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History, Politics, and Culture


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Japan (Nihon/Nippon in Japanese) is an island state in the Pacific that extends across 6852 islands. Japan has about 128 million inhabitants, most of which live on the main island Honshu. The Tokyo metropolitan area alone hosts 40 million people. The high population density heavily influences the social order and cohabitation in Japan.

Contemporary Japan can hardly be understood without knowledge of its history. The feudal era, the country’s long isolation from the rest of the world, the religious dietary rules as well as the military expansion in the first half of the 20th century have all shaped today’s Japan. Pressured by the West, the Japanese Empire has been increasingly modernized from the late 19th century onwards and became the first industry nation in Asia. After the end of the Second World War, Japan was under US American occupation during which it was converted into a democratic state. Since 1956, Japan is a member state of the United Nations.

The Japanese language is written with Chinese characters (kanji) as well as two own sets of syllabaries (hiragana and katakana).

The religious landscape in Japan is characterized by multiple religious affiliations. Besides the indigenous Shinto which is practiced mainly in the form of ancestor veneration and nature worship, several Buddhist schools exist in Japan, notably of the Amida and Zen tradition.