Japan on the world map. Map of Japan
Map of Japan with cities. Where Japan is on the world map. The main geographical facts about Japan - population, country area, capital, official language, religions, industry and culture.
Japan Fact File
Official name Japan
Form of government Constitutional monarchy with two legislative bodies (House of Councillors and House of Representatives)
Area 377,835 sq km (145,882 sq miles)
Time zone GMT +9 hours
Projected population 2015 127,522,000
Population density 336.1 per sq km (823.3 per sq mile)
Life expectancy 80.9
Infant mortality (per 1,000) 3.8
Official language Japanese
Literacy rate 99%
Religions Shinto and Buddhist 84%, other (including Christian 0.7%) 16%
Ethnic groups Japanese 99.4%, other (mainly Korean) 0.6%
Economy Services 69%, industry 24%, agriculture 7%
GNP per capita US$ 28,000
Climate Ranges from cold temperate in north to subtropical in south; wet season June to July
Highest point Fuji-san (Mt Fuji) 3,776 m (12,388 ft) Map reference Pages 208-09
Mainly mountainous, with intensively cultivated coastal plains, the archipelago of Japan lies off the east Asian coast close to Korea and China. By the early 1990s it had become an industrial and trading colossus second only to the USA. But cracks in the country's apparently impregnable economic facade began to appear in 1998 as the yen slid steadily against the dollar. The nation's vast scientific and technological resources, its highly educated personnel, and its substantial trade surpluses mean that it is better placed than most countries to cope with this and other problems.
Japan Physical features and land use
Japan Physical features and land use
First populated by migrants from mainland Asia, by the fifth century ad Japan was controlled by a number of clans. During the next 300 years several features of Chinese civilization were introduced, including Buddhism, Chinese script, and methods of administration, while cities modeled on those of the Tang Dynasty were built at Nara (ad 710) and Kyoto (ad 794). Centralized government, however, failed to eventuate and the clan basis of society prevailed. From the twelfth century until the rise of the Tokugawas, power was held by rival groups of feudal lords, or shoguns, and the emperor was a largely symbolic figure. Lasting from 1192 to 1867, the shogun era fostered an ethical code known as bushido (the path of the warrior, or samurai) that stressed loyalty, frugality, and courage.
Until 1945 Japan remained unconquered. Two Mongol fleets sent to invade the country were destroyed by typhoons in 1274 and 1281, founding the legend of a kamikaze or "divine wind" sent to protect "the land of the Gods". From 1603 a form of semi-centralized feudal rule was imposed by the ruling shogunate, the Tokugawas. Under this family, some 250 daimyo (or "great names") ran their own estates watched by state inspectors and a network of spies. Western influence appeared briefly in 1542, when missionaries arrived from Macao bringing clocks, carpets, guns, and Christianity. The reaction of the Tokugawas was to close the door: from 1639 Japan's citizens were not allowed to travel abroad, and trading contacts were limited to a single Dutch settlement at Nagasaki.
This ended in 1853 when Commodore Perry of the US Navy brought a squadron of warships into Yokohama Harbor, demanding that the country's ports be opened to Western trade. The now weak Tokugawa shogunate collapsed, imperial rule was resumed under the Meiji Restoration, and within 50 years Japan had become westernized and a rising industrial force. Victories in wars with China
(1894-95) and Russia (1904-05) led to the seizure of Taiwan and Korea. Expanding imperial ambitions led later to the invasion of China, and eventually, in 1941, to an attack on Hawaii and Japan's entry into the Second World War. Allied victory in 1945 was followed by the introduction of a liberal, US-imposed democratic constitution which has since guided the nation's development.
Four large islands, so closely grouped that bridges and a tunnel now connect them, make up 98 percent of Japan's territory. They occupy a highly unstable zone on the earth's crust, and earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are frequent: 140,000 died in the 1923 earthquake which hit Yokohama and part of Tokyo; 6,000 died in the Kobe earthquake of January 1995. Folding and faulting has produced a mosaic of landforms throughout Japan, mountains and hills alternating with small basins and coastal plains. Inland there are several calderas and volcanic cones, the most famous being Fuji-san (3,776 m; 12,388 ft), the highest mountain in Japan, which last erupted in 1707.
Hokkaido, the northernmost of the main islands, is the most rural and traditional. Japan's biggest and most productive farming region, it has a climate similar to the US midwest—which may be why American advisors established wheat farming there in the 1860s. Hokkaido now produces more than half of Japan's grains. Southwest of Hokkaido lies the island of Honshu, where the Japanese Alps provide spectacular scenery. The Kanto Plain where Tokyo stands is the largest of various small alluvial plains, their soils enriched by centuries of careful cultivation. Today the conurbation this plain supports is Japan's most heavily industrialized and densely populated region. From southwestern Honshu across the two southern islands of Shiko-ku and Kyushu a complex of mountain peaks and undulating uplands stretches down to the Ryukyu
Islands (Nansei-Shoto), which includes Okinawa, before extending south toward Taiwan.
Japan's economy is notable for government-industry cooperation, a motivated population with a strong work ethic, high educational levels, and a mastery of high technology. These factors combined with a small defense allocation (1 percent of gross domestic product) have made it the second most powerful economy in the industrialized world. Japan is one of the world's largest and most advanced producers of steel and non-ferrous metallurgy, heavy electrical equipment, construction and mining equipment, motor vehicles and parts, communications and electronic equipment, machine tools, automated production systems, railroad rolling stock, ships, chemicals, textiles, and processed foods. Industry depends heavily on imported raw materials and fuel. The small agricultural sector is highly protected and subsidized; its crop yields are among the world's highest. Self-sufficient in rice, Japan imports about fifty percent of its other grain needs. After decades of spectacular growth, the late 1990s saw a marked contraction. The need for reconstruction remains evident, amid mounting fears of a banking crisis due to bad debts.