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Japan

  • 377,915 kmē
  • 36°00'N
  • 138°00'E
  • 364,485 kmē
  • 13,430 kmē
  • 29,751 km
  • 0km
  • 25,920 kmē
  • 126,475,664
  • Japanese
  • Tokyo
Japan Map
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Japan Map

The Japanese call their island country Nippon or Nihon meaning the source of the sun. This ancient name explains the red disc on their national flag, which represents the rising sun. For many centuries emperors have been heads of state in Japan. Until the 1900's Japanese emperors claimed to be divine, believing they were descended from the gods. The amount of power held by the emperor has varied greatly from one era to another. Today the emperor's role and duties are ceremonial only. The government of the nation is carried out by a democratic parliament called the Diet. Tokyo, Japan's capital, is the largest city.

The Diet is made up of an elected House of Representatives and a House of Councillors. Political parties include socialists, liberals and communists, but since 1955 the most successful party has been the conservative Liberal Democratic Party.

Modern Japan is world-famous for its powerful business corporations and advanced electronic technology. However, this is still a land in which traditions and ancient customs are held in the highest respect. Among the busy streets and bright lights of the capital visitors can glimpse the past in the form of temples and shrines. They can also take part in chanoyu, a 500-year-old tea-drinking ceremony that honours courtesy and hospitality. Most of the population lives in crowded cities on the coastal plains. Farther inland, much of the country is covered with forested hills and mountains. The land is both beautiful and unstable. Volcanoes and earthquakes are common throughout Japan.Japan is made up of about 3,000 islands, which form a long chain off the eastern coast of Asia. The biggest islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Shikoku and Kyushu. Most Japanese live on these four islands, even though much of the land is taken up by towering mountains and hills covered in forest.