|Nihon-koku / Nippon-koku
|Form of government
||UTC + 9 (JST)
|Telephone area code
Japan (Japanese: Nihon-Koku / Nippon-Koku; Nihon /
Nippon = "Land of the Rising Sun") is with an area of
377 801 km² somewhat larger than Germany and consists
of around 3,900 islands east of the Asian mainland in
the Pacific Ocean lying. Between Japan and the mainland
is the Japanese Sea in the north and the East China Sea
in the south. The distance to the Russian coast is
around 300 km, the nearest Russian island (Sakhalin) is
just under 75 km from the Japanese island of Hokkaido.
Most of the islands belonging to Japan are only small
and not inhabited. The four main islands are Hokkaido
(81 470 km²), Honschu (or Hondo, 227 414 km², which
corresponds to about two thirds of the total national
area), Schikoku (18 156 km²) and Kyushu (36 554 km²).
The islands represent the part of a mountain that
protrudes from the sea, which was created by the
collision of the Pacific and Eurasian plates. As with
other regions of this type, it is a zone of intense
tectonic activity; over 1,400 earthquakes are recorded
in Japan each year.
Almost 80% of the country's territory is occupied by
high mountains (including some 200 volcanoes, of which
over 30 are still active). Many of the peaks are over
2,000 m high, Mount Fuji on the island of Honschu is the
highest peak in Japan at 3,776 m. Larger lowlands can
only be found on Hokkaido and Honschu. The Kanto plain
on Honschu is the largest plain in Japan with an area of
around 14,700 km². The capital Tokyo is also located
here. Other lowlands on the island are the Osaka and
Nobiebene. The rivers Ishikari and Tokachi formed wide
valleys on Hokkaido. The numerous rivers in Japan are
mostly short and have a steep gradient. The longest
river is the Shinano on the island of Honschu with a
length of around 369 km. It rises at Kobushi (2,899 m)
and flows into the Japanese Sea. Some of the rivers are
acidic due to their origin in the volcanic mountains.
The largest lake in Japan is the Biwasee with an area of
approx. 675 km², which is also on Honschu.
The climate on the Japanese islands is inconsistent
and ranges from cool temperate zones on the island of
Hokkaido to warm temperate to subtropical regions on the
Nasei Islands (Ryuku Islands) in the extreme south.
Influencing factors are not only the large north-south
extension (around 3,000 km), but also the mountain
ranges on the islands and ocean currents such as the
cool Oyashio stream in the north and the warm Kursohio
stream in the south.
Average temperatures in Sapporo on the island of
Hokkaido in the north are -6 ¡ã C in January and 20 ¡ã C
in July. In the capital Tokyo on Honschu, the values
are around 3 ¡ã C in January, 26 ¡ã C in July, Nagasaki
in southern Japan in January at 5.5 ¡ã C, and around 27 ¡ã
C in July.
Due to the encounter of dry continental and humid
maritime air masses, high amounts of precipitation are
achieved in Japan, which generally decrease from south
to north. While annual average values of around 2,000
mm are measured on the islands in southern Japan, the
figure is around 1,500 mm on Honschu and just over 1,000
mm on Hokkaido in the north. The majority of
precipitation falls from May to October (southwest
In late summer and early autumn, typhoons (cyclones)
with extremely heavy rains can form, especially in the
southwest of the country, which form over the Pacific
Flora and fauna
Depending on the different climate zones and the
different altitudes, the vegetation on the Japanese
islands also differs. Around two thirds of the state is
forested: In the north on the island of Hokkaido, boreal
coniferous forest predominates, which turns south into
summer-green mixed forest. From the middle of the island
of Honschu, evergreen deciduous forests with laurel
plants, holly trees, ferns and oaks appear. In the south
of the country there is tropical flora with evergreen
rainforest and mangroves on the coasts.
Due to the island locations, there is a wildlife in
Japan that differs from that of the Asian mainland. In
addition to wild boars, badgers, deer, antelopes,
weasels and hares, the occurrence of which depends on
the corresponding altitude, the red-faced macaques live
in Japan, a rare species of monkey that only occurs in
this country. Other peculiarities of the animal world
are, for example, the iriomotic cat, which was only
discovered in 1966, and the remaining stocks of the East
Asian ibis. The collar bear, which is at great risk on
the mainland, is still widespread here. Hokkaido in
northern Japan is home to the mountain hare, ptarmigan
and Odin chicken, sable and brown bear.Reptiles include
sea turtles, various types of snakes (including sea
snakes) and even larger stocks of the Asian giant
salamander, which can grow up to 1.5 m long.
With a population of around 127.42 million, Japan
ranks eighth in a global comparison of countries. The
population density is given as an average of 337
residents per square kilometer, but is actually higher,
since large parts of the state (especially the mountain
regions) are not habitable. Almost 80% of all Japanese
live in urban areas, four out of five live on the island
of Honschu. The largest city is the capital Tokyo with
11.85 million people, if you count the suburbs. Other
large cities are Yokohama (3.43 million), Osaka (2.60
million), Nagoya (2.17 million), Sapporo (1.82 million)
and Kyoto and Kobe, both of which have around 1.5
According to COUNTRYAAH, 99% of the total population are Japanese.
South Koreans, Chinese and Brazilians form small
minorities. The Ainu people, who mainly live on the
island of Hokkaido, are the only indigenous minority
whose exact origin has not been determined.
The official language is Japanese, which is spoken in
many dialects. Written, the language consists of word
and syllable characters. The literacy rate is 99%. The
education and health system in Japan is very well
developed (life expectancy for women is 85, for men 78
Most Japanese (around 80%) are followers of several
religions. Shintoism, in which natural deities are
worshiped and a strong ancestral cult prevails, was the
state religion until 1945 and still has the most
followers today (over 40%). This religion has up to 200
different forms. Buddhism is just as diverse in Japan,
to which around 40% of the Japanese also belong. At just
under 0.7%, Christians are a small minority.
Population growth is zero. The level of education is
very high; compulsory schooling comprises a six-year
elementary school and a three-year middle school. Three
quarters of the universities are privatized.
Japan is a parliamentary monarchy with a constitution
from 1947. The Japanese emperor (Tenno) has only
representative functions (Akihito Tsuyu No Mija, since
1989). The head of government is the Prime Minister
(Shinzo Abe, since December 2012), who is the
representative of the strongest party (mostly in the
lower house). He appoints the ministers.
The legislature lies with the bicameral parliament
(Kokkai). The lower house (Shugi-in) consists of 480
deputies who are directly selected for a term of four
years. The House of Lords (Sangi-in) has 242 members,
some of whom are elected directly, some through party
lists and some as representatives of the prefectures.
The members of the upper house hold their office for six
years. Politically, the lower house, which monitors the
state budget and foreign affairs, is more important than
the upper house, whose decisions against decisions of
the lower house can only have a suspensive effect.
Japan is divided into 47 prefectures, including two
city prefectures (Osaka, Kyoto) and the capital area
Tokyo. The prefectures each have their own parliaments,
but only limited political independence.
In Japan, the areas of business, finance and politics
are traditionally particularly closely linked. The
strengths of the resource-poor country lie in the
excellent work ethic and education of the population and
the low expenditure for areas such as defense and
Around 12% of the state is used for agriculture; the
personal needs for food cannot be covered. Rice, cereals
(wheat, barley), fruit, vegetables, legumes, potatoes
and citrus fruits (in the southern part of the country)
are cultivated in the mostly hilly agricultural regions.
Livestock farming plays a subordinate role, while
fishing contributes significantly to meeting food needs.
Japan is one of the leading industrial nations and
one of the G-7 countries. The Japanese companies are
characterized by very high productivity and
state-of-the-art facilities. Japan is the world leader
in the fields of iron and steel production and
automotive, ship and machine tool construction. Most of
the raw materials required must be imported. Another
central area of industry is entertainment electronics,
where inventions from abroad were first copied, then
further developed and perfected. In the computer sector,
Japan is an absolute leader in the production of
computer-based games. The centers of industrial
production are the metropolitan areas around Tokyo,
Nagoya and Osaka / Kobe.
The country's energy needs are largely met by
imported oil and coal. After the accident at the
Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011, the government
decided to phase out nuclear power by 2030.
Exports go mainly to China and the United States,
followed by South Korea by a large margin. China was
Japan's most important trading partner for the first
time in 2007. In the same year, Japan signed a free
trade agreement with the ASEAN countries.
The transport infrastructure in Japan is well
developed, there are 1,170,000 km of paved roads and
23,600 km of rails available, and shipping traffic
traditionally plays an important role. The ports in
Chiba, Kobe, Nagoya and Yokohama are among the ten
largest sea ports in the world. The largest airports are
Tokyo Haneda, Tokyo Narita, Kansai and Ch¨±bu.
The currency is the yen (= 100 sen).