Japan is separated from the Asian mainland by 160km ( 100 miles ) of sea. About 70% of the country are covered by hills and mountains. The island nation is still subjected to natural disasters such as earthquakes, tidal waves and volcanic eruptions. As a result, Japan, geologically speaking, always seems a bit capricious, an unstable land mass and difficult to deal with.
Lowlands and plains are small and scattered, mostly lying along the coast, which is very long in relation to the land area, and has very varied features. The deeply indented bays with good natural harbors tend to be adjacent to mountainous terrain.
Though lying completely in a temperate zone, Japan stretches nearly 2500 km from North to South. Consequently, the climate, with four seasons, ranges from very cold winter, in Hokkaido, to subtropical Okinawa region. Typically, though, winters are fairly mild, and summers are very hot, except for the North and South extremes of the nation. Rain falls throughout the year, and is intermittent with sunshine, but June and early July is the main rainy season.
As at July 1998, the population of Japan is estimated to be at 125,931,533 people. Due to the mountainous condition of the island, Japan's population density is very high, at 333.7 person per sq km.
Japan as a country is very old, dating as far back as 300 B.C. Until the late 16th century Japan was governed by a group of feudal barons, most of whom devoted much of their energies to warring amongst themselves. Japan is for the first time more or less united during the Tokugawa period between 1600 and 1868, where a national administrative hierarchy was forged from the family structures of the ruling class.
During this period the Shoguns -powerful warlords - enjoyed absolute power and conducted an anti - foreign policy. In the late 19th century, a new breed of rulers took control and embarked on a programme of rapid industrialisation, establishing a Western - style system of administration in the process where executive power reverted to the emperor.
As the 20th century dawned, Japan went into a series of war to realize its long - cherished ambition to assert itself as the leading regional power in the Far East. However, in December 1941, the Japanese attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii brought the US into the war. The Japanese forces did not surrender until the Americans destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear bombs.
As one of the 'high tech' countries of the world, Japan sets an example of how a post holocaust country can lift itself off and 'do good'. Being brought up and raised after World War II, Japan has succeeded in becoming an industrial leader from a recovering country.
Japanese culture, and the various social manifestations that have
embodied its expressive attributes throughout history, has fascinated the Western world ever since Marco Polo's imaginative accounts from the 14th century. Its rich cultural and traditional heritage can be seen through its different class structure, status, relations between the sexes, kinship, conflict, harmony, and cultural expressions of art.
Japanese is the official language. Some English is spoken in major cities. Linguists are not sure about the exact origins of the Japanese language. It is believed to be linked to the Altaic language family (Turkish, Mongolian) but also shows similarities to Austronesian languages like Polynesian. Women speak a different Japanese from men. There are many words that are which are peculiar to either women or men. Children, too, speak differently.
The writing system of the Japanese language is very complicated. There are three different kinds of writings Kanji (Chinese characters), Hiragana and Katakana.Texts can be written in two ways, either horizontally from the top to the bottom, or vertically starting in the upper right corner and proceeding to the left. This is the traditional and still the common way in which books are written.
The Japanese parliament, "Kokkai", has two chambers. The upper house, "Sangi-in" has 252 members directly elected from constituencies for six-year terms (half of which are renewed every three years). The lower house, "Shugi-in" has 500 elected members for four-year terms, partly by single-seat constituencies, partly by proportional representation. The emperor is the head of state but has negligible constitutional powers. The appointment of the prime minister is formally entrusted to the emperor, but the appointment must be approved by the Kokkai. The prime minister holds executive power and is aided by a cabinet of ministers.
Japan today enjoy complete freedom in the exercise of their beliefs. Religions in Japan are classified into Shinto, Buddhism, Christianity, and miscellaneous religions. Shinto is essentially indigenous, but has been heavily influenced by Buddhist ideas and practices. Miscellaneous religions are mostly the so-called New Religions. Confucianism, has functioned primarily in the sphere of moral precepts rather than as an organized