Japan

Its role in the international community is considerable. It is a major aid donor and a source of global capital and credit.

More than three quarters of the population live in sprawling cities on the coastal fringes of Japan's four mountainous, heavily-wooded islands.

Japan's rapid post-war expansion - propelled by highly successful car and consumer electronics industries - ran out of steam by the 1990s under a mounting debt burden that successive government have failed to address.

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 inclined towards Western culture and ideas grows up.

On the other hand, one of the biggest challenges that successive Japanese governments have faced is how to meet the huge social security costs engendered by an ageing society. Measures to increase sales tax to this end threatened to split the governing Democratic Party in 2012 and help contribute to its heavy defeat in the December parliamentary election.

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.


Its role in the international community is considerable. It is a major aid donor and a source of global capital and credit.

More than three quarters of the population live in sprawling cities on the coastal fringes of Japan's four mountainous, heavily-wooded islands.

Japan's rapid post-war expansion - propelled by highly successful car and consumer electronics industries - ran out of steam by the 1990s under a mounting debt burden that successive government have failed to address.

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 inclined towards Western culture and ideas grows up.

On the other hand, one of the biggest challenges that successive Japanese governments have faced is how to meet the huge social security costs engendered by an ageing society. Measures to increase sales tax to this end threatened to split the governing Democratic Party in 2012 and help contribute to its heavy defeat in the December parliamentary election.

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.

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