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Country Profiles: Japan


Flag, map and facts courtesy of CIA World Factbook 2006

Background In 1603, a Tokugawa shogunate (military dictatorship) ushered in a long period of isolation from foreign influence in order to secure its power. For 250 years this policy enabled Japan to enjoy stability and a flowering of its indigenous culture. Following the Treaty of Kanagawa with the US in 1854, Japan opened its ports and began to intensively modernize and industrialize. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Japan became a regional power that was able to defeat the forces of both China and Russia. It occupied Korea, Formosa (Taiwan), and southern Sakhalin Island. In 1931-32 Japan occupied Manchuria, and in 1937 it launched a full-scale invasion of China. Japan attacked US forces in 1941 - triggering America's entry into World War II - and soon occupied much of East and Southeast Asia. After its defeat in World War II, Japan recovered to become an economic power and a staunch ally of the US. While the emperor retains his throne as a symbol of national unity, actual power rests in networks of powerful politicians, bureaucrats, and business executives. The economy experienced a major slowdown starting in the 1990s following three decades of unprecedented growth, but Japan still remains a major economic power, both in Asia and globally.
Location

Eastern Asia, island chain between the North Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan, east of the Korean Peninsula

Map of Japan

Area

total: 377,835 sq km
land: 374,744 sq km
water: 3,091 sq km

Area - comparative slightly smaller than California
Climate varies from tropical in south to cool temperate in north
Terrain mostly rugged and mountainous
Elevation extremes

lowest point: Hachiro-gata -4 m
highest point: Mount Fuji 3,776 m

Natural resources negligible mineral resources, fish
Land use

arable land: 11.64%
permanent crops: 0.9%
other: 87.46% (2005)

Natural hazards many dormant and some active volcanoes; about 1,500 seismic occurrences (mostly tremors) every year; tsunamis; typhoons
Environment - current issues air pollution from power plant emissions results in acid rain; acidification of lakes and reservoirs degrading water quality and threatening aquatic life; Japan is one of the largest consumers of fish and tropical timber, contributing to the depletion of these resources in Asia and elsewhere
Geography - note strategic location in northeast Asia
Population 127,463,611 (July 2006 est.)
Age structure

0-14 years: 14.2% (male 9,309,524/female 8,849,476)
15-64 years: 65.7% (male 42,158,122/female 41,611,754)
65 years and over: 20% (male 10,762,585/female 14,772,150) (2006 est.)

Population growth rate 0.02% (2006 est.)
Infant mortality rate

total: 3.24 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 3.5 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 2.97 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 81.25 years
male: 77.96 years
female: 84.7 years (2006 est.)

Ethnic groups

Japanese 99%, others 1% (Korean 511,262, Chinese 244,241, Brazilian 182,232, Filipino 89,851, other 237,914)
note: up to 230,000 Brazilians of Japanese origin migrated to Japan in the 1990s to work in industries; some have returned to Brazil (2004)

Religions observe both Shinto and Buddhist 84%, other 16% (including Christian 0.7%)
Languages Japanese
Literacy

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2002)

Government type constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government
Capital Tokyo
Independence 660 B.C. (traditional founding by Emperor JIMMU)
Legal system modeled after European civil law system with English-American influence; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations
Suffrage 20 years of age; universal
Flag description white with a large red disk (representing the sun without rays) in the center

Flag of Argentina
Economy - overview Government-industry cooperation, a strong work ethic, mastery of high technology, and a comparatively small defense allocation (1% of GDP) helped Japan advance with extraordinary rapidity to the rank of second most technologically powerful economy in the world after the US and the third-largest economy in the world after the US and China, measured on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis. One notable characteristic of the economy is how manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors work together in closely-knit groups called keiretsu. A second basic feature has been the guarantee of lifetime employment for a substantial portion of the urban labor force. Both features are now eroding. Japan's industrial sector is heavily dependent on imported raw materials and fuels. The tiny agricultural sector is highly subsidized and protected, with crop yields among the highest in the world. Usually self sufficient in rice, Japan must import about 60% of its food on a caloric basis. Japan maintains one of the world's largest fishing fleets and accounts for nearly 15% of the global catch. For three decades, overall real economic growth had been spectacular - a 10% average in the 1960s, a 5% average in the 1970s, and a 4% average in the 1980s. Growth slowed markedly in the 1990s, averaging just 1.7%, largely because of the after effects of overinvestment during the late 1980s and contractionary domestic policies intended to wring speculative excesses from the stock and real estate markets and to force a restructuring of the economy. From 2000 to 2003, government efforts to revive economic growth met with little success and were further hampered by the slowing of the US, European, and Asian economies. In 2004-06, growth improved and the lingering fears of deflation in prices and economic activity lessened. Japan's huge government debt, which totals 175% of GDP, and the aging of the population are two major long-run problems. Some fear that a rise in taxes could endanger the current economic recovery. Internal conflict over the proper way to reform the financial system will continue as Japan Post's banking, insurance, and delivery services undergo privatization between 2007 and 2017.
GDP - per capita $33,100 (2006 est.)
Population below poverty line NA%
Labor force 66.44 million (2006 est.)
Unemployment rate 4.1% (2006 est.)
Industries among world's largest and technologically advanced producers of motor vehicles, electronic equipment, machine tools, steel and nonferrous metals, ships, chemicals, textiles, processed foods
Agriculture - products rice, sugar beets, vegetables, fruit; pork, poultry, dairy products, eggs; fish

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