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page last updated on March 24, 2011

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Introduction :: Japan
In 1603, after decades of civil warfare, the Tokugawa shogunate (a military-led, dynastic government) ushered in a long period of relative political stability and isolation from foreign influence. For more than two centuries this policy enabled Japan to enjoy a flowering of its indigenous culture. Japan opened its ports after signing the Treaty of Kanagawa with the US in 1854 and began to intensively modernize and industrialize. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Japan became a regional power that was able to defeat the forces of both China and Russia. It occupied Korea, Formosa (Taiwan), and southern Sakhalin Island. In 1931-32 Japan occupied Manchuria, and in 1937 it launched a full-scale invasion of China. Japan attacked US forces in 1941 - triggering America's entry into World War II - and soon occupied much of East and Southeast Asia. After its defeat in World War II, Japan recovered to become an economic power and an ally of the US. While the emperor retains his throne as a symbol of national unity, elected politicians hold actual decision-making power. Following three decades of unprecedented growth, Japan's economy experienced a major slowdown starting in the 1990s, but the country remains a major economic power. In March 2011, Japan's strongest-ever earthquake, and an accompanying tsunami, devastated the northeast part of Honshu island, killing thousands and damaging several nuclear power plants. The catastrophe hobbled the country's economy and its energy infrastructure, and severely strained its capacity to deal with the humanitarian disaster.
Geography :: Japan
Eastern Asia, island chain between the North Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan, east of the Korean Peninsula
36 00 N, 138 00 E
total: 377,915 sq km
country comparison to the world: 61
land: 364,485 sq km
water: 13,430 sq km
note: includes Bonin Islands (Ogasawara-gunto), Daito-shoto, Minami-jima, Okino-tori-shima, Ryukyu Islands (Nansei-shoto), and Volcano Islands (Kazan-retto)
slightly smaller than California
0 km
29,751 km
territorial sea: 12 nm; between 3 nm and 12 nm in the international straits - La Perouse or Soya, Tsugaru, Osumi, and Eastern and Western Channels of the Korea or Tsushima Strait
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
varies from tropical in south to cool temperate in north
mostly rugged and mountainous
lowest point: Hachiro-gata -4 m
highest point: Fujiyama 3,776 m
negligible mineral resources, fish
note: with virtually no energy natural resources, Japan is the world's largest importer of coal and liquefied natural gas, as well as the second largest importer of oil
arable land: 11.64%
permanent crops: 0.9%
other: 87.46% (2005)
25,920 sq km (2003)
430 cu km (1999)
total: 88.43 cu km/yr (20%/18%/62%)
per capita: 690 cu m/yr (2000)
many dormant and some active volcanoes; about 1,500 seismic occurrences (mostly tremors) every year; tsunamis; typhoons
volcanism: both Unzen (elev. 1,500 m, 4,621 ft) and Sakura-jima (elev. 1,117 m, 3,665 ft), which lies near the densely populated city of Kagoshima, have been deemed "Decade Volcanoes" by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior, worthy of study due to their explosive history and close proximity to human populations; other notable historically active volcanoes include Asama, Honshu Island's most active volcano, Aso, Bandai, Fuji, Iwo-Jima, Kikai, Kirishima, Komaga-take, Oshima, Suwanosejima, Tokachi, Yake-dake, and Usu
air pollution from power plant emissions results in acid rain; acidification of lakes and reservoirs degrading water quality and threatening aquatic life; Japan is one of the largest consumers of fish and tropical timber, contributing to the depletion of these resources in Asia and elsewhere
party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
strategic location in northeast Asia
People :: Japan
126,475,664 (July 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 10
0-14 years: 13.1% (male 8,521,571/female 8,076,173)
15-64 years: 64% (male 40,815,840/female 40,128,235)
65 years and over: 22.9% (male 12,275,829/female 16,658,016) (2011 est.)
total: 44.8 years
male: 43.2 years
female: 46.7 years (2011 est.)
-0.278% (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 216
7.31 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 222
10.09 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 55
0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 84
urban population: 67% of total population (2010)
rate of urbanization: 0.2% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
TOKYO (capital) 36.507 million; Osaka-Kobe 11.325 million; Nagoya 3.257 million; Fukuoka-Kitakyushu 2.809 million; Sapporo 2.673 million (2009)
at birth: 1.056 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.74 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2011 est.)
total: 2.78 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 219
male: 2.98 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 2.58 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.)
total population: 82.25 years
country comparison to the world: 5
male: 78.96 years
female: 85.72 years (2011 est.)
1.21 children born/woman (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 220
less than 0.1% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 156
8,100 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 108
fewer than 100 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 138
noun: Japanese (singular and plural)
adjective: Japanese
Japanese 98.5%, Koreans 0.5%, Chinese 0.4%, other 0.6%
note: up to 230,000 Brazilians of Japanese origin migrated to Japan in the 1990s to work in industries; some have returned to Brazil (2004)
Shintoism 83.9%, Buddhism 71.4%, Christianity 2%, other 7.8%
note: total adherents exceeds 100% because many people belong to both Shintoism and Buddhism (2005)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2002)
total: 15 years
male: 15 years
female: 15 years (2008)
3.7% of GDP (2007)
country comparison to the world: 126
Government :: Japan
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Japan
local long form: Nihon-koku/Nippon-koku
local short form: Nihon/Nippon
a parliamentary government with a constitutional monarchy
name: Tokyo
geographic coordinates: 35 41 N, 139 45 E
time difference: UTC+9 (14 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
47 prefectures; Aichi, Akita, Aomori, Chiba, Ehime, Fukui, Fukuoka, Fukushima, Gifu, Gunma, Hiroshima, Hokkaido, Hyogo, Ibaraki, Ishikawa, Iwate, Kagawa, Kagoshima, Kanagawa, Kochi, Kumamoto, Kyoto, Mie, Miyagi, Miyazaki, Nagano, Nagasaki, Nara, Niigata, Oita, Okayama, Okinawa, Osaka, Saga, Saitama, Shiga, Shimane, Shizuoka, Tochigi, Tokushima, Tokyo, Tottori, Toyama, Wakayama, Yamagata, Yamaguchi, Yamanashi
3 May 1947 (current constitution adopted as amendment to Meiji Constitution); notable earlier dates: 660 B.C. (traditional date of the founding of the nation by Emperor JIMMU); 29 November 1890 (Meiji Constitution provides for constitutional monarchy)
Birthday of Emperor AKIHITO, 23 December (1933)
3 May 1947
modeled after European civil law systems with English-American influence; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations
20 years of age; universal
chief of state: Emperor AKIHITO (since 7 January 1989)
head of government: Prime Minister Naoto KAN (since 8 June 2010)
cabinet: Cabinet is appointed by the prime minister
(For more information visit the World Leaders website Opens in New Window)
elections: Diet designates the prime minister; constitution requires that the prime minister commands parliamentary majority; following legislative elections, the leader of majority party or leader of majority coalition in House of Representatives usually becomes prime minister; the monarchy is hereditary
bicameral Diet or Kokkai consists of the House of Councillors or Sangi-in (242 seats - members elected for fixed six-year terms; half reelected every three years; 146 members in multi-seat constituencies and 96 by proportional representation) and the House of Representatives or Shugi-in (480 seats - members elected for maximum four-year terms; 300 in single-seat constituencies; 180 members by proportional representation in 11 regional blocs); the prime minister has the right to dissolve the House of Representatives at any time with the concurrence of the cabinet
elections: House of Councillors - last held on 11 July 2010 (next to be held in July 2013); House of Representatives - last held on 30 August 2009 (next to be held by August 2013)
election results: House of Councillors - percent of vote by party - DPJ 31.6%, LDP 24.1%, YP 13.6%, NK 13.1%, JCP 6.1%, SDP 3.8%, others 7.7%; seats by party - DPJ 106, LDP 84, NK 19, YP 11, JCP 6, SDP 4, others 12
House of Representatives - percent of vote by party (by proportional representation) - DPJ 42.4%, LDP 26.7%, NK 11.5%, JCP 7.0%, SDP 4.3%, others 8.1%; seats by party - DPJ 308, LDP 119, NK 21, JCP 9, SDP 7, others 16 (2009)
Supreme Court (chief justice is appointed by the monarch after designation by the cabinet; all other justices are appointed by the cabinet)
Democratic Party of Japan or DPJ [Naoto KAN]; Japan Communist Party or JCP [Kazuo SHII]; Liberal Democratic Party or LDP [Sadakazu TANIGAKI]; New Komeito or NK [Natsuo YAMAGUCHI]; People's New Party or PNP [Shizuka KAMEI]; Social Democratic Party or SDP [Mizuho FUKUSHIMA]; Your Party or YP [Yoshimi WATANABE]
other: business groups; trade unions
ADB, AfDB (nonregional member), APEC, ARF, ASEAN (dialogue partner), Australia Group, BIS, CERN (observer), CICA (observer), CP, EAS, EBRD, FAO, FATF, G-20, G-5, G-7, G-8, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAIA (observer), MIGA, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE (partner), Paris Club, PCA, PIF (partner), SAARC (observer), SECI (observer), UN, UNCTAD, UNDOF, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNMIS, UNRWA, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
chief of mission: Ambassador Ichiro FUJISAKI
chancery: 2520 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 238-6700
FAX: [1] (202) 328-2187
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Agana (Guam), Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Portland (Oregon), San Francisco, Seattle
consulate(s): Anchorage, Nashville
chief of mission: Ambassador John V. ROOS
embassy: 1-10-5 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-8420
mailing address: Unit 9800, Box 300, APO AP 96303-0300
telephone: [81] (03) 3224-5000
FAX: [81] (03) 3505-1862
consulate(s) general: Naha (Okinawa), Osaka-Kobe, Sapporo
consulate(s): Fukuoka, Nagoya
white with a large red disk (representing the sun without rays) in the center
name: "Kimigayo" (The Emperor"s Reign)
lyrics/music: unknown/Hiromori HAYASHI
note: adopted 1999; in use as unofficial national anthem since 1883; oldest anthem lyrics in the world, dating to the 10th century or earlier; there is some opposition to the anthem because of its association with militarism and worship of the emperor
Economy :: Japan
In the years following World War II, government-industry cooperation, a strong work ethic, mastery of high technology, and a comparatively small defense allocation (1% of GDP) helped Japan develop a technologically advanced economy. Two notable characteristics of the post-war economy were the close interlocking structures of manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors, known as keiretsu, and the guarantee of lifetime employment for a substantial portion of the urban labor force. Both features are now eroding under the dual pressures of global competition and domestic demographic change. Japan's industrial sector is heavily dependent on imported raw materials and fuels. A tiny agricultural sector is highly subsidized and protected, with crop yields among the highest in the world. Usually self sufficient in rice, Japan imports about 60% of its food on a caloric basis. Japan maintains one of the world's largest fishing fleets and accounts for nearly 15% of the global catch. For three decades, overall real economic growth had been spectacular - a 10% average in the 1960s, a 5% average in the 1970s, and a 4% average in the 1980s. Growth slowed markedly in the 1990s, averaging just 1.7%, largely because of the after effects of inefficient investment and an asset price bubble in the late 1980s that required a protracted period of time for firms to reduce excess debt, capital, and labor. Measured on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis that adjusts for price differences, Japan in 2010 stood as the third-largest economy in the world after China, which surpassed Japan in 2001. The Japanese financial sector was not heavily exposed to sub-prime mortgages or their derivative instruments and weathered the initial effect of the recent global credit crunch, but a sharp downturn in business investment and global demand for Japan's exports in late 2008 pushed Japan further into recession. Government stimulus spending helped the economy recover in late 2009 and 2010. Prime Minister Kan's government has proposed opening the agricultural and services sectors to greater foreign competition and boosting exports through free-trade agreements, but debate continues on restructuring the economy and funding new stimulus programs in the face of a tight fiscal situation. Japan's huge government debt, which exceeds 200% of GDP, persistent deflation, reliance on exports to drive growth, and an aging and shrinking population are major long-term challenges for the economy. A 9.0-magnitude earthquake and an ensuing tsunami devastated the northeast coast of Honshu Island on 11 March 2011, washing away buildings and infrastructure as much as 6 miles inland, killing thousands, severely damaging several nuclear power plants, displacing and leaving homeless more than 320,000 people, and leaving a million households without running water. Radiation leaks at the Fukushima Daiichai nuclear power plant prompted mass evacuations and a no-fly zone within 12.5 miles of the plant, and created uncertainty as to possible long-term contamination of the area. Energy-cutting efforts by electric companies and train lines have slowed the pace of business throughout Honshu Island, and the stock market has gyrated, dropping as much as 10% in a single day. In order to stabilize financial markets and retard appreciation of the yen, the Bank of Japan injected more than $325 billion in yen into the economy. Estimates of the direct costs of the damage - rebuilding homes and factories - range from $235 billion to $310 billion. Some economic forecasters, who previously had anticipated slower growth in 2011, now believe GDP may decline as much as 1% for the year.
$4.338 trillion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 4
$4.211 trillion (2009 est.)
$4.442 trillion (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
$5.391 trillion (2010 est.)
3% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 125
-5.2% (2009 est.)
-1.2% (2008 est.)
$34,200 (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 38
$33,100 (2009 est.)
$34,900 (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
agriculture: 1.1%
industry: 23%
services: 75.9% (2010 est.)
65.7 million (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 9
agriculture: 3.9%
industry: 26.2%
services: 69.8% (2010 est.)
5.1% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 48
5.1% (2009 est.)
15.7% (2007)
note: Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) press release, 20 October 2009
lowest 10%: 1.9%
highest 10%: 27.5% (2008)
37.6 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 74
24.9 (1993)
revenues: $1.638 trillion
expenditures: $2.16 trillion (2010 est.)
225.8% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 1
217.6% of GDP (2009 est.)
-0.7% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 7
-1.4% (2009 est.)
0.3% (31 December 2009)
country comparison to the world: 140
0.3% (31 December 2008)
1.6% (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 156
1.65% (31 December 2009 est.)
$5.541 trillion (31 December 2010 est)
country comparison to the world: 3
$5.162 trillion (31 December 2009 est)
$18.3 trillion (31 December 2009)
country comparison to the world: 2
$14.56 trillion (31 December 2008)
$16.39 trillion (31 December 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 3
$13.32 trillion (31 December 2007 est.)
$3.537 trillion (31 December 2010)
country comparison to the world: 3
$3.29 trillion (31 December 2009)
$3.22 trillion (31 December 2008)
rice, sugar beets, vegetables, fruit; pork, poultry, dairy products, eggs; fish
among world's largest and technologically advanced producers of motor vehicles, electronic equipment, machine tools, steel and nonferrous metals, ships, chemicals, textiles, processed foods
15.5% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 8
956.5 billion kWh (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 4
858.5 billion kWh (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 4
0 kWh (2009 est.)
0 kWh (2009 est.)
132,700 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 49
4.363 million bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 4
380,900 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 34
5.033 million bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 3
3.539 billion cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 51
94.67 billion cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 6
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 85
90.29 billion cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 3
20.9 billion cu m (1 January 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 77
$166.5 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 2
$141.8 billion (2009 est.)
$765.2 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 5
$580.8 billion (2009 est.)
transport equipment, motor vehicles, semiconductors, electrical machinery, chemicals
China 18.88%, US 16.42%, South Korea 8.13%, Taiwan 6.27%, Hong Kong 5.49% (2009)
$636.8 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 5
$501.6 billion (2009 est.)
machinery and equipment, fuels, foodstuffs, chemicals, textiles, raw materials
China 22.2%, US 10.96%, Australia 6.29%, Saudi Arabia 5.29%, UAE 4.12%, South Korea 3.98%, Indonesia 3.95% (2009)
$1.096 trillion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 2
$1.049 trillion (31 December 2009 est.)
$2.441 trillion (30 September 2010)
country comparison to the world: 6
$2.053 trillion (31 December 2009)
$719.9 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 8
$740.4 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
yen (JPY) per US dollar - 87.78 (2010), 93.57 (2009), 103.58 (2008), 117.99 (2007), 116.18 (2006)
Communications :: Japan
44.364 million (2009)
country comparison to the world: 5
114.917 million (2009)
country comparison to the world: 7
general assessment: excellent domestic and international service
domestic: high level of modern technology and excellent service of every kind
international: country code - 81; numerous submarine cables provide links throughout Asia, Australia, the Middle East, Europe, and US; satellite earth stations - 7 Intelsat (Pacific and Indian Oceans), 1 Intersputnik (Indian Ocean region), 3 Inmarsat (Pacific and Indian Ocean regions), and 8 SkyPerfect JSAT (2008)
a mixture of public and commercial broadcast TV and radio stations; 5 national terrestrial television networks including 1 public broadcaster; the large number of radio and TV stations available provide a wide range of choices; satellite and cable services provide access to international channels (2008)
54.846 million (2010)
country comparison to the world: 2
99.182 million (2009)
country comparison to the world: 3
Transportation :: Japan
176 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 34
total: 144
over 3,047 m: 7
2,438 to 3,047 m: 44
1,524 to 2,437 m: 38
914 to 1,523 m: 28
under 914 m: 27 (2010)
total: 32
914 to 1,523 m: 4
under 914 m: 28 (2010)
15 (2010)
gas 3,879 km; oil 167 km; oil/gas/water 53 km (2009)
total: 26,435 km
country comparison to the world: 11
standard gauge: 3,978 km 1.435-m gauge (3,978 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 96 km 1.372-m gauge (96 km electrified); 22,313 km 1.067-m gauge (15,235 km electrified); 48 km 0.762-m gauge (48 km electrified) (2009)
total: 1,203,777 km
country comparison to the world: 5
paved: 961,366 km (includes 7,560 km of expressways)
unpaved: 242,411 km (2008)
1,770 km (seagoing vessels use inland seas) (2010)
country comparison to the world: 46
total: 673
country comparison to the world: 16
by type: bulk carrier 152, cargo 31, carrier 3, chemical tanker 28, container 2, liquefied gas 63, passenger 12, passenger/cargo 120, petroleum tanker 152, refrigerated cargo 4, roll on/roll off 52, vehicle carrier 54
foreign-owned: 1 (Norway 1)
registered in other countries: 3,064 (Bahamas 93, Belize 1, Bermuda 2, Burma 1, Cambodia 2, Cayman Islands 19, China 2, Cyprus 19, Honduras 4, Hong Kong 84, Indonesia 7, Isle of Man 15, Liberia 102, Malaysia 4, Malta 5, Marshall Islands 41, Netherlands 1, Panama 2347, Philippines 82, Portugal 9, Saint Kitts and Nevis 3, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 3, Sierra Leone 3, Singapore 146, South Korea 15, Thailand 2, UK 4, Vanuatu 44, unknown 4) (2010)
Chiba, Kawasaki, Kobe, Mizushima, Moji, Nagoya, Osaka, Tokyo, Tomakomai, Yokohama
Military :: Japan
Japanese Ministry of Defense (MOD): Ground Self-Defense Force (Rikujou Jietai, GSDF), Maritime Self-Defense Force (Kaijou Jietai, MSDF), Air Self-Defense Force (Koku Jieitai, ASDF) (2009)
18 years of age for voluntary military service (2001)
males age 16-49: 27,301,443
females age 16-49: 26,307,003 (2010 est.)
males age 16-49: 22,390,431
females age 16-49: 21,540,322 (2010 est.)
male: 623,365
female: 591,253 (2010 est.)
0.8% of GDP (2006)
country comparison to the world: 147
Transnational Issues :: Japan
the sovereignty dispute over the islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, and Shikotan, and the Habomai group, known in Japan as the "Northern Territories" and in Russia as the "Southern Kuril Islands," occupied by the Soviet Union in 1945, now administered by Russia and claimed by Japan, remains the primary sticking point to signing a peace treaty formally ending World War II hostilities; Japan and South Korea claim Liancourt Rocks (Take-shima/Tok-do) occupied by South Korea since 1954; China and Taiwan dispute both Japan's claims to the uninhabited islands of the Senkaku-shoto (Diaoyu Tai) and Japan's unilaterally declared exclusive economic zone in the East China Sea, the site of intensive hydrocarbon prospecting
- The Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook -
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