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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.

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Three Beauties of the Present Time
Three Beauties of the Present Day is a nishiki-e colour woodblock print of c. 1792–93 by Japanese ukiyo-e artist Kitagawa Utamaro (c.  1753–1806). The triangular composition depicts the busts of three celebrity beauties of the time: geisha Tomimoto Toyohina, and teahouse waitresses Takashima Hisa and Naniwa Kita, each adorned with an identifying family crest. Subtle differences can be detected in the faces of the subjects—a level of individualized realism at the time unusual in ukiyo-e, and a contrast with the stereotyped beauties in earlier masters such as Harunobu and Kiyonaga. The triangular positioning became a vogue in the 1790s. Utamaro produced several other pictures with this arrangement of the same three beauties, and each appeared in numerous other portraits by Utamaro and other artists. Utamaro was the leading ukiyo-e artist in the 1790s in the bijin-ga genre of pictures of female beauties, and was known in particular for his ōkubi-e, which focus on the heads. The luxurious print was published by Tsutaya Jūzaburō and made with multiple woodblocks—one for each colour—and the background was dusted with muscovite to produce a glimmering effect.

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Attack on Beijing Castle during the Boxer Rebellion
Credit: Torajirō Kasai

A 1900 print depicting a battle between allied English and Japanese troops against Chinese combatants at Beijing Castle during the Boxer Rebellion.

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Tōru Takemitsu was a Japanese composer and writer on aesthetics and music theory. Though largely self-taught, Takemitsu is recognised for his skill in the subtle manipulation of instrumental and orchestral timbre, drawing from a wide range of influences, including jazz, popular music, avant-garde procedures and traditional Japanese music, in a harmonic idiom largely derived from the music of Claude Debussy and Olivier Messiaen. In 1958, the international attention he drew with his Requiem for strings (1957) resulted in several commissions from across the world, and settled his reputation as the leading Japanese composer of the 20th century. He was the recipient of numerous awards, commissions and honours; he composed over one hundred film scores for ensembles of various sizes and combinations. He also found time to write a detective novel, and appeared frequently on Japanese television as a celebrity chef. In the foreword to a selection of Takemitsu's writings in English, conductor Seiji Ozawa commented: "I am very proud of my friend Tōru Takemitsu. He is the first Japanese composer to write for a world audience and achieve international recognition."

In the news

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

Shinbashi Enbujō Theatre

  • ... that Japanese pop R&B singer-songwriter Mai Kuraki's 2009 album, Touch Me! became her first album in five years to top the Japanese album chart?

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