CNN Editorial Research
Here’s a look at Japan, a country of islands off the eastern coast of mainland Asia.
(from the CIA World Fact Book)
Area: 377,915 km²
Population: 124,214,766 (2022 est.)
Middle age: 48.6 years (2020 estimate)
Ethnic groups: Japanese 97.9%, Chinese 0.6%, Korean 0.4%, other 1.1%
Religion: Shintoism 70.5%, Buddhism 67.2%, Christianity 1.5%, other 5.9% (many practice both Shintoism and Buddhism)
Unemployment: 2.36% (2019 estimate)
Japan is a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy.
Four major islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, account for approximately 98% of the country’s land area.
Japanese society dates back to the Jomon period around 300 BC.
After an economic boom after World War II, Japan has been mired in stagnation and deflation since the 1990s.
1185-mid-1800 – Japan is governed under the feudal system of shogun (military commanders); the emperors of Japan were figureheads.
1868 – The Meiji Restoration, when Japan returned to direct imperial rule which 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 are engaged in a nine-month war. Japan wins, China abandons Taiwan.
1904 – Russia and Japan go to war. The war is over in 1905, Japan wins.
1914-1918 – During World War I, Japan entered the side of the allies and gained territory in the Pacific at the end of the war.
July 1937 – Japan invades China. The conflict continued into World War II, ending with Japanese defeat in 1945.
December 7, 1941 – Japan attacks Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, hoping to destroy the US 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 formal surrender aboard 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 – Joined 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 statement accepting Japan’s responsibility for recruiting comfort women before and during World War II and offering “sincere apologies and remorse”.
January 1995 – The 6.9 magnitude Kobe earthquake occurs, where 5,502 people were killed and 36,896 people were injured.
March 1995 – A religious cult is spreading sarin, a nerve gas, in the Tokyo subway. Twelve people are killed and more than 5,000 are sick.
1998 – Nagano hosts the Winter Olympics.
2002 – Co-hosts the World Cup with South Korea.
2006 – The first ministry of defense since World War II is approved by parliament.
March 11, 2011 – A magnitude 9.1 earthquake occurs 231 miles northeast of Tokyo. The earthquake causes a tsunami with 30-foot waves that damage several nuclear reactors in the area. The combined total of confirmed deaths and missing is over 22,000 (nearly 20,000 dead and 2,500 missing). (Source: Japan 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 row between Japan and China.
September 7, 2013 – Tokyo is chosen by the International Olympic Committee to host the 2020 Summer Games.
July 1, 2014 – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announces that his cabinet has approved a defense policy that takes a liberal view of the constitution, allowing Japan’s involvement in the defense of its allies. Previously, the Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF) could only act if Japan itself was directly threatened.
December 14, 2014 – In Japan’s snap general election, exit polls show Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party winning a landslide victory. The victory gives Abe four more years to put in place his policies aimed at reviving Japan’s economy by flooding the market with liquidity, 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 engage in overseas combat in limited circumstances – a major shift after seven decades of pacifism. The 148-90 vote is the final hurdle for the measures, which will come into effect in the next six months or so.
December 28, 2015 – Japan and South Korea announce that an agreement has been reached on the long-standing issue of “comfort women”, a term that describes sex slaves used by the Japanese military during World War II. Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said his government would donate 1 billion yen ($8.3 million) to a fund to help those who have suffered.
June 9, 2017 – Japan’s parliament passes a historic bill that will allow Emperor Akihito to become the first Japanese monarch to abdicate in 200 years.
December 1, 2017 – Abe announces that Emperor Akihito will step down on April 30, 2019. Crown Prince Naruhito, who has already assumed some of his father’s duties, will assume the role on May 1, 2019, becoming the 126th Emperor to ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne of the Japan.
July 2018 – At least 220 people are killed when heavy rains cause flooding and landslides across southwestern Japan (source: Japan Fire and Disaster Management Agency). It is one of the deadliest natural disasters to hit the country since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
April 30, 2019 – Emperor Akihito officially abdicates in a ceremony in Tokyo. He will henceforth be known as Emperor Emeritus Akihito. The next day, Crown Prince Naruhito ascends the Chrysanthemum Throne. Naruhito’s rise marks the beginning of the “Reiwa” era.
July 18, 2019 – At least 34 people die after a man burns down a renowned animation studio in Kyoto. The suspect, Shinji Aoba, is injured in the attack. It is the worst massacre in the country for almost 20 years.
July 22, 2019 – Abe declares victory in Japan’s national election after polls show his party winning a majority of seats in the upper house of parliament.
November 23, 2019 – Pope Francis begins a four-day tour of Japan. The trip is only the second papal visit to Japan and the first in nearly four decades.
March 24, 2020 – Abe and the IOC agree to postpone the Olympics to 2021, due to the coronavirus outbreak. It is also announced that the event will still be called Tokyo 2020 despite the postponement.
July 29, 2020 – A Japanese court recognizes dozens of victims of the radioactive “black rain” as survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, clearing the way for them to receive medical benefits days before the 75th anniversary of the attack.
August 28, 2020 – Abe resigns as Prime Minister, citing health reasons.
September 16, 2020 – Yoshihide Suga is elected Prime Minister following 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.
July 8, 2022 – Abe dies after being shot during a campaign speech in Nara.
September 22, 2022 – Marking a major policy shift, Kishida announces that Japan is lifting its Covid-19 travel restrictions and reopening the door to mass tourism. “We will lift the cap on the number of in-bounds to Japan, lift the ban on individual travel, and lift the ban on visa-free travel.”
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