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Japan Overview

Basic Information

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Japan is situated in northeastern Asia between the North Pacific and the Sea of Japan. The area of Japan is 377,944 square kilometers, nearly equivalent to Germany and Switzerland combined or slightly smaller than California. Japan consists of 6,852 islands, including four of the large main islands.

Shown below are the four major islands, their locations and sizes.

Hokkaido (northern island) 83,457 square kilometers
Honshu (main island) 231,121 square kilometers
Shikoku (smallest island) 18,793 square kilometers
Kyushu (southern island) 42,194 square kilometers

Japan has many islands, but also has many forests as well. The forests of Japan cover about 25.12 million hectares, which adds up to roughly 66% of the entire national land area. This means that Japan has one of the largest forest coverage rates in the world. Other areas used consist of 5.04 million hectares of agricultural land, 3.06 million hectares of other land, 1.74 million hectares of residential land, 1.33 million hectares of water surfaces, rivers, and channels, 1.23 million hectares of roads, and 260 thousand hectares of wilderness areas.

*These figures are from October 1, 2013 (Statistics Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications)

Japan's topographical features include coastlines with varied scenery, towering mountains, which are very often volcanic and twisted valleys that invite visitors into the mysterious world of nature. The National Area of Japan The islands of Japan in the Pacific Ocean may cover more territory than you thought. The northernmost, southernmost, easternmost, and westernmost edges are as shown below.

  Island name Longitude Latitude
Easternmost edge Minamitorishima 153°59’11”E 24°16’59”N
Westernmost edge Yonagunijima 122°56’01”E 24°26’59”N
Southernmost edge Okinotorishima 136°04’11”E 20°25’31”N
Northernmost edge Iturup 148°45’14”E 45°33’18”N

It is about 3,146 kilometers from the easternmost island of Minamitorishima to the westernmost island of Yonagunijima, and 2,787 kilometers from the southernmost island of Okinotorishima to the northernmost island of Iturup.


There is only one official language spoken in Japan, which is of course Japanese. However, many Japanese are able to understand English to a certain extent since English is the foreign language that everyone must learn as part of compulsory education.

Even if you don't understand Japanese, you can still certainly enjoy Japan. But if you know a few everyday Japanese phrases then it will make your trip even more memorable. A few words make a big difference.

Useful Japanese Phrases:
Japanese < > English
Ohayou gozaimasu Good morning
Kon'nichiwa Good afternoon
Kon'banwa Good evening
Oyasumi nasai Good night
Sayounara Good-bye
Sumimasen Excuse me
Gomen nasai I am sorry
Wakarimasen I don't understand
Arigatou Thank you
Hai Yes
Iie No
Doko desuka Where is ___?
Ikura desuka How much is ___?
Oishii Delicious
Tanoshii Pleasing

JNTO also offers tourist’s language handbooks in English, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Korean, French, and Thai. Please feel free to download and use them. JNTO Brochure
There is also a handbook filled with simple Japanese words and expressions at the website below.
Free speech translation apps for travel-related conversations
>>> [NariTra] and [VoiceTra4U] (PDF 760k)



Japan's population is over 126 million. Most Japanese reside in densely populated urban areas. Japan's capital city is Tokyo. The population of the Tokyo Metropolitan Area including the city, some of its suburbs and the surrounding area is approximately 12 million.
Historically, the population of Japan has undergone repeated periods of increase and decrease. During the period from approximately 400 years ago to 300 years ago, it increased significantly due to the societal change from the Warring State Period to a peaceful period. Afterward, it remained stable until approximately 150 years ago. Due to the advancement of medical care, changes in lifestyle, and industrial growth, the population of approximately 33,300,000 rapidly increased to the current 127 million. It is, however, estimated to take a significant downward turn in the future due to its aging population combined with its declining birth rate.

Major cities of Japan and their approximate populations
City Population
Tokyo 13,115,747
Yokohama 3,714,200
Osaka 2,667,830
Nagoya 2,254,891
Sapporo 1,930,496
Kobe 1,553,789
Fukuoka 1,474,326
Kawasaki 1,433,765
Kyoto 1,420,719
Saitama 1,253,582
Hiroshima 1,186,928
Sendai 1,049,578
Kitakyushu 981,891
Chiba 960,051
Hamamatsu 812,286
Niigata 806,525
Kumamoto 734,287
Shizuoka 718,774
Okayama 704,572

*As of January 1, 2014, based on Population Census by the Statistics Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

Statistics Bureau


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