Japan is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, the East China Sea, 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 kanji that make up Japan's name mean "sun origin", and Japan is often called the "Land of the Rising Sun".
Japan has a total of 6,852 islands extending along the Pacific coast of East Asia. The country, including all of the islands it controls, lies between latitudes 24° and 46°N, and longitudes 122° and 146°E. The main islands, from north to south, are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. The Ryukyu Islands, which includes Okinawa, are a chain to the south of Kyushu. Together they are often known as the Japanese Archipelago.
About 73 percent of Japan is forested, mountainous, and unsuitable for agricultural, industrial, or residential use. As a result, the habitable zones, mainly located in coastal areas, have extremely high population densities. Japan is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.
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. 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 has 108 active volcanoes. During the twentieth century several new volcanoes emerged, including Shōwa-shinzan on Hokkaido and Myōjin-shō off the Bayonnaise Rocks in the Pacific. Destructive earthquakes, often resulting in tsunami, occur several times each century. The 1923 Tokyo earthquake killed over 140,000 people. More recent major quakes are the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake and the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake, a 9.0-magnitude quake which hit Japan on March 11, 2011, and triggered a large tsunami. Due to its location in the Pacific Ring of Fire, Japan is substantially prone to earthquakes and tsunami, having the highest natural disaster risk in the developed world.
Anime are Japanese animated productions featuring hand-drawn or computer animation. In Japan, the word refers to all animation, being a shortened form of the rōmaji animēshon ("animation"). Outside Japan, the meaning of the word anime can vary slightly; definitions include animation from Japan or, alternatively, a Japanese-disseminated animation style often characterized by colorful graphics, vibrant characters and fantastical themes. Arguably, the stylization approach to the meaning may open up the possibility of anime produced in countries other than Japan. For simplicity, many Westerners strictly view anime as an animation product from Japan. Some scholars suggest defining anime as specifically or quintessentially Japanese may be related to a new form of orientalism.
Japan is a constitutional monarchy whereby the power of the Emperor is very limited. As a ceremonial figurehead, he is defined by the constitution as "the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people." Power is held chiefly by the Prime Minister and other elected members of the Diet, while sovereignty is vested in the Japanese people. Akihito is the current Emperor of Japan; Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan, stands as next in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne.
Japan's legislative organ is the National Diet, seated in Chiyoda, Tokyo. The Diet is a bicameral body, consisting of a House of Representatives with 480 seats, elected by popular vote every four years or when dissolved, and a House of Councillors of 242 seats, whose popularly elected members serve six-year terms. There is universal suffrage for adults over 20 years of age, with a secret ballot for all elected offices. The Diet is dominated by the social liberal Democratic Party of Japan and the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The LDP has enjoyed near continuous electoral success since 1955, except for a brief 11-month period between 1993 and 1994, and from 2009 to 2012. It holds 294 seats in the lower house and 83 seats in the upper house.
The Prime Minister of Japan is the head of government and is appointed by the Emperor after being designated by the Diet from among its members. The Prime Minister is the head of the Cabinet, and he appoints and dismisses the Ministers of State. Following the LDP's landslide victory in the 2012 general election, Shinzō Abe replaced Yoshihiko Noda as the Prime Minister on December 26, 2012 and became the country's sixth prime minister to be sworn in 6 years. Although the Prime Minister is formally appointed by the Emperor, the Constitution of Japan explicitly requires the Emperor to appoint whoever is designated by the Diet.
Historically influenced by Chinese law, the Japanese legal system developed independently during the Edo period through texts such as Kujikata Osadamegaki. However, since the late 19th century the judicial system has been largely based on the civil law of Europe, notably Germany. For example, in 1896, the Japanese government established a civil code based on a draft of the German Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch; with the code remaining in effect with post–World War II modifications. Statutory law originates in Japan's legislature and has the rubber stamp of the Emperor. The Constitution requires that the Emperor promulgate legislation passed by the Diet, without specifically giving him the power to oppose legislation. Japan's court system is divided into four basic tiers: the Supreme Court and three levels of lower courts. The main body of Japanese statutory law is called the Six Codes.
Primary schools, secondary schools and universities were introduced in 1872 as a result of the Meiji Restoration. Since 1947, compulsory education in Japan comprises elementary and middle school, which together last for nine years (from age 6 to age 15). Almost all children continue their education at a three-year senior high school, and, according to the MEXT, as of 2005 about 75.9 percent of high school graduates attended a university, junior college, trade school, or other higher education institution.
The two top-ranking universities in Japan are the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University. The Programme for International Student Assessment coordinated by the OECD currently ranks the overall knowledge and skills of Japanese 15-year-olds as sixth best in the world.