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JAPAN (Nippon)

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Bullet train, Mt Fuji, Japan
Bullet train and Mt Fuji, © Can Stock Photo / SeanPavonePhoto

Japan is a fairly small country with a population in excess of 125 million.  It is sometimes referred to as the Land of the Rising Sun.  Japan had become a powerful state as early as the 700s and Buddhism was already a predominant religion.  By the 1100s samurai soldiers formed the ruling class and military governors called "shoguns" made their appearance.  Portuguese began arriving in Japan in the 1500s to trade.  Japan sided with Germany in World War II.  The country suffered heavy economic losses and destruction from atomic bombing by the Americans.  After the war, Japan recovered quickly with the assistance of the United States and ranks behind China and the US as the world's third strongest economy.  Japanis became a constitutional monarchy in 1947, but the Emperor only has symbolic power.  Today tourists associate Japan with cherry blossoms, pagodas, Mount Fuji and earthquakes.

Visas:

Japan does not require a tourist visa for many countries.  Check the list of countries that have a Reciprocal Visa Exemption Arrangement on the Japan National Tourism Organization site.  Alternately look up specific countries at VisaHQ.  For a list of exempt countries, visit Project Visa.  Citizens of North America, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand do not require a visa.

Currency:

The official currency of Japan is the yen.

Weather:

Japan's climate is moderated by the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean.  Temperatures are very warm in summer and are very cool in winter.  Northern Japan receives a continental influence from Russia that can result in extremely cold temperatures and snow, which is why Sapporo was able to host the 1972 Winter Olympics.  There are many winter snow festivals in northeastern Japan.

Best Time to Visit Japan:

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