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Japan (Template:IPA-en; Template:lang-ja Nihon or Nippon), literally the State of Japan (æ—¥æœ¬å›½ Template:audio or Nihon-koku), is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south. The characters that make up Japan's name mean "sun-origin", which is why Japan is sometimes referred to as the "Land of the Rising Sun".
Archaeological research indicates that people were living on the islands of Japan as early as the Upper Paleolithic period. The first written mention of Japan begins with brief appearances in Chinese history texts from the 1st century AD. Influence from the outside world followed by long periods of isolation has characterized Japan's history. Since adopting its constitution in 1947, Japan has maintained a unitary constitutional monarchy with an emperor and an elected parliament called the Diet.
A major economic power, Japan has the world's second-largest economy by nominal GDP (though recent government numbers from China claim China is now second) and the third largest in purchasing power parity. It is also the world's fourth largest exporter and fifth largest importer. It is currently serving as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Although Japan has officially renounced its right to declare war, it maintains a modern and extensive military force in self-defense and peacekeeping roles. It is a developed country with very high living standards (11th highest HDI). After Singapore, Japan has the lowest homicide (including attempted homicide) rate in the world. Japan has the highest life expectancy of any country (according to both the UN and WHO estimates) and the third lowest infant mortality rate.
Japan has been occupied by the United States since it's surrender in World War 2. There are presently U.S. Military installations within Japan. Some Japanese women claim instances of harrassment and abuse by U.S. Soldiers stationed in Japan.
Land and Population
Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands. The four largest islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku, together accounting for 97% of Japan's land area. Most of the islands are mountainous, many volcanic; for example, Japanâ€™s highest peak, Mount Fuji, is a volcano. Japan has the world's tenth-largest population, with over 127 million people. The Greater Tokyo Area, which includes the de facto capital city of Tokyo and several surrounding prefectures, is the largest metropolitan area in the world, with over 30 million residents.
More than 99 percent of the population speaks Japanese as their first language. It is an agglutinative language distinguished by a system of honorifics reflecting the hierarchical nature of Japanese society, with verb forms and particular vocabulary indicating the relative status of speaker and listener. According to a Japanese dictionary Shinsen-kokugojiten, Chinese-based words make up 49.1 percent of the total vocabulary, indigenous words are 33.8 percent and other loanwords are 8.8 percent.
The writing system uses kanji (Chinese characters) and two sets of kana (syllabaries based on simplified Chinese characters), as well as the Latin alphabet and Arabic numerals. The Ryukyuan languages, also part of the Japonic language family to which Japanese belongs, are spoken in Okinawa, but few children learn these languages. The Ainu language is moribund, with only a few elderly native speakers remaining in HokkaidÅ. Most public and private schools require students to take courses in both Japanese and English.
In Japan, health care services are provided by national and local governments. Payment for personal medical services is offered through a universal health care insurance system that provides relative equality of access, with fees set by a government committee. People without insurance through employers can participate in a national health insurance program administered by local governments. Since 1973, all elderly persons have been covered by government-sponsored insurance. Patients are free to select physicians or facilities of their choice.
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