Japan is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies off the eastern coast of the Asian continent and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea in the south.
Archaeological research indicates that Japan was inhabited as early as the Upper Paleolithic period. The first written mention of Japan is in Chinese history texts from the 1st century AD. Influence from other regions, mainly China, followed by periods of isolation, particularly from Western Europe, has characterized Japan's history.
Japan is a member of the ASEAN Plus mechanism, UN, the OECD, the G7, the G8, and the G20, and is considered a great power. Its economy is the world's third-largest by nominal GDP and the fourth-largest by purchasing power parity. It is also the world's fourth-largest exporter and fourth-largest importer.
The Zen school of Buddhism was introduced from China in the Kamakura period (1185–1333) and became popular among the samurai class. The Kamakura shogunate repelled Mongol invasions in 1274 and 1281, but was eventually overthrown by Emperor Go-Daigo. Emperor Go-Daigo was himself defeated by Ashikaga Takauji in 1336.
In World War I, Japan joined the Allies and captured German possessions, and made advances into China. The early 20th century saw a period of Taisho democracy (1912–1926), but the 1920s saw a fragile democracy buckle under a political shift towards statism, the passing of laws against political dissent and a series of attempted coups. This process accelerated during the 1930s, spawning a number of new Radical Nationalist groups which shared a hostility to liberal democracy and a dedication to expansion in Asia. Japanese expansionism and militarization along with the totalitarianism and ultranationalism reshaped the country. In 1931 Japan invaded and occupied Manchuria and following international condemnation of this occupation, it quit the League of Nations in 1933. In 1936, Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact with Germany and the 1940 Tripartite Pact made it one of the Axis Powers.
The islands of Japan are located in a volcanic zone on the Pacific Ring of Fire. They are primarily the result of large oceanic movements occurring over hundreds of millions of years from the mid-Silurian to the Pleistocene as a result of the subduction of the Philippine Sea Plate beneath the continental Amurian Plate and Okinawa Plate to the south, and subduction of the Pacific Plate under the Okhotsk Plate to the north. The Boso Triple Junction off the coast of Japan is a triple junction where the North American Plate, the Pacific Plate and the Philippine Sea Plate meets. Japan was originally attached to the eastern coast of the Eurasian continent. The subducting plates pulled Japan eastward, opening the Sea of Japan around 15 million years ago.
Japan ranks 20th in the 2018 Environmental Performance Index, which measures a nation's commitment to environmental sustainability. As the host and signatory of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, Japan is under treaty obligation to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions and to take other steps to curb climate change. Current environmental issues include urban air pollution (NOx, suspended particulate matter, and toxics), waste management, water eutrophication, nature conservation, climate change, chemical management and international co-operation for conservation.
Japan has close ties to the United States. Since Japan's defeat by the United States and allies in World War II, the two countries have maintained close economic and defense relations. The United States is a major market for Japanese exports and the primary source of Japanese imports, and is committed to defending the country, having military bases in Japan for partially that purpose. After Japan's defeat in World War II, the Japanese-ruled Northern Mariana Islands came under control of the United States.
Korean pop cultural products' success in the Japanese market is partially explained by the borrowing of Japanese ideas such as the star-marketing system and heavy promotion of new television shows and music. Korean dramas such as Winter Sonata and Coffee Prince, as well as K-pop artists such as BIGBANG and SHINee are very popular with Japanese consumers. Most recently, South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the 2017 G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany to discuss the future of their relationship and specifically how to cooperate on finding solutions for North Korean aggression in the region. Both leaders restated their commitment to solving the comfort women dispute, building positive relations in the region, and pressuring China to be more assertive with North Korea as it continues to test nuclear weapons and isolate themselves further form the international community.
Domestic security in Japan is provided mainly by the Prefectural Police Departments, under the oversight of the National Police Agency, and supervised by the Criminal Affairs Bureau of the National Police Agency. As the central coordinating body for the Prefectural Police Departments, the National Police Agency is itself administered by the National Public Safety Commission.
Japan has a large industrial capacity, and is home to some of the largest and most technologically advanced producers of motor vehicles, electronics, machine tools, steel and nonferrous metals, ships, chemical substances, textiles, and processed foods. Agricultural businesses in Japan cultivate 13 percent of Japan's land, and Japan accounts for nearly 15 percent of the global fish catch, second only to China. As of 2016, Japan's labor force consisted of some 65.9 million workers. Japan has a low unemployment rate of around four percent. Some 20 million people, around 17 per cent of the population, were below the poverty line in 2007. Housing in Japan is characterized by limited land supply in urban areas.