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Saturday 13th July
Japan Facts
Mount Fuji is a sacred mountain for the Japanese. Pilgrimages are made to the mountain every year.

The Japanese word for Japan, Nihon (Nippon), means source of the sun.

The Ainu, the original inhabitants of Japan, are related to the people of Siberia.

A six hundred feet wide structure, ninety feet high and thought to be ten thousand years old has been found under the sea off the island of Yonaguni.

Some of the oldest pottery in the world comes from Japan's Jomon Period (10,000 - 300 BC).

Japan was ruled by Emperors but for hundreds of years the real power lay with the Shogun, the military commander. The warrior class of Japan, the Samurai, lived by a strict code of rules, known as bushido.

Seppuku, or hara-kiri, is ritual suicide by disembowelment and was considered an honorable way of dying, as defeated Roman generals were said to fall on their swords.

Karate was developed in Okinawa because the Chinese conquerors of the island prohibited the use of weapons by the Okinawans.

Towards the end of the Second World War atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The cities were destroyed and many thousands of people were killed. Even today thousands still suffer from the effects of atomic radiation.

The YKK Corporation, a Japanese company, supplies almost one hundred percent of zip fasteners used by jean brands like Lee Cooper, Levi's and Wrangler. YKK was founded in Japan in 1934 by Tadao Yoshida and located in New York in 1960.

In 1990 Akiyama Toyohiro was the first Japanese person to go into space, aboard the Soviet Union's Soyuz satellite. Mukai Chiaki was the first Japanese women in space on board the US shuttle Columbia.

In 1995 a Japanese religious cult released sarin, a poisonous nerve gas, on Tokyo's subway system during the rush hour. Twelve people died and thousands were injured.

The volcanic eruption in 1792 at Mount Unzen killed ten thousand people. In 1991 Mount Unzen erupted again and thirty-eight people were killed.

There have been around twenty serious earthquakes in Japan in the past hundred years. The 1923 earthquake killed over one hundred thousand people in Tokyo and Yokohama. In 1995 an earthquake badly affected Kobe and thousands of people died or were injured. Other major earthquakes were the the Great Kanto Earthquake and the Great Hanshin Earthquake.

On 11th March 2011 an underwater earthquake (of magnitude 8.9) off the coast of Honshu and subsequent tsunami devastated Japan's eastern shoreline. Japan, which sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire notorious for earthquakes and volcanoes, has suffered seven earthquakes of magnitude 8 or more since 1891. Tsunami is the Japanese word for 'harbour wave'.

In April 2016 over forty people were killed and more than one thousand injured as a result of two major earthquakes on the southern island of Kyushu.

A law was passed in 2017 allowing Emperor Akihito to abdicate. In April 2019 the Crown Prince Naruhito became emperor following his father's abdication.

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