ÂÂ EPA (Â Mr Abeâ€™s nationalistic leanings have irritated Japanâ€™s neighbors)
Prime minister: Shinzo Abe
Shinzo Abe swept into office with a landslide win for his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in 2012, having campaigned on a programme of tough action to pull Japan out of long economic stagnation.
His signature economic strategy â€“ known as â€œAbenomicsâ€ â€“ is a three-pronged approach of monetary easing, fiscal stimulus, and growth-oriented reform.
Implementation of the first two elements in Mr Abeâ€™s first term brought about a brief spurt of growth, but Japan slipped briefly back into recession in mid-2014, prompting Mr Abe to trigger new polls that he won emphatically.
Known for his hawkish foreign policy views, Mr Abe has removed the pacifist constitutionâ€™s restrictions on foreign military deployment and authorized troops to fight abroad in certain circumstances.
He also called for a greater sense of national pride and backed a law requiring the teaching of patriotism in schools.
His nationalist views have caused tension with China and South Korea, in particular his 2013 visit to the Yasukuni shrine â€“ seen by Japanâ€™s neighbours as a symbol of the countryâ€™s militarism before and during World War II.
Mr Abe previously served a brief term as premier in 2006-7, when he was Japanâ€™s youngest leader since World War II, but stepped down early, citing ill health, after a series of scandals and gaffes sent support for his administration plummeting.
Mr Abe comes from a high-profile political family. His father was a foreign minister, while his grandfather, Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, was arrested as a suspected war criminal after the Second World War, but never charged.
His second stint as prime minister comes after four years in which the Democratic Party (DPJ) interrupted the LDPâ€™s longstanding dominance of politics on promises of curbing the influence of the powerful bureaucracy and interest groups
The often disunited DPJ government lost popularity as a result of unpopular efforts to deal with mounting public debt, criticism of its handling of the March 2011 tsunami, and a series of scandals.