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Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south. The characters that make up Japan's name mean "sun-origin", which is why Japan is sometimes referred to as the "Land of the Rising Sun". Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands. The four largest islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku. Together, these four islands hold about 97 percent of Japan's land area. Japan has the world's tenth-largest population, with more than 126 million people. Honshū's Greater Tokyo Area, includes the de facto capital city of Tokyo and several surrounding prefectures. It is the largest metropolitan area in the world, with more than 30 million residents. Archaeological research indicates that people lived in Japan as early as the Upper Paleolithic period. The first written mention of Japan is found in Chinese texts from the 1st century AD. Influence from other nations followed by long periods of isolation has characterized Japan's history. From the 12th century until 1868, Japan was ruled by successive feudal military shogunates in the name of the Emperor. Japan entered into a long period of isolation in the early 17th century, which was only ended in 1853 when a United States fleet pressured Japan to open to the West. (via Freebase)