Japan is an island nation located in East Asia.

The geographical position of Japan is characterized by a significant elongation from the north-east to the south-west by 3.5 thousand km, which led to a variety of natural conditions. The island of Hokkaido is located in a moderately cold climatic zone, the island of Honshu  – in the moderately warm, the island of Kyushu, the Ryukyu – in the subtropical, the southernmost island of Hateruma lies in the tropical belt, at the latitude of the Gulf of Mexico.

The main islands of the country Honshu (231 thousand square kilometers), Kyushu (42 thousand km), Shikoku (19 thousand square kilometers), Hokkaido (79 thousand square kilometers) are adjacent to 4 thousand small islands. Only special navigation maps reflect the diversity of this huge island world.

1800 km southeast of Tokyo, near the Tropic of Cancer, lies a small islet of Marcus, which is the eastern edge of Japan. Possession of these islets, geographically advantageously located, far pushes the eastern borders of Japan in the Pacific Ocean.

The southern edge of Japan is formed by the island group Ryukyu (Nansei). The Ryukyu consists of 211 islands, many of which are of coral origin.

The Japanese islands are  separated from the Asian mainland by the Japanese, Yellow, and East China Seas. The west coast of Honshu is the most remote from the Asian coast – almost 1000 km, the shortest distance when crossing the Korean Strait in a straight line from the shores of Japan to the Korean Peninsula is 220 km. Japan is separated from Sakhalin Island by the La Perouse Strait.

Natural conditions and resources. The nature of Japan is diverse. The Japanese islands are located within the Pacific geosynclinal region, stretching from Alaska along the eastern coast of Asia to the islands of Indonesia, where active mountain-building processes are still taking place. Therefore, the Japanese islands are characterized by frequent and destructive earthquakes, slow rises and falls of individual land areas, and active volcanism. There are about 150 volcanoes in Japan, including 15 active ones, the rest are classified as dormant, but can wake up. Among them is the sacred mountain of the Japanese Fuji, the highest point of Japan (3776 m). The belts of volcanoes do not coincide with the band of greatest seismicity. Thus, volcanism is most clearly manifested in the inner side of the islands facing the mainland, and an area of particularly high seismicity is located on the coast of the Inland Sea of Japan and the Pacific coast of the island of Honshu.

In Japan, about 1.5 thousand earthquakes of various strengths occur annually, which averages about 4 tremors per day. The last strong earthquake occurred on January 17, 1995 The main area of the earthquake is the city of Kobe (over 1.4 million inhabitants). As a result of this natural disaster, about 6 thousand people died, 600 were missing. The total economic damage amounted to $ 109 billion .

In addition to earthquakes, Japan is also characterized by “seaquakes” – huge tsunami waves that arise as a result of underwater earthquakes and have a great destructive power. The word “tsunami” in Japanese means “a wave reaching the harbor.” When approaching the shore, the wave height increases rapidly and can reach a height of 10 m. The greatest tsunami destruction is caused on the island of Hokkaido and the north-east of the island of Honshu. The Japanese say that five evils haunt them from birth to death: earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis, floods and fires.

Japan is a country of mountains. Mountains and foothills with an average steepness of slopes above 15 degrees occupy almost 75% of the territory of the Japanese archipelago. The relief of the country is dominated by low and medium-altitude mountains. The highest are the Japanese Alps (Honshu Island). They consist of three separate parallel ridges: the axial volcanic Od, the western Dev with the Tekai volcano, the eastern Kitakama and Abukama. The mountains are divided by deep, up to 2 km, river gorges, replete with glacial cirques, sharp ridges, sharp peaks, giving the whole mountainous country an alpine appearance.

Plains occupy only 15% of the country’s territory, but they are home to 80% of the population of Japan. These are mainly coastal lowlands – Kanto, Nobi, Echigo on the island of Honshu, Ishikari on the island of Hokkaido, Chikugo on the island of Kyushu.

The width of the coastal lowlands ranges from several kilometers to 150–160 km at the largest lowland in Japan, Kanto (13,000 square kilometers).

To increase the coastal territory in Japan, since the middle of the last century, work has been underway to drain shallow areas of the sea and create “artificial territories”. They are occupied by industrial enterprises and port facilities.

Japan is poor in mineral resources, only coal is mined in industrial  quantities; oil; ores of lead, arsenic, bismuth, zinc; pyrite; sulfur; dolomites and limestones; feldspar; gypsum; barites (Table 6). Coal is of poor quality, it does not cok. Oil fields can provide only 0.3% of the country’s annual needs.

Table 6 Resource requirements by component

Mineral reserves in Japan (in million tons)

Types of useful


Explored reserves

Share in total stocks

world (%)




Natural gas (billion m.







Brown coal




less than 200

Less than 0.1




Chrome ore

less than 200

Less than 0.04

Manganese ore









The need for most types of mineral raw materials is satisfied by imports, in copper – by 75%, iron – almost 90%, in coal – by 80%,  more than half in lead and zinc.

Population. The main productive force of the country is the population. Its total number in 2000 exceeded 126.6 million people. During the first half of the twentieth century, the population of Japan increased from 44 to 83 million people, that is, almost twice. Back in the early 50s, it increased annually by 1.5 million people. A sharp decline in the birth rate began in the 50s. In the 60s. the birth rate remained stable, with the exception of the “failed” 1966, when it fell to a minimum level. In the 70s and 80s, the birth rate continued to decline, reaching 10 people per 1,000 inhabitants, or 1%, in 1990. Of all the economically developed countries in the world, only Italy has an even lower rate. It means that, on average, there are now 1.67 births per woman, whereas even for an expanded, but for a simple reproduction of the population, it should be at least 2.1. Such a low birth rate is due to a number of reasons, the most important of which is the increasing participation of women in public work, the desire to make a career.

Japan came out on top in the world in terms of life expectancy. Life expectancy  in Japan  in 2001 was 80.3 years.

Among the reasons for the “demographic revolution” in Japan are the traditions and way of life of the Japanese, including their low consumption of alcoholic beverages, great achievements in the field of health care and the fight against diseases such as cancer, heart attack, etc., which turned the Japanese nation into a nation of healthy people. And this is despite the high-intensity, exhausting work, the longest working week among economically developed countries and the shortest vacations.

A great influence on the natural movement of the population was also exerted by the demographic policy of the state, which has been carried out since the early 50s. In 1954, the Japanese Family Planning Federation was formed – a mass public organization that took on the functions of propaganda of the developed program under the slogan “Fight against abortion”, “Health and happiness for future generations”.

One of the main restrictive measures of the demographic policy is to raise the age of marriage. In the early 90s, the average age of Japanese people creating families was: for men – 28 years, for women – 26 years. In Japan, the “fashion” for celibacy is quite widespread.

In addition to these factors, economic factors have had and continue to have a great influence on the decline in the birth rate. Among them, the main one is the ever-increasing costs of raising children. Japanese statistics show that a family spends an average of 9.5 million yen a year on the maintenance and education of one child. With two children, this amount doubles and is almost unattainable for most families.

The age structure of a country’s population affects the proportion and size of the economically active population. Simultaneously with the decline in the proportion of young people in the conditions of very high life expectancy in Japan, the process of national ageing, characteristic of all developed countries, quickly began. If in 1950 the share of the older age group (more than 65 years) was 5%, then in 2000 – 20, and in 2025 it will exceed 27%. Such an aging of the nation (there are 4,000 people in the country who celebrated their 100th anniversary) should entail an increase in social security spending and, accordingly, taxes.

The decline in the birth rate cannot but affect the total population of the country. According to forecasts, the population of Japan in 2010 will be

130 million, and in 2025 – 127 million A decrease in the population will lead to a reduction in the country’s labor resources and, as a result, to a deterioration in the economic situation.

Japan is a uni-national country. The Japanese make up more than 90% of its population. Racially, the Japanese represent a specific variant of the Pacific branch of the large race. Among the national minorities, koreans are the most numerous – about 600 thousand people. They were brought to Japan during the Second World War as a labor force and settled in the cities of central and southern Japan. On the island of Hokkaido, mainly in rural areas, in Hidaka district and in a number of other districts, more than 20 thousand Ainu live.

The economically active population is more than 60 million people. About 40% of the employed are women. The economically active population is dominated by hired workers (75.3%), independent owners make up 15.4%, helping family members – 9.3%.

The average population density is 340 people per 1 sq. km. Excluding micro-states, this is one of the highest rates in the world. It exceeds the same indicator for the United States by 13-14 times. However, in reality, almost the entire population of the country is concentrated in the territory, which is only 15% of the total. Consequently, the real population density here is 2300 people per 1 sq. km. And within the cities that occupy 2-2.5% of the country’s territory, it rises to 10 thousand people per 1 sq. km.

After the Second World War, a rapid growth of  cities began in Japan. In a relatively short period of time, the level of urbanization has doubled. In the 80s, it remained stable at the level of 76-77%. In 2000, 80.6% of the population lived in Japan’s cities . In accordance with the law

1953, the category of cities in Japan includes settlements with a population of more than 50 thousand In the last decade, in Japan, as in other economically developed countries, suburbanization processes have unfolded.

With a high boundary of urban rank, there are a total of 650 cities in the country. Of these, large cities (with a population of over 100 thousand inhabitants) – about 200, and urban agglomerations – “millionaires” – 12.

The process of formation of urban agglomerations is especially active on the island of Honshu. Here the so-called “Big Three” was formed. This is the capital agglomeration of Keihin, which includes the cities: Tokyo, Yokohama, Kawasaki and Chiba. Information about the population of Tokyo currently varies greatly. This is because Tokyo exists within three different boundaries – the city proper, the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan Area and the Tokyo metropolitan area.

The city of Tokyo itself occupies 577 square kilometers. km. 8.4 million people live in this territory. The city is subdivided into 23 administrative districts (“Ku”).

Greater Tokyo occupies the territory of the city proper and the Tokyo prefecture, or metropolitan area. Its area is 2.1 thousand square kilometers, with a population of 12 million people. Within the metropolitan district there are 26 small towns, the population of which is closely connected with the capital by pendulum migrations.

The Tokyo keihin agglomeration, in addition to Tokyo and Tokyo Prefecture, includes three neighboring prefectures with 87 cities. Its area is 13.4 thousand square kilometers, and the population exceeds 27 million people.

The second largest agglomeration is Hanshin, which has developed around Osaka and also includes the cities of Kobe and Kyoto, its population is about 25 million people.

The third largest agglomeration is Tyuke, covering Nagoya, and its satellites, with a total population of more than 10 million people.

Three agglomerations of the “big three”, fused with each other, form the Japanese metropolis of Tōkaido, stretching along the southern coast for about 600-700 km. Within its limits, more than 70 million urban and rural residents, or 56% of the total population of Japan, live on the territory of 70 thousand square kilometers.

Outside of Tōkaidō, another large urban agglomeration was formed – Kitakyushu – Fukuoka in the north of the island of Kyushu with a population of more than 3 million people. 

Politics. Japan is a constitutional monarchy. The modern state structure of the country is determined by the Constitution, adopted in 1947, according to which “the symbol of the state and the unity of the people is the emperor”  (since 1989, Emperor Akihito). Its status is determined by the will of the people, to whom sovereign power belongs. The highest body of state and legislative power is the parliament, consisting of two chambers – the House of Representatives (512 deputies), who are elected for 4 years, and the Chamber of Councillors (252 deputies), elected for 6 years with re-election of half of the composition every 3 years. Executive power is exercised by a cabinet headed by the Prime Minister (since April 2001, Junichiro Koizumi), elected by parliament.

Japan’s postwar successes in the economic sphere can be explained not only by the diligence of the Japanese, the high professional training of engineers, etc., but also by the purposeful activities of the state, the government, and the political parties in power.

In the post-war period, the system of power of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was created in Japan. It was formed in

1955  by merging the two conservative parties formed after the war, the Liberal and the Democratic. The LDP was the ruling party for 38 years until July 1993, when a sharp deterioration in the socio-economic situation in the country led to the party’s electoral defeat. However, in the last parliamentary elections in 1999, together with the Liberal Party, it again had a majority of seats in parliament (263 seats in the House of Representatives and 103 in the House of Councillors). The number of the party is 1.5 million people. The LDP enjoys the support of big business, is associated with the state apparatus. In opposition to the parliamentary majority is the Democratic Party (92 deputies in the lower and 47 deputies in the upper house), it unites young politicians of a liberal persuasion. The Social Democratic Party of Japan, Komeito (Pure Politics Party), the Party of Democratic Socialism, the New Party, the Party of Renewal, and others operate in the country.

The Constitution in the country was adopted in 1947, it contains a number of progressive articles aimed at protecting the interests of the people and abandoning the right to wage war, create an army and use it to achieve foreign policy goals. The broad pacifist sentiments of the Japanese people  led to the fact that in 1968 the government of the country announced in the parliament that it intends to observe three non-nuclear principles: not to have, not to produce, not to import nuclear weapons into Japanese territory.