Japan (Japanese: 日本, Nippon [ɲippoꜜɴ] (listen) or Nihon [ɲihoꜜɴ] (listen)) is an island country in East Asia, located in the northwest Pacific Ocean. It is bordered on the west by the Sea of Japan, and extends from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north toward the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south. Part of the Ring of Fire, Japan spans an archipelago of 6852 islands covering 377,975 square kilometers (145,937 sq mi); the five main islands are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa. Tokyo is Japan's capital and largest city; other major cities include Yokohama, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Fukuoka, Kobe, and Kyoto.
Japan is the eleventh-most populous country in the world, as well as one of the most densely populated and urbanized. About three-fourths of the country's terrain is mountainous, concentrating its population of 125.62 million on narrow coastal plains. Japan is divided into 47 administrative prefectures and eight traditional regions. The Greater Tokyo Area is the most populous metropolitan area in the world, with more than 37.4 million residents.
Japan has been inhabited since the Upper Paleolithic period (30,000 BC), though the first mentions of the archipelago appear in Chinese chronicles from the 1st century AD. Between the 4th and 9th centuries, the kingdoms of Japan became unified under an emperor and his imperial court based in Heian-kyō. Beginning in the 12th century, political power was held by a series of military dictators (shōgun) and feudal lords (daimyō), and enforced by a class of warrior nobility (samurai). After a century-long period of civil war, the country was reunified in 1603 under the Tokugawa shogunate, which enacted an isolationist foreign policy. In 1854, a United States fleet forced Japan to open trade to the West, which led to the end of the shogunate and the restoration of imperial power in 1868. In the Meiji period, the Empire of Japan adopted a Western-styled constitution and pursued a program of industrialization and modernization. In 1937, Japan invaded China; in 1941, it entered World War II as an Axis power. After suffering defeat in the Pacific War and two atomic bombings, Japan surrendered in 1945 and came under a seven-year Allied occupation, during which it adopted a new constitution. Since 1947, Japan has maintained a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy with a bicameral legislature, the National Diet.
Japan is a great power and a member of numerous international organizations, including the United Nations (since 1956), the OECD, and the Group of Seven. Although it has renounced its right to declare war, the country maintains Self-Defense Forces that are ranked as the world's fourth-most powerful military. After World War II, Japan experienced high economic growth, becoming the second-largest economy in the world by 1990 before being surpassed by China in 2010. Despite stagnant growth since the Lost Decade, the country's economy remains the third-largest by nominal GDP and the fourth-largest by PPP. A leader in the automotive and electronics industries, Japan has made significant contributions to science and technology. Ranked the second-highest country on the Human Development Index in Asia after Singapore, Japan has the world's second-highest life expectancy, though it is experiencing a decline in population. The culture of Japan is well known around the world, including its art, cuisine, music, and popular culture, which encompasses prominent animation and video game industries.
Taiwan (traditional Chinese: 臺灣/台灣; simplified Chinese: 台湾; pinyin: Táiwān), officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia. Neighbouring countries include the People's Republic of China (PRC) to the northwest, Japan to the northeast, and the Philippines to the south. The main island of Taiwan has an area of 35,808 square kilometres (13,826 sq mi), with mountain ranges dominating the eastern two-thirds and plains in the western third, where its highly urbanised population is concentrated. Taipei is the capital as well as the largest metropolitan area of Taiwan. Other major cities include New Taipei, Kaohsiung, Taichung, Tainan and Taoyuan. With 23.57 million inhabitants, Taiwan is among the most densely populated countries.
Austronesian-speaking ancestors of Taiwanese indigenous peoples settled the island around 6,000 years ago. In the 17th century, partial Dutch colonization opened the island to large-scale Han Chinese immigration. After the brief rule of part of western Taiwan by the Kingdom of Tungning, the island was annexed in 1683 by the Qing dynasty of China, and ceded to the Empire of Japan in 1895. The Republic of China, which had overthrown and succeeded the Qing in 1911, took control of Taiwan on behalf of the World War II Allies following the surrender of Japan in 1945. The resumption of the Chinese Civil War resulted in the ROC's loss of mainland China to forces of the Chinese Communist Party and retreat to Taiwan in 1949. Its effective jurisdiction has since been limited to Taiwan and numerous smaller islands.
In the early 1960s, Taiwan entered a period of rapid economic growth and industrialisation called the "Taiwan Miracle". In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the ROC transitioned from a one-party military dictatorship to a multi-party democracy with a semi-presidential system. Taiwan's export-oriented industrial economy is the 21st-largest in the world by nominal GDP, and 20th-largest by PPP measures, with major contributions from steel, machinery, electronics and chemicals manufacturing. Taiwan is a developed country, ranking 15th in GDP per capita. It is ranked highly in terms of political and civil liberties, education, health care and human development.The political status of Taiwan is contentious. The ROC government held China's seat in the UN until it was replaced by the PRC in 1971. It continued to claim to be the legitimate representative of China, though this claim has been downplayed since democratization in the 1990s. Taiwan is claimed by the PRC, which refuses diplomatic relations with countries that recognise the ROC. Taiwan maintains official diplomatic relations with 14 out of 193 UN member states and the Holy See, though many countries maintain unofficial diplomatic ties with Taiwan through representative offices and institutions that function as de facto embassies and consulates. International organisations in which the PRC participates either refuse to grant membership to Taiwan or allow it to participate only on a non-state basis under various names. Domestically, the major political contention is between parties favouring eventual Chinese unification and promoting a Chinese identity contrasted with those aspiring to independence and promoting Taiwanese identity, although both sides have moderated their positions to broaden their appeal.