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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

Flag of Japan
The national flag of Japan is a white flag with a large red disc (representing the rising sun) in the center. The flag's official name in Japanese is Nisshōki but the flag is more commonly known as Hinomaru. The Hinomaru was widely used on military banners in the Sengoku (Warring States) period of the 15th and 16th centuries. During the Meiji Restoration the flag was officially adopted for use as the civil ensign by Proclamation No. 57 on February 27, 1870 (27 January, Meiji 3 in the Japanese calendar). However, the flag was not adopted nationally until August 13, 1999, by the Law Regarding the National Flag and National Anthem. Along with the national anthem Kimi ga Yo, the Hinomaru is considered a controversial symbol of the militaristic past of the country. Use of the Hinomaru was also severely restricted during the early years of the American occupation of the country after World War II, although restrictions were later relaxed. Japanese law did not designate any particular flag as the national flag from 1885 until 1999, although the Hinomaru was legally the national flag for the brief period from 1870 until 1885. Despite this, several military banners of Japan are based on the design of the Hinomaru, including the sun-rayed Naval Ensign. The Hinomaru was used as a template to design other Japanese flags for public and private use. The exact origin of the Hinomaru is unknown. However, historically, the sun has had a religious connotation in Japan, and the rising sun has had an important symbolic meaning.

Selected picture

Little Boy
Credit: Dake

An inside schematic view of Little Boy, the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. The sections 9 & 11 represent the Uranium-235.

On this day...

April 17:

  • 667 - Prince Naka no Ōe moves the capital from Asuka to the Ōtsu Palace. (Traditional Japanese Date: Nineteenth Day of the Third Month, 667)
  • 1870 - A licensing system for rickshaw's is implemented. (Traditional Japanese Date: Seventeenth Day of the Third Month, 1870)
  • 1895 - The Treaty of Shimonoseki is signed, whereby China recognized Korea's independence and renounced all claims to it, ceded some territory, including Taiwan, to Japan, and agreed to pay reparations
  • 1898 - Western-style artist Saeki Yūzō is born. Saeki travelled to France in 1923 and was heavily influenced by Maurice Utrillo. He is best known for his paintings of Paris. He died at the age of 31.
  • 1947 - A public employment assistance office is opened.
  • 1947 - The regional and local administrative law is passed, establishing the organization and operation of regional administrative regions and their relationship with the national government.
  • 1968 - Tokyo governor Minobe officially recognizes the Korea University in Kodaira, Tokyo.

Selected quote

Tokyo 2016 is making the environment an absolute priority as we bid to unite Green with 2016. This is a concrete commitment that we will offer the world.
—Ichiro Kono, chairman and CEO of Tokyo 2016

Selected biography

Kanō Jigorō, the founder of judo
Kano Jigoro was the founder of judo. Judo was the first Japanese martial art to gain widespread international recognition, and the first to become an official Olympic sport. Pedagogical innovations attributed to Kanō include the use of black and white belts, and the introduction of dan ranking to show the relative ranking between members of a martial art style. Well-known mottoes attributed to Kanō include "Maximum Efficiency with Minimum Effort" and "Mutual Welfare and Benefit." In his professional life Kanō was an educator. Important postings included serving as director of primary education for the Ministry of Education from 1898 to 1901, and as president of Tokyo Higher Normal School from 1901 until 1920. He played a key role in getting judo and kendo made part of the Japanese public school programs of the 1910s. Kanō was also a pioneer of international sports. Accomplishments included being the first Asian member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) (he served from 1909 until 1938), officially representing Japan at most Olympic Games held between 1912 and 1936 and serving as a leading spokesman for Japan's bid for the 1940 Olympic Games.

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Don Quijote in Shinjuku at night.jpg


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