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Map of Japan
Map of Japan

In order to understand parliamentarianism well, you must complete some of the activities on this site. If you have time, you and your teammates should play each game. Remember, you are going to have to explain how parliamentarianism differs from the presidential system.

In 1603, a military dictatorship isolated Japan from the rest of the world. For more than two centuries this policy helped Japan become stable. In 1854, Japan opened its ports to the United States and other countries. It began to modernize and industrialize itself. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Japan became a regional power that was able to win against both China and Russia in wars. It controlled Korea and Taiwan. In 1931-32 Japan occupied a large part of China called Manchuria, and in 1937 it launched a full-scale invasion of China. Japan attacked US forces in 1941 - causing America to enter World War II - and soon controlled much of East and Southeast Asia. After its defeat in World War II, Japan recovered to become an economic power and a strong friend of the US. While the emperor keeps his throne as a symbol of national unity, elected politicians actually make decisions for the country.

Eastern Asia, island chain between the North Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan, east of the Korean Peninsula

127,078,679 (July 2009 est.)
Ethnic groups
Japanese 98.5%, Koreans 0.5%, Chinese 0.4%, other 0.6%
note: up to 230,000 Brazilians of Japanese origin migrated to Japan in the 1990s to work in industries; some have returned to Brazil (2004)

Shintoism 83.9%, Buddhism 71.4%, Christianity 2%, other 7.8%
note: total adherents exceeds 100% because many people belong to both Shintoism and Buddhism (2005)


total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2002)

Official Government Name


Capital city




Administrative Divisions
Japan is a parliamentary government with a constitutional monarchy. 47 prefectures; Aichi, Akita, Aomori, Chiba, Ehime, Fukui, Fukuoka, Fukushima, Gifu, Gunma, Hiroshima, Hokkaido, Hyogo, Ibaraki, Ishikawa, Iwate, Kagawa, Kagoshima, Kanagawa, Kochi, Kumamoto, Kyoto, Mie, Miyagi, Miyazaki, Nagano, Nagasaki, Nara, Niigata, Oita, Okayama, Okinawa, Osaka, Saga, Saitama, Shiga, Shimane, Shizuoka, Tochigi, Tokushima, Tokyo, Tottori, Toyama, Wakayama, Yamagata, Yamaguchi, Yamanashi


660 B.C.E. (traditional date of the founding of the nation by Emperor JIMMU; first recognized by Emperor Meiji in 1873). B.C.E. stands for "before the common era." Ask one of your teachers to help explain how long ago this was.


May 3, 1947

20 years of age; universal

Executive Branch
chief of state: Emperor AKIHITO (since 7 January 1989)
head of government: Prime Minister Taro ASO (since 24 September 2008)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the prime minister
elections: Diet chooses prime minister; constitution requires that prime minister commands parliamentary majority;
Legislative Branch
Just as the Brazilian system divides the Congress in two parts, the Diet or Kokkai consists of the House of Councillors and the House of Representatives. The prime minister has the right to dissolve the House of Representatives at any time with the agreement of the cabinet.

Judicial Branch

Supreme court


Drugs are a problem in Japan. Japan gets in disagreements with China and Russia regarding territory, such as islands.