 million, of which 124.8 million are Japanese nationals (2019). Honshū is the world's second most populous island and has 80% of Japan's population. In 2010, 90.7% of the total Japanese population lived in cities. The capital city Tokyo has a population of 13.8 million (2018). It is part of the Greater Tokyo Area, the biggest metropolitan area in the world with 38,140,000 people (2016).
Japanese society is linguistically, ethnically and culturally homogeneous, composed of 98.1% ethnic Japanese, with small populations of foreign workers. The most dominant native ethnic group is the Yamato people; primary minority groups include the indigenous Ainu and Ryukyuan people, as well as social minority groups like the burakumin. Zainichi Koreans, Chinese, Filipinos, Brazilians mostly of Japanese descent, Peruvians mostly of Japanese descent, and Americans are among the small minority groups in Japan. In 2003, there were about 134,700 non-Latin American Western (not including more than 33,000 American military personnel and their dependents) and 345,500 Latin American expatriates, 274,700 of whom were Brazilians, the largest community of Westerners.
Japan has the second longest overall life expectancy at birth of any country in the world: 83.5 years for persons born in the period 2010–2015. The Japanese population is rapidly aging as a result of a post–World War II baby boom followed by a decrease in birth rates. In 2012, about 24.1 percent of the population was over 65, and the proportion is projected to rise to almost 40 percent by 2050. On September 15, 2018, for the first time, one in five Japanese residents was aged 70 or older. 26.18 million people are 70 or older and accounted for 20.7 percent of the population. Elderly women crossed the 20 million line at 20.12 million, substantially outnumbering the nation's 15.45 million elderly men. The changes in demographic structure have created a number of social issues, particularly a potential decline in workforce population and increase in the cost of social security benefits. A growing number of younger Japanese are not marrying or remain childless. Japan's population is expected to drop to 95 million by 2050.
Immigration and birth incentives are sometimes suggested as a solution to provide younger workers to support the nation's aging population. Japan accepts an average flow of 9,500 new naturalized citizens per year. On April 1, 2019, Japan's revised immigration law was enacted, protecting the rights of foreign workers to help reduce labor shortages in certain sectors.
Japan has full religious freedom based on its constitution. Upper estimates suggest that 84–96 percent of the Japanese population subscribe to Shinto as its indigenous religion (50% to 80% of which considering degrees of syncretism with Buddhism, shinbutsu-shūgō). However, these estimates are based on people affiliated with a temple, rather than the number of true believers. Many Japanese people practice both Shinto and Buddhism; they can either identify with both religions or describe themselves as non-religious or spiritual, despite participating in religious ceremonies as a cultural tradition. As a result, religious statistics are often under-reported in Japan. Other studies have suggested that only 30 percent of the population identify themselves as belonging to a religion. Nevertheless, the level of participation remains high, especially during festivals and occasions such as the first shrine visit of the New Year. Taoism and Confucianism from China have also influenced Japanese beliefs and customs.
Christianity was first introduced into Japan by Jesuit missions starting in 1549. Today, fewer than 1% to 2.3% are Christians, most of them living in the western part of the country. As of 2007[update], there were 32,036 Christian priests and pastors in Japan. Throughout the latest century, some Western customs originally related to Christianity (including Western style weddings, Valentine's Day and Christmas) have become popular as secular customs among many Japanese.
Islam in Japan is estimated to constitute about 80–90% of foreign-born migrants and their children, primarily from Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Iran. Many of the ethnic Japanese Muslims are those who convert upon marrying immigrant Muslims. The Pew Research Center estimated that there were 185,000 Muslims in Japan in 2010.
More than 99 percent of the population speaks Japanese as their first language. Japanese writing uses kanji (Chinese characters) and two sets of kana (syllabaries based on cursive script and radical of kanji), as well as the Latin alphabet and Arabic numerals. Public and private schools generally require students to take Japanese language classes as well as English language courses.
Besides Japanese, the Ryukyuan languages (Amami, Kunigami, Okinawan, Miyako, Yaeyama, Yonaguni), also part of the Japonic language family, are spoken in the Ryukyu Islands chain. Few children learn these languages, but in recent years local governments have sought to increase awareness of the traditional languages. The Okinawan Japanese dialect is also spoken in the region. The Ainu language, which is a language isolate, is moribund, with only a few elderly native speakers remaining in Hokkaido.
Primary schools, secondary schools and universities were introduced in 1872 as a result of the Meiji Restoration. Since 1947, compulsory education in Japan comprises elementary and junior high school, which together last for nine years (from age 6 to age 15). Almost all children continue their education at a three-year senior high school. The two top-ranking universities in Japan are the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University. Japan's education system played a central part in the country's recovery after World War II when the Fundamental Law of Education and the School Education Law were enacted. The latter law defined the standard school system. Starting in April 2016, various schools began the academic year with elementary school and junior high school integrated into one nine-year compulsory schooling program; MEXT plans for this approach to be adopted nationwide.
The Programme for International Student Assessment coordinated by the OECD currently ranks the overall knowledge and skills of Japanese 15-year-olds as the third best in the world. Japan is one of the top-performing OECD countries in reading literacy, math and sciences with the average student scoring 529 and has one of the world's highest-educated labor forces among OECD countries. In 2015, Japan's public spending on education amounted to just 4.1 percent of its GDP, below the OECD average of 5.0 percent. The country's large pool of highly educated and skilled individuals is largely responsible for ushering Japan's post-war economic growth. In 2017, the country ranked third for the percentage of 25 to 64 year-olds that have attained tertiary education with 51 percent. In addition, 60.4 percent Japanese aged 25 to 34 have some form of tertiary education qualification and bachelor's degrees are held by 30.4 percent of Japanese aged 25 to 64, the second most in the OECD after South Korea.
Health care is provided by national and local governments. Payment for personal medical services is offered through a universal health insurance system that provides relative equality of access, with fees set by a government committee. People without insurance through employers can participate in a national health insurance program administered by local governments. Since 1973, all elderly persons have been covered by government-sponsored insurance. Japan has a high suicide rate; suicide is the leading cause of death for people under 30. Another significant public health issue is smoking. Japan has the lowest rate of heart disease in the OECD, and the lowest level of dementia in the developed world.
Contemporary Japanese culture combines influences from Asia, Europe and North America. Traditional Japanese arts include crafts such as ceramics, textiles, lacquerware, swords and dolls; performances of bunraku, kabuki, noh, dance, and rakugo; and other practices, the tea ceremony, ikebana, martial arts, calligraphy, origami, onsen, Geisha and games. Japan has a developed system for the protection and promotion of both tangible and intangible Cultural Properties and National Treasures. Twenty-two sites have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, eighteen of which are of cultural significance.
Art and architecture
Japanese sculpture, largely of wood, and Japanese painting are among the oldest of the Japanese arts, with early figurative paintings dating to at least 300 BC. The history of Japanese painting exhibits synthesis and competition between native Japanese esthetics and imported ideas. The interaction between Japanese and European art has been significant: for example ukiyo-e prints, which began to be exported in the 19th century in the movement known as Japonism, had a significant influence on the development of modern art in the West, most notably on post-Impressionism. Japanese manga developed in the 20th century and have become popular worldwide.
Japanese architecture is a combination between local and other influences. It has traditionally been typified by wooden structures, elevated slightly off the ground, with tiled or thatched roofs. The Shrines of Ise have been celebrated as the prototype of Japanese architecture. Largely of wood, traditional housing and many temple buildings see the use of tatami mats and sliding doors that break down the distinction between rooms and indoor and outdoor space. Since the 19th century, however, Japan has incorporated much of Western, modern, and post-modern architecture into construction and design. Architects returning from study with western architects introduced the International Style of modernism into Japan. However, it was not until after World War II that Japanese architects made an impression on the international scene, firstly with the work of architects like Kenzō Tange and then with movements like Metabolism.
Literature and philosophy
The earliest works of Japanese literature include the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki chronicles and the Man'yōshū poetry anthology, all from the 8th century and written in Chinese characters. In the early Heian period, the system of phonograms known as kana (hiragana and katakana) was developed. The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter is considered the oldest Japanese narrative. An account of court life is given in The Pillow Book by Sei Shōnagon, while The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu is often described as the world's first novel.
During the Edo period, the chōnin ("townspeople") overtook the samurai aristocracy as producers and consumers of literature. The popularity of the works of Saikaku, for example, reveals this change in readership and authorship, while Bashō revivified the poetic tradition of the Kokinshū with his haikai (haiku) and wrote the poetic travelogue Oku no Hosomichi. The Meiji era saw the decline of traditional literary forms as Japanese literature integrated Western influences. Natsume Sōseki and Mori Ōgai were the first "modern" novelists of Japan, followed by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, Yukio Mishima and, more recently, Haruki Murakami. Japan has two Nobel Prize-winning authors – Yasunari Kawabata (1968) and Kenzaburō Ōe (1994).
Japanese philosophy has historically been a fusion of both foreign, particularly Chinese and Western, and uniquely Japanese elements. In its literary forms, Japanese philosophy began about fourteen centuries ago. Confucian ideals are still evident today in the Japanese concept of society and the self, and in the organization of the government and the structure of society. Buddhism has profoundly impacted Japanese psychology, metaphysics, and esthetics.
Japanese music is eclectic and diverse. Many instruments, such as the koto, were introduced in the 9th and 10th centuries. The popular folk music, with the guitar-like shamisen, dates from the 16th century. Western classical music, introduced in the late 19th century, now forms an integral part of Japanese culture. The imperial court ensemble Gagaku has influenced the work of some modern Western composers. Notable classical composers from Japan include Toru Takemitsu and Rentarō Taki. Popular music in post-war Japan has been heavily influenced by American and European trends, which has led to the evolution of J-pop. Karaoke is the most widely practiced cultural activity in Japan.
Customs and holidays
Ishin-denshin (以心伝心) is a Japanese idiom which denotes a form of interpersonal communication through unspoken mutual understanding. Isagiyosa (潔さ) is a virtue of the capability of accepting death with composure. Cherry blossoms are a symbol of isagiyosa in the sense of embracing the transience of the world. Hansei (反省) is a central idea in Japanese culture, meaning to acknowledge one's own mistake and to pledge improvement. Kotodama (言霊) refers to the Japanese belief that mystical powers dwell in words and names. There are many annual festivals in Japan, which are called in Japanese matsuri (祭). There are no specific festival days for all of Japan; dates vary from area to area, and even within a specific area, but festival days do tend to cluster around traditional holidays such as Setsubun or Obon.
Officially, Japan has 16 national, government-recognized holidays. Public holidays in Japan are regulated by the Public Holiday Law (国民の祝日に関する法律, Kokumin no Shukujitsu ni Kansuru Hōritsu) of 1948. Beginning in 2000, Japan implemented the Happy Monday System, which moved a number of national holidays to Monday in order to obtain a long weekend. The national holidays in Japan are New Year's Day on January 1, Coming of Age Day on Second Monday of January, National Foundation Day on February 11, The Emperor's Birthday on February 23, Vernal Equinox Day on March 20 or 21, Shōwa Day on April 29, Constitution Memorial Day on May 3, Greenery Day on May 4, Children's Day on May 5, Marine Day on Third Monday of July, Mountain Day on August 11, Respect for the Aged Day on Third Monday of September, Autumnal Equinox on September 23 or 24, Health and Sports Day on Second Monday of October, Culture Day on November 3, and Labor Thanksgiving Day on November 23.
Japanese cuisine is known for its emphasis on seasonality of food, quality of ingredients and presentation. Japanese cuisine offers a vast array of regional specialties that use traditional recipes and local ingredients. Seafood and Japanese rice or noodles are traditional staple of Japanese cuisine, typically seasoned with a combination of dashi, soy sauce, mirin, vinegar, sugar, and salt. Dishes inspired by foreign food—in particular Chinese food—like ramen and gyōza, as well as foods like spaghetti, curry, and hamburgers have become adopted with variants for Japanese tastes and ingredients. Japanese curry, since its introduction to Japan from British India, is so widely consumed that it can be called a national dish. Traditional Japanese sweets are known as wagashi. Ingredients such as red bean paste and mochi are used. More modern-day tastes includes green tea ice cream.
Popular Japanese beverages include sake, which is a brewed rice beverage that typically contains 14–17% alcohol and is made by multiple fermentation of rice. Beer has been brewed in Japan since the late 17th century. Green tea is produced in Japan and prepared in various forms such as matcha, used in the Japanese tea ceremony.
Television and newspapers take an important role in Japanese mass media, though radio and magazines also take a part. Over the 1990s, television surpassed newspapers as Japan's main information and entertainment medium. There are six nationwide television networks: NHK (public broadcasting), Nippon Television (NTV), Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS), Fuji Network System (FNS), TV Asahi (EX) and TV Tokyo Network (TXN). Television networks were mostly established based on capital investments by existing radio networks. Variety shows, serial dramas, and news constitute a large percentage of Japanese television shows. According to the 2015 NHK survey on television viewing in Japan, 79 percent of Japanese watch television daily.
Japanese readers have a choice of approximately 120 daily newspapers, with an average subscription rate of 1.13 newspapers per household. The main newspapers are the Yomiuri Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun, Mainichi Shimbun, Nikkei Shimbun and Sankei Shimbun. According to a survey conducted by the Japanese Newspaper Association in 1999, 85.4 percent of men and 75 percent of women read a newspaper every day.
Japan has one of the oldest and largest film industries in the world; movies have been produced in Japan since 1897. Ishirō Honda's Godzilla became an international icon of Japan and spawned an entire subgenre of kaiju films, as well as the longest-running film franchise in history. Japan has won the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film four times, more than any other Asian country. Japanese animated films and television series, known as anime, were largely influenced by Japanese manga and have been extensively popular in the West. Japan is a world-renowned powerhouse of animation.
Traditionally, sumo is considered Japan's national sport. Japanese martial arts such as judo, karate and kendo are also widely practiced and enjoyed by spectators in the country. After the Meiji Restoration, many Western sports were introduced. Baseball is currently the most popular spectator sport in the country. Japan's top professional league, now known as Nippon Professional Baseball, was established in 1936 and is widely considered to be the highest level of professional baseball in the world outside of the North American Major Leagues. Since the establishment of the Japan Professional Football League in 1992, association football has also gained a wide following. Japan was a venue of the Intercontinental Cup from 1981 to 2004 and co-hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup with South Korea. Japan has one of the most successful football teams in Asia, winning the Asian Cup four times, and the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2011. Golf is also popular in Japan.
Japan has significant involvement in motorsport. Japanese automotive manufacturers have been successful in multiple different categories, with titles and victories in series such as Formula One, MotoGP, IndyCar, World Rally Championship, World Endurance Championship, World Touring Car Championship, British Touring Car Championship and the IMSA SportsCar Championship. Three Japanese drivers have achieved podium finishes in Formula One, and drivers from Japan also have victories at the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in addition to success in domestic championships. Super GT is the most popular national series in Japan, while Super Formula is the top level domestic open-wheel series. The country also hosts major races such as the Japanese Grand Prix, Japanese motorcycle Grand Prix, Suzuka 10 Hours, 6 Hours of Fuji, FIA WTCC Race of Japan and the Indy Japan 300.
Japan hosted the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 1964 and the Winter Olympics in Sapporo in 1972 and Nagano in 1998. Further, the country hosted the official 2006 Basketball World Championship and will co-host the 2023 Basketball World Championship. Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Olympics, making Tokyo the first Asian city to host the Olympics twice. The country gained the hosting rights for the official Women's Volleyball World Championship on five occasions, more than any other nation. Japan is the most successful Asian Rugby Union country, winning the Asian Five Nations a record six times and winning the newly formed IRB Pacific Nations Cup in 2011. Japan also hosted the 2019 IRB Rugby World Cup.
- In English, the official name of the country is simply "Japan". In Japanese, the name of the country as it appears on official documents, including the country's constitution, is 日本国 (
Nippon-koku or Nihon-koku), meaning "State of Japan". Despite this, the short-form name 日本 (Nippon or Nihon) is often used officially.
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