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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

The highest-selling albums and mini-albums in Japan are ranked in the Oricon Weekly Chart, published by Oricon Style magazine. The data are compiled by Oricon based on each album's weekly physical sales. Thirty-seven albums reached the peak of the chart in 2008. R&B singer Namie Amuro's Best Fiction had the longest chart run of 2008. The album remained at the top of the charts from its issue date of August 11 to September 15. Amuro became the first solo female artist in 28 years to have an album chart number one for six consecutive weeks after Saki Kubota, who had an album at number one for seven consecutive weeks in 1980. Pop singer Mariya Takeuchi's greatest hits album Expressions stayed atop the charts for three consecutive weeks, making her the first artist over 50 years of age to accomplish this. Other artists who had extended runs on the chart include Kobukuro, Kumi Koda, Exile, Madonna, Superfly, Greeeen, and Mr. Children; each spent two straight weeks on the chart. Korean pop singer BoA's Japanese album The Face debuted at number one, making her the second artist after Ayumi Hamasaki to have six consecutive number-one studio albums since her debut. American pop singer Madonna's Hard Candy became the singer's first album in 18 years to debut at number one on the Oricon chart. With the release of their second album, Game, girl group Perfume became the second technopop group (after Yellow Magic Orchestra) to have a number-one album on the charts.

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Yang Lin
Credit: Utagawa Kuniyoshi

This ukiyo-e print, titled Kinhyōshi yōrin, hero of the Suikoden, is one in a series created by the Japanese artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi between 1827 and 1830 illustrating the 108 Suikoden ("Water Margin"). The publication of the series catapulted Kuniyoshi to fame and helped created a Suikoden craze in Japan. The hero portrayed in this print is Yang Lin.

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August 17:

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Chuichi Nagumo, admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy

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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 daimyo 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

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

Takashima Shūhan

  • ... that Ichitaro Kanie grew Japan's first tomatoes in 1899, founding the ¥157 billion Kagome tomato empire?

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