Making The Most Of A Trip To Japan

By Whitney Goldbach

Are you thinking of visiting or studying abroad in Japan? Japan, known as the "Land of the Rising Sun," is a beautiful and fascinating place to live, learn, and work on your language skills. Before embarking on your travels, it may be helpful to learn a few facts about the country and its people so that you are better-informed during your visit.

Japan is an island nation in East Asia. It is actually an archipelago that contains 6,852 islands. The four largest islands, which are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku, take up the majority of the land mass. The islands of Japan are located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, which is an active volcanic zone. Japan has 108 active volcanoes. The climate is generally temperate, though northern parts of the country experience long, cold winters. The Pacific coast tends to experience milder weather, while the Ryukyu Islands have a subtropical climate.

Japan is one of the most densely-populated nations in the world. The capital city, Tokyo and its surrounding suburbs, is the world's largest metropolitan area, with over 30 million inhabitants. Japan contains 47 prefectures, or states, which are distinctly governed.

Japan is a constitutional monarchy. This means that Japan is ruled by an Emperor who has limited power. The Prime Minister of Japan and the elected parliamentary group, which is called the Diet, have the majority of political power. The Diet has a House of Representatives, which contains 480 seats and a House of Councillors with 242 seats.

Japan has the world's longest life expectancy rate, and over 23 percent of the population is over 65. All elderly people in Japan have health care provided by the government. As growing numbers of younger people are choosing not to have families in today's Japan, the population is expected to decrease considerably, causing a decline in the workforce.

School in Japan consists of mandatory elementary and middle school education from age six to 15. Most children go on to three years of high school, and over 75 percent of high school graduates attend an institution of higher education such as a university, junior college, or trade school. The University of Tokyo and Kyoto University are the two highest ranking Japanese universities. Education is greatly valued in Japan, and it is a leading nation in scientific research, particularly technology and biomedical research.

Japan has a culture rich in the arts, cuisine, and sports. Japanese restaurants have been ranked as some of the best in the world. Sumo is the traditional sport of Japan, but martial arts such as kendo, judo, and karate are widely appreciated, as is baseball. Popular music in Japan draws heavily from pop music in Europe and the United States, with pop karaoke being a favorite recreational activity for many Japanese people. As for religion, the majority of Japanese people follow Buddhism or Shinto.

Your Japanese travels will be the adventure of a lifetime! Especially if you will be spending some time living in Japan, it is a good idea to be well-informed about this beautiful, geographically diverse and culturally-rich nation. If you are a college student, you may want to study abroad in Japan. Choosing this country will make your studies abroad both fulfilling and fun!


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