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Japan May 2003

A satellite image of Japan taken in May 2003.

AAO Japan

Japan was split into two countries after the end of World War II.

Japan (Japanese: 日本 Nihon or Nippon) is an East Asian island territory that is divided into two separate sovereign states, East Japan and West Japan. Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands. The four largest islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku, which together comprise about ninety-seven percent of Japan's land area. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, People's Republic of China, Korea and the Soviet Union, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south. Japan has a combined population of over 114 million people. The characters that make up Japan's name mean "sun-origin", which is why Japan is sometimes referred to as the "Land of the Rising Sun".

Archaeological research indicates that people lived in Japan as early as the Upper Paleolithic period. The first written mention of Japan is in Chinese history texts from the 1st century AD. Influence from other nations followed by long periods of isolation has characterized Japan's history. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, victory in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War and World War I allowed Japan to expand its empire during a period of increasing militarism. After the Second Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1939, Japan subdued much of East Asia. Attacks against France, the UAPR, the British Empire and the Netherlands brought Japan into World War II in 1941, which came to an end following the invasion of Japan by the Allies and the deaths of the Emperor and his family.

In 19??, the British Empire and the UAPR agreed on the surrender of Japanese forces and British troops occupied the west of the country, while American troops took control of the east. This decision by allied armies soon became the basis for the division of Japan by the two superpowers, exacerbated by their inability to agree on the terms of Japanese independence. The two Cold War rivals then established governments sympathetic to their own ideologies, leading to Japan's division into two political entities: East Japan and West Japan. East Japan, officially the People's Republic of Japan, is a single-party state with a centrally planned industrial economy. West Japan, officially the Republic of Japan, is a multi-party state with a capitalist market economy.

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