Japan (; Japanese: 日本, Nippon [ɲippoꜜɴ] (listen) or Nihon [ɲihoꜜɴ] (listen)) is an island country located off the eastern coast of Asia. It is bordered by the Sea of Japan to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east, and extends more than 3,000 kilometers (1,900 miles) from the Sea of Okhotsk in the northeast to the East China Sea and Philippine Sea in the southwest. Part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, Japan encompasses an archipelago of 6,852 islands; five main islands (Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku, and Okinawa) comprise 96% of the country's total area.
Japan is officially divided into 47 prefectures and traditionally into eight regions. About three-fourths of the country's terrain is covered with mountains, with much of the remainder made up by flat coastal plains. As a result, Japan is one of the most densely populated and urbanized countries in the world. The largest urban area is the Greater Tokyo Area centered on the capital city of Tokyo, which is the most populous metropolitan area in the world and home to more than 38 million people. Japan is the eleventh most populous country in the world with a population of 126.2 million, of which 97.8% are ethnically Japanese.
Archaeological evidence indicates that Japan was inhabited as early as the Upper Paleolithic period. The first mentions of the country appear in Chinese texts from the first century AD. Between the fourth and ninth centuries, the kingdoms of Japan became gradually unified under an Emperor and imperial court based in Heian-kyō (modern Kyoto). Beginning in the twelfth century, however, political power came to be held by a succession of military dictators (shōgun), feudal lords (daimyō), and 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 a policy of foreign isolationism. This period ended in 1854 when a United States fleet forced Japan to open to the West, which led to the fall of the shogunate and the restoration of imperial power in 1868. In the resulting Meiji period, Japan adopted a Western-style government and pursued a program of rapid industrialization and modernization. In 1937, the Empire of Japan invaded China, beginning the Second Sino-Japanese War; in 1941, it entered World War II on the side of the Axis powers. After suffering major defeats in the Pacific theater and two atomic bombings, Japan surrendered to the Allies in 1945, coming under a seven-year occupation and adopting a post-war constitution. Japan has since maintained a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy, with the Emperor as the head of state and an elected legislature known as the National Diet.
Today, Japan is a member of numerous international institutions, including the United Nations, the OECD, and the G7. Though it has officially renounced its right to declare war, Japan maintains a modern military for peacekeeping and self-defense, which has been ranked as the world's fourth most-powerful. As of 2019, the country's economy is the world's third-largest by nominal GDP and the fourth-largest by purchasing power parity. Japan is ranked as "very high" on the Human Development Index; its citizens enjoy high rates of tertiary education and the longest life expectancy in the world, though its population is currently is experiencing a projected decline. Culturally, Japan is renowned for its art, cuisine, music, and popular culture, which includes its prominent comics, animation, and video game industries.
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