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The four largest are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku, which make up about ninety-seven percent of Japan's land area and often are referred to as home islands.
The country is divided into 47 prefectures in eight regions, with Hokkaido being the northernmost prefecture and Okinawa being the southernmost one.
Countries like Japan whose long form does not contain a descriptive designation are generally given a name appended by the character koku A Paleolithic culture around 30,000 BC constitutes the first known habitation of the Japanese archipelago.
This was followed from around 14,000 BC (the start of the Jōmon period) by a Mesolithic to Neolithic semi-sedentary hunter-gatherer culture characterized by pit dwelling and rudimentary agriculture, Decorated clay vessels from this period are some of the oldest surviving examples of pottery in the world.
The earliest record of the name Nihon appears in the Chinese historical records of the Tang dynasty, the Old Book of Tang.
At the end of the seventh century, a delegation from Japan requested that Nihon be used as the name of their country.
This name may have its origin in a letter sent in 607 and recorded in the official history of the Sui dynasty.
Prince Shōtoku, the Regent of Japan, sent a mission to China with a letter in which he called himself "the Emperor of the Land where the Sun rises" (日出處天子). is a homophone of Wo 倭 (pronounced "Wa" by the Japanese), which has been used by the Chinese as a designation for the Japanese as early as the third century Three Kingdoms period.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, victories in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War and World War I allowed Japan to expand its empire during a period of increasing militarism.The Nara period is characterized by the appearance of a nascent literature as well as the development of Buddhist-inspired art and architecture.In 784, Emperor Kanmu moved the capital from Nara to Nagaoka-kyō, then to Heian-kyō (modern Kyoto) in 794.Around 300 BC, the Yayoi people began to enter the Japanese islands, intermingling with the Jōmon.According to the Records of the Three Kingdoms, the most powerful kingdom on the archipelago during the third century was called Yamataikoku.
Its population enjoys the highest life expectancy and the third lowest infant mortality rate in the world.