Japan (Japanese Nippon or Nihon) is an island nation in East Asia. The name Japan means ‘sun origin’ or ‘the Land of the Rising Sun’. Geographically it is located in the Pacific Ocean and it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia. It is an archipelago of 6,852 islands including the four largest islands—Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku which together comprise about ninety-seven per cent of Japan’s land area. It has the world’s tenth-largest population with over 126 million people. Japan’s capital city Tokyo is the largest metropolitan area in the world with over 30 million residents in it.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, victory in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War, and World War I (1914-1918) led Japan to expand its empire through its increasing military force. The Second Sino- Japanese War of 1937 extended into part of World War II (1939-1945) in 1941 and came to an end in 1945 following the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In 1947 Japan adopted its revised Constitution. Since then Japan has maintained a unitary constitutional monarchy with an emperor and an elected legislature called the Diet. The power of the emperor is very limited like that of India. He is actually a ceremonial figurehead like the Queen of England. Power is held chiefly by the Prime Minister and other elected members of the Diet.
Japan is a major economic power in the world. It is the third-largest economy, after the United States and China in terms of nominal GDP, and the fourth-largest economy, after the United States, China, and India, in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP). It is also the World’s fourth-largest exporter and fourth-largest importer. Japan has a large industrial capacity and is one of the most technologically advanced producers of motor vehicles, electronics, machine tools, ships, chemical substances, textiles and processed foods. Only 13% of Japan’s land is used for agriculture. Japan accounts for nearly 15% of the global fish catch, second only to China, Housing in Japan is characterised by limited land supply in urban areas, Though industrially advanced, Japan is foremost in environment-friendly technologies.
In Japan, health care is provided by national and local governments. According to Japan’s health ministry, Japanese women have the second-highest life expectancy of any country in the world. According to the United Nations, Japan also has the third-lowest infant mortality rate.
The literacy rate in Japan is high. About 80% of high school graduates attend a university, junior college, trade school, or other higher education institutions. The two top-ranking universities in Japan are the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University. More than 99% of the population speaks Japanese as their first language. However, most public and private schools require students to take courses in both Japanese and English.
Japan enjoys full religious freedom on Article 20 of its Constitution. However, 90% of people in Japan practise Buddhism. Taoism and Confucianism from China have also influenced Japanese in their beliefs and customs. Fewer than 1% of Japanese are Christian. Other minority religions are Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Judaism.
Japan has a developed art and culture of its own.
The national sport of Japan is sumo. But the popular sports are baseball, football, and golf. Since the establishment of the Japan Professional Football League in 1992, association football has gained a wide following. Japan recently won the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2011.