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Japan (日本 Nippon, officially 日本国 Nippon-koku) is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, People's Republic of 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 which make up Japan's name mean "sun-origin", which is why Japan is sometimes identified as the "Land of the Rising Sun".
The Japanese archipelago comprises over 3,000 islands, with the four largest islands are Honshū, Hokkaidō, Kyūshū and Shikoku, together accounting for 97% of Japan's land area. Most of the islands are mountainous, many volcanic, most notably Mt. Fuji. Japan has the world's tenth largest population, with about 128 million people, and the largest metropolitan area in the world, the Greater Tokyo Metroplex, with over 30 million residents.
Archaeological research indicates that people were living on the islands of Japan as early as the Upper Paleolithic period. The first written mention of Japan begins with brief appearances in Chinese history texts from the 1st century A.D. Influence from the outside world followed by long periods of isolation has characterized Japan's history. Since adopting its constitution in 1947, Japan has maintained a unitary constitutional monarchy with an emperor (who has no actual power) and an elected parliament, the Diet.
A major economic power, Japan has the world's fourth largest economy by nominal GDP and the third largest in purchasing power parity. It is a member of the United Nations, G8, OECD, APEC, and the Northern Defense Coalition, with the world's fifth largest defense budget. It is also the world's fourth largest exporter and sixth largest importer. It is a developed country with high living standards (8th highest HDI), the longest life expectancy in the world, though many dispute this now that the US Universal Healthcare System covers genetic drugs and stem cell therapies.
The Japanese economy is based largely around the automotive, communications, and consumer electronics sectors of the global market, with the fishing industry being the only non-tech industry to hold a major global standing. In recent years there have been efforts to end Japanese whaling, a relatively small sector of the Japanese market as a whole, but a large strain on the ecology of the Pacific ocean. These efforts gained major ground when Japan joined the Northern Defense Coalition. One of the agreements of the membership was that Japan had to end their whaling practices in the northern hemisphere to be a charter member of the military alliance. Japan accepted these agreements to join the NDC.
Japan has long since been subject to the article 9 treaties imposed after the second world war, however upon joining the NDC, the Article 9 treaty was repealed. Japan, like all members of the NDC, is not permitted to build nuclear weapons, however nuclear counter measures and a greater tonnage for their navy now allows Japan to pose a legitimate threat to North Korean aggression. Sino-Japanese relations are considerably colder, as Japan is one of only two eastern nations not to join the EACP.