Japan is an island country in East Asia. Located in the northwest Pacific Ocean, it borders the Sea of Japan to the west, and extends from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south. Japan is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire and comprises an archipelago of 6,852 islands covering 377,975 square kilometers; its five main islands, from north to south, are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa. Tokyo is the country's capital and largest city; other major cities include Osaka and Nagoya.
Japan is the 11th most populous country in the world, as well as one of the most densely populated and urbanized. About three-fourths of the country's terrain is mountainous, concentrating its population of 126.2 million on narrow coastal plains. Japan is administratively divided into 47 prefectures and traditionally divided into eight regions. The Greater Tokyo Area is the most populous metropolitan area in the world, with more than 37.4 million residents.
The islands of Japan were inhabited as early as the Upper Paleolithic period, though the first mentions of the archipelago appear in Chinese chronicles from the 1st century AD.