Japan is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of China, Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea in the south. The characters that make up Japan's name mean "sun-origin", which is why Japan is sometimes identified as the "Land of the Rising Sun".

Japan comprises over 3,000 islands, the largest of which are Honshū, Hokkaidō, Kyūshū and Shikoku, together accounting for 97% of land area. Most of the islands are mountainous, many volcanic. Japan has the world's tenth largest population, with about 128 million people.

In the latter half of the 19th century, Japan Adopted Western political, judicial and military institutions, introduced the Meiji Constitution, and assembled the Imperial Diet. The Meiji Restoration transformed the Empire of Japan into an industrialized world power that embarked on a number of military conflicts to expand the nation's sphere of influence. After victories in the First Sino-Japanese War (18941895) and the Russo-Japanese War (19041905), Japan gained control of Taiwan, Korea, and the southern half of Sakhalin.

The early twentieth century saw a brief period of "Taisho democracy" overshadowed by the rise of expansionism and militarization. World War I enabled Japan, which joined the side of the victorious Allies, to expand its influence and territorial holdings. Japan continued its expansionist policy by occupying Manchuria of China in 1931. In 1936, Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact with Nazi Germany, joining the Axis powers in 1941.

In 1937, Japan invaded other parts of China, precipitating the Second Sino-Japanese War (19371945). On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the United States naval base in Pearl Harbor and declared war on the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. This act brought the United States into World War II. After the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, along with the Soviet Union joining the war against it, Japan agreed to an unconditional surrender on August 15. The war cost Japan millions of lives and left much of the country's industry and infrastructure destroyed.

In 1947, Japan adopted a new pacifist constitution emphasizing liberal democratic practices. The Allied occupation ended in 1952 and Japan was granted membership in the United Nations in 1956. Japan later achieved spectacular growth to become the second largest economy in the world, with an annual growth rate averaging 10% for four decades. This ended in the mid-1990s when Japan suffered a major recession.