Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, Japan lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south. The kanji that make up Japan’s formal name mean “sun origin”, which is why the country is sometimes referred to as “Land of the Rising Sun.”
Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands. The four largest islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku. These 4 regions make up roughly 97% of Japan’s total land area. Although it is a relatively small-sized nation, Japan actually has the world’s tenth largest population, with over 126 million people. The greater Tokyo area in Honshu, which includes the famous capital of Tokyo and several surrounding prefectures, is the largest metropolitan area in the world, with over 30 million people.
Japan has the third largest economy in the world by nominal GDP and the world’s fourth largest economy by purchasing power parity. Japan is also the fourth largest exporter and importer in the world. Although it officially renounced its right to declare war during WWII, Japan still maintains a modern military with the sixth largest military budget, used for self-defense and peacekeeping roles. Japan is a modern constitutional monarchy where the power of the Japanese Emperor is very limited. More of a ceremonial figurehead, the Emperor is defined by the Japanese constitution as the primary symbol of the state and of the unity of the people. The Prime Minister of Japan and other elected members of the Diet hold government power, while sovereignty is chiefly vested in the Japanese people.
Nara is an ancient capital city in Nara Prefecture, Kansai region of Japan. The city recently celebrated its 1300th anniversary in 2010. Overshadowed by its more famous neighbor Kyoto, Nara is often overlooked by many tourists. However, Nara is home to many important scenic and historical sites of Japan, and today preserves its main sights […]
Kagoshima is the capital of the Kagoshima prefecture on the island of Kyushu, Japan. Kagoshima is a historical city watched over by Sakurajima, an active volcano that erupts and rains ash over the city from time to time. The city is also home to the Japanese samurai hero, Saigo Takamori, and is full of historical […]
Japan’s first formal currency system was the Kouchousen “Imperial currency”. It was exemplified by the adoption of Japan’s first official coin type, the Wadoukaichin. It was first minted in 708 on order of Empress Gemmei, Japan’s 43rd Imperial ruler. “Wadoukaichin” is the reading of the four characters printed on the coin, and is thought to […]
Osaka is the third largest city in Japan, with a population of about 20 million people. It is the central metropolis of the Kansai region and considered larger than Kobe and Kyoto. Osaka can refer to either the larger Osaka prefecture, or the more well known, central Osaka city. The city is divided into 24 […]
Oreimo, or “Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai”, is a modern anime comedy that discusses otaku culture, siscon fetishes, and other Japanese social taboos in a fun, fresh way. Now before you dismiss this as another moe paradise debacle fueled by one-dimensional characters, blatant product placement, and studio controlled plot adaptations […]
Beer in Japan started during the Edo Period (1600s) when the Dutch opened a beer hall for sailors working the trade route between Japan and the Dutch Empire. Japanese beer brewing has been exported throughout most of southeast Asia and factories are spread throughout the world. Today, beer is considered the most popular alcoholic drink […]
Japanese calligraphy is a form of artistic writing of the Japanese language. For many centuries, Japanese calligraphy was largely based on reestablished Chinese styles of artistic writing. But after the integration of Hiragana and Katakana, the Japanese unique system of syllabaries, a distinctive Japanese writing system was developed and calligraphers produced styles more intrinsic to […]
Sendai is the largest city in the Tohoku region. It is also the capital city of Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. The city was founded in 1600 by the daimyo Date Masamune, and is well known by its nickname, Mori no Miyako, “City of Trees.” There are approximately 60 zelkova trees on Jozenji dori and Aoba dori. […]
Kanji are adopted Chinese logographic characters that are used in the modern Japanese writing system along with hiragana, katakana, and the occasional use of the Latin alphabet. The Japanese term kanji for the Chinese characters literally means “Hans characters” and is written using the same characters as the Chinese word hanzi. Chinese characters first came […]