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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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A U.S. Marine patrol crosses the Matanikau River on Guadalcanal in September 1942
The Actions along the Matanikau were the two most prominent engagements across the Matanikau River in Guadalcanal during World War II. In the first of these separate but related actions (23–27 September 1942), elements of three U.S. Marine battalions attacked Japanese troop concentrations around the river. The attack was intended to destroy any Japanese forces in the area and to disrupt their attempts to use Point Cruz peninsula, the village of Kokumbona, and a series of ridges and ravines stretching inland from the coast to stage attacks on the Marine's defenses at Lunga Point. The Japanese repulsed this attack. In the second action (6–9 October), a larger force of Marines crossed the river and inflicted heavy casualties on an infantry regiment. This forced the Japanese to retreat from their positions east of the Matanikau and hindered their preparations for a planned major offensive on the U.S. Lunga defenses set for later in October.

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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.

On this day...

March 19:


  • 1891 - The Liberal Constitution Party changes its name to the Liberal Party, and Itagaki Taisuke is elected party leader.
  • 1914 - Tokyo Station is completed. It was designed by Tatsuno Kingo and was based on Amsterdam Central Station. Its red brick construction made it a symbolic example of western-style construction at the time. Much of the original building was destroyed during the fire bombing of Tokyo during World War II.
  • 1949 - The Tokyo Hato Buses begin regular sightseeing excursions from Ueno Station. A half day sightseeing course cost 250 yen.
  • 1955 - The Japan Housing Public Corporation is established to deal with growing need for housing in Tokyo that accompanied the accelerating economic boom.
  • 1956 - The Hatoyama Administration submits its proposal for a first past the post election system.
  • 1990 - Japan successfully achieves separation and a swing-by with its first lunar satellite, the Hagoromo.
  • 1998 - Japan passes the non-profit organizations law.


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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

9 March 2019 –
Japanese supercentenarian Kane Tanaka is officially recognized as the world's oldest living person at 116 years and 67 days old. (The Guardian)
A Japanese high-speed boat collides with a "marine creature" while carrying 121 passengers; 87 passengers are injured and 5 airlifted by helicopter to the hospital. (CNN)
5 March 2019 –
Japanese architect Arata Isozaki is announced as the winner of the 2019 Pritzker Prize. (BBC)
25 February 2019 – 2019 Okinawan referendum
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe says the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, in the Okinawa Prefecture, will still go ahead despite 72% of Okinawan voters rejecting the construction of a new base in a non-binding referendum. (BBC)
24 February 2019 – 2019 Okinawan referendum
Voters in the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa go to the polls in a referendum on the central government's plan to move the Futenma airbase to Henoko in northern Okinawa Island. 72% of voters oppose the plan. (Asahi Shimbun English)
15 February 2019 – Ethnic issues in Japan
The government of Japan approves a bill which officially acknowledges the Ainu as an indigenous people, following a non-binding resolution that was passed in 2008. (The Japan Times)

Did you know...

Depiction of the assassination of Ii Naosuke


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