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The Japan Portal
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Japan, officially Nippon (日本) is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of China, Korea and Russia. The characters that make up Japan's name mean "sun-origin", which is why Japan is sometimes identified as the "Land of the Rising Sun".

Japan comprises over 3,000 islands, the largest of which are Honshū, Hokkaidō, Kyūshū and Shikoku. Most of the islands are mountainous, many volcanic; for example, Japan’s highest peak, Mount Fuji, is a volcano. Japan has the world's tenth largest population, with about 128 million people. The Greater Tokyo Area, which includes the capital city of Tokyo and several surrounding prefectures, is the largest metropolitan area in the world, with over 30 million residents.

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 and an elected parliament, the Diet.

A major economic power, Japan has the world's third largest economy by nominal GDP. It is a member of the United Nations, G8, G4, OECD and APEC, with the world's fifth largest defense budget. It is also the world's fourth largest exporter and sixth largest importer and a world leader in technology and machinery.

Selected article

Sheet music of Kimigayo
Kimigayo, often translated as "May your reign last forever" is Japan's National Anthem, and is also one of the world's shortest national anthems in current use. The lyrics are based on a Waka poem written in the Heian Period, sung to a melody written in the later Meiji Era. The current melody was chosen in 1880, replacing an unpopular melody composed eleven years earlier. Although Kimigayo has long been Japan's de facto national anthem, it was only legally recognized as such in 1999 with the passing of the Law Regarding the National Flag and National Anthem. After its adoption, there was controversy over the performance of the anthem at public school ceremonies. Along with the national flag, Kimigayo was considered to be a symbol of imperialism and militarism in wartime. The lyrics first appeared in a poem anthology, Kokin Wakashū, as an anonymous poem. While anonymous poems were not uncommon at that time, and the author may have been in fact known, the anonymity might be because the author belonged to one of the lower classes. The poem was also included in a lot of anthologies, and in a later period used as a celebration song by people of all walks of life. Unlike the current anthem, the poem began with "Wa ga Kimi wa" ('you, my lord') instead of "Kimigayo wa" ('your reign'). The change of the lyrics occurred during the Kamakura period.

Selected image

Acer buergerianum bonsai
Credit: Peggy Greb

This bonsai is part of the penjing collection at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum. The trident maple Acer buergerianum has its roots growing over a rock and its foliage and stems trimmed in the shape of a dragon.

On this day...

May 22:



Selected quote

Selected biography

Hasekura's portrait during his mission in Rome in 1615, by Claude Deruet, Coll. Borghese, Rome
Hasekura Tsunenaga was a Japanese samurai and retainer of Date Masamune, the daimyō of Sendai. In the years 1613 through 1620, Hasekura headed a diplomatic mission to the Vatican in Rome, traveling through New Spain and visiting various ports-of-call in Europe. This historic mission is called the Keichō Embassy. On the return trip, Hasekura and his companions re-traced their route across Mexico in 1619, sailing from Acapulco for Manilla, and then sailing north to Japan in 1620. This is conventionally considered the first Japanese ambassador in the Americas and in Europe. Although Hasekura's embassy was cordially received in Europe, it happened at a time when Japan was moving toward the suppression of Christianity. European monarchs such as the King of Spain thus refused the trade agreements Hasekura had been seeking. Hasekura returned to Japan in 1620 and died of illness a year later, his embassy seemingly ending with few results in an increasingly isolationist Japan.

In the news

4 May 2019 –
Interstellar Technologies successfully launches uncrewed rocket MOMO-3 from its launch facility in Taiki, Hokkaido, becoming the first commercially developed Japanese rocket to reach the Kármán line. (Deutsche Welle)
1 May 2019 – 2019 Japanese imperial transition
The Japanese Era Reiwa (令和) begins as Emperor Naruhito accedes to the Chrysanthemum Throne as the 126th Emperor of Japan. The Emperor inherits two of the Three Sacred Treasures of Japan during a symbolic ceremony, which formalises his ascension. (The Mainichi) (BBC)
30 April 2019 – 2019 Japanese imperial transition
Emperor Akihito abdicates the Chrysanthemum Throne in favor of his elder son, Crown Prince Naruhito. He is the first Emperor to abdicate in over two hundred years, since Emperor Kōkaku in 1817. (The Japan Times) (The New York Times)
9 April 2019 –
A Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35 Lightning II jet disappears from radar while on a training mission over the Pacific Ocean. Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya subsequently grounds Japan's fleet of F-35s. (CBS News)

Did you know...

Depiction of Naoe Kanetsugu in a rice field, an example of Tanbo art

  • ... that tanbo art (example pictured) is a Japanese practice where giant pictures are created in rice fields?
  • ... the Safety Promotion Center, established by Japan Airlines after the worst single aircraft accident in history, has passengers' farewell letters and wreckage on display to educate employees about safety?


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Coordinates: 36°30′N 139°00′E / 36.5°N 139°E / 36.5; 139