Japan Facts

Japan Facts and History


Japan – the land of the rising sun

Japan – the most fascinating country in the far east of Asia is after Indonesia, Madagascar and Papua New Guineathe fourth largest island nation on earth. Few countries in the world combine state-of-the-art industry, technical progress, rich culture, history and deeply rooted traditions as concentrated and challenging as the “Empire of the Rising Sun”. Here, the past and the future stand side by side and make the country an experience of contradicting ones Superlatives. Between the most modern high-tech palaces there are dilapidated wooden barracks, depictions of the most brutal pornography contrast with the most childish plastic toys, wonderful temples and parks are surrounded by ugly high-rise teeth and the brightest advertising signs – juxtapositions that inspire, frighten, and arouse curiosity.

All of this is Japan, the former empire that is said to consist of 6,800 islands. Of these islands, the four main islands of Hokkaidô, Honshû, Shikoku and Kyûshû alone make up about 98% of the Japanese land area. The head of state of the high-tech nation is – even if only de facto and not de iure – the Tenno, the emperor “tamed” by parliament on the “chrysanthemum throne”, the supreme figurehead of one of the most incredible countries in the world.

On March 11, 2011, the main island of Honshu was hit by one of the strongest earthquakes in the country’s recent history with a magnitude of 9.0 on the Richter scale. As a result of the earthquake and especially the subsequent tsunami, which were up to 10 m high, entire areas were razed to the ground. Over 18,000 people were probably killed. The amount of material damage cannot be foreseen at the moment, but the country fell into an existential crisis.

Name of the country Japan, Nippon (also Nihon)
Form of government Parliamentary monarchy with an emperor (“Tenno”) as the de facto head of state
Geographical location Island state in South-East Asia
National anthem “Kimigayo”
Head of state does not officially (de iure) exist but de fcto it is Tenno (Emperor) Naruhito
Population Approx. 128 million (Credit: Countryaah: Japan Population)
Ethnicities Approx. 99% Japanese, the largest minority are Koreans
Religions Shinto and Buddhism are the main religions.There are also about 1 million Christians.
Languages Japanese
Capital Tokyo (also Tokyo)
Surface 377,887 km²
Highest mountain Fuji-san with a height of 3,776 m
Longest river Shinano with a length of around 369 km
Largest lake Biwasee with an area of approx. 675 km²
International license plate J
National currency yen
Time difference to CET + 8 h
International phone code +81
Internet TLD (Top Level Domain) .jp

Japan: history

The islands of today’s Japan were already settled in the Stone Age, but there are still no reliable findings from this time.

Prehistoric times to around the year 300 AD

8th century BC Chr.

First secure dating of the Jomon culture. It existed until the 3rd century BC.

300 BC Chr.

According to Abbreviationfinder website, the Yayoi culture overlaid the existing culture. Immigrants from the mainland introduced metal processing and wet field rice cultivation.

100 BC Chr.

Verifiable trade contacts with China.

Yamato period up to 710

300 AD

In Japan, feudal small states emerged.


The Chinese script was adopted. The Tenson noble family gained control of Honshu.


The Shinto monobes and the Buddhist soga fought for supremacy. The Soga family as victor then ruled over Honshu, Shikoku and Northern Kyushu.


Regent Shotoku issued a code that transformed the Yamato Empire into an absolutist monarchy. After conflicts with the old feudal lords, the reformists prevailed and the old Japanese aristocratic state was converted into an absolute official state. The ruler (Tenno) became the sole owner of the country. According to legend, Tenno is a direct descendant of the sun goddess. During this time, Chinese characters developed into their own script. The administration system and calendar were also taken over from Cina

Nara and Heinan times until 1192

In 784

regent Kammu moved the capital from Nara to Nagoaka and in 794 to Kyoto, breaking the power of the Buddhist clergy. He conquered the north of Honshu and pushed the Ainu people to the island of Hokkaido.


The officials at the emperor’s court had become a powerful court nobility. The leaders of the Fujiwara family incapacitated the Tenno. In the year 894, the previously diverse contacts with China are completely closed. Nobody except priests and traders was allowed to leave the country


The court nobility was gradually disempowered. The leaders of the Taira and Minamoto families became the powerful representatives of the so-called sword nobility. These warriors were supposed to ensure internal and external security. In 1185 the Minamoto won the battle between the two.

Shogun period until 1603


The emperor made Minamoto no Yoritomo a shogun. He used the post of imperial general to expand his power. The shogun received all secular power, while the emperor and his court only held representative functions. In the following centuries up to the 15th century, different families rivaled for the shogunate. The position of the shogun remained weak. In the 15th century the warrior nobility (samurai) and the provincial administrators (daimyo) grew stronger and waged war against each other.


In the bay of Hakata – located in the northwest of the island of Kyushu – troops of the Mongol ruler Kublai Khan invaded in November of that year. The Japanese samurai warriors were hopelessly inferior to the Mongolian war technique, so that by November 19th the invaders had already advanced many kilometers into the country. But due to a typhoon that came on the morning of November 20th, the entire fleet with all soldiers who had embarked on the ships became a victim of the storm. Japan had been saved by divine winds – the kamikaze.


After the defeat in Hakata Bay, Kublai Khan tried again to subdue Japan. With a much larger invasion fleet, the invaders landed again in the northwest of the island of Kyūshū, but where they encountered better prepared Japanese who could withstand the attackers. But the decision brought another typhoon that destroyed most of the ships in the invasion fleet. A total of over 100,000 soldiers of the invaders are said to have died. The battle went down in history as the Battle of Koan.


Jesuits founded missions and converted around 150,000 Japanese to Christianity within around 30 years. The so-called Christian century began. The deeper sense was to learn mathematics, geography and navigation techniques from the European missionaries.


The provincial administrator Oda Nobunaga overthrew the shogunate and he and his successor subjugated the remaining 250 daimyos. One of his vassals, Tokugawa Ieyasu, was appointed Shogun and made Edo, later Tokyo, the capital of the country. In this Edo Shogunate a class society was formed: sword and warrior nobility, dependent peasants, artisans and merchants formed the four classes without the possibility of advancement to another class.

Edoshogunate until 1867


An uprising by mostly Christian peasants failed.


Thereupon the Shogun expelled all Europeans from the country. The influence of foreign countries on Japan was prevented with a few exceptions in trade. For over 200 years, the country remained almost completely isolated from the outside world.


Hokkaido is conquered. The country flourished by the 18th century. The merchant class became economically powerful and the nobility became dependent on the merchants’ money. These demanded the establishment of trade contacts with foreign countries. The Shogun stuck to its policy of isolation. Edo, today’s Tokyo becomes the economic and political center of the country – even if the Tenno remains in Kyoto. He closed himself off behind the high walls of his palace to his own people and only a few selected court officials and aristocrats saw him.


This long policy of isolation was not ended until 1853 when US warships forced the opening of Japanese ports to foreign merchant ships and low tariffs on their goods. Japan was technically and militarily inferior to the Americans. Unrest led to the resignation of the Shogun in 1866.


Tenno Mutsuhito took over the government and initiated far-reaching reforms. The emperor now resided in Tokyo (Edo). The Meiji (enlightened government) disempowered the nobility. General military service and compulsory schooling were introduced. A constitution based on the Prussian model came into force in 1889. Industrialization was advanced. Within a few decades, Japan transformed into a modern nation. The country’s first telegraph connection was established in 1869, and a train connection between Tokyo and Yokohama was opened shortly afterwards. And in 1873 the country introduces the Gregorian calendar. Education is based on the example of Germany and the Navy on that of Great Britain.

Meiji period until 1919


Japan annexes the Nansei Islands from China. With that began the imperialist policy of the empire. In 1895 Japan won the 1st Sino-Japanese War. Taiwan was annexed and Korea became dependent on Japan.


The Russo-Japanese War began with the defeat of the Russian Pacific Fleet. The Russian Baltic Fleet then sailed into the Japanese Sea and was devastated in the Strait of Tsushijama by the highly armed Japanese battleships. Japan then received territories and rights in Manchurai and was able to annex Korea in 1910. Japan has finally risen to become a great power


Japan declared war on the German Reich and captured the German colony of Kiatschou, which it received as a mandate in the Treaty of Versailles.

Hegemonic period until 1945


Japan became a founding member of the League of Nations and limited its sea armament in the Washington Agreement. Thus it pursued a policy that was more peaceful at times. Internally, there were reforms in electoral law. Meanwhile, the influence of nationalist officers on the politics of the country grew. The secret State Council, which was not controlled by parliament, influenced Emperor Hirohito and ensured the armament and suppression of political opponents.


The Japanese Empire occupied Manchuria and proclaimed the State of Manchuko there. International criticism caused Japan to withdraw from the League of Nations and terminate the disarmament treaties.


The German Reich and Japan founded the Anti-Coming Pact. Italy joined the pact in 1937.


The Second Sino-Japanese War began with the Japanese attack on China. Large parts of the country were occupied. The US imposed an economic embargo on Japan. In Nanjing, around 200,000 Chinese are victims of an arrogant military camera. This leads to unimaginable atrocities, including medical experiments on non-anesthetized people. These military men, intoxicated by their past, led the country into World War II a few years later with the attack on Pearl Harbor.


Parts of Indochina were occupied while the colonial power France at home in Europe was defeated by Germany in a blitzkrieg. The US imposed an economic embargo on Japan. The feared shortage of raw materials was threatening for Japanese industry.


On December 7th, the planes of a Japanese aircraft carrier fleet surprisingly attacked the American naval base Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. But it was only a few hours after the attack that Japan declared war on the United States and was thus able to keep the attack a secret until the end.


The US Navy defeated the Japanese in the incredibly bloody and mutually costly naval battle of the Midway Islands.


On August 6, 1945, the Americans dropped the Little Boy atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima with the help of their Enola Gay bomber. Hiroshima as a city was the headquarters of the 2nd Japanese Army, but was inhabited by about 255,000 civilians. The name of the bomber goes back to the American pilot Paul Tibbets, who named his fatal aircraft after his mother. Before the American team left for Hisroshima, a Lutheran chaplain said a prayer and implored the “Almighty Father” to “help those who dare to venture into the heights of your heavens and bring the fight to our enemies.

It is therefore not surprising that the Japanese later spoke of a “Christian bomb”. The bomb on Hiroshima was dropped at 08:15:17 (Japanese local time), and at 08:16:02 it was 580 meters above the city center Hiroshimas exploded. Just 43 seconds later, 80% of the inner city area was destroyed due to the unimaginable pressure wave. The resulting fireball had an internal temperature of more than 1,000,000 degrees Celsius Standing kilometers away, being swept away or going up in flames. Of the 76,000 houses in Hiroshima, 70,000 were destroyed or badly damaged. The mushroom cloud of the blown rubble and contaminated ash rose about eight miles into the air.This fanned out highly toxic material then fell 20 minutes later as fallout (= radioactive fallout) on the city and its surroundings.

The Little Boy atomic bomb was deliberately dropped by the Americans without warning in order to keep the number of victims as high as possible. And indeed: between 90,000 and 200,000 people were dead on the spot. By the end of 1945 alone, tens of thousands more people died from the aftermath of this explosion.

On August 9, the United States dropped another atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki, despite knowledge of the devastating consequences of the first atomic bomb. At that time there were between 240,000 and 260,000 residents in the city. Here it was the US pilot

Charles W. Sweeney who dropped his deadly burden – the plutonium bomb Fat Man – in his Bockscar bomber on Nagasaki at 11:02 am Japanese time. The bomb that exploded at a height of 470 meters this time caused a mushroom cloud 18 kilometers high. 22,000 people were killed immediately, and another 39,000 in the following four months. Almost 75,000 people were injured (some seriously).

Both atomic bombs were decided by US President Harry S. Truman on July 16, 1945, just a few days after the first “successful” atomic test, the so-called Trinity test. This was done near the desert town of Alamogordo in the US state of New Mexico. Although Japan had already made arrangements for surrender, Truman did not abandon his plan. In his diary he noted, among other things, “I believe that the Japsen will give in before Russia intervenes.” After the drop on Hiroshima, Truman threatened Japan: “If they do not accept our terms, then they may expect a rain of destruction from the air such as has never been seen on earth.” He should be right:

September 2nd, 1945

On August 15th, Tenno Hiroito (1901-1989) announced by means of a radio address at 12:00 noon that he had decided to make the path to peace possible and to endure the “unbearable”.

On September 2, 1945, Japan surrendered unconditionally. The surrender was preceded by a – albeit foiled – coup of young fanatical officers who wanted to “protect the Tenno from themselves”.

The American occupiers left the Tenno in office – a decision that was certainly brave and at the same time wise.

post war period


Emperor Hirohito announces that he only functioned as a symbol of the state and could no longer be equated with a god. Nevertheless, it remained almost invisible and inaudible to most Japanese. Only extremely rarely did a Tenno address his people via radio or television in the following years and decades.


A new constitution established a parliamentary-democratic system. A year later, the San Francisco Peace Treaty was signed.


end of the occupation. Japan then built up “self-defense forces”, not least in the face of the Korean War.

During the time of the occupation, US soldiers fathered around 200,000 children with Japanese women. Most of them emigrated to the USA and Europe, partly because they were not recognized in Japan.


treaty of alliance with the USA. After an economic miracle similar to Germany’s in the 1950s, Japan became the leading industrial and export nation.


Emperor Hiroito (1901-1989) died and his son Akihito (born 1933) ascended the chrysanthemum throne.


The Liberal Democratic Party LDP, ruling since 1955, broke up into several splits as a result of a series of corruption scandals. After a year in the opposition, it again became the leading democratic power. But the economic crisis that began in 1990 (bubble economy) and the ongoing scandals have repeatedly led to the resignation of once powerful politicians. But until 2009, the LDP remained the country’s leading political force.


In the election on August 30, 2009, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) won with its top candidate with 315 of the total of 480 seats, well ahead of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). After the previous Prime Minister Taro Aso, the candidate of the DPJ – Yukio Hatoyama became Prime Minister of the country. After his resignation on June 2, 2010 due to a party donation scandal, Naoto Kan (born 1946) became Prime Minister of the country on June 8, 2010 until September 2, 2011. He was a co-founder and chairman of the Democratic Party (DPJ) on several occasions.


A 9.0 earthquake and a subsequent tsunami killed over 18,000 people and plunged the country into a major crisis. As a result of the tsunami, there was also a serious accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which led to the contamination of large areas.


In over 200 years, Emperor Akihito (born 1933) was the first Tenno to resign voluntarily on April 30th. His term of office is known as the Heisei period. He was succeeded by his son Naruhito (born 1960) on the throne.But it was not until October 22, 2019 that Naruhito announced his enthronement in the presence of around 2,000 dignitaries from all over the world, making him the 126th Tenno. The ceremony “Sokuirei-Seiden-no-gi” (ceremony for the enthronement of the emperor) takes place according to an ancient custom. Naruhito wore a brown-orange robe and court officials placed two of the imperial throne insignia next to the emperor’s throne, a sword and the curved jewels that the imperial house, according to legend, received from the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami. According to myth, the emperors of Japan are immediate descendants of the sun goddess Amaterasu.

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