Japan or "Nihon" (what they call their country) is a country in East Asia that is nearly the size of California. "Nihon" means "the origin of the sun". There are nearly 130 million Japanese people which is almost half the population of the United States. With livable space only about one third the size of Utah (most of the country is mountains), it is a very densely populated country. With that many people, it is also highly unlikely that someone who is Japanese knows the Japanese exchange student that stayed with your aunt last summer...
Japan has 4 main islands and 47 prefectures (like states). The northern island and the top part of the main island can have very cold winters and a great deal of snow. The southern prefectures and islands are on the tropical side. Throughout all of Japan, however, the summers can get very hot and humid (over 110° F). Japan also has a very intense rainy season in the early summer. Between the weather, high population, high cost of living, and fairly common earthquakes it isn't the easiest place on earth to live. Only a very small percentage of Japanese people speak English (or any language other than Japanese) and those that do typically leave the country.
On 3/11/11, one of the biggest earthquakes in recorded history (8.9) hit off the coast of Sendai in northeast Japan. This quake resulted in a number of tsunamis that hit Japan and other countries causing a great deal of damage. Like most Japanese nouns, "tsunami" is both singular and plural but we add an "s" to show that there were multiple tsunami waves. The earthquake and waves left over 12,000 dead, around another 15,000 missing, and over 400,000 homeless. It has been called the worst disaster in Japan since World War II. Despite how the news makes it appear, however, less than 1% of the population was affected and most of Japan is still fine. Some of our family members who live 200 or so miles south didn't even feel the quake. We have many friends in the affected areas though and were very glad to hear that they were not harmed. Our hearts go out to the people affected by this horrible disaster and we hope that northern Japan will be able to recover soon.