Japan (proper formal name: Nippon/Nihon) has a population of around 127 million living on an area covering 377,930 square kilometres. The national territory is subdivided into four main islands which are surrounded by some 4,000 smaller islands.
Tokyo, the capital city, plus the cities of Yokohama and Kawasaki make up the world’s largest metropolitan areas, with a total of some 35 million inhabitants. The country’s official language is Japanese.
Japan is a parliamentary monarchy, and Emperor Akihito is its representative head of state.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been in office since December 2012, as head of a two-party coalition comprising his own Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the New Komeito Party (NK). The coalition has a two-thirds majority (324 out of a total of 480 seats) in the Lower House and an absolute majority (134 out of a total of 242 seats) in the Upper House.
The Democratic Party of Japan, the Japan Restoration Party, the Your Party, the Unity Party, the Communist Party of Japan, the Social Democratic Party and other smaller parties and some independent members of parliament are currently in opposition in Japan.
Japan has a two-chamber parliament: Elections for the 480 seats in the Lower House are held every four years. Of these 480 seats, 300 are single-seat constituencies elected by majority voting, 180 through 11 regional lists and proportional representation. The representatives holding the 242 seats in the Upper House are elected for six years, with elections being held for half of the seats every three years. Of these, 96 seats are filled via country-wide lists and 146 seats by direct election of candidates in 47 constituencies.
Administrative structure: Japan has a central administration which is divided into 47 prefectures, with each having elected parliaments and governors who are subject to instruction from the central government.
In 2013 Japan’s gross domestic product (GDP) was some 4,900 billion US dollars; per capita GDP in 2013 was 38,468 US dollars. More than 70 per cent of GDP is generated in the services sector.
The country has a broad-based, high-tech and export-based economy. Important sectors include automobile construction, office equipment and semi-conductors. In 2013 the trade deficit amounted to some 118 billion US dollars.
Japan has been a member of the Group of Seven (G7) since the first summit meeting in 1975. It has so far organised five summits: in Tokyo in 1979, 1986 and 1993, on the island of Okinawa in 2000 and in Toyako-Hokkaido in 2008.