in Places

ImageJapan is sometimes called the “land of the rising sun.” The Japanese themselves call their country Nihon or Nippon, which means “origin of the sun.” You can see an image of the sun on Japan’s flag: a red circle on a plain white background.

In many ways, Japan is old and traditional. It’s also one of the world’s most modern, and densely populated, countries.


Japan is an island nation located off the northeast coast of the mainland of Asia. The Japanese islands lie in the North Pacific Ocean.


in Places

ImageMexico is the southern neighbor of the United States. Its full name in Spanish is Estados Unidos Mexicanos, which means the United Mexican States. Spanish is the language of Mexico because Spain ruled Mexico for 300 years.


Most of Mexico’s people have both Spanish and Native American ancestry. Although most Mexicans speak Spanish, some still speak the Native American languages of their ancestors.

North America

in Places

ImageNorth America was long known as the New World by the people of Europe. Of course, North America was only “new” to the Europeans. Native Americans had lived there for thousands of years before Europeans arrived.

Colonists from England, France, and Spain flocked to North America after Christopher Columbus’s famous voyage in 1492. They claimed land and wealth for themselves and their kings. These countries gradually lost their lands in North America. But their influence still shows in the people and cultures of North America.

Middle East

in Places

ImageThe Middle East is not a country. It’s not a continent. It has no set borders. What is it then? What is it in the middle of?


The heart of the Middle East stretches from Egypt in northeastern Africa to the countries of southwestern Asia. People disagree over exactly which countries make up the Middle East. Some scholars use a broader cultural definition. They believe the Middle East also includes all of the Muslim countries of northern Africa, as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Pacific Islands

in Places

ImageImagine a region the size of the United States. Now imagine that most of it is underwater. Picture tiny dots of land spread far and wide across an enormous patch of blue.

What you’re imagining really exists. Millions of people live there. This region is called the Pacific Islands. It also goes by the name of Oceania.


The Pacific Islands are more than 25,000 islands in the western and central Pacific Ocean. The islands lie across millions of square miles of ocean.