Capital: Tokyo (pop: 35,327,000)
Area: 377,887 square kilometers (145,902 square miles)
Life Expectancy: 81
Literacy Percent: 99%
Religion: Shinto, Buddhist
Time Difference: 15 hours ahead of New Orleans.
GDP per Capita: U.S. $28,700
Information & History about Japan
Japan, a country of islands, extends along the Pacific coast of Asia. The main island is Honshu, and the country has three other large islands—Hokkaido to the north and Shikoku and Kyushu to the south. More than 4,000 smaller islands surround the four largest. A modern transportation system connects the main islands, including the Seikan Tunnel linking Honshu to Hokkaido—the world's longest railroad tunnel at 54 kilometers (33 miles). Japan's high-speed trains (known as shinkansen, or bullet trains) connect major urban areas.
About 73 percent of Japan is mountainous, and all its major cities, except the ancient capital of Kyoto, cling to narrow coastal plains. Only an estimated 18 percent of Japan's territory is suitable for settlement—so Japan's cities are large and densely populated. Tokyo, the capital, is the planet's largest urbanized area at 35 million people. However, Tokyo has a worrisome environmental history of destructive earthquakes and tsunamis (seismic sea waves). A major earthquake in 1923 killed an estimated 143,000 people.
One of the most traditional and isolated societies on Earth when Commodore Matthew C. Perry sailed an American fleet into Tokyo Bay in 1853, Japan is democratic and outward-looking today. Among the top three exporters of manufactured goods, the nation has the second largest economy after that of the U.S.
Aggressive expansion across the Pacific led to war with the U.S. in 1941. Defeat ended Japan's dream of ruling Asia, and the U.S. occupation imposed a parliamentary constitution, free labor unions, and stringent land reform. Despite a lack of raw materials, the economy was revived with the help of U.S. grants, high rates of labor productivity, personal savings, and capital investment.
Emperor Hirohito's death in 1989 marked the start of an era in which Japan faces the challenges of an aging population, rising inequality of wealth, the changing role of women in society, and growing concern about security and the environment. Current problems include unemployment—the highest since the end of World War II—and low economic growth. Relations with North Korea are tense because of that country's nuclear weapons program and its abduction of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s. Japan's ties with Russia are hampered because of some small islands east of Hokkaido known as the Northern Territories—the Habomai Islands, Shikotan, Kunishiri, and Etorofu (called Iturup by Russia). Japan still claims these Russian-held islands that were taken at the end of World War II.
Note: the source of this information is the National Geographic site on information about Japan.
From the end of the Nara Period (794), Kyoto has functioned as the crossroads of Japanese history. From its beginnings as the Kunikyo and Nagaokakyo settlements until the Emperor moved to Tokyo, it was the capital of Japan for over 1000 years. Even today, Kyoto is the cultural center of Japan, and continues to be loved by Japanese and people of the world alike.
The ancient capital of Kyoto, whose traditions have been matured through the ages, is now making startling advancements.
Its rich culture and experience are being utilized in modern technological industries. For example, semiconductor and liquid crystal displays have been made based on the techniques of Kiyomizu Pottery. Traditional skills developed more than 1000 years in this ancient capital are now being utilized in cutting-edge technologies.
Furthermore, the people of Kyoto have produced many religious arts and forms of entertainment. Countless religious Shinto rituals and festivals have captured the imagination of people the world over. Among these, festivals such as Gion Matsuri that were lost in the turmoil of war have been restored, and continue to be carefully maintained traditions.
The people of Kyoto as a matter of course open their cultural treasures the world. We hope you will enjoy the inexhaustible charm of Kyoto - its rich natural beauty, culinary culture and arts.
More information about Kyoto can be found at the Kyoto Prefecture Website.
10 Fast Facts about Kyoto.
- Kyoto is located in the Kansai region of the country.
- Its population is 1.4 million people, the seventh largest city in Japan.
- Kyoto has many of Japan’s national treasures, including over 2,000 temples and shrines.
- It was the capital city and the emperor’s residence from 794 to 1868.
- It is within easy traveling distance from Osaka or about three hours by super express train from Tokyo.
- Kyoto forms part of a large urban complex referred to as the Kinki region, which includes Osaka and Kobe as well.
- The local language is called Kyoto-ben (dialect), but many residents also can speak Kansai-ben.
- Kyoto was chosen as the capital for its safety. It is far enough inland that it is not threatened by typhoons, and is one of the least geologically active areas in Japan.
- Around 50 million people visit Kyoto every year.
- Kyoto is 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) above sea level.
Climate in Kyoto Area
- The average annual temperature is 42.8 °F (5.6°C). Annual rainfall is 21.47 in (545.4 mm). The temperature goes as high as 103.6°F (39.8°C), and as low as 15.1°F (-9.4°C).
- Summers are hot. Winters are cold. There are four distinct seasons. The atmosphere in the cities and towns differs greatly depending on the season of the year.
- The rainy season is from June to July, when it rains continuously.
Light clothing with short sleeves is fine for summertime. Since the air conditioning will be on indoors you will need to be careful that your body does not get chilled. The nights are as humid as the days, and just about as hot also. Some of the houses in the town of Kyoto are not air conditioned; and, even if they do have air conditioning, they can be quite drafty so the air conditioning doesn't work very well.
You will be able to use English at the airports and major hotels. And since the people who work at the shops in Kyoto are used to dealing with foreign customers, you should be able to communicate through gestures or other such means. More and more street signs, information boards, store signs, and menus are written with the roman alphabet. In the Japanese language there are three types of writing: katakana and hiragana (both of which are syllabaries), and kanji (Chinese characters). There are also two ways of writing Japanese: from the right side of the page downwards, working toward the left; and from left to right, working downwards. People in Kyoto speak with a unique accent. Even if you study Japanese (standard Japanese) it can sometimes be difficult to understand them.