The kanji that make up Japan’s name mean ‘sun origin’, and it is often called the “Land of the Rising Sun”. Japan is the world’s 4th largest island country and encompasses about 6,852 islands. The stratovolcanic archipelago has five main islands: Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and Okinawa which make up about 97% percent of Japan’s land area. The country is divided into 47 prefectures in eight regions, with Hokkaido being the northernmost prefecture and Okinawa being the southernmost one. Japan is the 2nd most populous island country. The population of approximately 126 million is the world’s eleventh largest, of which 98.5% are ethnic Japanese. 90.7% of people live in cities, while 9.3% live in the countryside. About 13.8 million people live in Tokyo, the capital of Japan. The Greater Tokyo Area is the most populous metropolitan area in the world with over 38 million people.
Archaeological research indicates that Japan was inhabited as early as the Upper Paleolithic period. The first written mention of Japan is in Chinese history texts from the 1st century AD. Influence from other regions, mainly China, followed by periods of isolation, particularly from Western Europe, has characterized Japan’s history.