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Land area (sq kms)

Oil prod (000s b/d)

Gas prod (bcm/yr)

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Japan (the State of Japan) is an island country west of the Pacific Ocean and east of the Sea of Japan, the East China Sea, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia.

Civilisations from before 500 BC had acquired, by 710 AD, a Buddhist Japanese culture (Nara) and an Imperial Court. From 1185 Japan was ruled by Shoguns (samurai) in the name of the Emperor. In the 16th century traders and missionaries arrived from Portugal. The weapons they introduced allowed the Shogunate to increase its power and in 1603 the isolationist Edo period began. It ended in 1854 when the USA forced Japan to open its borders, culminating in the 1868 Boshin civil war and Meiji Restoration. The new Empire became an industrial power intent on expansion, defeating China in 1895 and Russia in 1905.

After World War 1 it invaded Manchuria in 1931, the rest of China in 1937 and most of Asia from 1941. Defeat occurred after Allied victories in the Pacific, Soviet invasion of Manchuria, and atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. It adopted a new liberal constitution in 1947 and Allied occupation ended in 1952. The country then achieved rapid economic growth and, despite recession in the 1990s, it still has one of the world's largest economies.

Japan is a volcanic archipelago of 6,852 islands. The four largest are, from north to south, Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, which make up about 97% of the land area. The Ryukyu Islands, which include Okinawa, are a chain south of Kyushu. Around three quarters of Japan is forested and mountainous and the population is concentrated in dense coastal areas.

The islands lie in a volcanic zone on the Pacific Ring of Fire (with 108 active volcanoes) formed as subduction occurred along the boundary of the Philippine Sea oceanic Plate below the continental Amurian and Okinawa Plates (south), and along the boundary of the Pacific oceanic Plate under the Okhotsk Plate (north).

The Boso Triple Junction is formed where the North American Plate, the Pacific Plate and the Philippine Sea Plate meet. Japan was originally attached to the eastern coast of the Eurasian continent but subduction processes opened the Sea of Japan in the Miocene. Destructive earthquakes, often resulting in tsunami, occur several times each century.

Japan began producing oil in 1874 from the northwest of Honshu and produced its first offshore oil in 1959. Although a number of fields still produce in Honshu and Hokkaido, output has never been substantial with basins disrupted by activity along the subduction zone. Although gas exploration has been more promising with marketed production from 1933, opportunities are also limited and Globalshift does not forecast growth.

Japan has been active in the search for alternative energy sources such as gas hydrates and is an importer of LNG. It has seen decreases in oil consumption as industry has contracted but has seen steady gas consumption growth (until recently) imported as LNG. Its extensive network of nuclear power stations was disrupted by the 2011 tsunami in Fukushima which led to a surge in gas imports. Consumption and imports have now begun to decline as economic growth is sluggish.

Geography, and oil and gas summary

JAPAN - Map and National Flag

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Capital: Tokyo

Population: 128 million     

Japan is a constitutional monarchy with the Emperor a ceremonial figurehead (the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people). Power is held chiefly by the Prime Minister and elected members of the National Diet, Japan's legislative organ. The Prime Minister is appointed by the Emperor after being designated by the Diet from among its members. The Diet is bicameral comprising a 480-seat House of Representatives and a 242-seat House of Councillors.

The oil and gas industry is overseen by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The Japan Petroleum Development Corporation (JPDC) was created in 1967, changing its name in 1978 to the Japan National Oil Corporation (JNOC).

In 1963 the Metallic Minerals Exploration Financing Agency was established which integrated to form Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) in 2004. Japan Petroleum Exploration Co (JAPEX) was founded in 1955. It was established as a private company in 1970 and listed in 2003.  


Torii Gate, Miyajima

Brief history of the country

North Asia

Japan Government and NOCs