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Japan ( Japanese: 日本 Nippon [nip̚põ̞ɴ] or Nihon [nihõ̞ɴ]; formally 日本国 About this sound Nippon-koku or Nihon-koku, "State of Japan"), also known as the "Land of the Rising Sun", is an island country in East Asia located in the Pacific Ocean. Japan contains over 6,000 individual islands known as the Japanese Archipelago, of which over 430 are inhabited. These islands are mostly mountainous and many are volcanic. The highest mountain in Japan, Mount Fuji, is also volcanic. Japan is located in an unusual place where three tectonic plates merge together, also known as the "Pacific Ring of Fire". This location leads to many low intensity earthquakes and volcanic activity. In turn this leads to a number of tsunamis every century; while also creating a favorite attraction in Japan, the numerous hot springs created from this volcanic activity.

Japan is a constitutional monarchy whereby the power of the Emperor is very limited. As a ceremonial figurehead, he is defined by the constitution as "the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people." Power is held chiefly by the Prime Minister and other elected members of the Diet, while sovereignty is vested in the Japanese people. Akihito is the current Emperor of Japan; Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan, stands as next in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne.

Japan's legislative organ is the National Diet, seated in Chiyoda, Tokyo. The Diet is a bicameral body, consisting of a House of Representatives with 480 seats, elected by popular vote every four years or when dissolved, and a House of Councillors of 242 seats, whose popularly elected members serve six-year terms. There is universal suffrage for adults over 20 years of age, with a secret ballot for all elected offices.The Diet is dominated by the social liberal Democratic Party of Japan and the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The LDP has enjoyed near continuous electoral success since 1955, except for a brief 11-month period between 1993 and 1994, and from 2009 to 2012. It holds 294 seats in the lower house and 83 seats in the upper house.

The Prime Minister of Japan is the head of government and is appointed by the Emperor after being designated by the Diet from among its members. The Prime Minister is the head of the Cabinet, and he appoints and dismisses the Ministers of State. Following the LDP's landslide victory in the 2012 general election, Shinzō Abe replaced Yoshihiko Noda as the Prime Minister on December 26, 2012 and became the country's sixth prime minister to be sworn in 6 years. Although the Prime Minister is formally appointed by the Emperor, the Constitution of Japan explicitly requires the Emperor to appoint whoever is designated by the Diet.

Japan has the tenth largest population in the world with a total of 128 million people. The capital of Japan is Tokyo which has the largest population in Japan with 35 million residents for the entire metropolitan area. Japan's original culture is called Jomo, but today's culture is greatly influenced by China, Europe and North America. One such influence is the emergence of pop music in Japan, known as J-pop.Despite this influence, the spoken language is still 99% Japanese and the religion still remains 84% Shinto (indigenous religion) and Buddhist. 

In Tokyo there is the largest wholesale market in Japan called Tsukiji Fish Market, and is a must see for all sushi lovers. Another attraction in Tokyo is the Kabuki-Za Theater which houses traditional Japanese performances. Japan is often associated with Geisha, in Gion, a neighborhood in Kyoto, tourists have the opportunity to see traditional tea houses and clubs and possibly even a Geisha in full make-up and dress. Kyoto also has one of the most famous Zen rock gardens, Ryugen-in Temple, which has been around since the 15th century.

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Quick Facts

Population: 127,368,088
Capital: Tokyo
Per-capita GDP: $ 35200
Size: 377,915 km2
Time Zone: (GMT + 09:00 hours) Osaka, Sapporo, Tokyo

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Country information is adapted from public domain resources including the CIA World Fact Book and www.Wikipedia.org.
Please report errors or concerns to questions@abroadoffice.net.

Ursinus College Center for International Programs