Land & People

This country is variously described as – NIHON, NIPPON and of course Japan. NIHON and NIPPON literally mean “the sun’s origin”, and are often translated as the “Land of the Rising Sun”. Japan is not the name used for their country by the Japanese themselves: it is an exonym. They call it Nippon and Nihon, both written in Japanese using the Chinese characters . Nippon is used for the official purposes, including Japanese money, postage stamps, and international sporting events. Nihon is a more casual term and frequently used in contemporary speech.

The closing neighbors of Japan are USSR, Republic of Korea, and Taiwan – bordered by Sakhalin and Siberia on the North and Korean peninsula and China on the West. The total area of Japan is 377,835 sq-km with land area of 374.744 km. and water 3091 km., roughly the size of California or Bihar State in India. It lies in eastern Asia, comprises of a curved chain of more than 6800 tiny islands.” Main Islands from north to south are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. These four islands are stretched over 3800 km. Okinawa is a fifth largest island, 380 miles southwest of Kyushu. The prefecture of Okinawa was established on 16 May 1972 when Okinawa and the Ryukyu islands, which had been administered by the United States since 1945, were restored to Japan.

Nearly 75% of the terrain is rugged and mountainous, mostly of steep mountains with very few plains and virtually uninhabitable. Approximately 15% is devoted to agriculture, leaving only about 10% for people to actually live on. Almost 126 million people live in Japan, nearly half the population of the entire United States. Long and skinny, there is only 200 miles that extends at the widest point and nearly 1800 miles from north to south. The result is an amazing range of weather conditions, from snow bound winters in the north to sub-tropic summers in the south. Mountains, rivers and seas break up the country into hundreds of small regions and micro climates making the land infinitely varied

Mountainous land of Japan is, rises to the beautiful volcanic cone of Mount Fuji, the tallest and most symmetrical mountain is one of Japan’s 86 active volcanoes. These volcanoes provide the country with one of its most pleasant amenities, mineral hot springs, which serves as sites for numerous resorts to million of Japanese in search of rest and relaxation but creates havoc when they blow their tops. Japan is a verdant land with plentiful rainfall and heavy forests cover on its mountains. The combination of rugged coastlines, precipitous but forested mountains, snow fed mountain lakes, turbulent rivers, pleasing waterfalls and a lush country- side, makes Japan the most beautiful land. They are constant source of inspiration and pleasure to Japanese as well as foreign visitors.

Chief feature of Japan’s archipelago is its geographical instability including many dormant and some active volcanoes, earthquakes, typhoons and tsunamis that occur if the earthquake is below or close to the ocean that triggers tidal waves. As Japan is situated in a volcanic zone along the Pacific deeps where several continental and oceanic plates meets, it causes frequent tremors and occasional volcanic activity (about 1500 seismic occurrences mostly tremors every year), which is, felt throughout the islands, though destructive earthquakes occurs occasionally. Many parts of the country have experienced devastating earthquakes also- the worst hit is the Kanto Plain around Tokyo in 1923, in which 140,000 people killed with huge devastation of houses and buildings and in Kobe in 1995, killed more than 6000, injured 415,000 people including 100000 completely and 185000 houses partially destroyed. (It is interesting to note that the area where the earthquake occurred had not had the history of earthquakes. It was common saying that,” if you are scared from earthquake, better go to Kobe”).

Ten percent of the World active volcanoes (about 188) are located in Japan, out of which 148 are dormant, lies in a zone of extreme crust instability. This has led Japan being the World leader on causes and predictions of earthquakes. Their extensive research in the development of technology including civil-defense efforts focusing on the training in protection against earthquakes has permitted Japan the construction of many skyscrapers even in the earthquake zone. Other common hazards are typhoons, tropical cyclones that reach Japan from the Pacific Ocean.
Japan comprises of about 532 mountains stretched over 2000 km., the highest is Mount Fuji 3776m followed by Mount Kita 3192m, Mount Hotaka, 3190m. and Mount Asahi 2290m., lowest point being Hachiro-gata 4m.

Japan’s rivers are though many but too shallow, narrow and fast flowing, to be used for any purpose except for hydro-electricity schemes. Typical rivers of Japan rise from mountainous forests and cut out deep V-shaped valleys in their upper reaches, and form alluvial plains in their lower reaches, which enable the Japanese to cultivate rice fields and to set up cities. Most rivers are dammed to supply both water and electricity. The longest river of Japan is the Shinano, which flows from Nagano to Niigata. The “Tone” River has the largest watershed and serves water to more than 30 million inhabitants of Tokyo metropolitan area.

Japan has many lakes, scattered throughout Japan, many of then are craters of “extinct” volcanoes. Biwa is the biggest lake in Shiga Prefecture with depth of 103,8m. with the area covered 670.3km.
Japan is home to nine forest eco-regions, ranging from subtropical moist broadleaf forests in the Ryukyu and Bonin islands, to temperate broadleaf and mixed forests in the mild climate regions of the main islands and the temperate coniferous forests in the cold winter portions of northern islands.
There are seven artificial islands, Chubu Centrair International Airport, Dejima, Kansai International Airport, Kobe Airport, Odaiba, Port Island, Rokko Island
Japan has wide variety of minerals, most of which are in the quantities too small to provide for all of the Japan’s industrial needs.

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