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Japan (日本 Nihon or Nippon?, officially 日本国 Nippon-koku or Nihon-koku) is an island country 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 which make up Japan's name mean "sun-origin", which is why Japan is sometimes called as the "Land of the Rising Sun".
Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands. The four largest islands are Honshū, Hokkaidō, Kyūshū and Shikoku, together accounting for 97% of Japan's land area. Most of the islands are mountainous, many volcanic; for example, Japan’s highest peak, Mount Fuji, is a volcano. Japan has the world's tenth-largest population, with about 128 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.
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 first century A.D. 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, the Diet.
A major power, Japan has the world's second-largest economy by nominal GDP and the third largest in purchasing power parity. It is also the world's fourth largest exporter and fifth largest importer. It is also the only Asian country in the G8 and 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 which is employed in self-defense and peacekeeping roles. It is a developed country with very high living standards (10th highest HDI). Japan has the highest life expectancy of any country in the world (according to both the UN and WHO estimates) and the third lowest infant mortality rate.
Science and technologyEdit
Japan is one of the leading nations in the fields of scientific research, particularly technology, machinery and biomedical research. Nearly 700,000 researchers share a US$130 billion research and development budget, the third largest in the world.Japan is a world leader in fundamental scientific research, having produced thirteen Nobel laureates in either physics, chemistry or medicine, three Fields medalists and one Gauss Prize laureate.
Some of Japan's more prominent technological contributions are found in the fields of electronics, automobiles, machinery, earthquake engineering, industrial robotics, optics, chemicals, semiconductors and metals. Japan leads the world in robotics production and use, possessing more than half (402,200 of 742,500) of the world's industrial robots used for manufacturing. It also produced QRIO, ASIMO and AIBO. Japan is the world's largest producer of automobiles and home to four of the world's fifteen largest automobile manufacturers and seven of the world's twenty largest semiconductor sales leaders as of today.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is Japan's space agency that conducts space and planetary research, aviation research, and development of rockets and satellites. It is a participant in the International Space Station and the Japanese Experiment Module (Kibo) was added to the International Space Station during Space Shuttle assembly flights in 2008. It has plans in space exploration, such as launching the Venus Climate Orbiter (PLANET-C) in 2010, developing the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter to be launched in 2013, and building a moonbase by 2030.
On September 14, 2007, it launched lunar orbit explorer "SELENE" (Selenological and Engineering Explorer) on an H-IIA (Model H2A2022) carrier rocket from Tanegashima Space Center. SELENE is also known as Kaguya, the lunar princess of the ancient folktale The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. Kaguya is the largest lunar probe mission since the Apollo program. Its mission is to gather data on the moon's origin and evolution. It entered into a lunar orbit on October 4, flying in a lunar orbit at an altitude of about 100 km (62 mi).