|Flag||Coat of Arms|
|Government||Parliamentary democracy; Constitutional Monarchy|
|Prime minister||Yoshihiko Noda|
|Area||377,832 sq. miles|
|GDP 2006||$4.2 trillion|
|GDP per capita||$33,100|
Japan (日本 [Nihon or Nippon] or 日本国 [Nihon-koku or Nippon-koku, lit: the nation of Japan] in Japanese) is a nation that consists of a group of islands off the eastern coast of Asia. Its capital, Tokyo, is the largest metropolitan area in the world. Japan is divided into a total of 47 prefectures. 
In the the August 2009 national elections, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) suffered a massive defeat as voters blamed it for the poor economy, numerous corruption scandals and Prime Minister Taro Aso's uninspiring leadership. The LDP has ruled Japan for nearly all of the last 50 years and is generally conservative, but it lost two-thirds of its seats.
The opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) swept the nation, winning 302 of the 480 seats in the powerful lower house, compared to only 112 seats before. DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama was installed as prime minister but was replaced by Naoto Kan in June 2010. Kan was succeeded by Yoshihiko Noda in September 2011.
The DPJ has promised massive spending programs will cost 16.8 trillion yen ($177 billion) annually when they are fully operational in 2013. That is a huge burden for a country that has a large and rapidly growing fiscal deficit caused by stimulus packages and bailouts that never seem to work. Japan's national debt has soared to nearly 190% of its annual GDP (gross domestic product). The nation was ranked #4 in the world in per capita income in 1989, just before its slump began; it is now down to #14. China, with ten times as many people, has almost the same total GDP and will soon surpass Japan.
- 1 Geography
- 2 People
- 3 Art
- 4 Tourism
- 5 Government and Political Conditions
- 6 Economy
- 7 History
- 8 See also
- 9 External links
- 10 Basic further reading
- 11 References
The islands of Japan are scattered between 24ºN and 45ºN latitude (roughly 1,800 miles, or Florida to Maine). As a result, the climate varies greatly. Japan extends along the eastern or Pacific coast of Asia. The four main islands, running from north to south, are Hokkaido, Honshu (or the mainland), Shikoku, and Kyushu. Okinawa Island is about 380 miles south-west of Kyushu. About 3,000 smaller islands are included in the archipelago. In total land area, Japan is slightly smaller than California. About 73% of the country is mountainous, with a chain running through each of the main islands. Japan's highest mountain is the world famous Mount Fuji (or Fuji-san) at 12,385 feet. Since so little flat area exists, many hills and mountainsides are cultivated all the way to the summits. As Japan is situated in a volcanic zone along the Pacific depth, frequent low intensity earth tremors and occasional volcanic activity are felt throughout the islands. Destructive earthquakes occur several times a century. Hot springs are numerous and have been developed as resorts.
Temperature extremes are less pronounced than in the United States, but the climate varies considerably. Sapporo, on the northernmost main island, has warm summers and long, cold winters with heavy snowfall. Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe, in central and western parts of the largest island of Honshu, experience relatively mild winters with little or no snowfall and hot, humid summers. Fukuoka, on the island of Kyushu, has a climate similar to that of Charleston, South Carolina, with mild winters and wet summers. Okinawa is subtropical.
Japan's population, currently some 127 million, has experienced a phenomenal growth rate during the past 100 years as a result of scientific, industrial, and sociological changes, but this has ended because of falling birth rates and a lack of immigration. In 2005, Japan's population declined for the first time, two years earlier than predicted. High sanitary and health standards and a diet of fish and rice produce a life expectancy exceeding that of the United States.
Japan's population peaked in 2006; the following year saw the second consecutive decline, with an official population of 127,053,471. The birth rate has now increased from 2006's record low, but this has been offset by an all-time-high in the death rate. 51% of the population are female, and over-65s now make up 21% of the country.
In 1947 the proportion of Japanese over 65 was around 5% of the population, well below that in Britain, France or America. Today the elderly account for one-fifth of the population, and average lifespans have grown remarkably. Life expectancy today is 82, up from a little over 50 in 1947.
The baby boom came in 1947-1949, when 2.7m children a year were born. In 2007 the baby-boom generation began to retire (60 is the mandatory retirement age at most companies). Japan's birth rate fell below the replacement rate of 2.1 in the early 1970s. It slid to a low of 1.26 in 2005. In 2005 the population began to fall in absolute terms, despite increasing life expectancy. It is now shrinking at a pace unprecedented for any nation in peacetime. The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research estimates a total population of 95m by 2050, compared to 127m in 2007, with the elderly accounting by then for two-fifths of the total.
The DPJ, elected in a landslide in 2009, has promised an ambitious social-spending plan that includes a child allowance of $3,300 a year. It is designed to encourage more births as a solution to Japan's declining population and rising average population age, as well as being a stimulus to spending to get the economy out of its long slump.
Japan is an urban society with only about 4% of the labor force engaged in agriculture. Many farmers supplement their income with part-time jobs in nearby towns and cities. About 80 million of the urban population is heavily concentrated on the Pacific shore of Honshu and in northern Kyushu. Major population centers include: Metropolitan Tokyo with approximately 12.5 million; Yokohama with 3.6 million; Osaka with 2.6 million; Nagoya with 2.2 million; Sapporo with 1.9 million; Kyoto and Kobe with 1.5 million each; Kawasaki and Fukuoka with 1.4 million each, and Saitama with 1.2 million. Japan faces the same problems that confront urban industrialized societies throughout the world: overcrowded cities, congested roads, air pollution, and rising juvenile delinquency.
- Population (2007 est.): 127.5 million.
- Population growth rate (2007 est.): -0.088%.
- Ethnic groups: Japanese; Korean (0.5%).
- Religions: Shinto and Buddhist; Christian (about 0.7%).
- Language: Japanese.
- Education: Literacy--99%.
- Health (2007 est.): Infant mortality rate--2.8/1,000. Life expectancy--males 78 yrs., females 85 yrs.
- Work force (67 million, 2003): services--42%; trade, manufacturing, mining, and construction--46%; agriculture, forestry, fisheries--5%; government--3%.
Japan is one of the most atheistic countries on Earth with an atheistic percentage of 76% of the population. Japan has one of the fewest number of Christians with a percentage of 1%.
Shintoism and Buddhism are Japan's two principal religions. Shintoism is founded on myths and legends emanating from the early animistic worship of natural phenomena. Since it was unconcerned with problems of afterlife which dominate Buddhist thought, and since Buddhism easily accommodated itself to local faiths, the two religions comfortably coexisted, and Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples often became administratively linked. Today many Japanese are adherents of both faiths. From the 16th to the 19th century Shintoism flourished.
Adopted by the leaders of the Meiji restoration, Shintoism received state support and was cultivated as a spur to patriotic and nationalistic feelings. Following World War II, state support was discontinued, and the emperor disavowed divinity. Today Shintoism plays a more peripheral role in the life of the Japanese people. The numerous shrines are visited regularly by a few believers and, if they are historically famous or known for natural beauty, by many sightseers. Many marriages are held in the shrines, and children are brought there after birth and on certain anniversary dates; special shrine days are celebrated for certain occasions, and numerous festivals are held throughout the year. Many homes have "god shelves" where offerings can be made to Shinto deities.
Buddhism first came to Japan in the 6th century and for the next 10 centuries exerted profound influence on its intellectual, artistic, social, and political life. Most funerals are conducted by Buddhist priests, and many Japanese visit family graves and Buddhist temples to pay respects to ancestors.
Confucianism arrived with the first great wave of Chinese influence into Japan between the 6th and 9th centuries. Overshadowed by Buddhism, it survived as an organized philosophy into the late 19th century and remains today as an important influence on Japanese thought and values.
Christianity, first introduced into Japan in 1549, was virtually stamped out by the government a century later; it was reintroduced in the late 1800s and has spread slowly. Today Christianity has an estimated 3 million adherents throughout Japan.
Beyond the three traditional religions, many Japanese today are turning to a great variety of popular religious movements normally lumped together under the name "new religions." These religions draw on the concept of Shinto, Buddhism, and folk superstition and have developed in part to meet the social needs of elements of the population. The officially recognized new religions number in the hundreds, and total membership is reportedly in the tens of millions.
Japan has also spawned its share of cults, including the exceptionally lethal but fortunately short-lived Aum Shinrikyo movement of the early 1990's, which in 1994 became the first non-state organization to kill people with nerve gas.
Japanese art comes from prehistoric times. It has been influenced by Chinese art and Zen Buddhism, as well as by Western art. Painting (絵画) is one of the oldest Japanese art, and the most popular one. Main Painting Schools are: Suibokuga, Kanō, Rimpa, Tosa-ha, Nanga and Shijo.
Japanese interpretations and painters may be studied in the following periods:
- Josetsu (如拙) (1405 – 1423), the father of Japanese ink painting.
- Azuchi-Momoyama period
- Kanō Eitoku (狩野 永徳) (1543 - 1590), prominent patriarch of the Kanō School.
- Edo period
- Tawaraya Sōtatsu (俵屋宗達) (c. 1600s), co-founder of the Rimpa School.
- Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎) (1760 — 1849), Ukiyo-e (浮世絵) genre painter and printmaker. "Behind the Great Wave at Kanagawa" (c.1829) is one of the most renowned Japanese paintings.
- Meiji period
- Taisho period
- Showa period
- Ogura Yuki (小倉遊亀) (1895 - 2000), traditional female painter.
- Contemporary period
- Shinoda Toko (篠田桃紅) (b. 1913), female painter, sumi (ink) paintings and prints.
Japan is a country that offers the tourist exotic beauty and marvelous attractions. It has so many outstanding places to visit that it is difficult to choose among them. Examples are Tokyo the capital, Nikko, a pilgrimage site, Kamakura, with one of Japan's best collections of shrines, temples, and monuments, Kyoto "The Thousand Year Capital", which was Japan's capital for years, Osaka, Hiroshima, Nara, Nagasaki and Sapporo. It is said that the three most scenic spots of Japan are Miyajima (Shrine Island), Amano Hashidate, located on the Tango Peninsula in the northern part of Kyoto Prefecture, and Matsushima, located in Miyagi Prefecture (3 hours from Tokyo); (Miyagi Prefecture (宮城県, Miyagi-ken) is located in the Tōhoku Region on Honshu island, northeastern Japan; Sendai is its capital). 
Torii of Itsukushima Shrine.
Government and Political Conditions
Japan is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government. There is universal adult suffrage with a secret ballot for all elective offices. Sovereignty, previously embodied in the emperor, is vested in the Japanese people, and the Emperor is defined as the symbol of the state.
Japan's Government is a parliamentary democracy, with a House of Representatives and a House of Councillors. Executive power is vested in a cabinet composed of a prime minister and ministers of state, all of whom must be civilians. The prime minister must be a member of the Diet and is designated by his colleagues. The prime minister has the power to appoint and remove ministers, a majority of whom must be Diet members. The judiciary is independent.
The five major political parties represented in the National Diet are the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the New Clean Government Party (Komeito), the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
Japan's judicial system, drawn from customary law, civil law, and Anglo-American common law, consists of several levels of courts, with the Supreme Court as the final judicial authority. The Japanese constitution includes a bill of rights similar to the U.S. Bill of Rights, and the Supreme Court has the right of judicial review. Japanese courts do not use a jury system, and there are no administrative courts or claims courts. Because of the judicial system's basis, court decisions are made in accordance with legal statutes. Only Supreme Court decisions have any direct effect on later interpretation of the law.
Japan does not have a federal system, and its 47 prefectures are not sovereign entities in the sense that U.S. states are. Most depend on the central government for subsidies. Governors of prefectures, mayors of municipalities, and prefectural and municipal assembly members are popularly elected to 4-year terms.
Recent Political Developments
The post-World War II years saw tremendous economic growth in Japan, with the political system dominated by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). That total domination lasted until the Diet lower house elections in July 1993, in which the LDP failed for the first time to win a majority. The LDP returned to power in 1994, with majorities in both houses of the Diet. In elections in July 2007, the LDP lost its majority in the upper house, with the DPJ now holding the largest number of seats but with no party possessing a clear majority. Currently, the LDP maintains a majority in the lower house.
Shinzo Abe was elected Prime Minister in a Diet vote in September 2006. Abe was the first prime minister to be born after World War II and the youngest prime minister since the war. However, Abe resigned abruptly on September 12, 2007, not long after the LDP lost control of the upper house in the July 2007 elections in which the LDP's handing of domestic issues was a leading issue. Yasuo Fukuda of the LDP was elected Prime Minister by the Diet on September 25, 2007 to replace Abe. Fukuda, whose father served as Prime Minister in the late 1970s, is known as a moderate and for his experience building consensus behind the scenes.
Principal Government Officials
- Head of State--Emperor Akihito
- Prime Minister (Head of Government)--Yoshihiko Noda
- Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura
- Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa
- Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada,
- Minister of Foreign Affairs Hirofumi Nakasone
- Permanent Representative to the UN Kenzo Oshima
Japan is the world's second-largest economy and a major economic power both in Asia and globally. Japan has diplomatic relations with nearly all independent nations and has been an active member of the United Nations since 1956. Japanese foreign policy has aimed to promote peace and prosperity for the Japanese people by working closely with the West and supporting the United Nations.
In recent years, the Japanese public has shown a substantially greater awareness of security issues and increasing support for the Self Defense Forces. This is in part due to the Self Defense Forces' success in disaster relief efforts at home, and its participation in peacekeeping operations such as in Cambodia in the early 1990s and Iraq in 2005-2006. However, there are still significant political and psychological constraints on strengthening Japan's security profile. Although a military role for Japan in international affairs is highly constrained by its constitution and government policy, Japanese cooperation with the United States through the 1960 U.S.-Japan Security Treaty has been important to the peace and stability of East Asia. Currently, there are domestic discussions about possible reinterpretation or revision of Article 9 of the Japanese constitution. Prime Minister Abe made revising or reinterpreting the Japanese constitution a priority of his administration. All postwar Japanese governments have relied on a close relationship with the United States as the foundation of their foreign policy and have depended on the Mutual Security Treaty for strategic protection.
While maintaining its relationship with the United States, Japan has diversified and expanded its ties with other nations. Good relations with its neighbors continue to be of vital interest. After the signing of a peace and friendship treaty with China in 1978, ties between the two countries developed rapidly. Japan extended significant economic assistance to the Chinese in various modernization projects and supported Chinese membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO). Japan's economic assistance to China is now declining. In recent years, however, Chinese exploitation of gas fields in the East China Sea has raised Japanese concerns given disagreement over the demarcation of their maritime boundary. Prime Minister Abe's October 2006 visits to Beijing and Seoul helped improve relations with China and South Korea that had been strained following Prime Minister Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni Shrine. At the same time, Japan maintains economic and cultural but not diplomatic relations with Taiwan, with which a strong bilateral trade relationship thrives.
Japanese officials believe the February 25, 2008 inauguration of Republic of Korea President Lee Myung-bak marks a "new era" in Japan-South Korea relations, as Tokyo and Seoul look to develop "future-oriented" ties while avoiding contentious historical differences. Those historical differences include territorial disputes involving the Liancourt Rocks, use of Korean females as "Comfort Women" during World War II, and historical and ethnic animosities that continue to complicate Japan's political relations with South Korea despite growing economic and cultural ties.
A surprise visit by Prime Minister Koizumi to Pyongyang, North Korea on September 17, 2002, resulted in renewed discussions on contentious bilateral issues--especially that of abductions to North Korea of Japanese citizens--and Japan's agreement to resume normalization talks in the near future. In October 2002, five abductees returned to Japan, but soon after negotiations reached a stalemate over the fate of abductees' families in North Korea. Japan's economic and commercial ties with North Korea plummeted following Kim Jong-il's 2002 admission that D.P.R.K. agents abducted Japanese citizens. Japan strongly supported the United States in its efforts to encourage Pyongyang to abide by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In 2006, Japan responded to North Korea's July missile launches and October nuclear test by imposing sanctions and working with the United Nations Security Council. The U.S., Japan, and South Korea closely coordinate and consult trilaterally on policy toward North Korea, and Japan participates in the Six-Party Talks to end North Korea's nuclear arms ambitions. Tokyo, however, refuses to provide assistance called for under the February 13, 2007 Six-Party Talks agreement until North Korea takes satisfactory steps to resolve the abduction issue.
Japan's relations with Russia are hampered by the two sides' inability to resolve their territorial dispute over the islands that make up the Northern Territories (Southern Kuriles) seized by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. The stalemate over territorial issues has prevented conclusion of a peace treaty formally ending the war between Japan and Russia. The United States supports Japan on the Northern Territories issue and recognizes Japanese sovereignty over the islands. Russian Coast Guard boats sometimes seize Japanese fishing vessels operating in waters surrounding the disputed area. In August 2006, a Russian patrol shot at a Japanese fishing vessel, claiming the vessel was in Russian waters, killing one crewmember and taking three seamen into custody. In October 2007, Russia raised objections to U.S.-Japan cooperation on missile defense, and in February 2008, Tokyo protested the incursion into Japanese airspace of a Russian bomber. Despite the lack of progress in resolving the Northern Territories and other disputes, however, Japan and Russia continue to develop other aspects of the overall relationship, including two large, multi-billion dollar oil-natural gas consortium projects on Sakhalin Island.
Japan has pursued a more active foreign policy in recent years, recognizing the responsibility that accompanies its economic strength. It has expanded ties with the Middle East, which provides most of its oil, and has been the second-largest assistance donor (behind the U.S.) to Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2006, Japan's Ground Self Defense Force completed a successful two-year mission in Iraq, and the Diet extended the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law which allowed for Japan's Maritime Self Defense Force refueling activities in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in the Indian Ocean. On July 10, 2007 the Japanese Government decided to extend the Air Self-Defense Force's (ASDF) airlift support mission in Iraq to July 31, 2008. Under the Iraq Special Measures Law a wing of the ASDF's C-130 transport planes, based in Kuwait, will continue to carry personnel and supplies for the U.S.-led multinational forces and the United Nations in Iraq. The law has been extended to July 31, 2009 and will be voted on again in 2008.
Japan increasingly is active in Africa and Latin America--recently concluding negotiations with Mexico and Chile on an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)--and has extended significant support to development projects in both regions.
Mexico and Japan implemented an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) on April 1st , 2005. The EPA is a comprehensive free trade agreement that has contributed to the expansion of commerce, investment, and tourism between the two countries. Japan represents the most important market for Mexican exports in Asia; and, Mexico is the most important destination for Japanese exports in Latin America. Moreover, cumulative Japanese company investments in Mexico total more than US$ 10 billion for the past decade, in sectors as diverse as automotive, electronics, electric, energy, agribusiness, transportation, real estate, and services. 
A Japanese-conceived peace plan became the foundation for nationwide elections in Cambodia in 1998. Japan's economic engagement with its neighbors is increasing, as evidenced by the conclusion of an EPA with Singapore and the Philippines, and its ongoing negotiations for EPAs with Thailand and Malaysia.
In May 2007, just prior to the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, Prime Minister Abe announced an initiative to address greenhouse gas emissions and seek to mitigate the impact of energy consumption on climate. At the January 2008 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Prime Minister Fukuda reiterated his commitment to this plan. As host of the G8 Summit in July 2008, Japan will focus on four themes: environment and climate change, development and Africa, the world economy, and political issues including non-proliferation.
Relations with the United States
The U.S.-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of U.S. security interests in Asia and is fundamental to regional stability and prosperity. Despite the changes in the post-Cold War strategic landscape, the U.S.-Japan alliance continues to be based on shared vital interests and values. These include stability in the Asia-Pacific region, the preservation and promotion of political and economic freedoms, support for human rights and democratic institutions, and securing of prosperity for the people of both countries and the international community as a whole.
Japan provides bases and financial and material support to U.S. forward-deployed forces, which are essential for maintaining stability in the region. Under the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, Japan hosts a carrier battle group, the III Marine Expeditionary Force, the 5th Air Force, and elements of the Army's I Corps. The United States currently maintains approximately 50,000 troops in Japan, about half of whom are stationed in Okinawa.
Over the past decade the alliance has been strengthened through revised Defense Guidelines, which expand Japan's noncombatant role in a regional contingency, the renewal of our agreement on Host Nation Support of U.S. forces stationed in Japan, and an ongoing process called the Defense Policy Review Initiative (DPRI). The DPRI redefines roles, missions, and capabilities of alliance forces and outlines key realignment and transformation initiatives, including reducing the number of troops stationed in Okinawa, enhancing interoperability and communication between our respective commands, and broadening our cooperation in the area of ballistic missile defense.
Implementation of these agreements will strengthen our capabilities and make our alliance more sustainable. After the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Japan has participated significantly with the global war on terrorism by providing major logistical support for U.S. and coalition forces in the Indian Ocean.
Because of the two countries' combined economic and technological impact on the world, the U.S.-Japan relationship has become global in scope. The United States and Japan cooperate on a broad range of global issues, including development assistance, combating communicable disease such as the spread of HIV/AIDS and avian influenza, and protecting the environment and natural resources. Both countries also collaborate in science and technology in such areas as mapping the human genome, research on aging, and international space exploration. As one of Asia's most successful democracies and its largest economy, Japan contributes irreplaceable political, financial, and moral support to U.S.-Japan diplomatic efforts. The United States consults closely with Japan and the Republic of Korea on policy regarding North Korea. In Southeast Asia, U.S.-Japan cooperation is vital for stability and for political and economic reform. Outside Asia, Japanese political and financial support has substantially strengthened the U.S. position on a variety of global geopolitical problems, including the Gulf, Middle East peace efforts, and the Balkans. Japan is an indispensable partner on UN reform and the second largest contributor to the UN budget. Japan broadly supports the United States on nonproliferation and nuclear issues. The U.S. supports Japan's aspiration to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
Japan was devastated by World War II. Yet Japan's economy recovered over the years 1950-1980 through a partnership between government and industry. The goal in 1950 was to become the world leader in textiles, which was achieved by 1959. The goal in 1960 was to become the world's top producer in steel by 1970, and the goal in 1970 was to become the world's leader in the production of automobiles. Each goal was achieved within one year of the target date.
Now Japan's industrialized, free market economy is the second-largest in the world. Its economy is highly efficient and competitive in areas linked to international trade, but productivity is far lower in protected areas such as agriculture, distribution, and services. After achieving one of the highest economic growth rates in the world from the 1960s through the 1980s, the Japanese economy slowed dramatically in the early 1990s, when the "bubble economy" collapsed, marked by plummeting stock and real estate prices. Together with the impact of the worldwide recession of 2008, Japan's status as a global economic power is slipping fast, with China poised to supplant Japan as the world' second-largest economy by 2010 or 2011.
Japan's reservoir of industrial leadership and technicians, well-educated and industrious work force, high savings and investment rates, and intensive promotion of industrial development and foreign trade produced a mature industrial economy. Japan has few natural resources, and trade helps it earn the foreign exchange needed to purchase raw materials for its economy.
Japan's long-term economic prospects are considered good, and it has largely recovered from its worst period of economic stagnation since World War II. Real GDP in Japan grew at an average of roughly 1% yearly in the 1990s, compared to growth in the 1980s of about 4% per year. The Japanese economy is now in its longest postwar expansion after more than a decade of stagnation. Real growth in 2006 was 2.2% and was 1.9% in 2007.
- GDP (2007 est.): $5.103 trillion (official exchange rate); $4.34 trillion (PPP).
- Real growth rate (2007 est.): 1.9%.
- Per capita GDP (2007 est. PPP): $33,800.
- Natural resources: Fish and few mineral resources.
- Agriculture: Products--rice, vegetables, fruit, milk, meat, silk.
- Industry: Types--machinery and equipment, metals and metal products, textiles, autos, chemicals, electrical and electronic equipment.
Agriculture, Energy, and Minerals
Only 15% of Japan's land is arable. The agricultural economy is highly subsidized and protected. With per hectare crop yields among the highest in the world, Japan maintains an overall agricultural self-sufficiency rate of about 40% on fewer than 5.6 million cultivated hectares (14 million acres). Japan normally produces a slight surplus of rice but imports large quantities of wheat, corn, sorghum, and soybeans, primarily from the United States. Japan is the largest market for U.S. agricultural exports.
Given its heavy dependence on imported energy, Japan has aimed to diversify its sources and maintain high levels of energy efficiency. Since the oil shocks of the 1970s, Japan has reduced dependence on petroleum as a source of energy from more than 75% in 1973 to about 52% in 2000. Other important energy sources are coal, liquefied natural gas, nuclear power, and hydropower. Today Japan enjoys one of the most energy-efficient developed economies in the world.
Deposits of gold, magnesium, and silver meet current industrial demands, but Japan is dependent on foreign sources for many of the minerals essential to modern industry. Iron ore, coke, copper, and bauxite must be imported, as must many forest products.
Japan's labor force consists of some 66.07 million workers, 40% of whom are women. Labor union membership was estimated to be about 10 million in 2006.
U.S./Japanese Economic Relations
U.S. economic policy toward Japan is aimed at increasing access to Japan's markets and two-way investment, stimulating domestic demand-led economic growth, promoting economic restructuring, improving the climate for U.S. investors, and raising the standard of living in both the United States and Japan. The U.S.-Japan bilateral economic relationship--based on enormous flows of trade, investment, and finance--is strong, mature, and increasingly interdependent. Further, it is firmly rooted in the shared interest and responsibility of the United States and Japan to promote global growth, open markets, and a vital world trading system. In addition to bilateral economic ties, the U.S. and Japan cooperate closely in multilateral fora such as the WTO, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, and regionally in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC).
Japan is a major market for many U.S. products, including chemicals, pharmaceuticals, films and music, commercial aircraft, nonferrous metals, plastics, and medical and scientific supplies. Japan also is the largest foreign market for U.S. agricultural products, with total agricultural exports valued at $10.1 billion in 2007, a 20% increase over the $8.39 billion in agricultural exports recorded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2006. Revenues from Japanese tourism to the United States reached nearly $13 billion in 2005.
Trade between the United States and Japan remained strong in 2006. Total trade grew about 0.2% year-on-year. U.S. exports to Japan reached $62.7 billion in 2007, up from $59.6 billion in 2006. U.S. imports from Japan totaled $145.5 billion in 2007 ($148.1 billion in 2006).
U.S. foreign direct investment in Japan reached $91.8 billion in 2006, up from $79.3 billion in 2005, according to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis. New U.S. investment was especially significant in financial services, Internet services, and software, generating new export opportunities for U.S. firms and employment for U.S. workers.
See History of Japan
The Showa Period (1926-89), under Emperor Hirohito, was an era of incredible change from traditional villages to modern cities, from a great empire and early success in World War II to utter ruin and surrender. In 1931 seized Japan Manchuria, and in 1937 it launched a full-scale invasion of China. The U.S. vehemently protested and insisted that Japan pull back, but it refused, so the U.S. stopped shipping it oil. Japan responded by attacking the U.S. at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, and soon conquered much of East and Southeast Asia. In a series of spectacular naval battles, such as the Battle of Midway (June 1942), Japan lost control of the Pacific and was subject to massive air raids culminating in nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Japan, in utter ruins, was occupied by the U.S. until 1951, as Emperor Hirohito led a regime that Americanized the nation, modernized and liberalized its economy and polity, and become an economic superpower, staunch American ally, and a democracy that gave up all its empire and its military power. The emperor stepped down from his traditional godly status but remains the powerful symbol of national identity and unity. Political power rests in networks of powerful politicians, bureaucrats, and business executives. The economy experienced a major slowdown starting in the 1990s following three decades of unprecedented growth, but Japan still remains a major economic power, both in Asia and globally.
Japan's modern economy has many world leading industries and companies, being driven by exports and a mastery of high technology. However, in the 1990s, the economy underwent a major slowdown in part because of overinvestment and an asset price bubble during the late 1980s. Japan has a huge government debt, which exceeds the Gross Domestic product (176% of GDP) and also faces the challenge of a low birth rate, low immigration and an aging of the population which will further increase the debts. China also is becoming a larger economy and a bigger international trading partner than Japan.
2011 Quake - Tsunami
A massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake and several powerful aftershocks struck the eastern coast of Japan on March 11, 2011 (12:46 a.m. in Washington), triggering a tsunami that devastated the coastline north of Tokyo with waves up to 20 meters (66 ft.) high. The earthquake epicenter was in the western Pacific Ocean, 130 kilometers east of Sendai, Honshu island. The earthquake occurred along the subduction zone between two tectonic plates.
The Japan Meteorological Agency said the earthquake was the strongest in the country's history;  the death toll is around 16,000 people; Prime Minister Naoto Kan called it the nation's worst crisis since World War II. .
- Japan and America
- World War II
- Oriental art
- Matthew Perry
- Japanese painting
- Gallery of Japanese Painting
- Japanese dates
- Traveling and living. Japan - Guide.
- Japanese economic takeoff after 1945
- Best Places to Visit in Japan.
Basic further reading
See also: Bibliography of Japan
- Huffman, James L., ed. Modern Japan: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Nationalism. (1998). 316 pp.
- Itasaka, Gen, ed. Japan Encyclopedia, 9 vols. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1983. with beautiful pictures
- Perkins, Dorothy. Encyclopedia of Japan: Japanese History and Culture, from Abacus to Zori. (1991). 410 pp.
- Stockwin, J. A. A. Dictionary of the Modern Politics of Japan. (2003). 291pp online edition
- DK, Japan (Eyewitness Travel Guides) (2007) excerpt and text search
- Reiber, Beth, and Janie Spencer. Frommer's Japan (2006) excerpt and text search
- Rowthorn, Chris et al. Lonely Planet Japan (2005) excerpt and text search
- Allinson, Gary D. The Columbia Guide to Modern Japanese History. (1999). 259 pp. excerpt and text search
- Allinson, Gary D. Japan's Postwar History. (2nd ed 2004). 208 pp. excerpt and text search
- Gordon, Andrew. A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present (2003) online edition; also excerpt and text search
- Hane, Mikiso. Modern Japan: A Historical Survey (2nd ed 1992), 474pp online edition
- Perez, Louis G. The History of Japan (1998) 244pp online edition
- Demographia - 50 Largest World Metropolitan Areas Ranked: 2000 Estimates,
- Cherry Blossom
- Japan Times: 'Population shrinks again despite increase in births'. 3rd August 2007; "Japan's changing demography: Cloud, or silver linings?" Economist (Jul 26th 2007) at .
- "Japan's changing demography: Cloud, or silver linings?" Economist (Jul 26th 2007) at .
- Web Japan Fact Sheet, sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
- Article 20 of the Japanese Constitution erects a legal barrier between political and religious entities.
- Best Places to Visit in Japan.
- World War II wiped out many of the gains Japan had made since 1868. About 40 percent of the nation's industrial plants and infrastructure were destroyed, and production reverted to levels of about fifteen years earlier.Japan - Patterns of Development
- Source: Zig Ziglar's motivational talk on goal setting 
- Japan Quake - Tsunami
- Radiation Levels Surge Outside Two Nuclear Plants in Japan.
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