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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.

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Sébastien Bourdais and Felipe Massa battling for position early in the race
The 2008 Japanese Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held on October 12, 2008, at the Fuji Speedway, Oyama, Japan. It was the 16th race of the 2008 Formula One season. The race, contested over 67 laps, was won by Fernando Alonso for the Renault team from fourth position on the starting grid. Robert Kubica finished second in a BMW Sauber, and Kimi Räikkönen third in a Ferrari. Lewis Hamilton, the eventual Drivers' Champion, led the Championship going into the race, and started from pole position alongside Räikkönen. Hamilton's McLaren teammate Heikki Kovalainen began from third, next to Alonso. At the first corner Hamilton braked late, forcing Räikkönen wide. Hamilton was later given a penalty, and was criticised by the British racing press for overly aggressive driving. Ferrari driver Felipe Massa, Hamilton's principal Championship rival, was penalised after an incident on lap two in which he touched Hamilton's car and spun it around. The incident dropped Hamilton to the back of the field, from where he was unable to regain a pointscoring position. Massa later collided with Sébastien Bourdais of Toro Rosso. Bourdais was penalised after the race, and demoted from sixth to tenth position. The penalty prompted widespread criticism from the racing media and ex-drivers. The victory was Alonso's second consecutive win, after he started from 15th on the grid to win the Singapore Grand Prix.

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Japanese weaver
Credit: Yanagawa Shigenobu

A Japanese weaver using a beater, mounted from a notched pole and suspended overhead.

On this day...

June 16:


  • 1884 - 全国天気予報開始。
  • 1920 - 東京・神田に中央職業所開設。この年、全国44ヶ所に職業紹介所が新設された。
  • 1924 - 孫文が三民主義(民族主義・民権主義・民生主義)を唱える。
  • 1939 - 国民精神総動員委員会が中元歳暮の贈答廃止などを決定する。
  • 1949 - 家庭裁判所が創設される。
  • 1964 - 新潟地震発生(マグニチュード7.7)で26人が死亡。
  • 1991 - 冬期オリンピック長野招致決定


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Kōki Hirota, diplomat, politician and the 32nd Prime Minister

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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.

Did you know...

Tokugawa coins


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