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Country Facts


Map of Japan



Location: Eastern Asia, island chain between the North Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan, east of the Korean peninsula
Area: slightly smaller than California State, U.S.A. total area: 377,835 sq km land area: 374,744 sq km
Note: includes Bonin Islands (Ogasawara-gunto), Daito-shoto, Minami-jima, Okinotori-shima, Ryukyu Islands (Nansei-shoto), and Volcano Islands (Kazan-retto)
Climate: varies from tropical in south to cool temperate in north
Terrain: mostly rugged and mountainous
Note: strategic location in northeast Asia
Natural resources: negligible mineral resources, fish



Population: 125,506,492 (July 1995 est.)

  • 0-14 years: 16% (female 9,955,603; male 10,542,973)
  • 15-64 years: 69% (female 43,377,425; male 43,843,645)
  • 65 years and over: 15% (female 10,514,017; male 7,272,829)
  • (July 1995 est.)

Population growth rate: 0.32% (1995 est.)


  • noun: Japanese (singular and plural)
  • adjective: Japanese

Ethnicity: Japanese 99.4%, other 0.6% (mostly Korean)


  • observe both Shinto and Buddhist 84%
  • other 16% (including 0.7% Christian)

Languages: Japanese

Written Japanese consists of Hirgana, Katakana (for foreign words) and Kanji (Chinese characters). Each Kanji has at least two pronunciations, on (Chinese) and kun (Japanese).


Written Japanese records of history did not exsist before the Nara era (600-784 A.D.), thus the most knowledge of Japan before that time is based on Chinese records.

The earliest civilization about which much is known has been named the Jomon period, tentatively dated up to the second century B.C. There is some evidence of a Polynesian/Southeast Asian connection in these people. There were probably northern Asian elements present in Japan at this time as well. Jomon pottery has been found in many areas of the country, as far north as Hokkaido where the Ainu people once lived. The next civilization was named the Yayoi, identified by a clearly different type of pottery. It is likely that these people were closely related to (or belonged to) the people of southern Korea and that there were close ties of trade between the islands of Japan and the Korean peninsula, the landmass nearest Japan. The native Japanese probably became dominant around the end of the sixth century and developed into a loosely joined nation goverened from Yamato. The culture from Korean and China flowed into the country during this time, including Buddhist teachings, the Chinese writing system and many new arts and crafts, leading to NARA ERA.

Nara Era (600-784 A.D.)

Kamakura Era (1192-1333) Beginning of military government (bakufu) under a shogun. This lasted with few breaks until 1868.

Edo or Tokugawa Era (1603 to 1867)

Meiji Era (1868-1912)

Taisho Era (1912-1926)

Showa Era (1926- ) The awakened national spirit and expansion of the Meiji era had far-reaching effects beyond the Taisho Era and well into the present Showa era of Emperor Hirohito. The need for raw materials and markets for the growing industrial machine led to wars with China in 1894 and 1937; the former resulted in the ceding of Taiwan to Japanese control. Korea was invaded 1910, providing the foundation for national antipathy toward Japan that persists to this day.


  • age 15 and over can read and write (1970 est.)
  • Total population: 99%


Since the beginning, the government has periodically scheduled examinations, first based on the classics and now including up-to-date scientific subjects, to select civil officials. Examinations have been open to everyone. Today, compulsory education ends with the 6th grade. This can be followed by three-year middle school and either three-year high school or trade school.Hours are 8-5, monday-Friday, 8-noon on Saturdays.




  • conventional long form: none
  • conventional short form: Japan

Type: constitutional monarchy

Capital: Tokyo

Independence: 660 BC (traditional founding by Emperor Jimmu)

National holiday: Birthday of the Emperor, 23 December (1933)

Constitution: 3 May 1947


white with a large red disk (representing the sun without rays) in the center




Government-industry cooperation, a strong work ethic, mastery of high technology, and a comparatively small defense allocation (roughly 1% of GDP) have helped Japan advance with extraordinary rapidity to the rank of second most powerful economy in the world. Industry, the most important sector of the economy, is heavily dependent on imported raw materials and fuels. Usually self-sufficient in rice, Japan must import about 50% of its requirements of other grain and fodder crops. Japan maintains one of the world's largest fishing fleets and accounts for nearly 15% of the global catch. Overall economic growth has been spectacular: a 10% average in the 1960s, a 5% average in the 1970s and 1980s. Economic growth came to a halt in 1992-93 largely because of contractionary domestic policies intended to wring speculative excesses from the stock and real estate markets. Growth resumed at a 0.6% pace in 1994 largely because of consumer demand. As for foreign trade, the stronger yen and slower global growth are containing export growth. Unemployment and inflation remain remarkably low in comparison with the other industrialized nations. Japan continues to run a huge trade surplus - $121 billion in 1994, roughly the same size as in 1993 - which supports extensive investment in foreign assets. Prime Minister MURAYAMA has yet to formalize his government's plans for administrative and economic reform, including reduction in the trade surplus. As leader of a coalition government, he has softened his own socialist positions. The crowding of the habitable land area and the aging of the population are two major long-run problems.

National product: GDP - purchasing power parity - $2.5274 trillion (1994 est.)

National product real growth rate: 0.6% (1994 est.)

National product per capita: $20,200 (1994 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 0.7% (1994)

Exports: $395.5 billion (f.o.b., 1994)

  • commodities: manufactures 97% (including machinery 46%, motor vehicles 20%, consumer electronics 10%)
  • partners: Southeast Asia 33%, US 29%, Western Europe 18%, China 5%

Imports: $274.3 billion (c.i.f., 1994)

  • commodities: manufactures 52%, fossil fuels 20%, foodstuffs and raw materials 28%
  • partners: Southeast Asia 25%, US 23%, Western Europe 15%, China 9%


steel and non-ferrous metallurgy, heavy electrical equipment, construction and mining equipment, motor vehicles and parts, electronic and telecommunication equipment and components, machine tools and automated production systems, locomotives and railroad rolling stock, shipbuilding, chemicals, textiles, food processing

Currency: yen (Y)

Exchange rates:

Yen (Y) per US$1 - 99.75 (January 1995), 102.21 (1994), 111.20 (1993), 126.65 (1992), 134.71 (1991), 144.79 (1990)

North Korea
South Korea

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