JapanCopyright: Sean Pavone 123rf.com


Capital: Tokyo
Currency: Yen ¥ (JPY)
Language: Japanese
Listen to the national anthem

First human habitation can be dated to around 30,000 BC. Proper settlement was not until 14,000 BC. In 578 AD, a skilled imigrant brought from Baekje in modern day North Korea, by Prince Shōtoku to build the Shitennō-Ji, Buddhist Temple (below). Shitennō-Ji, Buddhist TempleCopyright: 名古屋太郎 Wikimedia Commons The immigrant then went on to start his own construction business - Kongō Gumi. Specialising in Buddhist Temples, the company can boast having built the Osaka Castle in the 16th century. Kongō Gumi went into liquidtion in 2006 but was purchased and became a subsidiary of Kamatsu. Kongō Gumi still specialises in building Buddhist Temples.

Japan is an island nation which was created by volcanoes and as the geological plate moved, the hotspot remained, hence Japan is a long island. Today, Japan still experienced Seimic activity as the plates continue to move and grind against each other. In fact there are an average of 1,500 earthquakes per day! On 11th March 2012 at 05.46 a 9.1 quake hit Japan and triggered a tsunami with waves as high as 38.9m (128 ft). The effects of the tsunami were felt right across the Pacific region and even landing on Chliean beaches 17,000 km (11,000 miles) away with wave heights of 2 m (6.6 ft) high. The Japanese government announced that it was as catastrophic as the nuclear bombing in 1945.

"The Wind of The Gods" or "Divine Wind" otherwise known as Kamikaze is synonymous with the Second World War, but actually the phrase was first used when the Mongols tried to invade Japan. 1274 saw a massive thunderstorm with high winds that devastated the Mongolian ships and agan in 1281 a typhoon ruined a force of some 140,000 Mongol troops.

Around 1294, a man was born who turned the principles of sword making on its head. Gorō Nyūdō Masamune perfected the art of sword making using steel which at that time was consistently impure. Samurai SwordCopyright:  Maciej Szubert 123rf.com The process involved the steel being folded many times which is followed by hammering to remove the impurities. This process also adds strength to the steel. The process of folding is called 'shita-kitae' and can be done as many as 30 times. The hammering between each folding 'welds' the layers together and with the finished sword there could be as many as 65,000 layers!

There are over 27,000 km of rail that criss-cross the island. It is estimated that around 23 billion people a year use this method of transport which is punctual to 18 seconds! In order to travel across vast amounts of the country quickly, the Shinkansen was introduced. The Shinkansen is a super fast network of which there are over 2,380 kilometres of track. In 1964, the Tōkaidō Shinkansen was the fastest train in the world travelling at 515.4 km/h (320 mp/h). Today there is a speed limit of just 320 km/h (200 mp/h) which means that a journey of 650 km (just over 400 miles) takes just 3 hours! The next step that Japan is considering is Maglev which in test has shown that speeds of 580 km/h (360 mp/h) are possible. Tests in China however, using a vacuum claim to have reached speeds in excess of 1,220 km/h (760 mp/h)!

Did you know that some farmers grow square water melos for easier picking and packing?It is said that there are more pets in Japan than there re children. In fact the birth rate is so slow it is claimed that sales of adult nappies are higher than those for actual babies! Nearly all adoptions are boys as this is to ensure that there is male heir to the famly run business.

A little known fact is that Japan and Russia are still technically at war as they never signed a peace treaty after the Second World War. The dispute over the Kuril islands is still ongoing. Currently the islands are still under Russian control but this is bitterly contested by the Japanese.

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