A member of the Axis alliance during World War II, the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 triggered the US entry into the war. At the height of the war, Japanese forces occupied most of East and Southeast Asia. However, Japan’s industrial outfit was mostly ruined by the end of the war.
Investment in industry, coupled with high educational standards, solid labor-management practices and government help, made Japan's post-war recovery the envy of the world. After the war, Japan became a staunch US ally and major player in the world’s economy, providing international capital and credit, donating aid, and sending troops to bolster the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The rapid and unsurpassed growth in the Japanese economy, led mostly by automobiles and other consumer electronics goods, slowed down in the 1990s following the Asian Financial Crisis. The nation then entered another important economic growth period from 2003-2007. Though not the powerhouse it once was, Japan is still a major global economic player.
Politically, Japan is a constitutional monarchy. The emperor is the symbol of the national unity. The decision-making power rests with the parliament, made up of the House of Councilors (the upper house) and the more powerful House of Representatives (the lower house), with input from bureaucrats and business executives. The Liberal Democratic Party has been in power for much of the post-war period. The Japanese society is traditional, but the youth are much more connected with western fashions and beliefs.
Japan’s relations with its neighbors have sometimes been impacted by the history associated with the ruthless Japanese occupations during World War II. A decision by a Japanese court not to offer compensation to some Korean women, who were forced to work as sex slaves, caused outrage.
Sources: BBC, International Crisis Group, CIA World Factbook.
Form of Government:
Constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government
Year of Independence:
660 B.C. (traditional founding by Emperor Jimmu)
Shintoism 83.9%, Buddhism 71.4%, Christianity 2%, other 7.8% (total exceeds 100% because many people belong to both Shintoism and Buddhism)
377,864 sq km (145,894 sq miles)
79 (men), 86 (women)
Vehicles, computer parts, semiconductors, chemicals, scientific instruments, watches, electrical machinery, transport equipment
GDP - Per Capita (PPP):
$34,200 (2008 est.)
International Dialing Code: