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Japan
Japanese speaking
country
Japan
Language Japanese
Capital Tokyo
Other main cities Osaka, Yokohama, Nagoya, Sapporo
Area (km2) 377,801
Population 125,638,000
Currency Yen
History of Japan
The Japanese archipelago lies off the coast of Asia. The largest of the mountainous islands of Nippon are Shikoku, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Honshu. The region is susceptible to earthquakes and several of the volcanoes on the islands are still active.

Most of the population lives in the lowlands between the mountains that cover three quarters of the country.

The Japanese are believed to have migrated from other areas of Asia some 2,000 years ago. The only native population of the Islands was the Ainu people. Roughly 15,000 Ainu still live in Japan today and speak their own language.

The origins of the Japanese language are obscure though there are some similarities to Korean. Standard Japanese is used across the country's media but regional variations do exist, some so distinct as to be mutually incomprehensible.

The first limited unification of the islands dominant family groups was achieved by the Yamamoto clan around 400 AD. The clan eventually set up an imperial court after the Chinese model, though their control was anything but complete.

This system of government was soon rivalled by the military style clans, the Samurai. The Imperial court was eclipsed by the power of the military clan leaders, or Shoguns, for over 700 years.

In the mid-1600s the first western ship visited Japan and the great trading nations of Europe soon followed. With the exception of a single trading post at Nagasaki, borders were closed to foreigners because of Japanese concern over Western influence.

Repeated Western attempts to increase trading contact with the prosperous nation failed, until Commodore Perry forced trade upon the Japanese by entering Tokyo bay with an American fleet. The turmoil caused by the Shoguns failure to repel the fleet fundamentally changed Japanese society and by the time Emperor Meiji ascended the throne the Shogun system had collapsed.

Japan rapidly modernised and adapted to the new trading conditions rejecting the old feudal system. Parliamentary government was instituted and Japan embarked on a campaign of territorial expansion into Taiwan, Manchuria and Korea.

Further territory was gained in the Russo-Japanese war (1904-1905) and through seizure of German possessions in Asia during the First World War. Manchuria was taken from the Chinese and controlled through the Emperor Pu-Yi.

In 1936 Japan joined the Axis powers, invading China in 1937. Hostilities with the USA began with the bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1941. The Japanese expanded their influence throughout the Pacific for many months before being forced to retreat back towards their home islands.

Japanese surrender came in 1945 after the US atomic bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. A new Japanese constitution, which vastly reduced the powers of the Emperor, came in 1947 during 7 years under General Douglas MacArthur.

At the end of the war the Japanese infrastructure had been destroyed and all their colonial possessions seized. Effective international trading and massive research and development in manufacturing and technology allowed Japan to make a speedy economic recovery.

Japan impacted the worlds automobile and electronics industries in particular. By the late 1980s only the United States economy was larger.

The Asian economic crisis of 1998 plunged Japan into recession, but in recent years there has been a return to economic growth.

Did you know?
The Japanese language has 122 million native speakers.
Japanese History
Japanese Speaking
Country
» Japan
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