Planning a trip to Japan?

Find out what visa options are available for your nationality.
Access requirements, application forms, and online ordering.

Economy of Japan

Japan's industrialized, free-market economy is the third-largest in the world. Its economy is highly efficient and competitive in areas linked to international trade, but productivity is far lower in protected areas such as agriculture, distribution, and services. Japan's reservoir of industrial leadership and technicians, well-educated and industrious work force, high savings and investment rates, and intensive promotion of industrial development and foreign trade produced a mature industrial economy. Japan has few natural resources, and trade helps it earn the foreign exchange needed to purchase raw materials for its economy. After achieving one of the highest economic growth rates in the world from the 1960s through the 1980s, the Japanese economy slowed dramatically in the early 1990s, when the "bubble economy" collapsed, marked by plummeting stock and real estate prices. Japan eventually recovered from its worst period of economic stagnation since World War II. Real GDP in Japan grew at an average of roughly 1% yearly in the 1990s, compared to growth in the 1980s of about 4% per year. After sustaining several consecutive years of growth earlier this decade, the Japanese economy began to slow in line with global economic conditions, and the country fell into its first recession in roughly 6 years in 2008. As worldwide demand for its goods tumbled, the Bank of Japan reported real GDP growth of -5.2% in FY 2009 and has forecast minimal growth in 2010. Agriculture, Energy, and Minerals
Less than 15% of Japan's land is arable. The agricultural economy is highly subsidized and protected. With per hectare crop yields among the highest in the world, Japan maintains an overall agricultural self-sufficiency rate of about 40% on fewer than 4.6 million cultivated hectares (14 million acres). Japan normally produces a slight surplus of rice but imports large quantities of wheat, corn, sorghum, and soybeans, primarily from the United States. Japan is the third-largest market for U.S. agricultural exports. Given its heavy dependence on imported energy, Japan has aimed to diversify its sources and maintain high levels of energy efficiency. Since the oil shocks of the 1970s, Japan has reduced dependence on petroleum as a source of energy, from more than 75% in 1973 to less than 50% in 2009. Other important energy sources are coal, liquefied natural gas, nuclear power, and hydropower. Today Japan enjoys one of the most energy-efficient developed economies in the world. Deposits of gold, magnesium, and silver meet current industrial demands, but Japan is dependent on foreign sources for many of the minerals essential to modern industry. Iron ore, coke, copper, and bauxite must be imported, as must many forest products. Labor Japan's labor force consists of some 65.9 million workers (2010 est.), 42% of whom are women. Labor union membership was estimated to be about 10 million in 2007. GDP (2009 est.): $5.068 trillion (official exchange rate); $4.15 trillion (PPP). Real growth rate (2009 est.): -5.3%. Per capita GDP (2009 est. PPP): $32,700. Natural resources: Fish and few mineral resources. Agriculture: Products --rice, vegetables, fruit, milk, meat, silk, fish. Industry: Types --machinery and equipment, metals and metal products, textiles, autos, chemicals, electrical and electronic equipment, textiles, processed foods.

Geography of Japan

Japan, a country of islands, extends along the eastern or Pacific coast of Asia. The main islands, running from north to south, are Hokkaido, Honshu (or the mainland), Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa, which is about 380 miles southwest of Kyushu. About 3,000 smaller islands are included in the archipelago. In total land area, Japan is slightly smaller than California. About 73% of the country is mountainous, with a chain running through each of the main islands. Japan's highest mountain is world famous Mt. Fuji (12,385 feet). Since so little flat area exists, many hills and mountainsides are cultivated all the way to the summits. As Japan is situated in a volcanic zone along the Pacific deeps, frequent low intensity earth tremors and occasional volcanic activity are felt throughout the islands. Destructive earthquakes occur several times a century. Hot springs are numerous and have been developed as resorts. Temperature extremes are less pronounced than in the U.S. since no part of the interior is more than 100 miles from the coast. At the same time, because the islands run almost directly north-south, the climate varies considerably. Sapporo, on the northern island, has warm summers and long, cold winters with heavy snowfall. Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe, in central and western parts of the largest island of Honshu, experience relatively mild winters with little or no snowfall and hot, humid summers. Fukuoka, on the island of Kyushu, has a climate similar to that of Washington, D.C., with mild winters and short summers. Okinawa is subtropical. Area: 377,864 sq. km. (145,902 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than California. Cities: Capital--Tokyo. Other cities--Yokohama, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Kobe, Kyoto, Fukuoka. Terrain: Rugged, mountainous islands. Climate: Varies from subtropical to temperate.

Government of Japan

Japan is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government. There is universal adult suffrage with a secret ballot for all elective offices. Sovereignty, previously embodied in the emperor, is vested in the Japanese people, and the Emperor is defined as the symbol of the state. Japan's government is a parliamentary democracy, with a House of Representatives (also known as the Lower House) and a House of Councillors (sometimes called the Upper House). Executive power is vested in a cabinet composed of a prime minister and ministers of state, all of whom must be civilians. The prime minister must be a member of the Diet and is designated by his colleagues. The prime minister has the power to appoint and remove ministers, a majority of whom must be Diet members. The judiciary is independent. The seven major political parties represented in the National Diet are the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the People’s New Party (PNP), the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the New Clean Government Party (Komeito), the Japan Communist Party (JCP), and Your Party (YP). Japan's judicial system, drawn from customary law, civil law, and Anglo-American common law, consists of several levels of courts, with the Supreme Court as the final judicial authority. The Japanese constitution includes a bill of rights similar to the U.S. Bill of Rights, and the Supreme Court has the right of judicial review. Japanese courts do not use a jury system, and there are no administrative courts or claims courts. Because of the judicial system's basis, court decisions are made in accordance with legal statutes. Only Supreme Court decisions have any direct effect on later interpretation of the law. Japan does not have a federal system, and its 47 prefectures are not sovereign entities in the sense that U.S. states are. Most depend on the central government for subsidies. Governors of prefectures, mayors of municipalities, and prefectural and municipal assembly members are popularly elected to 4-year terms. Recent Political Developments The post-World War II years saw tremendous economic growth in Japan, with the political system dominated by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). That total domination lasted until the Diet lower house elections in July 1993, in which the LDP failed for the first time to win a majority. The LDP returned to power in 1994, with majorities in both houses of the Diet. In elections in July 2007, the LDP lost its majority in the upper house. The DPJ followed up on this advance with a landslide victory in the lower house elections of August 2009, giving the DPJ a majority in the more powerful lower house and a leading coalition in the upper house, overturning the post-World War II political order. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and DPJ Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa both resigned in June 2010 due to lingering public discontent over a political finance scandal. Minister of Finance Naoto Kan was sworn in as the new Prime Minister on June 8, 2010. The DPJ did poorly in the following upper house elections, which some within the DPJ blamed on remarks by Kan that the DPJ was considering an increase in the consumption tax. Prime Minister Kan won a September 14, 2010 intra-party DPJ presidential election against former DPJ Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa, with approximately 71% of the general population supporting Kan’s victory according to a Nikkei newspaper poll. Principal Government Officials Head of State--Emperor Akihito Prime Minister (Head of Government)--Naoto Kan Minister of Foreign Affairs--Seiji Maehara Ambassador to the United States--Ichiro Fujisaki Permanent Representative to the UN--Tsuneo Nishida Japan maintains an embassy in the United States at 2520 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel: 202-238-6700; fax: 202-328-2187). . Type: Constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government. Constitution: May 3, 1947. Branches: Executive--prime minister (head of government). Legislative--bicameral Diet (House of Representatives and House of Councillors). Judicial--civil law system based on the model of Roman law. Administrative subdivisions: 47 prefectures. Political parties: Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), Social Democratic Party (SDP), People’s New Party (PNP), Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), New Clean Government Party (Komeito), Japan Communist Party (JCP). Suffrage: Universal at 20.

Back to Top

History of Japan

Traditional Japanese legend maintains that Japan was founded in 600 BC by the Emperor Jimmu, a direct descendant of the sun goddess and ancestor of the present ruling imperial family. About AD 405, the Japanese court officially adopted the Chinese writing system. During the sixth century, Buddhism was introduced. These two events revolutionized Japanese culture and marked the beginning of a long period of Chinese cultural influence. From the establishment of the first fixed capital at Nara in 710 until 1867, the emperors of the Yamato dynasty were the nominal rulers, but actual power was usually held by powerful court nobles, regents, or "shoguns" (military governors). Contact With the West The first contact with the West occurred about 1542, when a Portuguese ship, blown off its course to China, landed in Japan. During the next century, traders from Portugal, the Netherlands, England, and Spain arrived, as did Jesuit, Dominican, and Franciscan missionaries. During the early part of the 17th century, Japan's shogunate suspected that the traders and missionaries were actually forerunners of a military conquest by European powers. This caused the shogunate to place foreigners under progressively tighter restrictions. Ultimately, Japan forced all foreigners to leave and barred all relations with the outside world except for severely restricted commercial contacts with Dutch and Chinese merchants at Nagasaki. This isolation lasted for 200 years, until Commodore Matthew Perry of the U.S. Navy forced the opening of Japan to the West with the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854. Within several years, renewed contact with the West profoundly altered Japanese society. The shogunate was forced to resign, and the emperor was restored to power. The "Meiji restoration" of 1868 initiated many reforms. The feudal system was abolished, and numerous Western institutions were adopted, including a Western legal system and constitutional government along quasi-parliamentary lines. In 1898, the last of the "unequal treaties" with Western powers was removed, signaling Japan's new status among the nations of the world. In a few decades, by creating modern social, educational, economic, military, and industrial systems, the Emperor Meiji's "controlled revolution" had transformed a feudal and isolated state into a world power.
Wars With China and Russia
Japanese leaders of the late 19th century regarded the Korean Peninsula as a "dagger pointed at the heart of Japan." It was over Korea that Japan became involved in war with the Chinese Empire in 1894-95 and with Russia in 1904-05. The war with China established Japan's dominant interest in Korea, while giving it the Pescadores Islands and Formosa (now Taiwan). After Japan defeated Russia in 1905, the resulting Treaty of Portsmouth awarded Japan certain rights in Manchuria and in southern Sakhalin, which Russia had received in 1875 in exchange for the Kurile Islands. Both wars gave Japan a free hand in Korea, which it formally annexed in 1910.
World War I to 1952
World War I permitted Japan, which fought on the side of the victorious Allies, to expand its influence in Asia and its territorial holdings in the Pacific. The postwar era brought Japan unprecedented prosperity. Japan went to the peace conference at Versailles in 1919 as one of the great military and industrial powers of the world and received official recognition as one of the "Big Five" of the new international order. It joined the League of Nations and received a mandate over Pacific islands north of the Equator formerly held by Germany. During the 1920s, Japan progressed toward a democratic system of government. However, parliamentary government was not rooted deeply enough to withstand the economic and political pressures of the 1930s, during which military leaders became increasingly influential. Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931 and set up the puppet state of Manchukuo. In 1933, Japan resigned from the League of Nations. The Japanese invasion of China in 1937 followed Japan's signing of the "anti-Comintern pact" with Nazi Germany the previous year and was part of a chain of developments culminating in the Japanese attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. After years of war, resulting in the loss of 3 million Japanese lives and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan signed an instrument of surrender on the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Harbor on September 2, 1945. As a result of World War II, Japan lost all of its overseas possessions and retained only the home islands. Manchukuo was dissolved, and Manchuria was returned to China; Japan renounced all claims to Formosa; Korea was occupied and divided by the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.; southern Sakhalin and the Kuriles were occupied by the U.S.S.R.; and the U.S. became the sole administering authority of the Ryukyu, Bonin, and Volcano Islands. The 1972 reversion of Okinawa completed the U.S. return of control of these islands to Japan. After the war, Japan was placed under international control of the Allies through the Supreme Commander, Gen. Douglas MacArthur. U.S. objectives were to ensure that Japan would become a peaceful nation and to establish democratic self-government supported by the freely expressed will of the people. Political, economic, and social reforms were introduced, such as a freely elected Japanese Diet (legislature) and universal adult suffrage. The country's constitution took effect on May 3, 1947. The United States and 45 other Allied nations signed the Treaty of Peace with Japan in September 1951. The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty in March 1952, and under the terms of the treaty, Japan regained full sovereignty on April 28, 1952.

People of Japan

Japan's population, currently just over 127 million, has experienced a phenomenal growth rate during the past 100 years as a result of scientific, industrial, and sociological changes, but this has recently slowed due to falling birth rates. In 2005, Japan's population declined for the first time, 2 years earlier than predicted. High sanitary and health standards produce a life expectancy exceeding that of the United States. Japan is an urban society with only about 4% of the labor force engaged in agriculture. Many farmers supplement their income with part-time jobs in nearby towns and cities. About 80 million of the urban population is heavily concentrated on the Pacific shore of Honshu and in northern Kyushu. Major population centers include: Metropolitan Tokyo with approximately 12.8 million; Yokohama with 3.7 million; Osaka with 2.6 million; Nagoya with 2.2 million; Sapporo with 1.8 million; Kyoto and Kobe with 1.5 million each; Kawasaki and Fukuoka with 1.4 million each, and Saitama with 1.2 million. Japan faces the same problems that confront urban industrialized societies throughout the world: overcrowded cities, congested roads, air pollution, and rising juvenile delinquency. Shintoism and Buddhism are Japan's two principal religions. Shintoism is founded on myths and legends emanating from the early animistic worship of natural phenomena. Since it was unconcerned with problems of afterlife which dominate Buddhist thought, and since Buddhism easily accommodated itself to local faiths, the two religions comfortably coexisted, and Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples often became administratively linked. Today many Japanese are adherents of both faiths. From the 16th to the 19th century Shintoism flourished. Adopted by the leaders of the Meiji restoration, Shintoism received state support and was cultivated as a spur to patriotic and nationalistic feelings. Following World War II, state support was discontinued, and the emperor disavowed divinity. Today Shintoism plays a more peripheral role in the life of the Japanese people. The numerous shrines are visited regularly by a few believers and, if they are historically famous or known for natural beauty, by many sightseers. Many marriages are held in the shrines, and children are taken there after birth and on certain anniversary dates; special shrine days are celebrated for certain occasions, and numerous festivals are held throughout the year. Many homes have "god shelves" where offerings can be made to Shinto deities. Buddhism first came to Japan in the 6th century and for the next 10 centuries exerted profound influence on its intellectual, artistic, social, and political life. Most funerals are conducted by Buddhist priests, and many Japanese visit family graves and Buddhist temples to pay respects to ancestors. Confucianism arrived with the first great wave of Chinese influence into Japan between the 6th and 9th centuries. Overshadowed by Buddhism, it survived as an organized philosophy into the late 19th century and remains today as an important influence on Japanese thought and values. Christianity, first introduced into Japan in 1549, was virtually stamped out by the government a century later; it was reintroduced in the late 1800s and has spread slowly. Today Christianity has an estimated 3 million adherents throughout Japan. Beyond the three traditional religions, many Japanese today are turning to a great variety of popular religious movements normally lumped together under the name "new religions." These religions draw on the concept of Shinto, Buddhism, and folk superstition and have developed in part to meet the social needs of elements of the population. The officially recognized new religions number in the hundreds, and total membership is reportedly in the tens of millions. Nationality: Noun and adjective --Japanese. Population (2010 est.): 127.08 million. Population growth rate (2010 est.): -0.191%. Ethnic groups: Japanese, Korean (0.5%), Chinese (0.4%). Religions: Shinto and Buddhist; Christian. Language: Japanese. Education: Literacy --99%. Health (2009 est.): Infant mortality rate --2.8/1,000. Life expectancy --males 79 yrs., females 86 yrs. Work force (65.9 million, 2010 est.): Services --68%; industry--28%; agriculture --4%.
Travel Document Systems Inc. BBB Business Review

About Us

Travel Document Systems, Inc. (TDS) is a leading visa and passport processing agency. For over 30 years we have served travel professionals, tour operators, and cruise lines, as well as corporate and individual international travelers. TDS specializes in travel that involves visas for more than one country.