- a country in East Asia, occupying a festoon of islands in the Pacific roughly parallel with the east coast of the Asiatic mainland; population 127,078,700 (est. 2009); official language, Japanese; capital, Tokyo. Japanese name Nippon.
From the late 19th century Japan began a modernizing process which eventually made it into a major world power. It fought wars against China (1894-5) and Russia (1904-5), and after the First World War occupied Manchuria (1931) and invaded China (1937). Japan entered the Second World War on the Axis side with a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The country surrendered in 1945 after the dropping of atom bombs by the US on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan is now the most highly industrialized country and the leading economic power in the region