Japan is an island country, lying off the eastern coast of Asia in the
western Pacific Ocean. The Japanese overwhelmingly are a single Asian
ethnic group. . Situated in one of Earth's most geologically active
zones, Japan experiences volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Mountain
ranges cover more than four-fifths of its land surface; its highest
mountain is Mount Fuji. The nation's economy, one of the world's
biggest, is based largely on manufacturing and services; exports
include electronic and electrical equipment, motor vehicles, chemicals,
and iron and steel products.
The government's involvement in banking
results in unique cooperation between the public and private sectors.
Japan is one of the world's principal seagoing nations, with an
important marine fishing industry. It is a constitutional monarchy with
two legislative houses; its chief of state is the emperor, and the head
of government is the prime minister. Japan's history began with the
accession of the legendary first emperor, Jimmu, in 660 BC. The Yamato
court established the first unified Japanese state in the 4th–5th
centuries AD; during this period, Buddhism arrived in Japan by way of
Korea. For centuries Japan borrowed heavily from Chinese culture, but
it began to sever its links with the mainland by the 9th century.
Fujiwara family held sway through the 11th century. In 1192 Minamoto
Yoritomo established Japan's first bakufu , or shogunate (see Kamakura
period). The Muromachi period (1338–1573) was marked by warfare among
powerful families. Unification was achieved in the late 1500s under the
leadership of Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu.
During the Tokugawa period, beginning in 1603, the government imposed a
policy of isolation. Under the leadership of the emperor Meiji
(1868–1912), it adopted a constitution (1889) and began a program of
modernization and Westernization. Japanese imperialism led to war with
China (1894–95) and Russia (1904–05) as well as to the annexation of
Korea (1910) and Manchuria (1931). During World War II Japan attacked
U.S. forces in Hawaii and the Philippines (December 1941) and occupied
European colonial possessions in Southeast Asia. In 1945 the U.S.
dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Japan surrendered
to Allied powers. U.S. postwar occupation of Japan led to a new
democratic constitution in 1947.
In rebuilding Japan's ruined
industrial plant, new technology was used in every major industry. A
tremendous economic recovery followed, and Japan became one of the
world's wealthiest countries. It was able to maintain a favourable
balance of trade despite an economic recession that began in the early