Jamaica is an island nation in the West Indies. Jamaica lies about 480 miles (772 kilometres) south of Florida and is the third largest island in the Caribbean Sea. Only Cuba and Hispaniola are larger. Arawak Indians, who were the first people to live in Jamaica, named the island Xaymaca, which means land of wood and water. Kingston is the capital, largest city, and chief port.
Jamaica's pleasant climate and its beautiful beaches and mountains attract more than 850,000 tourists yearly. But the Jamaican economy does not depend chiefly on tourism. Jamaica is among the world's leading producers of bauxite, the ore from which aluminium is made. The island also produces bananas, sugar, and various manufactured goods.
Jamaica was a British colony for about 300 years, until 1962. Today, it is an independent nation within the Commonwealth of Nations.
4,243 sq. mi. (10,990 sq. km).
east-west 146 mi. (235 km);
north-south 51 mi. (82 km).
Highest - Blue Mountain Peak, 7,402 ft. (2,256 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level, along the coast.
Estimated 1996 population - 2,572,000; density, 606 persons per sq. mi. (234 per sq. km); distribution, 55 per cent urban, 45 per cent rural. 1991 census - 2,374,193. Estimated 2001 population - 2,708,000.
Basic unit - Jamaican dollar.
Agriculture - bananas, cacao, citrus fruits, coconuts, coffee, sugar cane.
Manufacturing and processing - alumina, cement, chemicals, clothing, machinery, petroleum products, rum, sugar.
Mining - bauxite, gypsum.
A gold diagonal cross with black triangular side panels, and green triangular panels at top and bottom. The gold stands for sunlight and mineral wealth, the black for hardships of the past and future, and the green for hope and agricultural wealth. Adopted 1962.
Japan is an island country in the North Pacific Ocean. It lies off the east coast of mainland Asia across from Russia, Korea, and China. Four large islands and thousands of smaller ones make up Japan. The four major islands -Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku - form a curve that extends for about 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometres). About 126 million people are crowded on these islands, making Japan one of the most densely populated countries in the world.
The Japanese call their country Nippon or pronounced Nihon, which means source of the sun. The name Japan may have come from Zipangu, the Italian name given to the country by Marco Polo, a Venetian traveler of the late 1200's. Polo had heard of the Japanese islands while traveling through China.
Mountains and hills cover most of Japan, making it a country of great beauty. But the mountains and hills take up so much area that the great majority of the people live on a small portion of the land - narrow plains along the coasts. These coastal plains have much of Japan's best farmland and most of the country's major cities. Most of the people live in urban areas. Japan's big cities are busy, modern centres of culture, commerce, and industry. Tokyo is the largest city.
Japan is one of the world's economic giants. Its total economic output is exceeded only by that of the United States. The Japanese manufacture a wide variety of products, including automobiles, computers, steel, television sets, textiles, and tires. The country's factories have some of the most advanced equipment in the world. Japan has become a major economic power even though it has few natural resources. Japan imports many of the raw materials needed for industry and exports finished manufactured goods.
Life in Japan reflects the culture of both the East and the West. For example, the favourite sporting events in the country are baseball games and exhibitions of sumo, an ancient Japanese style of wrestling. Although most Japanese wear Western-style clothing, many women dress in the traditional kimono for festivals and other special occasions. The Japanese no and kabuki dramas, both hundreds of years old, remain popular. But the Japanese people also flock to see motion pictures and rock music groups. Many Japanese artworks combine traditional and Western styles and themes.
Early Japan was greatly influenced by the neighbouring Chinese civilisation. From the late 400's to the early 800's, the Japanese borrowed heavily from Chinese art, government, language, religion, and technology. During the mid-1500's, the first Europeans arrived in Japan. Trade began with several European countries, and Christian missionaries from Europe converted some Japanese. During the early 1600's, however, the rulers of Japan decided to cut the country's ties with the rest of the world. They wanted to keep Japan free from outside influences.
Japan's isolation lasted until 1853, when Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the United States sailed his warships into Tokyo Bay. As a result of Perry's show of force, Japan agreed in 1854 to open two ports to U.S. trade.
During the 1870's, the Japanese government began a major drive to modernise the country. New ideas and manufacturing methods were imported from Western countries. By the early 1900's, Japan had become an industrial and military power.
During the 1930's, Japan's military leaders gained control of the government. They set Japan on a program of conquest. On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan attacked United States military bases at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, bringing the United States into World War II. The Japanese won many early victories, but then the tide turned in favour of the United States and the other Allied nations. In August 1945, U.S. planes dropped the first atomic bombs used in warfare on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On Sept. 2, 1945, Japan officially surrendered, and World War II ended.
World War II left Japan completely defeated. Many Japanese cities lay in ruins, industries were shattered, and Allied forces occupied the country. But the Japanese people worked hard to overcome the effects of the war. By the 1970's, Japan had become a great industrial nation. The success of the Japanese economy attracted attention throughout the world. Today, few nations enjoy a standard of living as high as Japan's.
Nippon or Nihon (Source of the Sun).
"Kimigayo" ("The Reign of Our Emperor").
Largest cities: (1990 census)
Japan lies in the North Pacific Ocean off the east coast of mainland Asia. It lies across from Russia, Korea, and China. Japan has four main islands - Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku - and thousands of smaller ones. Mountains and hills cover most of the country. Narrow plains lie along the coasts. Most of the Japanese people live on the coastal plains.
145,870 sq. mi. (377,801 sq. km). The four main islands - Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku - stretch about 1,200 mi. (1,900 km) from northeast to southwest.
Coastline - 5,857 mi. (9,426 km).
Highest - Mount Fuji, 12,388 ft. (3,776 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level.
Central and southern Japan have hot summers, mild winters, and moderate precipitation in all seasons. Daytime high temperatures average about 86 degrees F (30 degrees C) in the hottest month, August, and about 46 degrees F (8 degrees C) in January, the coldest month. Hokkaido, northern Honshu, and high mountain areas are much colder than the rest of the country in winter and cooler in summer.
Form of government
Parliamentary democracy with ceremonial emperor.
Ceremonial head of state
Head of government
Diet of two houses: 500-member House of Representatives and 252-member House of Councillors.
Prime minister (chosen by Diet), assisted by Cabinet (chosen by prime minister).
Estimated 1998 population - 125,922,000. 1990 census - 123,611,167. 2003 estimate - 126,662,000. Population density: 863 persons per sq. mi. (333 per sq. km). Distribution: 78 percent urban, 22 percent rural.
Major ethnic/national groups
Almost entirely Japanese. Small minority of Koreans and some Chinese.
Shinto, the native religion of Japan, and Buddhism. Not many Japanese strictly practice either religion, but almost everyone engages in some practices or rituals based on these two religious traditions. Small percentage of population is Christian.
Agriculture - cabbage, Chinese cabbage, hogs, mandarin oranges, milk, potatoes, poultry and eggs, rice, strawberries, tea, white radishes.
Fishing - clams, eels, mackerel, oysters, pollock, salmon, sardines, scallops, squid, tuna.
Manufacturing - automobiles, cement, chemicals, computers, iron and steel, optical equipment, paper and newsprint, processed foods, television sets, textiles, tires, watches.
Mining - coal.
Major exported goods - chemicals, electronic equipment, iron and steel, motor vehicles, office machinery, scientific and optical equipment.
Major imported goods - chemicals, electronic equipment, fish and shellfish, machinery, metal ores, petroleum.
Main trading partners - China, Germany, South Korea, Taiwan, United States.
5941 miles from London
GMT +9 hours
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
23 December - Emperor's Birthday
No 1 Ichibancho
Telephone (00 81) (3) 52111183
Opening hours 0900 to 1800 Monday to Friday (local time)
White with a large red disk in the centre
Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands. It is the southernmost island of the group and lies off the west coast of Normandy - a region of France - in the English Channel. It has an area of about 45 square miles (117 square kilometres) and a population of about 80,000.
The island is known as the original home of purebred Jersey cattle. Farmers on the island grow early potatoes, tomatoes, and other vegetables. Jersey's fine sandy beaches make it a popular vacation resort. The island has its own legislature. The chief executive is a lieutenant governor appointed by the British ruler. The chief town of Jersey is St. Helier.
Jordan is an Arab kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan in the heart of the Middle East. The country is bordered by Syria; Iraq; Saudi Arabia; Israel; and the West Bank, a territory west of the River Jordan. Amman is Jordan's largest city.
Much of Jordan's modern history has been shaped by events in an area often called Palestine. Today, Israel, the West Bank, and the tiny Gaza Strip cover this region. Jordan was once called Transjordan because it lay across the River Jordan from Palestine.
In 1950, Jordan annexed the West Bank. Jordan lost the West Bank during the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, and Israel occupied the territory. In 1974, Jordan officially gave up political responsibility for the West Bank. But Jordan continued to play important roles in the administration and financial support of the West Bank. In 1988, King Hussein of Jordan broke Jordan's ties with the West Bank. In 1993, Israel agreed to a plan for withdrawal from the West Bank.
Jordan has a rapidly growing population. About 55 percent of the people are native Jordanians. Most of the others are Palestinians. About 95 percent of the people are Muslims. Christians make up a small minority group in Jordan.
Jordan's varied terrain includes deserts, mountains, deep valleys, and rolling plains. The country has a warm, pleasant climate, but receives little rain.
Jordan has few natural resources. It mines phosphates and potash but lacks the petroleum deposits of its Arab neighbours. Service industries, such as government and commerce, employ the largest number of workers in the country.
Ruins from various periods of Jordan's history still stand. They include those of the Nabataean capital of Petra from the 400's B.C., the Greek and Roman cities of Gerasa (now Jarash) and Philadelphia (now Amman), and several churches built around A.D. 500 during Byzantine rule. Jordan also has an 850-year-old castle built by crusaders at Al Karak.
Al-Mamlakah Al-Urdiniyah Al-Hashimiyah (Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan).
35,475 sq. mi. (91,880 sq. km).
Highest - Jabal Ramm, 5,755 ft. (1,754 m) above sea level.
Lowest - shore of the Dead Sea, about 1,310 ft. (399 m) below sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 4,234,000; density, 119 persons per sq. mi. (46 persons per sq. km); distribution, 72 percent urban, 28 percent rural. 1979 census - 2,100,019. Estimated 2001 population - 4,980,000.
Agriculture - barley, cabbages, citrus fruits, cucumbers, eggplants, grapes, melons, olives, tomatoes, wheat.
Manufacturing - batteries, cement, ceramics, detergents, fertiliser, petroleum products, pharmaceutical products, shoes, textiles.
Mining - phosphate, potash.
"Al-Salam Al-Malaki" ("The Royal Salute").
Basic unit - dinar.
Kazakstan is a country that lies mostly in west-central Asia. A small part of Kazakstan lies west of the Ural River on the European continent. The country's name in Kazak, the official language, is Qazaqstan Respublikasy (Republic of Kazakstan). The country's name is also spelled Kazakhstan.
Most of the people are Kazaks or Russians. Almaty is the country's largest city.
For hundreds of years, the Kazak people were herders who raised their livestock on the region's plains. They relied on their herds of sheep, camels, cattle, and horses for food, clothing, and transportation. This lifestyle began to change in the 1800's, when the Russian Empire conquered the Kazak region. Many Russians settled in the area, greatly reducing the grazing lands.
Kazakstan became part of the Soviet Union in 1922, when the Soviet Union was formed under Russia's leadership. During most of the 1900's, while Kazakstan was under Soviet rule, industry grew steadily. Meanwhile, most of the Kazak people ended their nomadic ways and settled in rural villages or cities. In 1991, Kazakstan declared its independence from the Soviet Union.
1,049,156 sq. mi. (2,717,300 sq. km).
north-south, 1,000 mi. (1,600 km);
east-west, 1,800 mi. (2,900 km).
Highest - Mount Tengri, 20,991 ft. (6,398 m) above sea level.
Lowest - Karagiye Depression, 433 ft. (132 m) below sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 17,575,000; density, 17 persons per sq. mi. (6 per sq. km); distribution, 57 percent urban, 43 percent rural. 1989 census - 16,536,511. Estimated 2001 population - 18,292,000.
Basic unit - tenge.
Agriculture - grain, meat, wool.
Manufacturing - chemicals, food products, heavy machinery.
Mining - Coal, copper, lead, natural gas, petroleum.
The flag is blue, with a yellow sun and eagle in the centre and a yellow stripe of national ornamentation at the left.
Kenya is a country on the east coast of Africa. It extends from the Indian Ocean deep into the interior of Africa. The equator runs through the centre of Kenya.
Kenya's coastal area is a hot and humid tropical region. Beautiful sandy beaches, lagoons and swamps, and patches of rain forest line the coast. Inland, a vast plains area stretches over about three-fourths of Kenya. Its extremely dry climate and generally poor soil support only scattered plant life. But a highland in the southwest receives enough rainfall and has enough fertile soil to support extensive farming. Most of Kenya's people live in the highland.
A spectacular variety of wild animals live in Kenya. This wildlife - which includes elephants, giraffes, lions, rhinoceroses, and zebras - attracts thousands of tourists to Kenya each year.
Most of Kenya's people live in rural areas and farm the land and raise livestock for a living. But each year, many rural people move to Kenya's cities and towns, which are growing rapidly. Nairobi is Kenya's capital and largest city. Mombasa, which lies on the coast, is its second largest city and chief port.
Britain ruled Kenya from 1895 until it became an independent nation in 1963. During this period, the British influenced both the economic and cultural life of Kenya. Since independence, the leaders of Kenya have emphasised the African heritage of the nation.
Jamhuri ya Kenya (Republic of Kenya).
224,081 sq. mi. (580,367 sq. km).
north-south, 640 mi. (1,030 km);
east-west, 560 mi. (901 km).
Coastline - 284 mi. (457 km).
Highest - Mount Kenya, 17,058 ft. (5,199 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level along the coast.
Estimated 1996 population - 28,794,000; density, 128 persons per sq. mi. (50 per sq. km); distribution, 72 percent rural, 28 percent urban. 1989 census - 21,400,000. Estimated 2001 population - 33,842,000.
Agriculture - bananas, beef, cassava, coffee, corn, pineapples, pyrethrum, sisal, sugar cane, tea, wheat.
Manufacturing - cement, chemicals, light machinery, textiles, processed foods, petroleum products.
4235 miles from London
GMT +3 hours
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
Kenya Shilling (KES)
English and Kiswahili
12 December - Independence Day
British High Commission
Upper Hill Road
P O Box 30465
Telephone (00 254) (2) 714699
Opening hours 1045 to 1530/1630 to 1930 Monday to Thursday, 1045 to 1600 Friday (local time)
3 horizontal bands of black, red and green with the red band being edge in white and having a large shield over crossed spears in the centre
Kiribati is a small country made up of 33 islands in the central Pacific Ocean. It consists of three island groups: the 16 Gilbert Islands and Banaba (formerly called Ocean Island), the 8 Phoenix Islands, and 8 of the Line Islands. These islands spread across about 2 million square miles (5 million square kilometres) of the Pacific Ocean.
Kiribati has a total land area of 280 square miles (726 square kilometres). One island, Kiritimati Atoll, covers more than half of this area. Kiribati has a population of about 84,000. More than 95 percent of the people live in the Gilbert Islands. Tarawa, an island in the Gilberts, is Kiribati's capital.
Britain ruled much of what is now Kiribati from 1892 to 1979, when Kiribati became an independent nation. The country's basic unit of currency is the Australian dollar. Its national anthem is "Teirake Kain Kiribati" ("Stand, Kiribati").
Kiribati is a republic headed by a president. The president is elected to a four-year term by the people from among candidates nominated by the Parliament. The Parliament, the nation's lawmaking body, consists of 36 members elected by the people to four year terms; the country's attorney general; and an appointed representative of Banaba. Seventeen local councils administer local island government affairs. Unimane (councils of elders) handle local village matters.
Most of the people of Kiribati are Micronesians. The islanders call themselves I-Kiribati. Most of them live in rural villages of a few to more than 100 dwellings clustered around a church and a maneaba (meeting house). Many of the dwellings are made of wood and leaves of coconut trees. Cement block houses with iron roofs are becoming more common.
The I-Kiribati are dependent on the sea. Fishing and the making and sailing of canoes form an important part of their life. The islanders grow most of their own food, which includes bananas, breadfruit, papaya, pandanus fruit, sweet potatoes, and babai (giant taro). They also raise pigs and chickens. On Tarawa, people rely more on imported foods. The islanders used to wear soft, finely woven mats but now wear light cotton clothing.
The language of the islanders is Gilbertese. But most of them also speak some English, which is used in official communications. Kiribati has about 100 elementary schools and several high schools.
Almost all the islands of Kiribati are coral reefs. Many are atolls (ring-shaped reefs that enclose a lagoon). Kiribati has a tropical climate, with temperatures of about 80 °F (27 °C) the year around. The northern islands receive about 120 inches (300 centimetres) of rain annually. The other islands have a yearly rainfall of about 40 inches (100 centimetres).
Kiribati is a developing nation. Its only important export is copra (dried coconut meat). Most of the nation's commerce goes through Tarawa, which has docks and an international airport. Tarawa also has an earth station, which transmits and receives international communications through a satellite in space. Kiribati's government runs a radio station and publishes a weekly newspaper, both in Gilbertese and English.
No one knows the origins of the I-Kiribati. The islands are believed to have been inhabited when Samoans settled there between the 1000's and the 1300's. There is evidence that the I-Kiribati lived there long before the Samoans. In the 1500's, Spanish explorers became the first Europeans to sight the islands.
In 1892, Britain took control of the Gilbert Islands and the neighbouring Ellice Islands to the south. Britain gained control of Ocean Island in 1900. In 1916, the British made these islands the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony. Some of the Line Islands, and the Phoenix Islands, were later added to the colony.
During World War II (1939-1945), Japanese troops occupied several of the islands. The United States Marines invaded Tarawa in 1943 and defeated the Japanese in one of the bloodiest battles of the war.
The Ellice Islands separated from the colony in 1975 and became the independent nation of Tuvalu in 1978. The remaining islands in the former Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony gained independence as Kiribati on July 12, 1979.
Kuwait is a small Arab country in southwestern Asia, at the north end of the Persian Gulf. It is bordered by Iraq and Saudi Arabia. This desert land is one of the world's leading petroleum producers. It has almost one-tenth of the world's known reserves.
A poor country until 1946, Kuwait is now one of the richest countries in the world. The amazing change that has taken place there results almost entirely from one thing - oil. With wealth gained by selling oil, Kuwait's rulers turned desert wilderness into a prosperous welfare state. Kuwait is one of the world's wealthiest nations in terms of national income per person. It has free primary and secondary education, free health and social services, and no income tax.
The city of Kuwait is the centre of a large urban area that has about two-thirds of the country's people. Kuwait gained independence from Britain in 1961. In 1990, an invasion of Kuwait by Iraq triggered the Persian Gulf War.
Dowlat al Kuwait (State of Kuwait).
6,880 sq. mi. (17,818 sq. km), including offshore islands.
east-west, 95 mi. (153 km);
north-south, 90 mi. (145 km).
Coastline - 120 mi. (193 km).
Estimated 1996 population - 1,626,000; density, 236 persons per sq. mi. (91 persons per sq. km); distribution, 97 percent urban, 3 percent rural. 1985 census - 1,697,301. Estimated 2001 population - 1,762,000.
Petroleum, natural gas.
2881 miles from London
GMT +3 hours
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
Kuwaiti Dinar (KWD)
Arabic and English
25 February - National Day
P O Box 2 Safat
Telephone (00 965) 2403334
Opening hours 0730 to 1430 Saturday to Wednesday (local time)
3 horizontal bands of green, white and red with a black trapezoid on the hoist side
Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous country in central Asia. Bishkek is its largest city. Kyrgyzstan became an independent country in 1991, after about 70 years as part of the Soviet Union.
76,641 sq. mi. (198,500 sq. km).
east-west, 580 mi. (935 km);
north-south, 270 mi. (435 km).
Highest - Peak Pobedy, 24,406 ft. (7,439 m) above sea level.
Lowest - Naryn river at the western border, 1,640 ft. (500 m) above sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 4,754,000; density, 62 persons per sq. mi. (24 per sq. km); distribution, 62 percent rural, 38 percent urban. 1989 census - 4,290,442. Estimated 2001 population - 5,071,000.
Basic unit - som.
Agriculture - cattle, cotton, eggs, fruit, goats, grain, milk, pigs, vegetables, wool.
Manufacturing - construction materials, food products, machinery, metals, textiles.
Mining - antimony, mercury.
The flag has a red field with a yellow sun in its centre. The sun bears a yellow disk with two intersecting sets of three curved red bands.