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Geography & Topography

Capital: Tokyo

Area: 377,944 km2

Population: 126,659,683

Language: Japanese

Religion: Buddhism, Shinto

Currency: Yen


Tokyo is the capital of Japan and has the largest metropolitan area in the world, with over 30 million residents. Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands; the four largest islands are Honshū, Hokkaidō, Kyūshū and Shikoku. Japan’s national language is Japanese which uses pictorial characters rather than the English alphabet. Japan’s national sport is Sumo wrestling and karaoke is the most popular leisure activity.





Performing Arts

Traditional music genres of Japan include shōmyō, Buddhist chanting, orchestral court music, Min’yō and Okinawan folk music and classical music such as Gagaku. Western music has been highly influential on contemporary music, and today Western classical music, jazz and pop are popular in Japan, as is rock and hardcore music, electropop, hip hop, roots, latin, reggae, noise and Japanese popular music, or J-pop.



The most recognizable instruments in traditional Japanese music are:


Taiko Drums, a strong foundation in court music that is still being played today

Taiko drums: The taiko drums originated from China and were brought to Japan during the Yayoi period (500 BC – 300 AD). They hold a strong foundation in Gagaku, one of the oldest styles of court music that is still being played in the world today. Taiko drums have heads on both sides of the drum body, which hold a high amount of tension. Most taiko drums are struck with sticks called bachi.


Shamisen, a three-stringed instrument which has similar length to the guitar but with a slimmer neck and has no frets


Shamisen: The shamisen is derived from the sanshin, an instrument of the 16th Century Ryūkyū Kingdom in Japan. The shamisen is a three-stringed instrument that is similar in length to a guitar but its neck is much slimmer and has no frets. Its body, which amplifies the sound of the strings, is taut front and back with skin in the manner of a banjo. The skin is traditionally from a dog or cat, although recently, various types of plastics are being tried.



Koto, a thirteen-stringed instrument played by using three finger picks, the thumb, index finger and middle finger

Koto: The koto is the national instrument of Japan and was first introduced to the country from China in the 7th Century. The koto is a stringed instrument of approximately 1.8m width, made from kiri wood. The koto has 13 strings attached over movable bridges, which the player can move to adjust the string pitches. The koto strings are plucked using three finger picks, on thumb, index finger, and middle finger.


Some interesting facts:

  • Japan has the longest life expectancy of any country in the world.
  • The characters that make up Japan’s name mean “sun-origin”, which is why Japan is sometimes referred to as the “Land of the Rising Sun”.
  • Japanese invented the popular comic book format manga which influenced a style of animation for television and film called anime.
  • Famous Japanese crafts include origami, ikebana (flower arranging) and calligraphy.
  • In Japan one can purchase square water melons, they were grown that way so that people could fit them in their fridge more easily.

Japanese community in Australia:

More information about the Japanese community: