Japan welcomes the visitor with three groups of islands bordering the north-eastern coasts of Asia: four larger islands - Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyu-shu and Shikoku - and one crowd of smaller islands, where many active volcanoes can be found , among all the Mount Fuji (3778 m.) dominating with its unmistakable profile the large island of Honshu.

In short

Area: 379,867 km² -- Population: about 127 million inhabitants -- Government: constitutional monarchy -- Capital: Tokyo -- Language: Japanese -- Religion: about 80% Shinto or Buddhism -- Currency: Yen -- Phone Area Code: +81 -- Car Plate: JP -- Provinces: 47 prefectures -- Member of: UNO


The Territory

The territory is mainly mountainous, with hills and valleys, a mosaic of terraces and plains created by river deltas. The coasts are highly indented and full of ports. Water courses are short, shallow, impetuous, often seasonal. The vegetation is varied and rich, with coniferous, rice, tea, cereals, cotton, cherry and apricot trees, camphor. Surrounded by the green terraced hills of the islands of Hondo, Scicocu and Kiusciù lies the blue Inner Sea, which saw the full bloom of the early, great Japanese civilization.

The climate

Since the islands extend for over 3800 km, the climate is greatly varied: cold in the north, mild elsewhere; generally rainy. The best period to visit is spring, even if prices are high and hotels must be reserved way in advance - at that time of the year the legendary blossoming cherry-trees can be admired everywhere - but also autumn with its breath-taking colors, while it is advisable to avoid the icy winter and the festive periods for Japanese, that is New Year's Day, the Week of Gold between late april and early May and the festivity of Or-Bon, in summer.

The Population

In the past Japan also occupied, beyond the national islands, the island of Formosa (today Taiwan), the Pescadores and Spratley islands, Korea and Kuantung. At the time Japan was a feudal state, closed to foreigners, with continuous fights among the noble barons; it was the country of the samurais with varnish armors, of the wood and paper houses, of the fragile musmè, embroidered kimonos, and of the delicate melodies created with the 3-string samisens. Currently, after the defeat in WW2 it is a great industrial country, with large, completely rebuilt cities, populated by hard-working people.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

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* Buddhist Monuments in the Horyu-ji Area * Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu * Himeji-jo * Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) * Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama * Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) * Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara * Itsukushima Shinto Shrine * Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and its Cultural Landscape * Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range * Shirakami-Sanchi * Shiretoko * Shrines and Temples of Nikko * Yakushima

Cities and places of interest

Every year million of tourists visit Japan. Tokyo is the present capital (the imperial capital was Kyoto). Nowadays Tokyo is among the largest conurbations in the world. Divided into 23 wards, with over 8 million inhabitants, the city can boast a highly developed public transport system with a great many railway metropolitan lines.

Tokyo offers many interesting places for tourists from all the world, both cultural, artistic and in the sports field. Throughout the year there are festival and events, theatrical performances and concerts. Among the museums the National Museum of Tokyo, the National Museum of Sciences and the Nezu Museum are well worth a visit.

Other important cities are: Nagoya, Kyoto, the beautiful Osaka, Yokohama. In Japan there are 28 National Parks and dozens of minor Parks, the most famous being the Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park, the Akan National Park and the Kushiro Shitsugen National Park on the island of Hokkaido.

How to Travel

Many airlines offer direct connections to Japan. There are ferries between Vladivostok in Russia and Yokohama, and with several cities in China. As far as accomodation is concerned the Japanese use the "ryokan", a straw mat, in place of mattresses, and away from the busy cities there are amid the mountains and along lake banks the "tatami", family-run inns. Hotels often have rooms for the "Japanese" and different rooms for international visitors. Many tourists love to lodge in the traditional inns in order to get a first-hand experience of the local way of life.

The European Union tourist travelling to Japan must have a valid passport, while it is not necessary a visa for staying under 90 days, to be proved with an airline return ticket. Vaccinations are not requested, and to drive an international licence is required. After the yen, also the American dollar is widely accepted, but considering the often high exchange commission, it is better to change in Europe. It is not customary to leave tips, and many things normal for Europeans are sign of bad behaviour, as trying to bargain for a better price. Electrical current is usually 100 volts, therefore for many devices it is advisable to bring along transformers or adapters, being the sockets of the American model.

The Economy

Thanks to its strong work ethic and mastery of high technology, Japan has become the second largest economy in the world. Among the major industries are banking, insurance, real estate, retailing, transportation and telecommunications. Japan is among the most technologically advanced producers of motor vehicles, electronics, ships, chemicals, textiles. Among the very special features of the Japanese system there has been the keiretsu, a system of cooperation among manufacturers, suppliers, distributors and banks, and the guarantee for workers of lifetime employment in their companies.

In agriculture, though the land percentage suitable for cultivation is very little, terrace farming produces high levels of crop yields per unit, though Japan must import about 50% of its requirements. In fishing, Japan is second in the world after China thanks to its large fishing fleet. Almost all oil and food are imported.