Scattered across the Naruto universe are several countries of various sizes, cultures, power, and landscapes. Only a select few of those nations, however, receive time in the spotlight.
Land of Fire
The Land of Fire (火の国 Hi no Kuni?) is home to the majority of the characters in Naruto and is one of the Five Great Shinobi Nations. The Land of Fire is appropriately oriented towards the element of fire, typically having a very bright and warm weather, with which the citizens enjoy and allows bountiful harvests all year-round. Because of its location, the Land of Fire trades heavily with the other surrounding countries, giving it one of the largest populations and strongest economies in the Naruto world. It is widely regarded as one of the strongest countries.
Konohagakure (木ノ葉隠れの里 Konohagakure no Sato?, literally "Village Hidden Among Tree Leaves"), or Konoha for short, located in the Land of Fire, is the main Hidden Village in the series and one of the five great villages. As such, it has a Kage as its leader, known as the Hokage. On a mountain overlooking the village, the faces of every Hokage are carved into the rock referred to as "Hokage Stone". Although Konoha, much like the country in which it resides, has been peaceful for the past twelve years and has grown accustomed to that peace, it remains one of the most powerful villages in existence, with an overall ninja population much greater than that of any other village, and therefore has great military power and influence. The hiragana あん (an) is painted on the entrance gates of the village (one hiragana on each door). This means hermit age or retreat (kanji: 庵). It is also a pun as the Japanese onomatopoeia for a wide open mouth is also "an" (Similar to the English "Aaah")
Konohagakure was founded by an alliance between the Uchiha and Senju clans, which were led by Madara Uchiha and Hashirama Senju, The First Hokage, respectively. The two leaders eventually quarreled as to which would lead the village, and fought at the Valley of the End, a fight which the First won. Eventually, the village was governed by the Senju clan and its Military police was under authority of the Uchiha clan. Madara Uchiha, who was thought to have died during his battle against the First Hokage, secretly returned to Konohagakure years later and trained Itachi Uchiha. When the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox appeared and attacked the village, it was defeated by Fourth Hokage, though the villages deduction behind the incident alleged suspicion of rebellion amongst the Uchiha clan. The villages mistrust eventually lead to the Uchiha clan plotting a coup d'etat, to take over Konohagakure. Itachi Uchiha, under orders of the village's leadership, annihilated every other member of the Uchiha clan with the assistance of Madara Uchiha to prevent the rebellion from becoming reality. However, Itachi was unable to bring himself to kill his younger brother, Sasuke, so the boy lived on as the only "survivor" of the massacre.
Masashi Kishimoto stated: "Yes, there is [a model for Konoha], it's my hometown. Where I lived as a kid was near a military base so there were lots of training fields. And near that was the city. Because I grew up in a place like that, I was interested in things like Special Forces, military maps, three man teams, etc."
- Forest of Death
The Forest of Death (死の森 Shi no Mori?), also known as the 44th battle training zone, was the stage for the second part of the Konoha Chunin exams. Its primary function served as a testing grounds for the survival and fighting skills of Genin trying to become a Chunin. It is a very dangerous place, filled with hordes of flora and fauna; often gigantic, poisonous, or, even more likely, both, hence its name.
There are 44 entrances into the forest. A metallic fence surrounds its perimeter with 44 gates equally spaced around it; this perimeter is where the ninja enter to initiate the test. Inside is a river, the forest, and a tower located in the center; the forest's radius is about ten kilometers.
The tower is the destination of the ninja after they have collected two scrolls. Each team starts with only one scroll; therefore, to pass the exam, a team must find a team with the opposite scroll and steal it by any means necessary. Inside the tower is the large arena in which the third test preliminaries are held, if too many teams manage to survive to that point. Relatively few teams complete this part of the test; in the Chunin exam arc, seven teams completed the test, prompting preliminary matches.
- Ichiraku Ramen Bar
The Ichiraku Ramen Bar is Naruto/Naruto Uzumaki's and Iruka Umino's favorite place to eat. The Ichiraku Ramen Bar is run by Teuchi and his daughter Ayame. The two seem to be some of the few civilian villagers of Konoha to not see Naruto in a hostile light, and consider him their favorite regular.
Ichiraku Ramen was modeled after a real-life ramen restaurant, also called Ichiraku Ramen, near the waterfront in the city of Fukuoka, Japan, where the author of Naruto, Masashi Kishimoto, apparently went to university for a period of time according to local sources. It is next to a Yakiniku restaurant, a Chinese Food place, and a video game shop. Tonkotsu ramen (noodles in a pork broth) is served there. There are two Ichiraku Ramen locations in Fukuoka, one at JR's Kyu-dai Mae station, and another in the downtown Hakata area. As part of the merchandise for Naruto, handkerchiefs are sold emblazoned with various Naruto characters in instant noodle cups labeled Ichiraku Ramen.
- The Valley of the End
The Valley of the End (終末の谷 Shūmatsu no Tani?, Viz and English TV "The Final Valley") is the location of the battle between Hashirama Senju (the First Hokage) and Madara Uchiha, where the former defeated the latter. The valley and the river that flows through it are said to be remnants of their fight. The valley is located on the border between the Land of Fire and the Land of Rice Fields. To remember the battle, two large statues of the combatants were built on opposite sides of the valley, bordering a large waterfall. Many years later, Naruto Uzumaki and Sasuke Uchiha fought in this same location. Following Naruto's defeat, Kakashi Hatake notes Naruto and Sasuke to be ironically similar to Hashirama and Madara, respectively.
Land of Rain
The Land of Rain (雨の国 Ame no Kuni?) is filled with a great number of small buildings in a heavily wooded area, suggesting that it might be located in a rainforest. Its borders are highly defended, and those wishing to pass through the country must first give every information on how they intend to visit the country before being allowed admission. Even if one is permitted to enter the country, they will be under constant surveillance by the government for the duration of their stay. Because the Land of Rain is situated between three of the five great countries, it often acts as the battlefield for their wars and much of its population are war refugees, and as a result its government lacks stability. Unbeknownst to the rest of the Naruto world apart from Konoha, the country was in the midst of a civil war, though Konoha wasn't able to find out until the civil war was already over.
Amegakure (雨隠れの里 Amegakure no Sato?, literally "Village Hidden in Rain") is the Land of Rain's Hidden Village. It seems to be a rather loosely knit village, befitting the destabilized country, as a fair number of its ninja seem to either be missing-nin or end up as missing-nin. Amegakure was once led by Hanzo, though he was killed during the Land of Rain's civil war by the Akatsuki leader, Pain, and thus Pain became the de facto leader of Amegakure. Pain now uses the village as his base of operations for Akatsuki. He has attained a god-like level of notoriety among the villagers. Those loyal to the former Amegakure attack the village on occasion in an attempt to assassinate Pain, though their efforts are never successful. The village is shown to be full of metal pipes.
Land of Rice Fields
The Land of Rice Fields (田の国 Ta no Kuni?, English TV: "Land of Rice Paddies"), otherwise known as the Land of Sound (音の国 Oto no Kuni?), is a small country bordering the Land of Fire's northern border. The Land of Rice Fields is its original name, with the Land of Sound, possibly derived from Otogakure, being Orochimaru's own name for it. Many of its shinobi were collected, most being from the Fuuma clan, to supply his need for followers and jutsu. The Land of Sound, along with Otogakure, is a relatively new country in the political scene, though the country itself existed long before Orochimaru took it over and renamed it. It conspired with the Land of Wind to launch a surprise attack and hopefully destroy the Land of Fire.
Otogakure (音隠れの里 Otogakure no Sato?, literally "Village Hidden in Sound") is Orochimaru's personal village, founded for the express purpose of collecting ninja for his experiments and quest to learn jutsu. Not much is known about it: what is certain is that it actually consists of a series of lairs, located both within the Sound country and away from it, which Orochimaru switches between every week. Other than that, and the fact that its ninja specialize in techniques involving manipulation of sound waves, as well as using a cursed seal to increase their power, little else is known about it.
Although he is the leading ninja of Otogakure, Orochimaru isn't a Kage, despite his equivalent (possibly greater) power level. The reason for this is because the five Kages of the five great Hidden Villages don't acknowledge Otogakure, and Orochimaru is considered a criminal.
Land of Water
The Land of Water (水の国 Mizu no Kuni?) is one of the Five Great Shinobi Nations and home to Kirigakure (霧隠れの里 Kirigakure no Sato?, literally "Village Hidden in Mist"). It is composed of many islands, with each having its own unique traditions. The country's weather is typically cool and full of mist and lakes, while in some places it is very cold and snows quite a bit.
Kirigakure (霧隠れの里 Kirigakure no Sato?, literally "Village Hidden in Mist") is the hidden village of the Land of Water, whose leader is the Mizukage. Hoshigaki Kisame referred to Uchiha Madara as the Mizukage, however it is unknown if he is the current Mizukage. Its ninja specialize in water-based jutsu. In the past, Kirigakure was well known for its inhumane Genin enlistment exam, where students who had been friends were pitted against each other and forced to fight to the death, though the method was cut short when academy-enlistment failure Zabuza Momochi killed all of the students in that year's graduating class. Along with Kisame Hoshigaki and Raiga Kurosuki, Zabuza was a member of the Seven Shinobi Swordsmen of the Mist, the strongest ninja group in their village who each wields at a large sword-like weapon. This village was once the home of the infamous Kaguya clan, the battle-loving clan who had a kekkei gankai ability allowing them to control their own bones, though they were wiped out when they went to war with their own village. The villagers of Kirigakure felt threatened by clans possessing kekkei genkai, and began persecuting them before the start of the series. Recently, Kirigakure has used these clans to their own advantage. At the beginning of the series Kakashi Hatake mentioned that the Mist village trains their ninja to be ruthless enemies, and noted that ninja from this village are far more powerful than most enemies he faced from other villages. This realization led Kakashi also to theorize that if it were not for the vicious and bloody civil wars the Mist is often found in, they would be a major rival of Konoha.
Land of Waves
The Land of Waves (波の国 Nami no Kuni?) is a relatively poor nation, and thus does not have a Hidden village. It is an isolated island, but used to be prosperous nonetheless, until Gato set his sights on it. He broke the people's will and monopolized the import/export industry, which was crucial for its economy. Team 7's first real mission was to this country, and, with the help of Zabuza Momochi and the townspeople, Gato's reign of terror was ended for good.
- Great Naruto Bridge
The Great Naruto Bridge (ナルト大橋 Naruto Ōhashi?) was the name given to the bridge built by Tazuna to end Gato's monopoly over the economy. While Gato was still in control of the Land of Waves, Tazuna started building the bridge to allow free import and export once again, giving its economy a chance to recover. Tazuna decided to name the bridge after Naruto Uzumaki because of everything he did to inspire both his grandson and, by proxy, the rest of the citizens.
Land of Wind
The Land of Wind (風の国 Kaze no Kuni?), one of the Five Great Shinobi Nations, is a large, dry, and desolate country whose cities are typically found near water sources. While much of the country is inhospitable, the population is large and prosperous due to its frequent trading with the Land of Fire. While not seen as often as the Land of Fire, the Land of Wind receives a great deal of attention in the series, and has a great many powerful ninja to call its own. Its hidden village is Sunagakure, Village Hidden in the Sand. The Land of Wind has been relatively uninvolved with politics until recent times, and even had a peace treaty signed with the Land of Fire. The lord ruling it, however, had been systematically cutting down his military force and transferring missions he would normally address to his own country's hidden village to Konohagakure, prompting desperate measures on the part of the Kazekage at the time.
Sunagakure (砂隠れの里 Sunagakure no Sato?, literally "Village Hidden Among Sand" or "Village Hidden in the Sand") is one of the five great ninja villages, and as such has a Kage, known as the Kazekage, as its leader. The symbol on their headband is of an hourglass. The one-tailed Shukaku was said to originate here, having been created from the spirit of a dead monk who was trapped in a tea kettle. With its military forces being scaled down by the Land of Wind's feudal lord, the Fourth Kazekage realized that they had to increase the quality of each ninja to maintain a military force. Gaara is just one result of that.
As more time passed, the lord started commissioning Konoha with requests he should have been making to Sunagakure. On top of that, he began cutting back on Sunagakure's budget. The Fourth Kazekage realized that if he didn't act quickly, Sunagakure would be in danger of disappearing, so he joined forces with Otogakure in an attempt to destroy Konoha and force the lord to re-establish Sunagakure's military force if he wished for his country to continue existing. With the failure of the attack and the death of the Fourth Kazekage caused by the betrayal of Otogakure, Sunagakure re-allied with Konoha, and Gaara, Temari and Kankuro assisted Konoha during the mission to retrieve Sasuke. Gaara eventually became the Fifth Kazekage over the timeskip, and continues to remain such even though the Shukaku was removed from his body by Akatsuki.