Japan is located off the east Asian coast and comprises four principal islands and over 3000 smaller ones. A powerful economy, it has an emperor as ceremonial head of state.

Geography: The terrain is predominantly mountainous, with fertile coastal plains; over two-thirds is woodland. There is no single continuous mountain range; the mountains divide into many small land blocks separated by lowlands and dissected by numerous river valleys. The islands lie on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” and earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are frequent. The Pacific coast is vulnerable to tsunamis. There are numerous hot springs.

 Climate: Generally temperate–oceanic. Spring is warm and sunny, while summer is hot and humid, with high rainfall. In western Hokkaido and northwest Honshu, winters are very cold, with heavy snowfall. Freak storms and damaging floods in recent years have raised concern over global climate changes.

 People and Society: One of the most racially homogeneous societies in the world. A sense of order and social structure was founded on a strongly ingrained respect for elders and social superiors. In business, this underpinned the now much-diluted “lifetime employer” concept, where company allegiance determined social life as well as career. There is little tradition of generational rebellion, but the youth market is powerful and current fashions focus on teenagers. The education system is highly pressurized. Non-graduates have difficulty reaching management-level jobs, so competition for university places is ntense. Long-term jobs for women are now the norm. One of the world’s best healthcare systems and increased longevity have led to an aging population, with one in five people already over 65. The cost of living is high, especially in Tokyo.

 The Economy: World’s second-largest economy. Established market leader in high-tech electronic goods and cars. Talent for developing ideas from abroad. Global spread of business – especially to EU, US. Once-revolutionary management and production methods. Long-term research and development. Largest coal importer. Trade surplus causes international tension. Protectionism in domestic economy. Much-needed reform of financial sector has been obstructed by traditional economic power brokers. Significant aid donor.

 Insight: The Japanese are among the world’s most avid newspaper readers, with daily sales exceeding 70 million copies


 Official Name: Japan

 Date of Formation: 1590

 Capital: Tokyo

 Population: 127 million

 Total Area: 145,882 sq. miles (377,835 sq. km)

 Density: 875 people per sq. mile

 Languages: Japanese*, Korean, Chinese

 Religions: Shinto and Buddhist 76%, Buddhist 16%, other (including Christian) 8%

 Ethnic Mix: Japanese 99%, other (mainly Korean) 1%

 Government: Parliamentary system

 Currency: Yen = 100 sen

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