Here’s a look at Japan, a country of islands off the east coast of mainland Asia.
(from the CIA World Fact Book)
Region: 377,915 km²
Population: 124,214,766 (2022 estimate)
Median age: 48.6 years (2020 est.)
Capital city: Tokyo
Ethnic groups: Japanese 97.9%, Chinese 0.6%, Korean 0.4%, other 1.1%
Faith: Shintoism 70.5%, Buddhism 67.2%, Christianity 1.5%, others 5.9% (Many practice both Shintoism and Buddhism)
Unemployment: 2.36% (2019 est.)
Japan is a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy.
Four large islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, make up about 98% of the land area.
Japanese society dates back to the Jomon period around 300 BC.
After an economic boom after the Second World War, Japan has been stuck in stagnation and deflation since the 1990s.
1185-mid-1800 – Japan is ruled under the feudal system of the shogun (military commanders); the emperors of Japan were figureheads.
1868 – The Meiji Restoration, when Japan returns to the direct imperial rule that began around 660 BC.
1868-1890 – The modernization of Japan, the formation of political parties, the national assembly, the cabinet and the constitution.
1894-1895 – China and Japan fought a nine-month war. Japan wins, China gives up Taiwan.
1904 – Russia and Japan go to war. The war is over by 1905, Japan wins.
1914-1918 – During the First World War, Japan came to the side of the allies and at the end of the war gained territory in the Pacific Ocean.
July 1937 – Japan invades China. The conflict continues through World War II, ending with Japan’s defeat in 1945.
December 7, 1941 – Japan attacks Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, hoping to destroy the American Pacific fleet.
August 6, 1945 – The first atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima.
August 9, 1945 – A second atomic bomb is dropped on Nagasaki.
August 14, 1945 – VJ Day. Japan agrees to end the war.
September 2, 1945 – Japan signs the formal surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
[1945-1952-[1945-1952-The occupation of Japan. The country is under the control of the Allied nations, the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union.
1956 – Join the United Nations.
1964 – Tokyo hosts the Summer Olympics.
1972 – The Winter Olympics are held in Sapporo, Hokkaido prefecture, Japan.
January 7, 1989 – Akihito becomes emperor after Hirohito’s death.
1993 – Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono issues a statement accepting Japan’s responsibility for recruiting comfort women before and during World War II and extending “its sincere apology and remorse.”
January 1995 – The Kobe earthquake with a magnitude of 6.9 occurs, killing 5,502 people and injuring 36,896 people.
March 1995 – A religious cult spreads sarin, a nerve gas, in the Tokyo subway. Twelve people die and more than 5,000 fall ill.
1998 – Nagano hosts the Winter Olympics.
2002 – Co-host the World Cup with South Korea.
2006 – The first ministry of defense since the Second World War is approved by the parliament.
March 11, 2011 – An earthquake measuring 9.1 on the Richter scale takes place 231 kilometers northeast of Tokyo. The earthquake causes a tsunami with 30 ft waves that damage several nuclear reactors in the area. The combined total of confirmed dead and missing is over 22,000 (nearly 20,000 dead and 2,500 missing). (Source: Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency)
April 2012 – Shintaro Ishihara, the governor of Tokyo, is launching an online appeal fund to buy a group of islands in the East China Sea claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan. The uninhabited islands, known in Japan as Senkaku and in China as Diaoyu, are at the heart of a bitter diplomatic argument between Japan and China.
September 7, 2013 – Tokyo is chosen by the International Olympic Committee to host the 2020 Summer Games.
1 July 2014 – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announces that his cabinet has approved a defense policy that takes a liberal view of the constitution, allowing for Japanese involvement in the defense of its allies. Previously, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) could only act if Japan itself was directly threatened.
December 14, 2014 – In Japan’s parliamentary elections, exit polls show Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party winning in a landslide. The win gives Abe four more years to enact his policies aimed at reviving Japan’s economy by flooding the market with money, encouraging businesses to create more jobs and increasing government spending.
September 19, 2015 – Japan’s upper house of parliament approves controversial bills allowing the country’s military to conduct overseas combat in limited circumstances – a major shift after seven decades of pacifism. The 148-90 vote is the last hurdle for the measures, which will take effect in roughly the next six months.
December 28, 2015 – Japan and South Korea announce an agreement has been reached on the long-standing issue of “comfort women,” a term describing sex slaves used by the Japanese military during World War II. Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida says his government will give 1 billion yen ($8.3 million) to a fund to help those suffering.
June 9, 2017 – Japan’s parliament passes a historic bill that would allow Emperor Akihito to become the first Japanese monarch to abdicate in 200 years.
1 December 2017 – Abe announces that Emperor Akihito will abdicate on April 30, 2019. Crown Prince Naruhito, who has already taken on some of his father’s duties, will take over the role on May 1, 2019, becoming the 126th emperor to ascend to Japan’s Chrysanthemum Throne.
July 2018 – At least 220 people are killed as heavy rain causes floods and landslides throughout southwestern Japan (source: Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency). It is one of the deadliest natural disasters to hit the country since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
30 April 2019 – Emperor Akihito formally abdicates at a ceremony in Tokyo. He will now be known as Emperor Emeritus Akihito. The next day, Crown Prince Naruhito ascends to the Chrysanthemum throne. Naruhito’s ascension signals the beginning of the “Reiwa” era.
18 July 2019 – At least 34 people die after a man burns down a famous animation studio in Kyoto. The suspect, Shinji Aoba, was injured in the attack. This is the worst mass killing in the country in almost 20 years.
22 July 2019 – Abe declares victory in Japan’s national election after polls show his party has won a majority of seats in the upper house of parliament.
November 23, 2019 – Pope Francis begins a four-day tour of Japan. This trip is only the second papal visit to Japan and the first in almost four decades.
March 24, 2020 – Abe and the IOC agree to postpone the Olympic Games until 2021, due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. It is also announced that the event will still be called Tokyo 2020 despite the postponement.
29 July 2020 – A Japanese court recognizes dozens of victims of radioactive “black rain” as survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bomb, clearing the way for them to receive medical benefits just days before the 75th anniversary of the attack.
August 28, 2020 – Abe resigns as Prime Minister, citing health reasons.
16 September 2020 – Yoshihide Suga is elected prime minister after a vote in the country’s parliament.
October 4, 2021 – Kishida, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), takes office as the country’s new prime minister.
8 July 2022 – Abe dies after being shot during a campaign speech in Nara.
22 September 2022 – Marking a major policy shift, Kishida announces that Japan is lifting its Covid-19 travel restrictions and opening the door to mass tourism. “We will lift the ceiling on the number of entries into Japan, lift the ban on individual travel and lift the ban on visa-free travel.”