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  • Total population: 126,771,662 (Ranked 9th in the world by the US Census Bureau).
  • National GDP: $2.95 trillion (1999 est.).
  • GDP per capita: $23,400 (1999 est.).
  • Median Age: 41.4 years.


  • Location: Island nation off the eastern coast of Asia.
  • Borders: Russia, South Korea.
  • Area: 145,882 square miles.
  • Topography: 4 main islands comprised of mostly mountainous, rugged terrain.
  • Climate: Cool temperate in the north and tropical in the south.
  • Capital: Tokyo.
  • Major cities and population: Tokyo, 7,967,614; Osaka, 2,599,642; Nagoya, 2,151,084; Sapporo1, 774,344; and Kyoto 1,463,822.
  • 47 prefectures: Aichi, Akita, Aomori, Chiba, Ehime, Fukui, Fukuoka, Fukushima, Gifu, Gumma, Hiroshima, Hokkaido, Hyogo, Ibaraki, Ishikawa, Iwate, Kagawa, Kagoshima, Kanagawa, Kochi, Kumamoto, Kyoto, Mie, Miyagi, Miyazaki, Nagano, Nagasaki, Nara, Niigata, Oita, Okayama, Okinawa, Osaka, Saga, Saitama, Shiga, Shimane, Shizuoka, Tochigi, Tokushima, Tokyo, Tottori, Toyama, Wakayama, Yamagata, Yamaguchi, Yamanashi.


  • Population density: 867 people per square mile.
  • Children 0-14: 14.6%—18,553,370.
  • Teenage 10-19: 10.8%13,725,911.
  • Youth between 15-24: 12.3%—15,623,104.
  • Seniors Over 70: 11.9%—15,065,340.
  • Male to female ratio: 95.9.
  • Birth rate: 9.96 per 1,000 people.
  • Life expectancy at birth: 77.13 for males and 83.45 for females.
  • Infant mortality rate: 4.05 per 1,000 live births.
  • Official Language: Japanese.
  • Ethnic Groups: Japanese.
  • Religious group representation: 55.2% Buddhists (69,931,454), 25.9% New-Religionists (32,827,640), 10.2% Nonreligious (12,905,945), 3.6% Christians (4,559,573), 2.9% Atheists (3,642,371) and 2.1% Shintoists (2,669,167). The following groups represent less than 1% of the total: Muslims, Chinese fold-religionists, Confucianists, Hindus, Baha’is, Ethnoreligionists and Jews.
  • Education: Compulsory for ages 6-15.
  • Literacy rate: 100%


  • Currency: Yen.
  • GDP per capita: $23,400 (1999 est.).
  • National GDP: $2.95 trillion (1999 est.).
  • Major Industries: Electrical & electronic equipment, vehicles, machinery, steel, metallurgy, chemicals and fishing.
  • Chief crops: Rice, sugar beets, vegatebles and fruits.
  • Electricity production: 995.982 bil kWh.
  • TV Sets: 708 per 1,000 people.
  • Radios: 957 per 1,000 people.
  • Telephones: 66,000,000 main lines.
  • Daily newspaper circulation: 578 per 1,000 people.


  • Government type: Parlimentary democracy.
  • Head of state: Emperor Akihito.
  • Head of government: Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori.
  • International organization memberships: United Nations (UN), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Group (APEC) and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
  • Brief History: Japanese legend suggests that the empire was founded around 660 BC, written record suggests much later. Until 1192, a feudal system of noble families and samurai warriors covered the land. From 1192-1867, power was centralized by a line of shogun families or military dictators. In 1868, Emperor Meiji came to power and industralization began. Japan increased its area after a series of wars: from 1894-95, Japan was at war with China and gained Taiwan; from 1904 to 1905, it was at war with Russia and gained the southern half of Sakhalin; and in 1910 it annexed Korea. Japan fought in World War I on the side of the allies, from 1914 to 1918, and took over the German-leased Jiaozhou and Oingdao on the Shandon Peninsula of China. After World War I, Japan enjoyed a strong economy, which caused inflation to soar. The rise in the cost of living brought labor disputes between labor and management. By the 1920s, the economic boom reversed into a spiraling recession which plummeted the nation into the Great Depression with the rest of the world. Hard times were exacerbated by the great Kanto earthquake in the Tokyo-Yokohama region. Strong military and conservative leaders who vowed to restore and defend Japanese tradition led Japan from 1932 until 1945. During this time, Japan aggressively fought with China. By the end of 1938, Japan occupied northern China, Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing, the lower valy of the Yangtze River beyond Hankou and parts of the southern coast including Guangzhou (Canton). Once war in Europe erupted, in September of 1939, the Japanese adopted a policy to build a "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere," an economic and political alliance of Southeast Asian nations which would be under Japan. In September 1940, it signed an alliance with Nazi Germany and fascist Italy and gained permission to from the Nazi-French government to move into northern French Indochina, modern day Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Relations between Japan and the U.S. deteriorated. The more aggressive Japan’s military policies became especially in China, the more economic sanctions the U.S. and its allies adopted towards Japan. In December of 1941 Japan bombed the U.S. at Pearl Harbor, hastening U.S. involvment in the second World War. After Japan refused to sign the Potsdam Declaration to conclude the war, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombs brought massive destruction and despair. Japan surrendered on August 15th (August 14th in the West). After a time of rebuilding, Japan has emerged as one of the most powerful economies in the world and a leader in the technology revolution. Since the restoration of Japan’s sovreignty, political power has fluctuated between the Liberal Democratic Party and the Socialists. In 1995, an earthquake devastated Kobe. It claimed more than 5,000 lives, injured over 35,000, and cost over US $90 million in damage.


Understanding the trends and social issues of a particular country should always take into consideration the opinions of persons within the country. The Center for Youth Studies is looking for contributors from each country to add to our appreciation and understanding of its culture, potential, trends and critical issues. If you have insight as to what is important to Japan, please contact us.

We look forward to hearing the insights on what insiders consider the most important issues facing them. From an outsider’s perspective current issues would include international relations with its Asian neighbors and the world, the recent political unrest and social concerns of urbanization and population control. What are the most important issues for Japanese today? This will be added as we receive this information.




Barrett, D., Kurian, G., & Johnson, T. (2001). World Christian Encyclopedia 2nd Edition: A Comparative Survey of Churches and Religions in the Modern World. Oxford: University Press.

McGeveran, Jr., W. (Ed.). (2001). The World Almanac and Book of Facts. Mahwah, NJ: World Almanac Books.

Turner, B. (2000). The World Today: Essential Facts in an Ever Changing World 2000. New York, NY: St. Marten’s Press.


"Japan," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2001  © 1997-2001 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.  

US Census Bureau, International Database.


US Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook.  


  1. How important do you see Japan’s role in Asia and in the World?
  2. What most impresses you about the above information?
  3. Do you take issue with any of the above? If so, how would you express it differently?
  4. What strikes you most about the population of Japan and the birthrate? Why?
  5. What do you see as the historical and cultural contributions of the Japanese to the world?
  6. How has Japan handled its part in the technology revolution?
  7. What can we learn from Japan and the Japanese people?

Tammy Smith cCYS