Japan (Japanese: Nippon or Nihon; formally Nippon-koku or Nihon-koku, literally "the State of Japan") is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south. The characters that make up Japan's name mean "sun-origin", which is why Japan is sometimes referred to as the "Land of the Rising Sun".
Primary schools, secondary schools and universities were introduced in 1872 as a result of the Meiji Restoration. Since 1947, compulsory education in Japan comprises elementary and middle school, which together last for nine years (from age 6 to age 15). Almost all children continue their education at a three-year senior high school, and, according to the MEXT, as of 2005 about 75.9 percent of high school graduates attend a university, junior college, trade school, or other higher education institution.
The two top-ranking universities in Japan are the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University. The Programme for International Student Assessment coordinated by the OECD currently ranks the overall knowledge and skills of Japanese 15-year-olds as sixth best in the world.
Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands. The four largest islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku, which together comprise about ninety-seven percent of Japan's land area. Japan has the world's tenth-largest population, with over 126 million people. HonshÅ«'s Greater Tokyo Area, which includes the de facto capital city of Tokyo and several surrounding prefectures, is the largest metropolitan area in the world, with over 30 million residents.