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Facts about Japan for Kids


Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south. The characters that make up Japan’s name mean “sun-origin”, which is why Japan is sometimes referred to as the “Land of the Rising Sun”.

  • The four largest islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku, together comprising about ninety-seven percent of Japan’s land area.
  • Honshū’s Greater Tokyo Area, which includes the de facto capital city of Tokyo and several surrounding prefectures, is the largest metropolitan area in the world, with over 30 million residents.
  • In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, victory in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War and World War I allowed Japan to expand its empire during a period of increasing militarism.
  • Since adopting its revised constitution in 1947, Japan has maintained a unitary constitutional monarchy with an emperor and an elected legislature called the Diet.
  • A major economic power, Japan has the world’s third-largest economy by nominal GDP and fourth-largest economy by purchasing power parity.
  • According to Japan’s health ministry, Japanese women have the second highest life expectancy of any country in the world.
  • A Paleolithic culture around 30,000 BC constitutes the first known habitation of the Japanese archipelago.
  • On 31 March 1854, Commodore Matthew Perry and the “Black Ships” of the United States Navy forced the opening of Japan to the outside world with the Convention of Kanagawa.
  • The resignation of the shogun led to the Boshin War and the establishment of a centralized state nominally unified under the Emperor.
  • The Meiji Restoration transformed the Empire of Japan into an industrialized world power that pursued military conflict to expand its sphere of influence.
  • The war cost Japan and the rest of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere millions of lives and left much of the nation’s industry and infrastructure destroyed.
  • On 11 March 2011, Japan suffered the strongest earthquake in its recorded history; this triggered the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, one of the worst disasters in the history of nuclear power.
  • 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.
  • For example, in 1896, the Japanese government established a civil code based on a draft of the German Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch; with post–World War 2 modifications, the code remains in effect.
  • Japan’s military is governed by the Ministry of Defense, and primarily consists of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF), the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF).
  • In the period of rapid economic growth after World War II, environmental policies were downplayed by the government and industrial corporations; as a result, environmental pollution was widespread in the 1950s and 1960s.
  • In spite of the widespread belief that Japan is ethnically homogeneous, also due to the absence of ethnicity and/or race statistics for Japanese nationals, at least one analysis describes Japan as a multiethnic society, for example, John Lie.
  • The popularity of the works of Saikaku, for example, reveals this change in readership and authorship, while Bashō revivified the poetic tradition of the Kokinshū with his haikai (haiku) and wrote the poetic travelogue Oku no Hosomichi.