Government: Parliamentary with constitutional monarchy
Prime Minister: Yoshihiko Noda (elected Aug 2011)
Emperor: Emperor Akihito, the 125th emperor of Japan.
Number of prefectures: 47
Japan is located in the North Pacific off the coast of Russia and the Korean peninsula. The land comprises four large islands named Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku,
together with many smaller islands (4000 of them). Honshu is the largest with an area of 231,000km².
Japan is over 70% mountainous terrain with approximately only 18% of the land is suitable for settlement. Japanese cities are densely populated. Tokyo has a population of 12 million people.
The islands of Japan are located in an area known as The Ring of Fire in the Pacific. This is an area with many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Japan is very seismically active with over 1,500 earthquakes per year. In 1923 the Great Kanto Earthquake killed more than 143,000 people in the Tokyo area. Tsunamis and volcanic eruptions are other natural destructive forces in Japan. On March 11th, 2011 Japan was rocked by a 9.0 earthquake and powerful tsunami which killed more than 12,000 people and resulted in explosions at the Fukushima nuclear plants. Entire towns and villages were wiped out. If you would like to donate, please Click here
The climate of Japan varies considerably depending on the region and season. Summer is usually very hot and humid, known to the Japanese as "mushiatsui". Before the arrival of the summer weather, Japan has a damp, rainy season known as "tsuyu". From the end of summer through September, Japan is often struck by typhoons. Winters are usually mild, with the northern areas of Japan receiving more snow. Spring and autumn are usually sunny with mild temperatures.
There are two major religions in Japan: Shinto and Buddhism. Religion does not play a major role in the life of the average Japanese. Most people visit shrines and temples as part of annual events and special rituals marking life passages. Such events include the first shrine or temple visit of the new year (hatsumode), and a visit to the family grave during the Bon Festival. Rituals commemorating the stages in an individual's life include the first shrine visit of a newborn baby (miyamairi), the Shichi-go-san Festival shrine visit of three- and five-year-old boys and three- and seven-year-old girls, a Shinto wedding ceremony, and a Buddhist funeral.