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 Old Mandarin or possibly early Wu Chinese pronunciation of Japan was recorded by Marco Polo as Cipangu.

In modern Shanghainese, a Wu dialect, the pronunciation of characters is used as a formal modern-day equivalent with the meaning of "the State of Japan".

Buddhism was introduced to Japan from Baekje, Korea and was promoted by Prince Shōtoku, but the subsequent development of Japanese Buddhism was primarily influenced by China.

The Nara period (710–784) marked an emergence of the centralized Japanese state centered on the Imperial Court in Heijō-kyō (modern Nara).

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.

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.

The population of 127 million is the world's tenth largest.