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Japan is an island nation located off the east coast of the Asian continent.  The total land area is roughly equal in size to the US state of Montana. Only about 16% of the land is fertile, the rest being mostly forest-covered mountains. Japan is located on the western rim of the "Ring of Fire" and as a result suffers from frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity. There are four main islands - Honshu, often referred to as the mainland, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku.

Capital: Tokyo

Government type: constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government

Population: 127 Million (July 2006 est.)

Languages: Japanese (Ok, so this seems obvious but the United States has what seems like thousands)

Religions: observe both Shinto and Buddhist 84%, other 16% (including Christian 0.7%)

Prefectures: 47 total -- Aichi, Akita, Aomori, Chiba, Ehime, Fukui, Fukuoka, Fukushima, Gifu, Gunma, Hiroshima, Hokkaido, Hyogo, Ibaraki, Ishikawa, Iwate, Kagawa, Kagoshima, Kanagawa, Kochi, Kumamoto, Kyoto, Mie, Miyagi, Miyazaki, Nagano, Nagasaki, Nara, Niigata, Oita, Okayama, Okinawa, Osaka, Saga, Saitama, Shiga, Shimane, Shizuoka, Tochigi, Tokushima, Tokyo, Tottori, Toyama, Wakayama, Yamagata, Yamaguchi, Yamanashi

Ethnic groups: 99% Japanese; 1% other including Korean, Chinese, Filipino, and Brazilian (Yes Brazilians.  In the 1990s Brazilians of Japanese decent returned to work in the industrial sector.)

Did you know that it is not considered rude if you slurp your soup?

It is acceptable to pick you nose and "use the bathroom" in public but to blow your nose or give someone a kiss is considered very rude.

There are approximately 200 volcanoes  in Japan and approximately 1500 earthquakes are recorded ever year.  Minor earthquakes happen at least 3 times a day - some you feel, others you don't.

The traditional toilets in Japan look like men's urinals inserted into the floor (oh just wait until you see that picture!).  In order to use them, one must squat over them.  But do not fear, houses have "western toilets" and do not be surprised if your toilet seat is heated.

The ratio of vending machines to people in Japan is 1 to 23.  Remember, the population of Japan is just shy of 127 million.  That's a whole lotta vending machines!  Everything and anything can be bought at a vending machine including alcohol, juice drinks, cigarettes, hot dogs, comic books, and even clothing.  And how does one pay for the item?  Well, wave your cell phone in front of the panel, of course!  Certain cell phones in Japan have a chip inserted that allows you to use your phone as a credit card.

Rice is eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Things NOT to do with your chopsticks: Point at people (considered bad luck), pass food around (only used at funerals to pass bones of dead around), use them as drumsticks (duh), and stick them into a bowl of rice upright (this is done only at funerals to feed the dead).

The attendants at the gas stations bow when you leave.

Using a business card to introduce yourself is not uncommon.

In Japan, the whole family uses the same bath water.  Guests are given the honor of being first to bathe.  Bath water is not drained until everyone has bathed.

It is polite to deny a compliment.  So if someone says, "You look great in that shirt.", you are suppose to say, "Oh no I don't."