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Country profile: Japan
Language: Japanese Head of state: Emperor Akihito Prime minister: Yukio Hatoyama
THE ROLE OF MINISTRY OF
AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY AND FISHERIES
Agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries,
as an important sector of Japan's economic
structure, contribute outstandingly to the
development of national economy and
stabilization of national life through their
role of providing stable supply of foods
indispensable to our daily life.
Farmland and forest, also play the role of
cleaning air and water, fostering water
resources and conserving national land
resources. Furthermore, nature and verdant
scenic sights abundant in the rural communities
is closely related to the national life as they
provide mental tranquility for the people
through communion between man and nature.
The circumstances surrounding the agriculture,
forestry and fisheries industries of Japan are
severe, due to such factor as imbalance between
supply and demand in agricultural products (e.g.
rice), delay in the management scale expansion
in the so-called' land-extensive agriculture'
like rice cultivation, and the escalating
pressure for opening up the market from various
And in order to promote the harmonious
development of economic society and stability of
national life sound development of the
agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries
and advancement of the welfare of the people
engaged in these industries would be
Japan has the world's second-biggest economy, achieving an economic miracle in the second half of the 20th Century that was the envy of the
rest of the world.
Its role in the international community is considerable. It is a major aid donor and a source of global capital and credit.
For the majority, life in Japan is urban. More than three quarters of the population live in sprawling cities on the coastal fringes of Japan's four mountainous, wooded islands.
The 1997 Asian financial crisis, and bouts of recession, precipitated major banking, public spending and private sector reforms.
Japan remains a traditional society with strong social and employment hierarchies - Japanese men have tended to work for the same employer throughout their working lives.
But this and other traditions are under pressure as a young generation more in tune with Western culture and ideas grows up.
Japan's relations with its neighbours are still heavily influenced by the legacy of Japanese actions before and during World War II. Japan has found it difficult to accept and atone for its treatment of the citizens of countries it occupied.
A Japanese court caused outrage by overturning a compensation order for Korean women forced to work as sex slaves.
South Korea and China have also protested that Japanese school history books gloss over atrocities committed by the Japanese military. Japan has said China promotes an anti-Japanese view of history.
Following World War II, lawmakers forged a pacifist constitution.
But the deployment of Japanese troops in Iraq following the US-led invasion in 2003 divided public opinion and sparked claims that the move was unconstitutional.
Twenty percent of the world's earthquakes take place in Japan, which sits on the boundaries of at least three tectonic plates. The government has set targets for reducing the number of deaths and the economic damage after any future, powerful quake.
Akihito succeeded his father, Hirohito, in 1989. Under the 1947 constitution, Japan's emperors have a purely ceremonial role.
Prime minister: Yukio Hatoyama
Yukio Hatoyama and his centre-left Democratic Party of Japan won a landslide victory in a snap general election in August 2009, sweeping away more than 50 years of nearly unbroken rule by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party.
Yukio Hatoyama swept to power on a wave of anger against the LDP
The vote, called by LDP PM Taro Aso following a string of stinging local election defeats, was the culmination of years of gradually rising voter dissatisfaction with the LDP's long reign, exacerbated by a severe economic crisis.
Despite winning 308 out of 480 seats in the lower house, the DPJ formed a coalition with two smaller parties - the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party - to give it a majority in the powerful upper house.
Apart from a two-year period in the 1990s, the LDP had been in power continuously since its founding in 1954.
Mr Hatoyama promised "revolutionary change" that would curtail the power of the bureaucracy and put the quality of life of ordinary Japanese ahead of big business interests. He also criticised US "market fundamentalism" and called for a more caring and humane society.
Other pledges included free high-school education, a higher minimum wage, petrol tax cuts and a promise not to raise sales taxes, prompting critics to ask how the DPJ will pay for its policies.
Despite his talk of revolution, Mr Hatoyama is the offspring of one of Japan's most prominent political dynasties, and was once himself an LDP member.
His grandfather, Ichiro Hatoyama, was prime minister from 1954-56 and one of the LDP's co-founders, while his father was an LDP foreign minister in the 1970s. Another grandfather founded the Bridgestone tyre-making company.
Born in 1947, Yukio Hatoyama studied at the prestigious Tokyo University and gained a PhD from Stanford University in the US, before being elected an LDP member of parliament in 1986.
After quitting the party in 1993 over a series of corruption scandals in its leadership, he went on to join other LDP defectors to co-found the DPJ. He became the party's leader for a second time in May 2009 after his predecessor, Ichiro Ozawa, resigned amid a funding scandal.
Mr Hatoyama, nicknamed "Alien" by colleagues for his appearance, is married to a former actress, Miyuki. The couple have one son.
Japan's broadcasting scene is advanced and vibrant, with established public and commercial outlets competing for audiences.
Some 80% of Japanese read newspapers every day
There are five national terrestrial TV companies, including the public broadcaster NHK which also runs national radio networks. Most of NHK's funding comes from the licence fees paid by viewers.
Japanese broadcasting is diversifying rapidly. Many millions of viewers now watch satellite and cable pay-TV services, including those provided by NHK.
The country has spearheaded high-definition TV (HDTV), and an NHK channel is dedicated to such transmissions. Digital terrestrial TV broadcasting is being rolled out.
News, drama, variety shows and sport - especially baseball - all garner large audiences. Imported TV programmes are not staple fare on Japan's main TV networks, but Western influences are often apparent in home-made programmes.
Japan was years ahead of the US and Europe in pioneering reality TV, in which ordinary people are placed in extraordinary situations.
Newspaper readership is very high, with some 80% of Japanese reading a paper every day. National dailies sell in their millions, boosted by afternoon and evening editions. However, circulation and advertising revenue are declining amid competition from the internet and other media.
NHK - public, operates the General TV, Educational TV channels. NHK also runs satellite channels BS-1 and BS-2 and high-definition TV (HDTV) network Digital Hi-Vision. NHK World is the organisation's international English-language channel.