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Japan, officially Nippon-koku (日本国) 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

Divers inspect the wreckage of Ehime Maru off Oahu, November 5, 2001.
The Ehime Maru and USS Greeneville collision was a ship collision between the United States Navy submarine USS Greeneville (SSN-772) and the Japanese fishing training ship Ehime Maru on February 9, 2001, about 9 nautical miles (17 km) off the south coast of Oahu, Hawaii, USA. In a demonstration for some civilian visitors, Greeneville performed an emergency surfacing maneuver. As the submarine surfaced, it struck Ehime Maru, a high-school fishing training ship from Ehime Prefecture, Japan. Within minutes of the collision, Ehime Maru sank. Nine of its crewmembers were killed, including four high school students. Many Japanese, including government officials, were concerned over news that civilians were present in Greeneville's control room at the time of the accident. Some expressed anger because of a perception that the submarine did not try to assist Ehime Maru's survivors and that the submarine's captain, Scott Waddle, did not apologize immediately afterwards. The United States Navy (USN) conducted a public court of inquiry, placed blame on Waddle and other members of Greeneville's crew, and dealt nonjudicial punishment or administrative disciplinary action to the captain and some crew members. In response to requests from the families of Ehime Maru's victims and the government of Japan, the USN raised Ehime Maru from the ocean floor in October 2001 and moved it to shallow water near Oahu. Once there, Navy and Japanese divers located and retrieved the remains of eight of the nine victims from the wreck.

Selected picture

Blind Monks Examining an Elephant
Credit: Hanabusa Itchō

An 1888 Hanabusa Itchō ukiyo-e print illustrating a Buddhist parable showing blind monks examining an elephant.

On this day...

March 17:



Selected quote

—Katsuhito Asano, vice foreign minister

Selected biography

Masako Katsura was a carom billiards player most active in the 1950s who trailblazed a path for women in the sport by competing and placing among the best in the male-dominated world of professional billiards. First learning the game from her brother-in-law and then under the tutelage of Japanese champion Kinrey Matsuyama, Katsura finished second in Japan's national three-cushion billiards championship three times. In exhibition she was noted for running 10,000 points at the game of straight rail. After marrying a U.S. army officer in 1950, Katsura emigrated with him to the United States in 1951, where she was invited to play in the 1952 U.S.-sponsored World Three-Cushion Championship, ultimately taking seventh place at that competition. Katsura was the first woman ever to be included in any world billiards tournament. Her fame cemented, Katsura went on an exhibition tour of the United States with 8-time world champion Welker Cochran, and later with 51-time world champion, Willie Hoppe. In 1953 and 1954 she again competed for the world three-cushion crown, taking fifth and fourth places respectively.

In the news

March 7: 9 people die in a helicopter crash in Nagano.

Did you know...

Depiction of the assassination of Ii Naosuke


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