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October 1999

Japan, 1996

Japan, 1996

Japan, located in Eastern Asia, between the North Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan, is one of the most densely populated nations in the world, with some 330 persons per square kilometer (almost 860 persons per square mile). For 1997, the population growth rate was about 0.23%. Japan's low population growth rate in recent years has raised concerns about the social implications of an aging population.

Traditional Japanese legend maintains that Japan was founded in 600 BC by the Emperor Jimmu, a direct descendant of the sun goddess and ancestor of the present ruling imperial family. About AD 405, the Japanese court officially adopted the Chinese writing system. During the sixth century, Buddhism was introduced. These two events revolutionized Japanese culture and marked the beginning of a long period of Chinese cultural influence. From the establishment of the first fixed capital at Nara in 710 until 1867, the emperors of the Yamato dynasty were the nominal rulers, but actual power was usually held by powerful court nobles, regents, or "shoguns" (military governors).

The Japanese are a Mongoloid people, closely related to the major groups of East Asia. However, some evidence also exists of a mixture with Malayan and Caucasoid strains. About 750,000 Koreans and much smaller groups of Chinese and Caucasians reside in Japan.

CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes, 8/1999

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