Ethnic groups: Japanese 98.5%, Koreans 0.5%, Chinese 0.4%, other 0.6%
Religion: Shintoism 79.2%, Buddhism 66.8%, Christianity 1.5%, other 7.1% (Many practice both Shintoism and Buddhism)
GDP: $4.83 trillion (2015 est.)
GDP per capita: $38,100 (2015 est.)
Unemployment: 3.3% (2015 est.)
Japan is a parliamentary democracy
with a constitutional monarchy.
Four large islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, account for about 98% of the country's land area.
Japanese society dates back to the Joman period circa 300 BC.
Following an economic boom after World War II
, Japan has been stuck in stagnation and deflation since the 1990s.
1185-mid-1800 - Japan is ruled under the feudal system of the shogun (military commanders); the emperors of Japan were figureheads.
1868 - The Meji Restoration, when Japan returns to the direct imperial rule that began circa 660 BC.
1868-1890 - The modernization of Japan, the formation of political parties, the national assembly, the cabinet and the constitution.
1894-1895 - China and Japan fight a nine-month war. Japan wins, China gives up Taiwan.
Russia and Japan go to war. The war is over by 1905, Japan wins.
During World War I
, Japan enters on the side of the allies and gains territory in the Pacific at the end of the war.
July 1937 -
Japan invades China. The conflict continues through World War II
, ending with the Japanese defeat in 1945.
December 7, 1941 - Japan attacks Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, hoping to destroy the U.S. Pacific fleet.
August 6, 1945 - The first atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima.
August 9, 1945 - A second atomic bomb is dropped on Nagasaki.
August 14, 1945 -
V-J Day. Japan agrees to end the war.
September 2, 1945 - Japan signs the formal surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
1945-1952 - The Occupation of Japan. The country is under the control of the Allied nations, the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union.
Joins the United Nations.
Tokyo hosts the Summer Olympics.
The Olympic Winter Games
take place in Sapporo, Hokkaido prefecture, Japan.
January 7, 1989 -
Akihito becomes emperor after the death of Hirohito.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono issues a statement that accepts Japan's responsibility for recruiting comfort women
before and during World War II and extends "its sincere apologies and remorse."
January 1995 -
The 6.9 magnitude Kobe earthquake
occurs, where 5,502 people were killed and 36,896 people were injured.
March 1995 -
A religious cult spreads sarin
, a nerve gas, in the Tokyo subway. Twelve people are killed and more than 5,000 are sickened.
1998 - Nagano hosts the Winter Olympics.
Co-hosts the World Cup
with South Korea.
2006 - The first defense ministry since World War II is approved by the parliament.
March 11, 2011 -
A 9.1 magnitude earthquake
takes place 231 miles northeast of Tokyo. The earthquake causes a tsunami
with 30 ft waves that damage several nuclear reactors in the area. The combined total of confirmed deaths and missing is more than 22,000 (nearly 20,000 deaths and 2,500 missing). (Source: Japan's Fire and Disaster Management Agency
April 2012 -
Shintaro Ishihara, the governor of Tokyo, launches an online appeal fund to buy a group of islands in the East China Sea claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan. The uninhabited islands, known in Japan as Senkaku and in China as Diaoyu, are at the heart of a bitter diplomatic argument between Japan and China
September 7, 2013 -
Tokyo is chosen by the International Olympic Committee
to host the 2020 Summer Games.
July 1, 2014 -
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announces that his Cabinet has approved a defense policy that takes a liberal view of the constitution, allowing for Japanese involvement in the defense of its allies.
Previously, Japan's Self-Defense Forces (SDF) could only act if Japan itself was directly threatened.
December 14, 2014 -
In Japan's snap parliamentary elections, exit polls show Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party winning in a landslide. The win gives Abe four more years to institute his policies aimed at reviving Japan's economy by flooding the market with cash, encouraging corporations to create more jobs and increasing government spending.
September 19, 2015 -
Japan's upper chamber of Parliament approves controversial bills allowing the country's military to engage in overseas combat in limited circumstances -- a major shift after seven decades of pacifism. The 148-90 vote is the final hurdle for the measures, which will go into effect within roughly the next six months.
December 28, 2015 -
Japan and South Korea announce that an agreement has been reached over the long-standing issue of "comfort women,"
a term that describes sex slaves used by the Japanese military during World War II. Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida says his government will give 1 billion yen ($8.3 million) to a fund to help those who suffered.