Japan: basic facts
Japan is a long, narrow chain of islands stretching 3,300 kilometres north to south. Its northernmost point is located at 45°33' north latitude, and its southernmost point is at 20°25' north latitude. Japan consists of four main islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, plus thousands for smaller islands. Their combined area is 377,873 square kilometres, 5.1 times larger than the UK. Administratively, the country is divided into 47 prefectures and the 5 largest cities are Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Kyoto and Sapporo
Japan's population was 127.4 million as of April 2010. The annual growth rate fell below 1% in 1977 and further dropped to a record low of 0.16% in 1999. Japan has one of the highest average life expectancies in the world, and the ratio of people aged 65 and over to the whole population more than doubled from 7.07% in 1970 to 17.3% in 2000, a span of just 30 years. The number of people aged under 15 dropped to a new post-war record low of 18,470,000 as of 1 October 2000, a decrease of 272,000 from 1999. The proportion of those under 15 in the total population dropped to 14.6%
Japan lies in the temperate zone and the climate is generally mild, although winter in the north Japan (near the Japan Sea) can experience very heavy snowfall. There are four distinct seasons and also a rainy season (June) and a typhoon season in early Autumn. The average rainfall is quite high.