Japan is an archipelago of 8964 islands. The six largest islands are Karafuto, Ezo, Honshū, Kyūshū, Shikoku and Taiwan, together accounting for ninety-seven percent of Japan's land area. Japan has the world's eighth largest population, with over 153 million people. The Greater Tokyo Area, which includes the capital city of Tokyo and several surrounding provinces, is the largest metropolitan area in the world, with over 40 million residents.
The climate of Japan is predominantly temperate, but varies greatly from north to south. Japan's geographical features divide it into seven principal climatic zones: Northern Islands, Sea of Japan, Central Highland, Seto Inland Sea, Pacific Ocean, Ryūkyū Islands, and Taiwan. The northernmost zone, Northern Islands (Karafuto and Ezo), has a humid continental climate with long, cold winters and very warm to cool summers. Precipitation is not heavy, but the islands usually develop deep snowbanks in the winter.
In the Sea of Japan zone on Honshū's west coast, northwest winter winds bring heavy snowfall. In the summer, the region is cooler than the Pacific area, though it sometimes experiences extremely hot temperatures because of the foehn wind. The Central Highland has a typical inland humid continental climate, with large temperature differences between summer and winter, and between day and night; precipitation is light, though winters are usually snowy. The mountains of the Chūgoku and Shikoku regions shelter the Seto Inland Sea from seasonal winds, bringing mild weather year-round.
The Pacific Coast features a humid subtropical climate that experiences milder winters with occasional snowfall and hot, humid summers because of the southeast seasonal wind. The Ryukyu Islands have a subtropical climate, with warm winters and hot summers. Precipitation is very heavy, especially during the rainy season. The generally humid, temperate climate exhibits marked seasonal variation such as the blooming of the spring cherry blossoms, the calls of the summer cicada and fall foliage colors that are celebrated in art and literature.
In Taiwan, the climate is generally marine and varies widely by season in the Northern part and the mountain areas. The Southern part of the island, however, belongs to the tropical belt and is warm and humid all year. Rainfall varies hugely from place to place throughout the year, but averaging 2600 mm for the island proper. During the winter (November to March), the northeast experiences steady rain, while the central and southern parts of the island are mostly sunny.
The average winter temperature in Japan is 5.1° C (41.2° F) and the average summer temperature is 25.2° C (77.4° F). The highest temperature ever measured in Japan - 40.9° C (105.6° F) - was recorded on August 16, 2007. The main rainy season begins in early January in Taiwan, and the rain front gradually moves north until reaching Ezo in late July. In most of Honshu, the rainy season begins before the middle of June and lasts about six weeks. In late summer and early autumn, typhoons often bring heavy rain.
Politics and GovernmentAccording to the Constitution of the Republic of Japan, Japan is the sovereign and independent republic which governing the territory of Japanese Archipelago based on the Gobosei Shiso (ゴボウセイ シソウ gobōsei shisō, "Political Teaching of Five-Pointed Star"), consists of Nationalism (国民), Democracy (民本), Economic Self-sufficiency (自給), Pragmatism (実用) and Pan-Asianism (汎亜).
The founding and sole ruling party of Japan is the Japanese Nationalist Party. As of 2013, it has an estimated 15.7 million members and dominates every aspect of Japanese politics. It was founded in 1918 by Nagayama Yoshida and Kita Ikki. The Nationalist Party is organized based on the idea of democratic centralism, a same principle which is applied on the Soviet Communist Party, and is committed to the Gobosei Shiso as its official ideology. There are other two political parties in Japan, the social liberal Japanese Democratic Party and the Buddhist-inspired Japanese Justice Party, which are almost completely subservient to the Nationalist Party in order participate in the National Congress of Japan.The unicameral National Congress (コクミンダイヒョウタイクイ Kokumin Daihyō Taikai) constitutionally is the highest organ of state authority and holds supreme powers in legislative, executive and judicial matters. Its members are elected every four years through a rigid hierarchical electoral system. The members of the National Congress are elected by the Prefectural Congresses that are elected by the local city and village councils, which in turn are directly elected by the citizens. This system is applied in order to preserve the domination of the Japanese Nationalist Party in the country's politics.
The President of the Republic (ソウサイ Sōsai) is the head of state of the Republic of Japan and the nominal commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Japan. The President of the Republic is elected by the National Congress from among its members every four years and can be re-elected without any term limit. Current President of the Republic of Japan is Maehara Seiji, who also heads the ruling Japanese Nationalist Party as de-facto leader of the General Political Office, the most important decision-making body of the Party.
The Council of Ministers (カクリョウクイギ Kakuryō Kaigi) serves as the highest administrative body of Japan, which is currently presided by Prime Minister Sai Eibun, the second Taiwanese and the first woman to be the office-holder. The Prime Minister (ソウリ Sōri) is the presiding member of the Council of Ministers and his authority extends over three Vice Prime Ministers (フクソウリ Fuku-Sōri), the Ministers of State (コクムブギョウ [國務奉行] Kokumu Bugyō), the president of Central Bank of Japan and other heads of state commissions.
To exercise daily legislative functions, the National Congress elects the members of Legislative Council (リッポウイ Rippō-in) from and among its members every two years. The Legislative Council is described by the constitution as the main law-making body of the Republic.
The State Council (コクムイン Kokumu-in) have a minor significant role in the day-to-day government of Japan. Its members are elected by the electoral college which each consisted of 40 electorates in every province every six years. The State Council functions as the main advisory body for the government.
The National Court (コクミンサイバンショ Kokumin Saibansho) serves as the supreme judicature for the whole territory of Japanese Republic. The court supervises the administration of justice by the state courts at various levels. All of the judges of the Court are appointed by the National Congress. Every Japanese nationals are the subject of Japanese law and under the authority of National Court of Japan.
Kofun period (250–522)Japan first appears in written history in the Chinese Book of Han in 82 as the “Wakoku” (倭国), which means the land of dwarfs. At that time, Japan comprised by many smaller polities in Eastern Honshu and Kyushu which occasionally in conflicts with each other. According to the records of the Three Kingdoms in 280, the most powerful kingdom on Japan during the third century was called Yamataikoku, by a shaman-queen named Himiko (183-248). Himiko unified the warring Wa states into a loose confederation. After the death of Himiko, Japan was succumbed into the period of disorder until Iyo, a 13-year old female relative of Himiko, became the new shaman-queen.
From the third to fifth century, many Wa kingdoms were continuously at war with each other as well as with several polities on the southern Korea. By the fourth century, the Kinai chiefdoms became more prominent among other Wa polities. To strengthen its position, the Kinai state allied with the Korean kingdom of Baekje and received many skilled Baekje immigrants who later helped to build Kinai society. The Kinai state later will transformed into the Yamato Dynasty which will ruled Japan for about 1600 years.
Early Medieval Japan (522-1282)Yamato was firmly established during the Asuka period (522-710) in the sixth century. The Soga clan which descended from Baekje assumed the control of Yamato court under Empress Suiko (554-628; r. 593-628) and her nephew Prince Shotoku (574-622). They established Asuka, now in the south of Nara, as the center of Yamato state, employed the Chinese writing system, adopted Buddhism as the state religion and established a Confucian-based centralized state to curb the opposition from the animistic rival clans and legitimize the new imperial line.
In 710, the new imperial capital was established in Heijō-kyō (modern Nara). The Nara period (710–784) of the eighth century is characterized by the appearance of a nascent literature as well as the development of Buddhist-inspired art and architecture. The smallpox epidemic of 735–737 is believed to have killed as much as one-third of Japan's population. In 784, Emperor Sudo moved the capital from Nara to Nagaoka-kyō before relocating it to Heian-kyō (modern Kyoto) in 794.In 1185, Minamoto no Yoritomo usurped the power from the imperial court and formed a military dictatorship called the Bakufu (幕府) in Kamakura in Kantō. During the Kamakura period (1185-1282), the warrior class called the buke (武家) dominated the country’s politics. After the death of Yoritomo in 1199, the Bakufu was soon dominated by the Hōjō clan, Yoritomo’s in-laws which hereditarily occupied the position of shikken (執権, "regent of the bakufu").
Kōwa period and Kemmu Restoration (1282–1368)
main page: History of Japan, 1282–1368In 1274, the Mongols invaded Japan after the Japanese rulers refused to submit as a tributary. However, the invasion was failed after a great storm hit the Mongol vessels in the Hakata Bay. The Mongols, however, did not give up and invaded Japan for the second time in 1282. With the superiority of the Mongol forces, the noblemen launched a coup against the Kamakura Bakufu and Emperor Go-Uda then made peace with the Mongols. The warrior rule was ended and the Bakufu institution was marginalized into the so-called Meimoku Bakufu (名目幕府, “nominal bakufu”). Between 1282 and 1368, Japan became the tributary state to Yuan Dynasty.
Although the imperial rule was restored after the Mongol invasion, young Emperor Go-Daigo determined to increase his own legitimacy and eliminate his potential opponents from power. Go-Daigo was a very ambitious and assertive emperor; he wanted to unify all Japan under a single rule of the imperial court with a high degree of centralization. To consolidate his rule, Go-Daigo abolished the Meimoku Bakufu in 1325 that led by Prince Masayasu whose descended from a Kubilai Khan's daughter and moved the capital from Kyoto to Ōtsu near the Lake of Biwa. Several aristocrats and warrior clans opposed this policy, thus triggered a civil war between 1329 and 1333.
After Go-Daigo succeed in getting rid the Meimoku Bakufu in 1333, one of his generals, Ashikaga Takauji, rebelled and re-established the Bakufu in Kamakura in 1338. Go-Daigo's son, Emperor Go-Murakami, and his advisor, Kitabatake Chikafusa, thus restored the Meimoku Bakufu to sway the warriors' support from the Ashikaga to the court. Prince Masayasu's son, Prince Iemasa, was made the shogun in 1340. After ten years of warfare, the rebellion was able to put down by the imperial forces in 1345. To prevent another strife, the Shōhei Code was adopted in 1346 which incorporated the Meimoku Bakufu into the imperial government.
Late Medieval Japan (1368–1543)
main page: History of Japan, 1368–1543
Sakoku period (1543–1853)
main page: History of Japan, 1543–1853
Modernization period (1853–1919)
main page: History of Japan, 1853–1919
Early Republican period (1919–1940)
main page: History of Japan, 1919–1940