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Japan is an island country in East Asia. It is in the northwest Pacific Ocean and is bordered on the west by the Sea of Japan, extending from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north toward the East China Sea, Philippine Sea, and Taiwan in the south. Japan is a part of the Ring of Fire, and spans an archipelago of 14,125 islands, with the five main islands being Hokkaido, Honshu (the "mainland"), Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa. Tokyo is the country's capital and largest city, followed by Yokohama, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Fukuoka, Kobe, and Kyoto.

Japan has over 125 million inhabitants and is the 11th most populous country in the world, as well as one of the most densely populated. About three-fourths of the country's terrain is mountainous, concentrating its highly urbanized population on narrow coastal plains. Japan is divided into 47 administrative prefectures and eight traditional regions. The Greater Tokyo Area is the most populous metropolitan area in the world. Japan has the world's highest life expectancy, although it is experiencing a population decline due to its very low birth rate.

Japan has been inhabited since the Upper Paleolithic period (30,000 BC). Between the fourth and ninth centuries AD, the kingdoms of Japan became unified under an emperor and the imperial court based in Heian-kyō. Beginning in the 12th century, political power was held by a series of military dictators (shōgun) and feudal lords (daimyō), and enforced by a class of warrior nobility (samurai). After a century-long period of civil war, the country was reunified in 1603 under the Tokugawa shogunate, which enacted an isolationist foreign policy. In 1854, a United States fleet forced Japan to open trade to the West, which led to the end of the shogunate and the restoration of imperial power in 1868. In the Meiji period, the Empire of Japan adopted a Western-modeled constitution, and pursued a program of industrialization and modernization. Amidst a rise in militarism and overseas colonization, Japan invaded China in 1937 and entered World War II as an Axis power in 1941. After suffering defeat in the Pacific War and two atomic bombings, Japan surrendered in 1945 and came under a seven-year Allied occupation, during which it adopted a new constitution.

Under the 1947 constitution, Japan has maintained a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy with a bicameral legislature, the National Diet. Japan is a developed country and a great power, with one of the largest economies by nominal GDP. Japan has renounced its right to declare war, though it maintains a Self-Defense Force that ranks as one of the world's strongest militaries. A global leader in the automotive, robotics, and electronics industries, the country has made significant contributions to science and technology, and is one of the world's largest exporters and importers. It is part of multiple major international and intergovernmental institutions. (Full article...)

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Kitsune is the Japanese word for fox. Foxes are a common subject of Japanese folklore. Stories depict them as intelligent beings and as possessing magical abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. Foremost among these is the ability to assume human form. While some folktales speak of kitsune employing this ability to trick others—as foxes in folklore often do—others portray them as faithful guardians, friends, lovers, and wives. Foxes and human beings lived in close proximity in ancient Japan; this companionship gave rise to legends about the creatures. Kitsune have become closely associated with Inari, a Shinto kami or spirit, and serve as his messengers. This role has reinforced the fox's supernatural significance. The more tails a kitsune has—they may have as many as nine—the older, wiser, and more powerful it is. Because of their potential power and influence, some people make offerings to them as to a deity. It is widely agreed that many fox myths in Japan can be traced to China, Korea, or India. Chinese folk tales tell of fox spirits that may have up to nine tails. Many of the earliest surviving stories are recorded in the Konjaku Monogatari, an 11th-century collection of Chinese, Indian, and Japanese narratives. There is debate whether the kitsune myths originated entirely from foreign sources or are in part an indigenous Japanese concept dating as far back as the fifth century BC. (Full article...)

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On this day...

March 30:

Events

  • 1958 - The National Stadium in The Meiji Shrine Outer Garden, which seats 70,000, is completed.
  • 1959 - The Tokyo Lower Court rules the presence of U.S. forces in Japan to be unconstitutional in connection with an incident where seven protestors were arrested for illegally entering the U.S. base at Tachikawa (the Sunaga Incident.) The decision was later overturned by the Supreme Court in December.
  • 1968 - The TV animation Land of the Giants airs for the first time. Land of the Giants started out as a regular installment in the Weekly Shonen Jump, beginning in May 1966, and caused sales of the comic to triple. The TV series was just as successful with ratings of up to 26%. The series ran until September 1971.
  • 1987 - Shirane Zen becomes the first person to cross the Sahara Desert on a 50cc bike.
  • 1987 - Japanese insurance magnate Gōtō Yasuo pays a then record 5.3 billion yen for Vincent van Gogh's painting, Still Life: Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers. In 1990 he paid 12.5 billion yen for van Gogh's Portrait of Dr. Gachet.

Births

In the news

29 March 2024 – Japan–North Korea relations
North Korean foreign minister Choe Son Hui says that North Korea will not hold any talks with Japan on any issue, including the issue of Japanese abductees in North Korea. This follows an announcement by Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida in which he stated his desire to meet with North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un "without any preconditions". (Reuters)
20 March 2024 –
Eight people are killed, one is injured, and two are missing after the South Korean-flagged tanker Keoyoung Sun loaded with 980 tons of acrylic acid capsizes near Mutsure Island, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan. (Al Jazeera)
16 March 2024 –
The Hokuriku Shinkansen extension from Kanazawa, Ishikawa, to Tsuruga, Fukui, Japan, is completed. (NHK)
12 March 2024 – Capital punishment in Japan
A court in Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan, overturns the death sentence of Yakuza Kudo-kai leader Satoru Nomura and sentences him to life in prison. Nomura had originally been sentenced to death for a 1998 murder. (The Mainichi)
11 March 2024 –
Two New Zealand skiers are killed and another is injured during an avalanche on Mount Yotei in Hokkaido, Japan. (The Guardian)

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Ono in 2011

Yoko Ono (Japanese: 小野 洋子, romanizedOno Yōko, usually spelled in katakana オノ・ヨーコ; born February 18, 1933) is a Japanese multimedia artist, singer, songwriter, and peace activist. Her work also encompasses performance art and filmmaking.

Ono grew up in Tokyo and moved to New York City in 1952 to join her family. She became involved with New York City's downtown artists scene in the early 1960s, which included the Fluxus group, and became well known in 1969 when she married English musician John Lennon of the Beatles, with whom she would subsequently record as a duo in the Plastic Ono Band. The couple used their honeymoon as a stage for public protests against the Vietnam War. She and Lennon remained married until he was murdered in front of the couple's apartment building, the Dakota, on December 8, 1980. Together they had one son, Sean, who later also became a musician. (Full article...)

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Flag of Mie Prefecture
Mie Prefecture is a prefecture of Japan which is part of the Kinki and Chūbu regions on Honshū island. The capital is the city of Tsu. Evidence of human habitation in Mie can be dated to more than 10,000 years ago. During the Jōmon and Yayoi periods, agricultural communities began to form along the river and coastal areas of the region. Ise Shrine is said to have been established during the Yayoi period, and in the 7th century the Saikū Imperial Residence was built in what is now Meiwa Town to serve as both a residence and administrive centre for the Saiō, an Imperial Princess who served as High Priestess of Ise Shrine. During the Edo period, the area now known as Mie Prefecture consisted of several feudal domains, each ruled by an appointed lord. Transport networks, including the Tokaido and Ise Roads, were built. Port towns such as Ohminato, Kuwana and Anōtsu, posting stations and castle towns flourished. Pilgrimages to Ise Shrine also became very popular. After the Meiji Restoration, the former provinces of Ise, Shima, and Iga as well as a portion of eastern Kii, were organized and reorganized repeatedly. In 1871 the area from the Kiso Three Rivers in the north to present-day Tsu became Anōtsu Prefecture, and the area south of that became Watarai Prefecture. In 1872, the Anōtsu prefectural seat moved from Tsu to Yokkaichi, and the prefecture itself was renamed Mie. For a variety of reasons, including the strong likelihood that Mie would eventually merge with Watarai, the prefectural seat returned to Tsu the following year, and Mie Prefecture took its present-day form in 1876, when it merged with its southern neighbor.

Did you know... – show different entries

Aizu Matsudaira's Royal Garden

  • ... that over the course of five decades, Toshio Masuda directed 16 films which made the top ten list at the Japanese box office, a record surpassed by only one other director?
  • ... that there are 30 million smokers in Japan, making the country one of the largest tobacco markets in the world?

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The following are images from various Japan-related articles on Wikipedia.

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