Country Focus Data: Japan

by Melissa Alexander
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Capital: Tokyo.
Demography: Population, 126.2 million; 0.2% growth rate (1999 estimates); Japanese language; Shinto and Buddhist religions.
Geography: An island nation in northeast Asia, bordering the Sea of Japan, the East China Sea, the Philippine Sea and the North Pacific Ocean; mostly rugged and mountainous terrain; tropical climate in south, cool temperate in north.
Government: Constitutional monarchy. Chief of state is Emperor Akihito, head of government is Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi.
Official agricultural agencies: Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) under Minister Tokuichiro Tamazawa. The Japanese Food Agency, an agency within the Ministry, oversees imports, pricing and domestic marketing of wheat.
Economy: Market, with active government-industry cooperation. Consistent growth in recent decades spurred the economy to the rank of the world's second most powerful. But difficulties in the banking system, real estate market and corporate structure led to recession in 1997-98. Output began to stabilize in early 1999 as emergency government spending took hold, but consumer confidence was eroded significantly, affecting consumption patterns of major agricultural products. Long-term economic concerns include the crowding of habitable area and the aging of the population. Agriculture accounts for 2% of gross domestic product and 6% of the labor force.
G.D.P. per capita: U.S.$23,100 (purchasing power parity); -2.6% growth rate; 0.9% inflation; 4.4% unemployment (all 1998 estimates).
Currency: Japanese yen. December 6, 1999 exchange rate: 103.28 yen per U.S. dollar.
Exports: U.S.$440 billion (f.o.b., 1998), manufactured goods.
Imports: U.S.$319 billion (c.i.f., 1998), foodstuffs and raw materials, fuel.
Major crops/agricultural products: Rice, fish, dairy products.
Rice: A food staple with cultural significance, milled production in the past five years averaged about 9 million tonnes, with total use averaging 9.3 million. Imports averaged 575,000 tonnes, although the annual level gradually has been increasing under the terms of trade liberalization.
Wheat: Five-year consumption averaged about 6.3 million tonnes, with imports providing an average of about 6.1 million tonnes of needed annual supplies. Production averages about 530,000 tonnes a year, although the government is seeking to expand output.
Coarse grains and oilseeds: Japan produces virtually no coarse grains or oilseeds. Maize imports averaged 16.2 million tonnes annually in the most recent five-year period, with barley imports averaging about 1.5 million. Annual soybean imports averaged about 4.8 million tonnes.
Transportation: Rail, 23,670 km, with 20,657 consisting of 1.067-m gauge; highways, 1.16 million km, 860,000 paved; major grain ports are Kashima, Chiba, Nagoya and Kobe.