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Nihon-koku / Nippon-koku
State of Japan
Flag of japan
National and Imperial Seal of Japan
flag seal
Official language Japanese
capital city Tokyo (de facto)
Tokyo +7 other prefectures
= "capital area" (de jure)
State and form of government parliamentary monarchy
Head of state Office does not exist ( de jure )
Emperor Naruhito ( de facto )
Head of government Prime Minister
Yoshihide Suga
area 377,975 ( 61st ) km²
population 125,708,382 (2020) ( 11. )
Population density 335.8 ( 26th ) inhabitants per km²
Population development - 0.2% (estimate for 2019)
gross domestic product
  • Total (nominal)
  • Total ( PPP )
  • GDP / inh. (nom.)
  • GDP / inh. (KKP)
  • $ 5.0 trillion ( 3. )
  • $ 5.3 trillion ( 4. )
  • 40,146 USD ( 25. )
  • 42,248 USD ( 33. )
Human Development Index 0.919 ( 19. ) (2019)
currency Yen (JPY)
founding February 11, 660 BC BC (mythological and legal)
May 3, 1947 (entry into force of the post-war constitution )
independence April 28, 1952 ( end of the occupation and full sovereignty )
National anthem Kimi Ga Yo (German: "Rule of His Majesty")
National holiday February 23 ( birthday of the emperor )
Time zone UTC + 9 ( JST )
License Plate J
ISO 3166 JP , JPN, 392
Internet TLD .jp
Phone code +81
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Template: Infobox State / Maintenance / TRANSCRIPTION
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Japan (Japan)
Kuril Islands
Ryūkyū Islands
Liancourt rocks

Japan ( Japanese 日本, pronounced Nihon or Nippon; listen ? / I ) is a 6852 islands comprehensive East Asian country in the Pacific , which indirectly in the north and northwest by Russia , to the west by North and South Korea and on the southwest by Taiwan and China borders and is the fourth largest island nation in the world in terms of area. The de facto capital and largest urban settlement is Tokyo , which was abolished as a political unit in World War II ; De jure there is a “capital area” made up of eight prefectures including Tokyo . Audio file / audio sample

The formation of the Japanese state began in the 5th century under the cultural influence of the Chinese Empire . Japan had been in contact with the West since the 16th century and rose to become a major power in the 19th century , acquired colonies such as Korea and Taiwan , took part in both world wars and briefly ruled large parts of Southeast and East Asia. The Japanese Empire was to 1947 after a monarchical principle aligned in part to Prussian model ajar, constitutional monarchy with the Japanese Kaiser as head of state. His aggressive expansion policy in the Republic of China before and during the Second World War ( Pacific War ) ultimately led to defeat on the side of the Axis powers in August 1945. In the Japanese state that was formed under Douglas MacArthur's occupation since 1947, the sovereign is the people, the highest organ of state power the parliament, whose chambers have since been directly elected by the people. The empire was not abolished, but the emperor, as a “symbol of the state”, was reduced to ceremonial tasks without independent authority in state affairs. Apart from Japan, there is no longer any country in the world whose head of state is an emperor .

Japan is one of the more densely populated countries in Asia and, with around 126 million inhabitants, ranks eleventh among the most populous countries in the world . Most of the residents are followers of Shinto and Buddhism .

As the historically first industrialized nation in Asia, Japan today has a very highly developed economy and for many years was the world's second largest economic power behind the United States , with which it has been militarily allied since 1952. As a member of the Group of Seven, Japan is one of the world's largest industrial nations and part of the OECD . The United Nations Development Program ranks Japan among the countries with a very high level of human development.

Japanology is concerned with researching and teaching the language and culture of Japan in its historical development .

Country name

The country's name is made up of the characters(pronunciation ni, "day, sun") and(pronunciation hon, "origin, root, beginning"). Japan is therefore also known as the "Land of the Rising Sun". The compound term can be pronounced both Nippon (に っ ぽ ん) and Nihon (に ほ ん): While Nippon is used more in the formal language , on Japanese money and postage stamps as well as at international events, Nihon is more common in everyday and colloquial language .

The nomenclature of the country name comes from the official correspondence of the Japanese rulers with the Chinese Sui dynasty (6th - 7th centuries) and refers to the eastern location of the country as seen from China. The purely Japanese reading instead of the Sino-Japanese Nihon or Nippon is Hi no Moto (no Kuni) (日 [の] 本 ([の] 国) ). Previously, the country was known as Wakoku (倭国, "Land of Wa"), where Wa () was first a demonym and was then used for the country as a whole. Since the characterused by the Chinese can be understood as “dwarf”, this was later replaced in Japan by the homophonic“harmony”. Both characters were usually used with the prefix"large" to write the historical name Yamato , which in the narrower sense means the province of Yamato , the nucleus of the Japanese Empire, and thus as pars pro toto in the broader sense also the whole country . Yamato may be identical to the Wa-Land Yamatai , which is described in Chinese sources from the 3rd century.

The name "Japan" is an exonym , which is probably derived from a Mandarin or Wu pronunciation of the characters. For example, gave Marco Polo Chinese term for Japan ( Chinese 日本國 / 日本国, Pinyin rìběnguó ) as Cipangu again. The older Malay word for Japan, Jepang (now Jepun ), was also borrowed from what is believed to be a southern Chinese dialect. Portuguese traders, who came across the term Jepang in Malacca in the 16th century , then brought it with them to Europe. In English, the country name is spelled “Giapan” for the first time in a letter from 1565.

Mythological names are Toyo-ashi-hara no chi-aki no naga-i-ho-aki no mizu-ho no kuni (豐 葦 原 之 千秋 長 五百 秋 之 水 穗 國, dt. "Land of the lush reeds, 1000 autumns, long 500 autumns and the fertile ears of rice ") in Kojiki , Toyo-ashi-hara no chi-i-ho-aki no mizu-ho no kuni (豐 葦 原 千 五百 秋 瑞 穂 之 地, dt." Land of the lush reed fields, the 1500 autumns and the fertile ears of rice ”) in Nihonshoki , also Toyoashihara no kuni (豊 葦 原 国) and Mizuho no kuni (瑞 穂 国), Ashihara no naka-tsu-kuni (in Kojiki and Nihon Shoki:葦 原 中國, dt. "Land of the Middle [between the sky Takamanohara and the underworld Yomi no kuni] of the reeds") and Ōyashima no Kuni (Kojiki:大 八 嶋 國, Nihon Shoki:大 八 洲 國, dt. "Land of the great eight islands"), briefly also Yashima .

The second component koku ("country, state") in the official country name Nihon-koku , from which the full name "State of Japan" or "Japanese state" results, is often not translated in European languages. There the official name of the country is usually only given as "Japan" without an addition.


Satellite image of Japan in 1999

Japan is an island nation and essentially consists of a chain of islands that stretches along the east coast of Asia. Japan has a total of 6,852 islands that stretch along the Pacific coast . It is over 3000 kilometers long from the Sea of Okhotsk to the Philippine Sea in the Pacific Ocean . Japan is the fourth largest island country in the world and the largest in East Asia . The total area is 377,975.24 km² (2019). The four large main islands are Hokkaidō in the north, the central and largest island Honshū and then to the south the islands Shikoku and Kyūshū . In some sources, Okinawa , which is much smaller and even further south, is also counted as the fifth main island . There are also 6,847 smaller islands (with a circumference of at least 100 m at high tide), which are mainly concentrated in the Seto Inland Sea , in the chain of Ryūkyū Islands and Nampō-shotō . Honshu is a little bigger than Great Britain . Overall, Japan has a coastline of 33,574 km, which corresponds to about 84% of the circumference of the earth for comparison. Because of its many remote islands, Japan has the eighth largest Exclusive Economic Zone in the world with an area of ​​4,470,000 km². Japan has no land borders with other countries. Neighboring states are Russia , North Korea , South Korea , China and Taiwan .

A mountain range that makes up more than two thirds of the land mass of Japan runs across the entire archipelago . The highest mountain in Japan is Mount Fuji on the main island of Honshū with 3776 m above sea ​​level . Agriculture, industry and settlement are limited to around 20% of the land area. The main metropolitan areas have developed in the large plains: Kantō (with Tokyo and Yokohama in the Kantō plane ), Kansai or Keihanshin (with Osaka , Kyōto and Kobe in the Osaka plane ), Chūkyō (with Nagoya in the Nōbi plane) ) and Kitakyūshū - Fukuoka in the Tsukushi Plain . Due to the lack of flat land, mountain slopes are cultivated through terraced agriculture.


Four tectonic plates meet in Japan :

  1. the North American Plate in the north
  2. the Eurasian plate in the west,
  3. the Philippine Plate in the south
  4. the Pacific plate in the east,

which move against each other with a few centimeters per year . Parts of the Pacific plate slide under the Eurasian continental plate , which leads to volcanism and frequent earthquakes . The continuing movement ( subduction ) of the crust parts to a slow reduction of the Pacific leads, which makes large-scale welding not, in contrast to India and the so-called. Terraneen other continental margins.

Of the approximately 240 volcanoes in the Pacific Ring of Fire , 40 are active. In the entire region there are lighter earthquakes almost every day, at longer intervals also severe ones (e.g. the Great Kantō earthquake in 1923 , the Kobe earthquake in 1995 or the Tōhoku earthquake in 2011 ). Every year in September, on the anniversary of the Kanto earthquake, a civil protection exercise takes place. Tokyo in particular is exposed to a high risk of earthquakes (see earthquake in Tokyo ).

On March 11, 2011, a violent earthquake shook the entire state. The Tohoku earthquake was the strongest earthquake in Japanese history with a magnitude of 9.0 M W . The quake triggered a tsunami and a series of catastrophic accidents at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant .

Over 160,000 people have died from tsunamis in Japan over the past thousand years. Today the country has an effective tsunami early warning system through measuring buoys in the Pacific Ocean . Regular training programs take place for the population, and many Japanese coastal cities protect themselves by building high dykes. These reinforced concrete walls are partially 10 meters high, up to 25 meters deep and equipped with sturdy metal gates.


The Japanese chain of islands extends in a long arc from north (45th parallel, Hokkaidō ) to south (20th parallel, Okinotorishima ). Therefore the climate in Japan is very different; from the cold-temperate climate zone in Hokkaidō with cold and snowy winters to the subtropics in Okinawa Prefecture . In addition, there is the influence of winds - in winter from the Asian continent to the sea and in summer from the sea to the continent. In late June and early July, a large part of the annual precipitation falls in the south as a monsoon-like rain front (梅雨 前線, baiu zensen ).

The typhoon season begins in early summer, and the south and southwest of Japan in particular are affected by cyclones over the Pacific Ocean (e.g. Typhoon Tokage and Typhoon Conson in 2004). Statistically, Japan has the most typhoons in September, although they are most common in the Pacific in August. The strongest typhoon ever recorded in Japan was the Ise-wan typhoon of 1959. Its effects were devastating: over 5,000 people were killed. The winds also contribute to Japan's increased exposure to transnational pollution .

Japan can be divided into six main climate regions due to its wide geographic area:

  • Hokkaidō : not particularly heavy rainfall, larger snowdrifts during the long, cold winters
  • Sea of ​​Japan : The northwest wind in winter brings heavy snowfall. In summer this region is cooler than the Pacific region, but there is more hair dryer here .
  • Central highlands : strong temperature differences between summer and winter as well as day and night, little rainfall
  • Seto Inland Sea : The mountains of the Chūgoku and Shikoku regions hold up the wind and result in a mild year-round climate.
  • Pacific region : cold winters with little snowfall and hot dry summers
  • Nansei Islands ( Ryūkyū Islands ): subtropical climate with warm winters and hot summers. Heavy precipitation especially during the rainy season , typhoons occurring regularly .

Flora and fauna

Yoshino-yama cherry blossoms have been the subject of many plays and waka poems

Most of Japan (66.8%) is covered by mountain forests. In the interior of Japan there are a number of mountain ranges that cross the tree line . Due to the position as an upstream chain of islands, a flora and fauna, which is related to "continental Asia", but is nevertheless often independent, has developed. The Ogasawara Islands ( also: Bonin Islands), 1000 km southeast of Tokyo, are often compared to the Galapagos Islands because of their endemic species .

Japan has nine ecoregions that reflect the islands' climate and geography. They range from subtropical moist deciduous forests on the Ryūkyū and Ogasawara Islands to temperate deciduous and mixed forests in the mild climatic regions of the main islands to temperate coniferous forests in the cold, wintry parts of the northern islands. There are over 90,000 animal species in Japan, including the brown bear , the Japanese macaque , the Japanese raccoon dog, the great Japanese field mouse, and the Japanese giant salamander . The main islands and the neighboring islands are part of the Palearctic Floral Region. The Ryūkyū Islands are part of the Indomalay region , while the Ogasawara Islands are part of Oceania .

A large network of national parks has been set up to protect important areas of flora and fauna as well as 37 wetlands of Ramsar. Four world heritage sites have been included in the UNESCO world heritage list due to their exceptional natural value.

Large mammals include the brown bear on Hokkaidō , on Honshū the Asian black bear , the sika deer and the Japanese serau (a goat antelope). Among the native species, the Japanese macaque is found on the three main islands of Honshū, Shikoku and Kyūshū , as well as on several offshore islands. Spreading as far as the Shimokita Peninsula in Aomori Prefecture , it forms - apart from humans - the northernmost ape population in the world.
The high population density on the coasts and in the Japanese plains has led to the extinction of some mammal species , such as the honshu wolf ( Canis lupus hodophilax ), the Japanese sea lion ( Zalophus japonicus ), the sea ​​otter and the otter . Dogs and cats come in a wide variety of breeds in Japan. As a typical Japanese breed of dog is Shiba Inu considered.
Over 500 different species of birds have been sighted in Japan. Since the archipelago is surrounded by the sea in every direction, a large number of them belong to the water fowl . Japan is an important stopover for migratory birds . Birds breeding in Siberia find their winter quarters here, while birds breeding in Japan migrate towards Southeast Asia in winter . In this way, a wide variety of bird species find their way to Japan. Crows (especially the carrion crows ), sparrows , pigeons and barn swallows can be found in the cities . The national bird is the pheasant . The nipponibis is extinct in the wild in Japan. However, several hundred still live in a protection and rearing center on Sado and in the wild in Shaanxi Province in China.
sea ​​creatures
The Japanese coastal waters are criss-crossed by cold and warm ocean currents , which provide good growth conditions for plankton at their contact lines . The country lies on the edge of the lithosphere , the shifting of which has created a rugged coastline. This provides a good habitat for a variety of fish species. The waters off the Sanriku coast ( Miyagi and Iwate prefectures ) and the adjoining sea areas to the north as far as the Kuril Islands are one of the three richest fishing grounds in the world. The rivers are rich in species of fish, favored by the rainy climate . A variety of mussels are found in the brackish water areas of the estuaries . The problem is water pollution and the concreting of river beds , which has led to the extinction of numerous species. In the 1970s there was a strong environmental movement that was able to register its first successes against it. Japan has repeatedly come under fire for its policy of persistently defending whaling against animal welfare organizations.
The most important crop in Japan is rice imported from Korea , or more precisely Oryza sativa japonica (short grain rice). The straw is used to make tatami . Millet is a historical poor man's food , as the rice had to be paid as a tax. Various types of beans are also grown, including the adzuki bean , and a range of vegetables, including ginger , radish and spinach . Various citrus plants such as Amanatsu are also indigenous , and a number of fruits and vegetables have been introduced. Traditional Japanese cuisine also includes seaweed (such as nori ) and seaweed ( wakame ). Traditional Japanese houses are built from crescent fir wood, among other things . The tea plant and various types of rush for the production of tatami mats (rush and wick) are of national importance .

Protected areas

66.8% of the Japanese territory is covered by forests. The protected areas in Japan are divided into national parks controlled and managed by the Ministry of the Environment and smaller and lesser-known semi-national parks that are managed directly by the prefectures and are always under the supervision of the Ministry. As of March 31, 2017, with the designation of the Amamiguntō National Park, there were 34 national parks and 56 quasi-national parks in Japan . The area of ​​the former covers 21,949 km² (5.8% of the land area), while the latter comprises 13,614 km² (3.6% of the total area). In addition, the 309 prefecture parks are spread over an area of ​​19,608 km² (5.2% of the total area).

Administrative structure

Südkorea Nordkorea Russland Volksrepublik China Präfektur Okinawa Präfektur Kagoshima Präfektur Kumamoto Präfektur Miyazaki Kurilen (de-facto Russland - beansprucht von Japan als Teil der Region Hokkaido) Präfektur Kagoshima Präfektur Miyazaki Präfektur Kumamoto Präfektur Saga Präfektur Nagasaki Präfektur Fukuoka Präfektur Ōita Präfektur Yamaguchi Präfektur Hiroshima Präfektur Shimane Präfektur Tottori Präfektur Okayama Präfektur Hyōgo Präfektur Osaka Präfektur Kyōto Präfektur Shiga Präfektur Nara Präfektur Wakayama Präfektur Mie Präfektur Aichi Präfektur Fukui Präfektur Gifu Präfektur Ishikawa Präfektur Toyama Präfektur Nagano Präfektur Shizuoka Präfektur Yamanashi Präfektur Kanagawa Präfektur Tokio Präfektur Saitama Präfektur Chiba Präfektur Ibaraki Präfektur Gunma Präfektur Tochigi Präfektur Niigata Präfektur Fukushima Präfektur Yamagata Präfektur Miyagi Präfektur Akita Präfektur Iwate Präfektur Aomori Hokkaidō Präfektur Kagawa Präfektur Ehime Präfektur Kōchi Präfektur TokushimaRegions in the widespread, traditional eight-region structure and prefectures of Japan
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The 20 "major cities by government decree"

Japan is a unitary state that only transfers clearly defined tasks to the subordinate local authorities. The research discussed the question of how centralistic Japan is in the post-war period. The financial dependency of the local authorities in particular was extremely high for a long time (“30% autonomy”), and in the last few decades there have been several attempts at reforming fiscal decentralization.

Japan is divided into three administrative levels , the central government in Tokyo, the 47 prefectures ( todōfuken ) and the municipal level ( shikuchōson ): independent cities ( shi ), small towns ( chō or machi ), villages ( mura or son ) and in the prefecture Tokyo the 23 "[special] districts" ( [tokubetsu-] ku ).

A rough subdivision of Japan is made up of the eight regions , which consist of one or more prefectures. They are not regional authorities, but are used by the administration for certain areas of responsibility (branch offices of the central government, regional governors' conferences, judicial districts). Various reform plans for a dōshūsei provide for a stronger role for the regions - in the existing or slightly modified division - in order to increase the ability of local governments to act.

Historically, the rural districts ( gun ) existed as an administrative level between prefectures and rural communities ( machi and mura ) until the 1920s . They emerged from premodern districts ( kōri ) in the 19th century and are still used today for location information, for example in postal addresses.

level administration Leadership of the Executive houses of Parliament
[Central] state
Central government
Prime Minister, Cabinet
(naikakusōridaijin, naikaku)
Government (kenchō, fuchō, tochō, dōchō)
Parliament (kengikai, fugikai, togikai, dōgikai)
(shi- [ku] chō-son)
City / community administration
(shiyakusho, kuyakusho, machiyakuba, murayakuba)
(shichō, kuchō, chōchō, sonchō)
City council
(shi [gi] kai, kugikai, chōgikai, songikai)


The prefectures are relatively autonomous within the tasks they are entitled to and exercise local self-government in accordance with chapter eight of the constitution . Financially they are heavily dependent on the allocations of the central government.

The prefectures are very different in size and population density. Most of them are on the main island of Honshū , while, for example, the second largest island, Hokkaidō, has only one prefecture. In contrast to national parliamentarism , there is a presidential system within the prefectural and communal levels , within which, on the one hand, the heads of government and administration and, on the other hand, the municipal assemblies and prefectural parliaments are elected autonomously.


Local self-government was already designed in the German Empire at the end of the 1880s according to the Prussian model and, after the Pacific War, under US-led Allied occupation, it was brought into its present form when the right to self-government was also extended to the prefectures.

The 20 “major cities by government decree” ( seirei shitei toshi ) have a special status among the municipalities . The prerequisites for appointment are, among other things, a minimum population of 500,000 residents and the approval of the city council and the prefecture parliament. The seirei shitei toshi are divided into [city] districts ( Ku ) and take on various administrative tasks that are otherwise due to the prefectures. The cities are in descending order of population: Yokohama , Osaka , Nagoya , Sapporo , Kobe , Fukuoka , Kyōto , Kawasaki , Saitama , Hiroshima , Sendai , Kitakyushu , Chiba , Sakai , Niigata , Hamamatsu , Kumamoto , Sagamihara , Shizuoka and Okayama . Although some districts in Tokyo Prefecture exceed the required population, they cannot apply for this status as “special districts”.


Japan is the oldest society in the world

The last census from 2010 shows a total population of Japan of 128,056,026 people. The population has been declining for years, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication on March 31, 2012, with a total population of 126,659,683. In 2050, the population is expected to be 107 million, which means that Japan would lose 20 million inhabitants by the middle of the century.

Japanese society is ethnically and linguistically largely homogeneous . The proportion of foreigners in the population in 2014 was 2 percent.

The average life expectancy of the Japanese population from 2010 to 2015 was 83.3 years (men: 80.0 years, women: 86.4 years). Only Hong Kong had a longer life expectancy. This makes Japan the independent state with the highest life expectancy in the world.

Current problems in Japanese society are aging , youth unemployment and a decline in the birth rate . Politically and socially it seems impossible to allow increased immigration. The median age in Japan in 2015 was 46.3 years, making it the oldest society in the world.

The ten largest cities by population

rank Surname prefecture region Inhabitants (2020) Metropolitan region
(according to MIC -Def.)
Metropolitan Region (2015)
01 Tokyo Tokyo Kantō 9,744,534 Kantō / Tokyo 37.273.866
02 Yokohama Kanagawa Kantō 3,778,318 Kantō / Tokyo 37.273.866
03 Osaka Osaka Kinki 2,754,742 Kinki / Keihanshin 19,302,746
04th Nagoya Aichi Chūbu / Tōkai 2,333,406 Chūkyō 9,363,221
05 Sapporo Hokkaido Hokkaido 1,975,065 Sapporo 2,636,254
06th Fukuoka Fukuoka Kyushu 1,613,361 Kitakyushu-Fukuoka 5,538,142
07th Kawasaki Kanagawa Kantō 1,539,081 Kantō / Tokyo 37.273.866
08th Kobe Hyogo Kinki 1,527,022 Kinki / Keihanshin 19,302,746
09 Kyoto Kyoto Kinki 1,464,890 Kinki / Keihanshin 19,302,746
10 Saitama Saitama Kantō 1,324,591 Kantō / Tokyo 37.273.866

2020 and 2015 censuses


Language and writing

The national language is Japanese and is spoken by almost the entire population and most of the minorities. There are numerous regional dialects . The most common foreign language taught in school is English , but criticism is often voiced for the fact that Japanese English classes focus too much on passing the TOEIC test and provide poor communication skills. The second most common foreign language is Chinese .

In addition to the Chinese characters ( Kanji ), the Japanese language uses two of its own syllabary systems ( Hiragana and Katakana ), which are derived from Chinese characters. Place names on street signs, train stations and the like are usually signposted in Kanji and in Latin transcription ( Rōmaji ).

Minority languages ​​of autochthonous peoples in Japan are the Ainu in the northern part of the island of Hokkaido , which is not related to Japanese, and the Ryūkyū languages, which are related to Japanese but form an independent group, on the islands of the same name.


In Japan, several forms of religious belief have always coexisted. The most important are Shinto , which is derived from the original Japanese religion, and Buddhism , which reached Japan in the 5th or 6th century. Today over 80% of the Japanese belong to both main religions at the same time, which is why the basic religious attitude in Japan is called syncretistic .

Shintō (dt. Way of the Kami ) - often also referred to as Shintoism - is the belief in the native gods of Japan, who can embody natural forces, but also deified ancestors. Shinto is a polytheistic religion without founders and without fixed teachings and is therefore based on a different religious concept than the monotheistic scriptural religions . Concepts of the afterlife and morals are also not clearly worked out and are heavily influenced by Buddhism or Chinese concepts. Basically, the Shinto is a juxtaposition of local traditions with a common ritual core. However, many directions of Shinto refer to the myths of antiquity. The focus is on the sun goddess Amaterasu , from whom the family dynasty of the Japanese Tennō is derived.

Japanese Buddhism is divided into many different sects (schools, directions), almost all of which belong to Mahayana Buddhism. The most famous Buddhist schools in Japan include Zen Buddhism, Amitabha Buddhism and Nichiren Buddhism . In the religion of Japan there are also Chinese influences through Daoism and Confucianism , which were taken up and integrated by Shinto and Buddhism.

The Christianity played in the history of Japan, especially in the 16th and 17th centuries, a certain role, but will now only a marginal position one.

The " New Religions " represent an important element, which have spread ever more strongly since the middle of the 19th century and often propagate an idiosyncratic mixture of Shinto, Buddhism and other world religions. Since the Second World War there has been a particularly high religious tolerance towards these directions, so that currently around 300 such religious communities are officially listed.

Bless you

Erwin Bälz and Julius Scriba are considered the founders of modern western medicine in Japan .

Japan is among the countries that provide universal health care for its citizens. In Japan every resident must be legally insured. Health services are provided either by regional or national public hospitals or by private hospitals and clinics. Patients have universal access to any facility, although hospitals tend to charge higher fees for those without a referral. Public health insurances cover the cost for most citizens, paying 70% or more for every care and drug prescribed. The patient is responsible for the rest. The share that is paid privately is based on the person's disposable income and can be a maximum of 30%. The private supplementary health insurance is only available to cover the additional payments or uncovered costs and usually pays a fixed remuneration per day in the hospital. Many health insurances in Japan are run through the employer. In 2015, Japan spent 10.9% of its economic output on the health system, of which 84.1% was publicly funded. Future financing is considered to be the greatest problem of the Japanese health care system, as the aging of society means that rapidly increasing costs are to be expected.

In an international comparison, Japan scores extremely well on various health indicators. On average, the Japanese had a life expectancy of 84.0 years in 2016. Women had a life expectancy of 87.1 years and men had a life expectancy of 81.0 years. Since 1960, the average life expectancy has increased by more than 16 years (universal health insurance has existed since 1961). Japan had one of the lowest proportions of obese people in developed countries. The infant and maternal mortality is very low by international standards and less than 0.1% of the population is HIV-positive . In contrast, the Japanese health system is considered to be less efficient with regard to mental illnesses . The country has one of the highest suicide rates in the world and despite reforms in place, Japanese psychiatric hospitals and psychiatric institutions are using outdated methods of dealing with patients.

period Life expectancy in
period Life expectancy in
1950-1955 62.8 1985-1990 78.5
1955-1960 66.4 1990-1995 79.4
1960-1965 69.2 1995-2000 80.5
1965-1970 71.4 2000-2005 81.8
1970-1975 73.3 2005-2010 82.7
1975-1980 75.4 2010-2015 83.3
1980-1985 77.0 2015-2020 84.4

Source: UN


Jōmon period
In the time of 10,000 BC Until about 300 BC BC people (presumably) immigrated to what is now Japan from Central Asia, Siberia and the South Pacific.
Yayoi period
The first confirmed contacts with the Chinese Empire were from around 300 BC. Until about 300 AD
Kofun period
Hōryū-ji (YOC 607)
date from the Kofun period from around 300 to 710 AD. There was close political contact with neighboring Korea and immigration from Korea to Japan. From the 5th century onwards, the Chinese script was adopted.
Nara period (710–794)
Buddhism was strongly promoted in the Nara period . The form of government was based on the Chinese model .
Heian period (794–1185)
Upswing of court culture in Heian-kyō ( Kyōto ), especially poetry and literature . The emperor's power was gradually weakened and warrior families established themselves. At the end of the Heian period, the Minamoto family founded the first shogunate .
Kamakura period (1192-1333)
During the Kamakura period, Kublai Khan attempted two invasions in Japan , which were prevented by typhoons ( kamikaze , god's wind ) later interpreted as divine .
Muromachi period (1333–1573)
The powerful independent daimyo maintained their own armies with samurai . The shogunate lost control and the " Warring States Period " (sengoku jidai) began.
Sengoku period (1477–1600)
Japan in 1570 ( Sengoku period )
The three unifiers ( Oda Nobunaga , Toyotomi Hideyoshi , Tokugawa Ieyasu ) ended the more than 100-year civil war in the Azuchi Momoyama epoch (1568 to 1603) . The epoch of the Namban trade , trade with the Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch from 1543 to 1639, preceded the subsequent closure of Japan .
Edo era (1603-1867)
During the closure of Japan in the Edo period, entry and exit for Japanese and foreigners were prohibited. With the exception of limited exchanges with China and the Netherlands, who were the only Europeans allowed to stay in Japan on the artificial island of Dejima off Nagasaki in 1639 , there was hardly any contact with other states. The Tokugawa family held control over the other daimyo for over 250 years . This period was marked by great prosperity for the Japanese people. The population grew steadily. Today's Tokyo grew into the largest metropolitan area in the world during this time. In 1854, US commodore Matthew Perry sailed unmolested into the port of what is now Tokyo with his fleet of four warships to deliver a letter from US President Millard Fillmore calling on the Tokugawa government to open trade with the United States . The ease with which Perry entered port revealed the weakness of the Tokugawa regime. This led to an uprising of regional rulers and ultimately resulted in the reinstatement of the emperor, who was given little real political power.
Meiji Era (1868-1912)
Emperor Meiji (1868–1912), in his name the Meiji Restoration was established at the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate under imperial rule
The reform of the imperial house under the Meiji -Tennō from 1868 ( Meiji restoration and modernity ) ended the era of the warrior nobility and heralded the modern age. The country was given a modern constitution and parliament, making Japan a constitutional monarchy . Korea was colonized by Japan in 1910, which still strains relations today.
Taishō era (1912-1926)
In the First World War (1914 to 1918) Japan sided with the Entente and took over German territories after the end of the war. The Taishō era was characterized by cultural dynamism and economic boom. It was a time of democratic experimentation with a parliamentary system. Ultimately, democracy failed due to instability, much like Germany did during the Weimar Republic . The military took more and more de facto control.
Shōwa era part 1 (1926–1945)
Japan occupied northeast China in 1931 and founded the dependent state of Manchukuo ( Manchuria ) in 1932 . In 1937, Japan conquered further territories from China . With the support of Siam and various locals, Japan drove the European colonial powers out of the Southeast Asian countries in order to expand its own colonial empire . The USA saw its interests in Asia (especially its colonies like the Philippines) endangered and reacted with numerous sanctions, an embargo and the freezing of Japanese assets abroad. In December 1941, Japanese troops attacked the US base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii . The Second World War thus expanded to the Pacific Ocean . Not only in China, but also in the other Japanese territories of Southeast Asia , Japan committed war crimes . B. Forced prostitution , the Nanking massacre and experiments on people by Unit 731 . Allied troops managed to conquer areas near the Japanese islands by 1945 , but fierce fighting was still raging, especially on smaller islands - also far away from the Japanese heartland. The emperor as well as the prime minister and his supporters wanted to start peace negotiations, but the military had more power. On August 6, 1945, the Americans dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima and another on Nagasaki on August 9 . Even today, many people and their descendants suffer from the effects of radiation sickness ( Hibakusha ). After the atomic bombing and the war entry of the Soviet Union on August 8, 1945 surrendered unconditionally Japan on August 15, 1945, the Emperor leaving at 12:00 noon the " imperial decree to end the war ," which was broadcast on the radio.
Shōwa era part 2 (1945-1989)
After the surrender, the reconstruction began, initially under the Allied occupation , which was officially ended in 1952. The former enemy of the war, the United States , integrated Japan into the western alliance system as an outpost against communism . Although not part of the Marshall Plan , Japan received economic reconstruction aid from the United States through the GARIOA program, among other things . Particularly with the beginning of the Korean War, rapid economic development began, in which Japanese companies were able to conquer market shares in all important key industries step by step . Japan proved to be a stable, peaceful democracy .
Heisei era (1989 to 2019)
Bad bank loans and overvalued real estate burst the bubble economy in the early 1990s , and Japan slipped into a period of deflation and high national debt that meant economic stagnation at a high level. Companies and banks have been carefully restructured, and an economic upswing is gradually returning.
Reiwa era (2019 to present)


According to the constitution of 1947, Japan is a parliamentary democracy with the Japanese emperor ( Tennō ) as "a symbol of the state and the unity of the people" with the ceremonial duties of a head of state; its position in the state “is derived from the will of the people, on whom sovereign power rests”. The legislature consists of a bicameral parliament; the more important lower house is re-elected every four years at the latest. The executive branch is formed by the cabinet headed by the prime minister , who is appointed by both chambers of parliament and, in the event of a conflict, by the lower house. At the head of the judiciary is the Supreme Court , whose judges are appointed by the cabinet and approved by the people. The party system in Japan was from the late 1990s of two major parties, the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party , determined, with only the latter since her reign in some elections scarce or no longer second strongest force was; and since 2017 after party divisions and unions, among others. with the national conservative-economically liberal Ishin no Tō to the Democratic Progressive Party in the left-liberal Constitutional Democratic Party , the more conservative Democratic People's Party and the nationally conservative-economically liberal Party of Hope . Since 2020, the majority of the members of the former Democratic Progressive Party have consolidated into the Constitutional Democratic Party. In addition, there are several smaller parties at the national level, the largest among them are the Kōmeitō , which ruled with the Liberal Democrats , the Communist Party of Japan and the national-conservative-regionalist Nippon Ishin no Kai .

Tennō (emperor)

Emperor Naruhito (2018)

“Symbol of the state and the unity of the Japanese people” is Naruhito , the 126th Tennō (Eng: emperor , literally “ruler (sent from heaven)”). Legally, he is not considered head of state and sovereign power rests solely with the people. His grandfather Hirohito, the Shōwa-Tennō , rejected the divinity ( arahitogami ) of the Japanese emperors when Japan surrendered in 1945 . The constitution of 1946 gives the emperor no political decision-making power; in modern Japan his office is ceremonial. He formally appoints the Prime Minister elected by both parliaments and the President of the Supreme Court, he promulgates the laws and convenes the Parliament. He is also the chief priest of Shinto .


The executive branch of the Japanese central state, also called central government (中央政府, chūō seifu ), consists of the Japanese cabinet under the leadership of the prime minister and the subordinate ministries and assigned authorities. The post of Prime Minister has been held by Yoshihide Suga since September 2020 .

The cabinet is responsible to parliament. The chief executive, the prime minister, is elected by the upper and lower houses and then appointed by the tennō. In the event of a conflict, the vote of the House of Commons applies. Only members of the Upper or Lower House can be elected Prime Minister. The prime minister appoints (and dismisses) the ministers in his cabinet, the majority of whom must also be members of the upper or lower house. After the experience of Japanese militarism, the constitution also stipulates that the prime minister and all his ministers must be civilians.

Further rules are not laid down in the constitution, but they are in line with political tradition. In the LDP, for example, the seniority principle applied , ministerial posts are not only awarded according to competence, but also serve to reward long-serving members of parliament. The heads of the factions behind the scenes regulate the allocation. Factions are groups of MPs centered on a veteran and influential MP. The factions support their members with the funds urgently needed for the election campaign , in return the chairman of the faction can rely on the votes of his faction in votes in parliament and within the LDP faction.

The post of prime minister traditionally occupies the head of the strongest party in the lower house. Since this was the LDP for decades, since 1955 the election of the LDP chairman has de facto decides on the successor; individual interruptions were the years 1993 to 1996 and 2009 to 2012, when the LDP did not provide the head of government.

legislative branch

Chamber of Deputies plenary hall

The Japanese Parliament ( Kokkai , "National Assembly") is the highest body of state power and the only legislative body in Japan. It is divided into two parts: the Senate ( Sangiin , "Council Chamber") as the Upper House and the House of Representatives ( Shūgiin , for example "Mass Advisory Chamber ", also House of Representatives) as the Lower House . Both chambers are directly elected. In the election of the prime minister , in the budget and in the ratification of international treaties, the will of the lower house takes precedence; in legislation, the approval of both chambers or a two-thirds majority in the lower house is required, in particular personnel nominations by the government and constitutional amendments require the approval of both chambers of parliament in each case .

Since the reforms from 2017 and 2018, there are only 710 members in parliament : 465 in the lower house and 245 in the upper house. Of the 465 seats in the House of Representatives, 289 are elected in single-mandate constituencies according to majority voting and 176 in 11 regional multi-mandate constituencies (regional "blocs") according to proportional representation, of the 245 seats in the Senate 146 after non-transferable individual votes in 45 single and multi-mandate constituencies 43 are congruent with prefectures and two each comprise two prefectures, 96 by proportional representation with preferential voting in a nationwide constituency. Passive voting rights for the House of Representatives are granted to all men and women over the age of 25, in the House of Lords they must be 30 years of age. All Japanese men and women over the age of 18 have been eligible to vote since 2016. The women's suffrage was introduced nationally in the year 1945th In the German Empire, the movement for women's suffrage in the Reichstag had failed: after several unsuccessful legislative initiatives without government support, and after controversial discussions between the bourgeois parties, the Hamaguchi cabinet introduced a draft law in 1931 for the first women's suffrage at subnational level, which was also passed by the House of Representatives, but ultimately by the House of Representatives has been blocked. Only after the defeat of Japan and the occupation by the United States in 1945 were previous political restrictions on women lifted and the active and passive right to vote for women was introduced: on December 12, 1945 for the lower house, on February 24, 1947 for the upper house. Thus universal suffrage was part of the democratic constitution that dates back to the occupation. 67 percent of women voted on April 10, 1946 and 39 women were elected. By 1952, while the legal foundations for women's equality in political, social and economic terms were in place, little progress has been made in challenging male prerogatives in government.

The electoral terms of the two chambers are not automatically synchronized: the lower house has a maximum electoral term of four years, which it has only completed once in post-war history; As a rule, elections to the lower house take place beforehand when the cabinet dissolves the chamber, which the prevailing constitutional interpretation allows it to do at any time or, if the lower house has passed a vote of no confidence in the cabinet, if it does not want to resign. The House of Lords has a fixed term of office and cannot be dissolved: every three years, half of the MPs are elected for a six-year term on a staggered basis.

After the Meiji constitution of 1889, the Reichstag was created based on the British and Prussian models . In addition to the House of Representatives as the lower house, it consisted of the manor house ( Kizokuin ) as the upper house and met for the first time on November 29, 1890. The mansion consisted of members of the nobility ( Kazoku ) and members appointed by the Tennō. The two chambers of parliament had absolutely equal rights in most matters; each could block a bill. In the 1947 Constitution, the mansion was abolished and replaced by the elected Sangiin; the Reichstag became today's National Assembly with a primacy of the House of Representatives ( Shūgiin no yūetsu ,衆議院 の 優越) on key points. The prime minister has since been elected by parliament and must belong to it. Most of the Prime Ministers of the empire belonged to the manor house or not at all to parliament, only three were members of the House of Representatives. By contrast, all prime ministers since 1947 have come from the lower house.

The continued division into upper and lower houses was one of the few significant deviations of the adopted constitution from the requirements of the occupation authorities; the SCAP draft constitution provided for a unicameral parliament.


Chiyoda Supreme Court building

According to the principle of the separation of powers, the courts are independent of the other two branches of state power.

At the top of the judicial organization is the Supreme Court ( saikō-saibansho ). It consists of the chief judge and the 14 other chief judges. The members are selected by the cabinet. The chief judge is formally appointed by the Tennō as the only state official besides the prime minister, the other judges by the cabinet. The judges are presented to the people for "review" at the same time as the first election to the lower house after their appointment and every ten years thereafter with the subsequent election to the lower house. Since abstentions are counted, there is practically no majority rejection to the disadvantage of the judge. When the legal age limit of 70 is reached, the judges retire. The Supreme Court has the right to revise judgments of the lower instances and to make a final binding decision on the constitutionality of laws. Among other things, it determines the rules of procedure and draws up the lists from which the cabinet selects the judges of the lower courts.

In Japan there is a uniform system of courts; For example, there are no separate administrative or labor courts as in Germany. The courts are divided below the Supreme Court into eight upper ( kōtō- ), 50 district ( chihō- ) and over 400 simple courts ( kan'i-saibansho ), in addition there are 50 family courts ( katei-saibansho ).


In the post-war period Japan had a pluralistic multi-party system with one dominant party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) , which has been in power since its foundation in 1955 with only two interruptions (1993–1994 and 2009–2012 ).

In the 1990s, the party system was revolutionized when, on the one hand, many LDP members left the party and founded new parties and, on the other hand, the largest opposition party to date, the Socialist Party of Japan (SPJ), continued to lose ground and then during one (initially Grand) coalition with the LDP to a small party shrank. After numerous party reshuffles, the Democratic Party became a reservoir for the opposition. In 2009 she finally succeeded in taking over the lower house majority and governance, but it quickly lost popularity and in 2010 the upper house majority. In 2012 she was voted out of office in a landslide. Numerous MPs left the party during and after her reign, and party divisions and associations later followed.

The largest opposition party is (as of September 2020) the left-liberal Constitutional Democratic Party and the more conservative Democratic People's Party . Other opposition parties that emerged during the breakup of the Democratic Party are the more conservative People's Democratic Party , the economically liberal Kibō no Tō ("Party of Hope") and the national-conservative-regionalist Nippon Ishin no Kai , in which former Democrats and Liberal Democrats are gathered. In addition, Ichirō Ozawa's Liberal Party (formerly Nippon Mirai no Tō and Seikatsu no Tō ) existed from 2012 to 2019 , which cooperated with the Social Democrats. In addition, there are three more or less continuously existing parties, two larger ones, the Communist Party of Japan (KPJ), which was continuously in opposition, and the Kōmeitō , the political arm of the Buddhist organization Sōka Gakkai , which has been part of the government coalition of the LDP since 1999, as well as the one in the meantime very small Social Democratic Party (SDP), the successor to the SPJ.

The parties currently represented in Parliament are:

Government funding for political parties in Japan is among the highest in the world. Under the Party Funding Act 1994, parties receive government grants of 250 yen per inhabitant (based on the most recent census ) regardless of voter turnout. The distribution is based on the number of their representatives in parliament, divided by the total number in both houses together, and on their share of the votes in lower house and upper house elections. The latter are weighted according to the following key:

  • the direct votes of the last general election for a quarter,
  • the proportional representation of a quarter in the last general election,
  • the direct votes of the last two upper house elections to one eighth each,
  • the proportional representation of the last two upper house elections to one eighth each.

Every year the state pays out a total of around 32 billion yen (2010 around 280 million euros) to the parties. The reference date for the assessment of the annual party funding is usually January 1st.


The current Japanese constitution was promulgated on November 3, 1946 and came into force on May 3, 1947. In it, the Japanese people commit themselves to the ideals of peace and democratic order . The constitution was drafted by the then American occupation government under General Douglas MacArthur and discussed and adopted by the Japanese parliament. It has not been changed since then. A change would require the approval of two thirds of the MPs in both chambers of parliament and the approval of the majority of those entitled to vote (not the voters!) In a referendum.

In Article 9 (1) of the constitution, war is rejected as a sovereign right, and the threat of military force as a means of resolving international conflicts is prohibited. Paragraph 2 is particularly explosive because it prohibits Japan from maintaining a military. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces and, in particular, their missions abroad in Iraq and the Indian Ocean in support of NATO operations in Afghanistan are therefore very controversial.

A draft constitutional amendment by the LDP provides for an amendment to Article 9. It is expressly emphasized that the military should continue to serve only for self-defense, but also to ensure international peace and security. In addition, the draft declares the Tennō head of state. The inviolability of human rights is also emphasized. The draft of the new version also contains a number of other individual rights that have not yet been listed, including: the respectful treatment of the disabled and victims of criminal offenses as well as the protection of personal data.

Political indices

Political indices issued by non-governmental organizations
Name of the index Index value Worldwide rank Interpretation aid year
Fragile States Index 32.3 out of 120 158 of 178 Stability of the country: very stable
0 = very sustainable / 120 = very alarming
Democracy index 8.13 out of 10 21 of 167 Full democracy
0 = authoritarian regime / 10 = full democracy
Freedom in the World Index 96 of 100 - Freedom status: free
0 = not free / 100 = free
Freedom of the press ranking 28.88 out of 100 67 of 180 Recognizable problems for the freedom of the press
0 = good situation / 100 = very serious situation
Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 74 of 100 19 of 180 0 = very corrupt / 100 = very clean 2020

Domestic politics

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Kōmeitō have been in government since 2012 . In the lower house , last elected in October 2017 , they have had a two-thirds majority since 2012, and a majority in the upper house since the 2013 election . In addition to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga , the incumbent cabinet includes Tarō Asō as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Toshimitsu Motegi as Foreign Minister and Katsunobu Katō as Chief Cabinet Secretary. Since the Sangiin election in 2019 , the LDP no longer has an absolute majority in both chambers of the national parliament , so it is mathematically dependent on a coalition partner for legislation.

Suga's government wants to continue Shinzō Abe's economic policy of expansionary monetary policy, increased state investments and the announcement of structural reforms (the "three arrows" of " Abenomics "). Politically strengthened security Abe's government in 2014 the Security Council after the US model , loosened the previous, restrictive guidelines for military exports and has a decided expansion of the interpretation of Article 9 of the Constitution on collective defense enshrined in law.

In September 2018, the election of the LDP chairman took place, in which incumbent Shinzō Abe clearly prevailed against former defense minister Shigeru Ishiba . Numerous prefectural and local elections took place in 2019, many in the single regional elections in April . In the same year, a national parliamentary election took place with the upper house election in summer 2019 . In the election of the LDP chairman in September 2020 following Abe's resignation, then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga prevailed against Fumio Kishida and Shigeru Ishiba.

The largest opposition party at the national level is currently the Constitutional Democratic Party of Yukio Edano after the multiple splits between the Democratic Party and its successors .

Foreign policy

Countries that have embassies from Japan
Countries that have embassies in Japan

The main points of Japan's post- World War II foreign policy are firm ties with the United States , checkbook diplomacy, and a constitutional renunciation of military aggression.

The Kuril Islands north of Japan and the southern part of Sakhalin Island (the former prefecture ( -chō ) Karafuto ) have been part of the Soviet Union since 1945 (the successor state Russia from 1991 ) after Japan renounced the areas in the peace treaty of San Francisco even if the Soviet Union did not sign the treaty. The southern Kuril Islands closest to the island of Hokkaidō are not regarded by Japan as part of the ceded Kuril Islands and claimed as "Northern Territories" as part of the prefecture ( -dō ) Hokkai [dō] . This Kuril conflict is an ongoing problem in Japanese-Russian relations and an obstacle to a peace treaty.

The small archipelago Takeshima ( Kor. Dokdo ) is administered by South Korea and claimed by Japan after being part of Japan for about 40 years during the time of Japanese imperialism . In the spring of 2005, the introduction of a Takeshima Day in ( -ken ) Shimane Prefecture again aroused anger among the South Korean population.

In addition to the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China , Japan also has property claims on the Senkaku Islands ( Chinese: Diaoyu ). Raw materials are believed to be in the vicinity of the islands.

Relations with many Asian countries - in particular with the People's Republic of China , South Korea and North Korea - are still tense, mainly because of a failure to come to terms with imperialist history in the first half of the 20th century. The close economic ties and the world’s interest in peace in the region make armed conflicts unlikely, however; instead, political crises flare up again and again.

According to the constitution, Japan stayed out of all international armed conflicts for a long time and instead promoted a multilateral trade policy geared towards free trade . Japan carried out its first foreign military missions in the early 1990s, with deminers in the Persian Gulf for the coalition in the Second Gulf War and through participation in UN missions beginning with UNTAC in Cambodia. In 1992, Parliament passed the PKO Cooperation Act ( PKO 協力 法, pī-kei-ō-kyōryoku-hō ) as a basis for participation in peacekeeping missions (PKO) , which in view of the opposition majority in the Senate at the time ( Nejire Kokkai , in this context too PKO Kokkai, PKO 国会) between the ruling Liberal Democrats and parts of the opposition (especially Democratic Socialists and Kōmeitō ), but against the determined resistance of the Socialists , at that time the largest opposition party, and the Communists . As a result of the Cambodia mission, the basic attitude of the Japanese public towards foreign missions has shifted, so participation in peacekeeping UN missions is now largely accepted, and was later supported by the majority of the socialists when they joined several governments from 1993 onwards were involved.

However, socially controversial is participation in missions in active conflict zones, such as in the framework of the alliance: In January 2004, decided to Cabinet due to the 2001 adopted by Parliament anti-terrorism law and adopted in 2003, Iraq Reconstruction Act, the deployment of Japanese troops in a de facto active conflict, namely as part of the coalition of the willing after the Third Gulf War in Iraq , but according to the government's interpretation expressly in “no combat area” ( hi-sentō chiiki ,非 戦 闘 地域); Operation in a combat zone is prohibited by law. While the then liberal democratic prime minister Jun'ichirō Koizumi saw this as evidence of the close friendly relations with the United States , many Japanese consider it a breach of the constitution. However, these soldiers were constitutionally unarmed and were only used to rebuild the infrastructure. In June 2006, Koizumi declared the operation over, and troops began to withdraw from Iraq on June 25.

At the Operation Enduring Freedom , Japan participated from 2001 indirectly with a refueling mission in the Indian Ocean, the first time in 2007 suspended for a few months had, as the opposition Senate majority led by the Democratic Party prevented the timely extension of the anti-terrorism law, but then a new based Anti-Terrorism Act was initially resumed. In January 2010, the Democratic-led government ended the mission when the temporary revision of the Anti-Terrorism Act expired.

The relationship between the European Union and Japan is based on a 1991 political declaration that sets out the principles and goals of cooperation. The declaration was expanded in 2001 by an “EU-Japan Action Plan ”. It forms the basis for increased cooperation in the areas of foreign policy, the economy, the monetary and financial system, development aid and communication technology .

The EU and Japan are important trading partners for each other. Together they generate 40 percent of the world's gross national income . On July 6, 2017, EU Council President Donald Tusk and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reached an agreement with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to conclude the EU's largest bilateral free trade and investment protection agreement to date with JEFTA .

There is great agreement between Japan and the EU on major issues such as climate protection and security policy . In addition to the fight against terrorism, the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is an important issue. Together they appeal to North Korea to stop its nuclear program. In the area of climate protection Japan and the EU want a pioneering role in the development of a succession plan for the Kyoto Protocol are taking and the CO 2 - emissions reduced by 50 percent by mid-century.

Since 2014, the country has also had observer status in the Community of Portuguese- Speaking Countries (CPLP). The background is the historical Japanese-Portuguese relations and the Brazilian-Japanese relations , in particular the mutual Brazilian-Japanese emigration.

Japan has been on the list of major non-NATO ally since 1989 , making it one of the USA's closest diplomatic, military and strategic partners outside of NATO .

Memberships in international organizations (selection)
UN system Global Organizations Regional organizations
organization Year of joining organization Year of joining organization Year of joining
United Nations 1956 World trade organization 1995 APEC 1989
World Bank / IBRD (7.86% share) 1952 OECD 1964 Council of Europe (observer) 1996
International Monetary Fund (6.12% share) 1952 Group of Seven 1975 Asian Development Bank 1966
UNESCO 1951 Interpol 1952 African Development Bank (non-regional) 1983
Food and Agriculture Organization 1951 International Criminal Court 2007 ASEAN Plus Three / East Asia Summit 1997/2005
International Maritime Organization 1958 International Organization for Migration 1993 Asia Cooperation Dialogue 2002


Self Defense Forces flag
JMSDF ships : A Takanami-class anti- submarine destroyer (left) with the helicopter carrier Izumo

In Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution , Japan renounces the right of sovereign states to wage war, including a defensive one. This clause is unique in the world, it was included after the defeat of Japan in World War II to prevent renewed militarist aggression. The interpretation of Article 9 was gradually expanded: in the 1950s for rearming, in the 1990s for participation in foreign missions, in the 21st century for the acquisition of certain military equipment (such as helicopter carriers) that were used as offensive weapons - and with it could be seen as a violation of the prohibition of war potential (senryoku) formulated in Article 9 , and partial aspects of collective defense, although the Cabinet's legislative bureau stated as early as 2001 that collective defense as such is not covered by the constitution. Since the adoption of the Japanese constitution, various changes have been discussed, in particular Article 9. Against the background of the growing military power of the People's Republic of China , the right-wing conservative government under Prime Minister Shinzō Abe decided in July 2014 to reinterpret the constitution and thus introduce a new military doctrine. After a successful parliamentary vote in September 2015, Japan can now use the right to “collective self-defense” and fight alongside allies in conflicts, even if it is not attacked directly. The change came about despite violent popular protests and against massive resistance from the opposition.

A police reserve was formed during the occupation when the Korean War broke out in the former colony and many of the US troops stationed in Japan withdrew there. With the sovereignty in 1953, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF; English for jieitai , "self-defense forces ") were founded from this police reserve a year later , divided into land, sea and air troops. The word gun (, “army”, “armed forces”; explicitly prohibited by Article 9) is generally not used in the designation - in contrast to rikugun (“land forces” = army / army) and kaigun (“sea forces ” = Navy) of the Empire. At the same time as the peace treaty, a military alliance was concluded with the former war opponent, the United States , which, despite a wave of protests from left parties, students and trade unions, was reissued in 1960 in the form of the Treaty on Mutual Cooperation and Security and has been automatically renewed since then is not terminated. In 2007, Japan became the second country to ever sign a security agreement with Australia . Both countries want to intensify their cooperation on border control, the fight against terrorism and disaster relief. Joint military maneuvers and intelligence cooperation are also planned. A direct security cooperation desired by Washington with Japan's most important US ally in East Asia, the Republic of Korea, has so far failed due to Japan's lack of sense of responsibility for its own history, the territorial dispute and the nationalist feelings it fueled in Korea: This was how public protests in Korea 2012 prevented the signing of a first bilateral security agreement for the exchange of information. An agreement actually concluded at the turn of the year 2014/15 on the exchange of intelligence information about the Democratic People's Republic of Korea once again provides for no direct bilateral cooperation, only indirect exchange via US services. In 2010, the armed forces of the Republic of Korea first took part as an observer in the regular US-Japanese exercise Keen Sword .

There is no conscription in Japan . Japan spent almost 0.9% of its economic output or 45.4 billion dollars on its armed forces in 2017 and was thus in 8th place worldwide. The maximum share of military expenditure was set at 1% of economic output in 1976 by a cabinet decision; this upper limit was already formally abolished after the end of the coalition government under Yasuhiro Nakasone in 1986, but then only symbolically by a fraction (initially to 1.007%) and never significantly exceeded. In 2017 Shinzō Abe declared the 1% limit (again) abandoned. Japan also participates in the military presence of the United States on the basis of the SOFA of 1960 with the Omoiyari Yosan (思 い や り 予 算; "sympathy budget ") currently over 200 billion yen annually (corresponds to approx. 1.4 billion euros).

Japan ranked 111th out of 155 countries in the Global Militarization Index (GMI) in 2018 . According to the ranking by Global Firepower (2018), the country has the eighth strongest military capacity in the world and the fourth strongest in Asia.

Previous missions abroad by the self-defense forces were and are:

  • supporting missions
    • 1991 mine clearers in the Persian Gulf for the coalition in the Gulf War
    • 2001–2007 and 2008–2010 with refueling ships in the Indian Ocean for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan
    • 2004–2008 with air and ground forces mainly for the reconstruction in southern Iraq for the coalition in the Gulf War
  • to protect against piracy at sea
    • since 2009 off Somalia
  • as part of United Nations peacekeeping missions
    • 1992–1993 UNTAC in Cambodia
    • 1993–1995 ONUMUZ in Mozambique
    • 1996-2013 UNDOF on the Golan Heights (Syria / Israel)
    • 2002–2004 UNTAET / UNMISET in East Timor
    • 2007–2011 UNMIN in Nepal
    • 2008–2011 UNMIS in Sudan
    • 2010–2012 UNMIT in East Timor
    • 2010–2013 MINUSTAH in Haiti
    • since 2011 UNMISS in South Sudan
  • several short-term missions for disaster relief and refugee aid

The People's Republic of China is often accused of developing a new militarism in Japan . Historically, these fears are justified by the fact that China suffered great suffering in the Second Sino-Japanese War (an estimated 18 million civilian casualties). However, Japan has not shown any military aggression since World War II and is an active advocate of nuclear disarmament , while China has caused several conflicts with its neighbors (in the wake of the 1959 Tibet Uprising , 1962 Sino-India Border War , 1969 Ussuri incident , Sino-Vietnamese War 1979).

  • In fact, military threat scenarios in Japan primarily see Chinese troops landing on the coast. Another area of ​​conflict emerged in 2005 when Japan first made the protection of Taiwan part of its interests.
  • A second threat scenario is offered by North Korea , which has already fired missiles over Japanese territory on several occasions and surprised the world public in 2005 by claiming it possessed nuclear weapons . In October 2006, the North Korean government attempted to substantiate this claim with an atomic bomb test. However, it is unclear whether the registered shock really was a nuclear weapon explosion. Because of this threat, Japan is working closely with the United States to develop a joint anti-missile shield .
  • The third threat scenario is a terrorist attack, as shown by the attack on the Tokyo subway by the Ōmu-Shinrikyō sect in 1995. Due to the involvement in Iraq, there are fears that Japan could also become the target of Islamist groups, and there have already been indications of this.

Japan's then Prime Minister Koizumi affirmed on August 6, 2006 that his country would continue the anti-nuclear policy. With prayers, the laying of wreaths and calls for a world free of nuclear weapons, people in Hiroshima commemorated the victims of the first atomic bomb 61 years earlier.


The Japanese legal history can be divided into two main reception phases divided. In the 7th century AD, Japan took over the legal system of China in the areas of constitutional and administrative law with the Ritsuryō . This order was characterized by oral legal clauses, but in which there were no courts or legal professions in the current sense. After Japan was forced to give up its isolation, the state adopted large parts of the first draft of the German Civil Code in 1898 . This was especially true for the law of obligations and property law, while Japanese peculiarities were more influential in family law and inheritance law. In accordance with the German Civil Code, the Japanese Civil Code was based on the pandect system. However, borrowings were also made in French law, in particular through the deliberations of Gustave Boissonade . The introduction of a western legal order represented an enormous break with the previous legal tradition in Japan. B. in the fact that an idea of personal rights and legal claims was previously alien to Japanese society. After the Second World War, US law also exerted an influence.

In Japan, the death penalty is a criminal law penalty. Polls show that there is an overwhelming support for the death penalty among Japanese society. According to a 1999 study, 79.3% were in favor of the death penalty; but it also receives criticism. In December 2006, at least four prisoners were hanged to death. The executions are carried out in secret, and independent observers are not permitted. Relatives and lawyers are also not informed before the execution. Appointment processes take between 10 and 16 years; however, there are also prisoners who have been waiting for their death sentences since the 1960s. According to Amnesty International , at least 87 death row prisoners were held in Japanese prisons in July 2006. Since 2009 criminal trials, which in Japan can also include the death penalty, have been held as lay judges for certain serious crimes .


The Tokyo Stock Exchange is the largest stock exchange in Asia
Headquarters of the Bank of Japan in Chūō-ku, Tokyo

Japan is a highly industrialized , free market economy with some elements of a managed economy . In the years of reconstruction after the war, the government tried to intervene specifically in individual areas of the economy , primarily through the MITI . In recent years there has been increasing deregulation and privatization . In the Global Competitiveness Index , which measures a country's competitiveness, Japan ranks 9th out of 137 countries (as of 2017-2018). In the same year, it was ranked 20th in the Economic Freedom Index .

The export in 2018 was $ 917 billion. This puts Japan in fourth place among the countries with the highest exports, behind the People's Republic of China in first place, the United States in second place and Germany in third place.

Close cooperation between government and industry, a traditionally pronounced work discipline, mastery of cutting-edge technology , a great focus on training by the state and an increase in productivity through automation have helped Japan, within a short time behind the United States , the EU and the People's Republic of China to become the fourth largest economy in the world. For three decades, Japan experienced rapid economic growth: an average of 10% in the 1960s, an average of 5% in the 1970s, and 4% economic growth in the 1980s. In the 1990s, growth collapsed after the bursting of the bubble economy , and Japan got caught in a spiral of deflation . Government attempts to revive economic growth initially unsuccessful and were later hampered during 2000 and 2001 by a slowdown in American and Asian markets.

According to the Swiss bank Credit Suisse, the citizens of Japan had total assets of 24 trillion dollars in 2016, making Japan the second largest national total wealth after the USA. Both income and wealth inequality were less pronounced in Japan than in most other developed countries. In relation to the size of the economy, there are relatively few billionaires in Japan, and Japan's Gini coefficient is one of the lowest in the world.

Jun'ichirō Koizumi's cabinet has passed privatization and deregulation laws (sometimes unsuccessful) and tried to stimulate the ailing Japanese economy. A growing problem in Japan since the 1990s is unemployment . Official statistics put it at around three percent in 2017, which is still a relatively low rate. In 2015, 2.9% of all workers worked in agriculture, 70.9% in the service sector and 26.2% in industry. The total number of employees is estimated at 65 million for 2017. 51% of the workforce are female.

In 2012 Shinzo Abe was elected as the new Prime Minister of Japan. Abe promised radical reforms to free the Japanese economy from its two decades of stagnation. The strategy called Abenomics consisted of deregulation, economic stimulus programs that accept a high deficit, and cheap money (the key interest rate of the Japanese central bank is negative). In addition, the previously neglected tourism was promoted and the country opened up to foreign investment. The growth should be increased to over 3%. Although the strategy improved sentiment in the Japanese economy, it has so far not been able to sustainably increase growth and has further increased Japan's national debt. In addition, since the Fukushima disaster, Japan has had a negative trade balance and higher budget deficits as it now has to import its energy, which further complicates the situation. In 2017 it had a positive trade balance again. In mid-2018 the unemployment rate was 2.2%, the lowest level since the early 1990s.

Economic indicators

The important economic indicators - gross domestic product, inflation, budget balance, foreign trade and unemployment - developed as follows in the last calendar years (values ​​with question marks are estimates or forecasts):

Change in gross domestic product (GDP), real in% compared to the previous year
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Change in% yoy 0.4 0.1 1.5 2.2 1.7 1.4 1.7 −1.1 −5.4 4.2 −0.1 1.5 2.0 0.4 1.2 0.5 2.2 0.3 0.7
Development of GDP (nominal)
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
GDP in billions of US $ 5,038 5,231 5,700 6.157 6,203 5,156 4,850 4,389 4,923 4,867 4,955 5,082
GDP per inhabitant
(in US $)
35,275 39,339 44,507 48.167 48,603 40,454 38.096 34,474 38,894 38,428 39,286
Inflation rate, budget balance and unemployment
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Inflation rate in% compared to the previous year 0.0 1.4 −1.4 −0.7 −0.3 −0.1 0.3 2.8 0.8 −0.1 0.5 1.0 0.5
Budget balance in% of GDP ("minus" = deficit in the national budget) −3.2 −4.5 −10.2 −9.5 −9.4 −8.6 −7.9 −5.6 −3.8 −3.7 −4.2 −3.2
Unemployment as a percentage of the workforce 3.8 4.0 5.1 5.1 4.9 4.3 4.0 3.6 3.4 3.1 2.9 2.4 3.3
Development of foreign trade in billion US $ and its change compared to the previous year in%
2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
in billions of
US $
% Gg.
Prior year.
in billions of
US $
% Gg.
Prior year.
in billions of
US $
% Gg.
Prior year.
in billions of
US $
% Gg.
Prior year.
in billions of
US $
% Gg.
Prior year.
import 812.2 −2.5 625.6 −23.0 607.0 −6.4 671.0 10.5 748.1 11.5
export 690.2 −3.5 624.9 −9.5 644.6 3.1 697.2 8.2 737.8 5.8
balance −122.0 −0.7 37.6 26.3 −10.3
Main trading partner (2018)
Export (in%) to Import (in%) of
China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 19.5 China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 23.2
United StatesUnited States United States 19.0 United StatesUnited States United States 10.9
Korea SouthSouth Korea South Korea 7.1 AustraliaAustralia Australia 6.1
TaiwanRepublic of China (Taiwan) Taiwan 5.7 Saudi ArabiaSaudi Arabia Saudi Arabia 4.5
Hong KongHong Kong Hong Kong 4.7 Korea SouthSouth Korea South Korea 4.3
ThailandThailand Thailand 4.4 TaiwanRepublic of China (Taiwan) Taiwan 3.6
SingaporeSingapore Singapore 3.2 GermanyGermany Germany 3.5
United NationsU.N. other states 36.4 United NationsU.N. other states 43.9
Main products of foreign trade (2016)
Export goods (share in%) Imported goods (share in%)
Motor vehicles and parts 20.7 electronics 12.8
machinery 19.0 Chemicals 10.0
Chemicals 10.2 oil 9.5
electronics 9.0 food 8.2
Electrical engineering 7.5 machinery 6.6
Others 33.6 Others 52.9

State budget

The state budget included expenditures in 2016 of the equivalent of 1,931 billion US dollars , which were income equivalent to 1.696 billion US dollar against. This results in a budget deficit of 4.7% of GDP . The national debt in 2016 was 11.8 trillion. US dollars or 239.2% of GDP.

In 2009, the share of government expenditure (in% of GDP) was in the following areas:

The national debt, now one of the highest in the world, is mainly due to the Japanese crisis . In 1989 the national debt was still 68% of GDP. However, unlike other heavily indebted countries, Japan is indebted in its own currency and most of the Japanese government's bonds are owned by Japanese citizens or the Japanese central bank. The state 's government bonds are rated A + by the rating agency Standard & Poor’s (as of November 2018). The country counts as a good debtor, despite the high national debt. With respect to other countries, Japan is a net creditor and the country holds foreign exchange reserves of US $ 1.2 trillion.


With a primary energy consumption of 445.3 million tons of oil equivalent in 2016, Japan is the country with the fifth highest energy consumption after China, the USA, India and Russia. The country is also the fifth largest carbon dioxide emitter. Japan is one of the signatories to the Paris Climate Agreement .

Wind turbines in Japan

Japan consumes more liquefied natural gas (LNG) than any other country, is the second largest importer of coal and the third largest of oil .

Gas and coal-fired power plants dominate the generation of electricity . In 2015, electricity generated 1041 terawatt hours. Of this, gas power plants accounted for 39%, coal power plants 33.4%, oil power plants 9.8%, hydropower plants 8.8%, photovoltaics 3.4%, biomass cogeneration plants 3.3% and other electricity generation 2.3%.

After the nuclear disaster in Fukushima , all nuclear power plants were shut down by 2013 , which in 2010 still accounted for 25% of electricity generation. The use of nuclear energy was resumed in August 2015. By November 2017, five of 42 reactors had been put back into operation. The Abe cabinet is aiming for a share of electricity from nuclear energy of just under 20%.

In addition to solar energy, wind energy , geothermal energy , hydropower , biogas and biomass are promoted.


Japan has a modern and efficient infrastructure. In 2018, Japan ranked fifth out of 160 countries in the Logistics Performance Index compiled by the World Bank . The parameters for transport infrastructure and logistics competence performed particularly well.


Typical street pole in a suburb of Tokyo.

The well-developed railway lines in Japan have a total length of 27,311 km, of which 20,534 km are electrified. The east-west connection of the Shinkansen is the country's lifeline. The first route from Tokyo to Osaka was opened for the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 1964 . Most of the villages and islands are connected to the network through lines of the seven successor companies of the privatized state railway JNR , through private railways, intercity buses and ferries. Every major city is connected to the surrounding area by a well-developed local transport network. Nine metropolises have an underground network, and every larger city has a large number of bus routes. Modern monorails have been built in several cities, there are also trams, and people movers are also used in niches .

Rail and local transport fees vary greatly depending on the region and operating company. Single trips are very cheap, especially in large cities, but can also be relatively high due to the lack of transport associations and the lack of state subsidies . In long-distance transport, the supplements often make journeys expensive.

In Japan, a car is primarily owned by people who live in rural areas or in smaller cities. Since the cities are very densely built, a parking space certificate (Shakoshōmei) is required to register a motor vehicle . Around 60 million cars are registered in the country. In residential areas, the streets are very narrow and have no sidewalks. That is why there are hardly any trucks on the inner-city streets , as only the narrow kei trucks can drive on these narrow streets.

In 2015, the entire road network covered around 1,218,772 km, of which 992,835 km were paved. The Japanese toll motorway network covers around 7,000 kilometers, and a further 2,000 are planned. The network is in state hands, but the operating companies were converted into private, publicly owned companies in 2005 and may be sold. In Japan there is left-hand traffic . In terms of road traffic, the country is one of the safest in the world. In 2013, there were a total of 4.7 road deaths for every 100,000 inhabitants in Japan. For comparison: In Germany there were 4.3 deaths in the same year. A total of 6130 people were killed in traffic. The country has a high rate of motorization by global standards. In 2017 there were 590 vehicles for every 1,000 inhabitants in the country (in Germany there were 610 vehicles).

The construction of the road and rail network is very difficult and resource-intensive due to the mountainous inland and the many islands, as many tunnels and bridges are necessary. In addition, the infrastructure is constantly at risk from earthquakes, typhoons and volcanic eruptions. In Japan, power and telephone lines are mostly above ground, in newer urban development projects they are underground. Due to the risk of fire in the event of an earthquake, the underground gas pipes in all urban areas require special attention and are often maintained. Gas stoves and gas boilers for hot water supply are the norm in Japan. The Japanese infrastructure includes a dense network of disaster warning systems and life rafts.

There are a large number of ports and airports in Japan. Due to its isolated location, all international trade in goods is carried out through it. Because of the poor accessibility of many places within Japan, they are also used for travel and for domestic goods transport. The largest airports are Tokyo-Haneda , Narita , Kansai and the EXPO Aichi 2005 newly opened Chubu airport . Since there is only little flat land available in Japan, both the Kansai and Aichi airports and the Kitakyūshū and Kobe airports were built on artificial islands in the sea.


The telephone network is also well developed, broadband internet access is widely available and almost every Japanese person has a mobile phone. In Japan, the personal digital cellular mobile radio standard was used, which is not compatible with the globally widespread GSM standard . In the meantime, however, the UMTS network in Japan has also developed excellently. Most of the 3G cell phones from Europe now work fine in Japan as well.

In 2018, 91 percent of Japan's residents used the Internet .


Kare-san-sui garden in Ryōan-ji, Kyōto
Maiko prepares tea cups for tea ceremony before

In modern Japanese culture, many elements go back to the country's very own tradition, which is why Japan has retained its individual character among the industrialized nations.

In archeology, the first evidence of early cultural history are ceramics from the Jōmon and Yayoi periods. From the 4th century many elements of Chinese culture came to Japan, first agricultural techniques such as rice cultivation and handicraft techniques such as bronze smithing and the construction of barrows , then from the 7th century also the written culture and the five classics , Confucianism and Buddhism .

It flourished for the first time in the Heian period , when the court aristocracy developed an independent Japanese poetry and literature from the Chinese heritage .

In the following epochs the country was repeatedly devastated by civil wars, whereby the sword nobility, the bushi (later called samurai ), rose to be the most important class. In addition to the art of warfare and swordsmithing, a new form of Buddhism, Zen , emerged, which appealed to warriors.

It was not until the Edo period in the 17th century, under the Tokugawa , that the country came to rest again. The samurai became a class of officials who preserved their warrior virtues in the martial arts ( bujutsu ). The influence of Zen was now also reflected in poetry, garden art , painting ( sumi-e ) and music. During this period of peace and economic upswing, the fourth class, the traders, also became wealthy. Since they were denied social advancement, the traders looked to art for a way to outdo the samurai. They sponsored tea houses where the geishas practiced the tea ceremony , flower arranging , music and dance. They also sponsored the kabuki theater. In the cities, special entertainment districts formed, especially in Edo , where the daimyo had to spend half the year under the direct control of the shogun .

Japan is now experiencing a third heyday of culture in the post-war period, when Japan produced a lively pop culture that combines Western influences and Japanese tradition. Anime and manga , Japanese films, and pop music are also popular overseas.

science and education

In Japan, as in all Confucian countries in Asia, education has a high priority. In 2012, public spending on education in the primary to tertiary sector was 3.5 percent of gross domestic product. Together with Slovakia, the country ranks last among the 36 participating countries in the OECD's Indicators of Education Systems program . Many Japanese are of the opinion that you can only get anywhere in life with a good education. As a result, the little ones learn the first letters in kindergarten, namely the hiragana alphabet. Before every further step in the Japanese education system there is an entrance examination (middle school (partly), high school, university). Many Japanese mothers are housewives and see their task primarily in ensuring their children get a good education. However, many of the daughters' generation would like to make a career with their good education, so that a social change is on the horizon. Art and sports education is offered in a Kōminkan .


A typical classroom in a Japanese school.

School education begins in kindergarten, which is not part of compulsory schooling. Since in Japan a lot of value is generally placed on learning and living together, a lot of group work takes place in kindergarten and elementary school. The school system is divided into elementary school (six years), middle school (three years) and high school (three years); compulsory schooling is nine years. The school year in Japan always starts on April 1st. The school holidays are the same throughout the country: two weeks on New Years, two weeks in March / April, six weeks in July / August. Public schools have a five-day week, private schools often a six-day week. During compulsory schooling there is no “staying seated”, every student is automatically transferred. School uniforms are compulsory in many schools. Each of these schools has its own distinctive uniform.

In the 2015 PISA ranking , Japanese students ranked 5th out of 72 countries in math, 3rd in science, and 8th in reading comprehension. Japanese students were among the best among all participating countries. The pressure to perform in Japanese schools is considered to be very high.


After the Second World War , research concentrated entirely on the development of new products for industry. A very close cooperation took place between the development departments of the large companies and the universities. It was only through reforms in the 1980s that basic research was increasingly funded. The big topic at the moment is the development of robots, as the Expo 2005 showed. The main theme of the social sciences in the 1980s was Nihonjinron , the Japanese attempt to find identity after the rapid changes of the last century and a half.

Japan is one of the most innovative countries in the world. In the Global Innovation Index 2017 , which measures the innovative capacity of individual countries , Japan ranks 14th out of 130 economies.

Nobel Prize Winner


In the Japanese media system, there is a special feature of the Kisha clubs (also known as reporters ' clubs ), to which only journalists from the major media from Tokyo have access. These are located in the offices of the administration or the company and serve as a place for press conferences , briefings and background discussions . There are two central news agencies in Japan. These are Kyōdō Tsūshinsha and Jiji Tsūshinsha . Newspapers are still very popular in Japan. In total there are over 100 different daily newspapers. There are five newspapers that appear nationwide, three block newspapers, 45 prefecture newspapers, and 200 newspapers below the prefecture level. The two largest newspapers in the world by daily circulation come from Japan (as of 2015): Yomiuri Shimbun (edition 9.03 million) and Asahi Shimbun (6.62 million). In addition, the Mainichi Shimbun (edition 3.16 million), the Nihon Keizai Shimbun (edition 2.73 million) and the Sankei Shimbun (edition 1.57 million), which also achieve high editions. There are six television networks broadcast throughout Japan: NHK (Public Service), Nippon Television (NTV), Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS), Fuji Network System (FNS), TV Asahi (EX) and TV Tokyo Network (TXN). Broadcasting in Japan is organized in two ways. There are publicly and privately financed broadcasters that could be started in 1951 by the Broadcasting Act. The three most popular online news portals are (as of 2015) Yahoo News (weekly reach: 53 percent), NHK news online (weekly reach: 23 percent) and Nippon TV (weekly reach: 15 percent). Youtube is the most commonly used social network .


A plate of nigiri-zushi

Japanese cuisine is based on combining staple foods , typically Japanese rice or noodles, with a soup and okazu (dishes made from fish, vegetables, tofu, and the like) to add flavor to the staple food. In the early modern period, ingredients like red meat were introduced that were not previously widely available in Japan.

Japanese cuisine is known for its emphasis on seasonal foods, quality of ingredients and presentation. Japanese cuisine offers a wide variety of regional specialties using traditional recipes and local ingredients. The term ichijū-sansai (一汁三菜|| one soup, three sides ) refers to the composition of a typical meal, but has roots in classical Kaiseki , Honzen and Yūsoku kitchen. The term is also used to describe the first course, which in today's standard Kaiseki will be served -Kitchen. Karē has been so widespread since its introduction to Japan from British India that it can be called a national dish.

Traditional Japanese sweets are known as wagashi . Ingredients such as red bean paste and mochi are used. One of the more modern flavors is green tea ice, a very popular aroma. Kakigōri is a shaved ice-cream dessert that is seasoned with syrup or condensed milk. It is usually sold and eaten at summer festivals. Popular Japanese beverages such as sake , a brewed rice drink that typically contains 14-17% alcohol and is made through multiple fermentation of rice. Beer has been brewed in Japan since the late 19th century and is produced in many regions by companies such as the Asahi Beer , the Kirin Beer and the Sapporo Beer . They claim to be the oldest known brand of beer in Japan.


Whale Meat in Takashimaya Department Store (Osaka)

Japan is one of the largest fishing nations and practices whaling , ostensibly with a scientific background through the Institute of Cetacean Research . The killing of whales should enable the stomach contents of the animals to be examined. The International Whaling Commission strongly criticized the weak scientific arguments of Japan and pointed out that the desired data do not serve the management of the whale populations and could also be collected with means that are gentle on the whales (e.g. excrement and skin samples). The Japanese whaling lobby argues that whales eat too many fish and are therefore food competitors of humans.

In December 2007, following international pressure, the Japanese government announced that it would stop hunting the endangered humpback whales . The hunt for minke whales and fin whales will continue. The hunting result of the fleet around the Nisshin Maru in Antarctica in the 2007/2008 season was 551 specimens of the non-endangered minke whales, in 2008/2009 679 minke whales and a fin whale and in 2009/2010 506 minke whales and a fin whale.

The consumption of whale meat in Japan has been declining for years. For example, the stocks of stored whale meat are constantly increasing: from 1453 t in 1999 to 5093 t in December 2010. Japan is also the most important sales market for Icelandic whale meat.


Sumo wrestlers line up around the referee during an opening ceremony.

Sport is proven in Japan as early as the Asuka period (7th century), when an embassy from Korea was supported by a sumo fight at the court of Empress Kōgyoku . The Bushi , the growing warrior class at the end of the Heian period (11th century), also practiced sports in preparation for combat, primarily sword fighting ( kenjutsu ), horse riding ( bajutsu ), archery ( kyūjutsu ) and swimming. In the Edo period , a peaceful period, the samurai who had become administrative officials refined these martial arts techniques ( bujutsu ), which also received a spiritual component through the influence of Zen Buddhism.

As part of the Meiji Restoration (second half of the 19th century), western sports also came to Japan, including athletic sports and team sports such as baseball , the most popular sport today (see baseball in Japan ). At the beginning of the 20th century, today's martial arts and martial arts were developed from the classic Bujutsu arts, including Judo , Aikidō and Kendō . The Karate developed in Okinawa Prefecture .

A wide variety of sports are practiced in Japan today, primarily in clubs at schools and universities. The island location has made windsurfing and diving very popular. Golf is regarded as a sport for salarymen . However, only those who earn well can afford membership in a golf club. Everywhere in Japan there are highly fenced systems on which the tee can be practiced. Hokkaidō and Nagano Prefecture are centers of winter sports .

But rugby and soccer are also enjoying increasing popularity in Japan. In the Top League , the top division of Japanese rugby, some of the highest-paid players in the world play and the national rugby team of Japan regularly represents the country at the rugby world championship , which was hosted by Japan in 2019 . The J1 League , the top division in Japanese football, is once again considered to be one of the most important football leagues in the world, and Japan's national football team also regularly takes part in the World Cup , which Japan co-hosted in 2002 . Many Japanese soccer players such as Hidetoshi Nakata , Shunsuke Nakamura , Naohiro Takahara , Shinji Okazaki , Makoto Hasebe , Keisuke Honda , Yuto Nagatomo , Shinji Kagawa , Atsuto Uchida , Maya Yoshida , Hiroki Sakai , Gōtoku Sakai , Yuya Osako or Genki Haraguchi were already in Establish the top leagues of European football (especially in the German Bundesliga).

The Summer Olympics were scheduled to take place in Japan in 2020, but have been postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic .

public holidays

In Japan there are sixteen public holidays ( Japanese 祝 日, shukujitsu ) per year, which are laid down in the State Law on the Holidays of the People (国民 の 祝 日 に 関 す る 法律, kokumin no shukujitsu ni kansuru hōritsu ) of July 20, 1948. As in Germany, some of these holidays are movable holidays (移動 祝 日, idō shukujitsu ), but most holidays are linked to an unchangeable date.

If a public holiday falls on a Sunday, the following Monday is a day off (振 (り) 替 (え) 休 日, furikae kyūjitsu , English "postponed holiday"). Every single day that falls between two public holidays is also a day off (国民 の 休 日, kokumin no kyūjitsu , dt. " Day of rest for the citizens").

In addition to the public holidays, there are also a large number of regional commemorative and festive days in Japan . Before the public holidays were regulated by Japanese law, a distinction was made between shukujitsu (祝 日), generally for public holiday, and saijitsu (祭日), the ecclesiastical (religious) holiday or regional custom (祭 り, Matsuri ).


Gion-Matsuri is an annual festival in Kyoto.

There are many festivals (matsuri)in Japan that are celebrated annually. There are no specific festival days for all of Japan. Times vary from area to area and even within a given area. However, the festival days tend to focus on traditional holidays such as Setsubun or Obon . Festivals are often held as part of a ceremony , with food stalls, entertainment, and carnival games to keep people entertained. It is usually sponsored by a local shrine or temple , although they can be secular .

Notable festivals often have processions that can include elaborate floats. The preparation for these processions is usually carried out at the district or machi祭 level . Before that, the local kami may be ritually installed in Mikoshi and led through the streets, for example Gion in Kyoto and Hadaka in Okayama.

See also

Portal: Japan  - Overview of Wikipedia content on Japan


Web links

Wiktionary: Japan  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Japan  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikiquote: Japan  - Quotes
 Wikinews: Japan  - in the news
Wikimedia Atlas: Japan  geographic and historical maps
Wikisource: Japan  - Sources and Full Texts
Wikivoyage: Japan  Travel Guide

Individual evidence

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Coordinates: 35 °  N , 136 °  E