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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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Comet Hyakutake, the Great Comet of 1996
Comet Hyakutake is a comet discovered on January 30, 1996, which passed very close to Earth in March of that year. It was dubbed The Great Comet of 1996; its passage near the Earth was one of the closest cometary approaches of the previous 200 years. Hyakutake appeared very bright in the night sky and was widely seen around the world. The comet temporarily upstaged the much anticipated Comet Hale–Bopp, which was approaching the inner Solar System at the time. Scientific observations of the comet led to several discoveries. Most surprising to cometary scientists was the first discovery of X-ray emission from a comet, believed to have been caused by ionised solar wind particles interacting with neutral atoms in the coma of the comet. The Ulysses spacecraft unexpectedly crossed the comet's tail at a distance of more than 500 million km from the nucleus, showing that Hyakutake had the longest tail known for a comet. Hyakutake is a long-period comet. Before its most recent passage through the Solar System, its orbital period was about 17,000 years, but the gravitational influence of the giant planets has increased this period to 100,000 years. The comet was discovered on January 30, 1996, by Yuji Hyakutake an amateur astronomer from southern Japan. He had been searching for comets for years and had moved to Kagoshima Prefecture partly for the dark skies in nearby rural areas. He was using a powerful set of binoculars with six-inch (152 mm) objective lenses to scan the skies on the night of the discovery.

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Ghosts from the crushing defeat, 1904
Credit: Kobayashi Kiyochika

This humorous Kobayashi Kiyochika ukiyo-e print depicts Nicholas II waking from a nightmare showing the battered and wounded Russian forces returning from battle with the Japanese during the Russo-Japanese War.

On this day...

June 15:

Births

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Selected biography

Murasaki shown writing at her desk at Ishiyama-dera inspired by the Moon, ukiyo-e by Suzuki Harunobu, c. 1767
Murasaki Shikibu was a Japanese novelist, poet and lady-in-waiting at the Imperial court during the Heian period. She is best known as the author of The Tale of Genji, written in Japanese between about 1000 and 1012. In about 1005, Murasaki was invited to serve as a lady-in-waiting to Empress Shōshi at the Imperial court, probably because of her reputation as a writer. She continued to write during her service, adding scenes from court life to her work. After five or six years, she left court and retired with Shōshi to the Lake Biwa region. Murasaki wrote The Diary of Lady Murasaki, a volume of poetry, and The Tale of Genji. Within a decade of its completion, Genji was distributed throughout the provinces; within a century it was recognized as a classic of Japanese literature, and had become a subject of scholarly criticism. Early in the 20th century her work was translated; a six-volume English translation was completed in 1933. Scholars continue to recognize the importance of her work, which reflects Heian court society at its peak.

In the news

14 June 2019 – June 2019 Gulf of Oman incident
The president of the Japanese shipping company offers a different account of the attack than that provided by the United States. Yutaka Katada says the Filipino crew of the Kokuka Courageous oil tanker said their vessel was apparently first hit by an artillery shell rather than a mine. The United States said the tanker was attacked by limpet mines and released a video it says shows Iranian special forces removing an unexploded mine from the oil tanker's side. (The Washington Post) (BBC)
14 June 2019 – Iran–Japan relations, Iran–United States relations
Kyodo News Agency reports that during his visit to mediate between the U.S. and Iran, Japanese PM Shinzō Abe asked Iran to release American prisoners held by Iran, though the response is "unclear" to the press. But Iran says it will not negotiate with the United States, rejecting Abe's bid to broker dialogue between the two countries amid escalating tensions in the Middle East. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accuses the "B-Team" (Mohammed bin Salman, John Bolton and Benjamin Netanyahu) of sabotaging diplomacy, including Abe's meeting, to hide its "economic terrorism" by accusing Iran of attacking oil tankers. (The Washington Post) (Kyodo News)
13 June 2019 – June 2019 Gulf of Oman incident, Iran–United States relations, Iran–Saudi Arabia relations
Two oil tankers, one Norwegian and one Japanese, are damaged and abandoned after being attacked in the Gulf of Oman, with all crew members aboard both ships safely rescued. (BBC)
12 June 2019 – Japan–United States relations, Iran–Japan relations, Iran–United States relations
Japan offers to mediate between Iran and the U.S.; officials say the Japanese government hopes to rescue the landmark 2015 international nuclear deal. (Financial Tribune) (Reuters)
28 May 2019 – Kawasaki stabbings
A man stabs two people to death and wounds 17 others, including sixteen children, in Kawasaki, Japan, before slitting his own throat; he later dies of his wounds. Three people are in critical condition. (BBC) (CNN)
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)

Did you know...

The downed Akutan Zero fighter

  • ... that of Japanese band Supercell's eleven members, only one of them makes the music and the rest are illustrators and designers?
  • ... that 22-year-old Ling Ling was the oldest panda in Japan at the time of his death in April 2008?

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