Full name: Japan
Population: 127.2 million (UN, 2009)
Area: 377,864 sq km (145,894 sq miles)
Major language: Japanese
Major religions: Shintoism, Buddhism
Life expectancy: 79 years (men), 86 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: yen
Main exports: Vehicles, computer parts, chemicals, scientific instruments and watches
GNI per capita: US $38,210 (World Bank, 2008)
Internet domain: .jp
International dialling code: +81
Japan has the world's second-largest economy, having achieved remarkable growth in the second half of the 20th Century.
Its role in the international community is considerable. It is a major aid donor and a source of global capital and credit. More than three quarters of the population live in sprawling cities on the coastal fringes of Japan's four mountainous, wooded islands.
Japan's rapid post-war expansion - propelled by highly successful car and consumer electronics industries - slowed considerably in the 1990s.
The 1997 Asian financial crisis, and bouts of recession, precipitated major banking, public spending and private sector reforms.
Japan remains a traditional society with strong social and employment hierarchies - Japanese men have tended to work for the same employer throughout their working lives.
However, this and other traditions are under pressure as a young generation more in tune with Western culture and ideas grows up.