|Background: While retaining its time-honored culture, Japan
rapidly absorbed Western technology during the late 19th and early 20th
centuries. After its devastating defeat in World War II, Japan recovered
to become the second most powerful economy in the world and a staunch ally
of the US. While the emperor retains his throne as a symbol of national
unity, actual power rests in networks of powerful politicians,
bureaucrats, and business executives. The economy experienced a major
slowdown in the 1990s following three decades of unprecedented growth.
Government type: constitutional monarchy
Geography of Japan
Location: Eastern Asia, island chain between the North Pacific Ocean and the Sea
of Japan, east of the Korean Peninsula
People of Japan
Japan's population has experienced a phenomenal growth rate during the past 100 years as a result of scientific, industrial, and sociological changes, but this has recently slowed because of falling birth rates. High sanitary and health standards produce a long life expectancy.
Japan is an urban society with only about 7% of the labor force engaged in agriculture. Many farmers supplement their income with part-time jobs in nearby towns and cities. About 80 million of the urban population is heavily concentrated on the Pacific shore of Honshu and in northern Kyushu.
Metropolitan Tokyo with approximately 14 million; Yokohama with 3.3 million; Osaka 2.6 million; Nagoya 2.1 million; Kyoto 1.5 million; Sapporo 1.6 million; Kobe 1.4 million; and Kitakyushu, Kawasaki, and Fukuoka with 1.2 million each account for part of this population. Japan faces the same problems that confront urban industrialized societies throughout the world: overcrowded cities, congested highways, air pollution, and rising juvenile delinquency.
Shintoism and Buddhism are Japan's two principle religions. Shintoism is founded on myths and legends emanating from the early animistic worship of natural phenomena. Since it was unconcerned with problems of afterlife which dominate Buddhist thought, and since Buddhism easily accommodated itself to local faiths, the two religions comfortably coexisted, and Shinto shrines and Buddhist monasteries often became administratively linked. Today many Japanese are adherents of both faiths.
Population: 127,417,244 (July 2005 est.)
SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State
Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Japan > Map Economy History