Japan is an island nation in
East Asia comprising a volcanic
archipelago extending along the continent's Pacific coast. It lies
between 24° to 46° north latitude and from 123° to 146° east
Japan is southeast of the Russian Far East, separated by
the Sea of Okhotsk; slightly east of the Korean Peninsula, separated
by the Sea of Japan; and east-northeast of
China and Taiwan, separated
by the East
China Sea. The closest neighboring country to
2 Composition, topography and geography
4 Environmental issues
5 Natural hazards
7 Extreme points
Japan (main islands)
7.3 Elevation extremes
9 See also
11 External links
The major islands, sometimes called the "Home Islands", are (from east
to west) Hokkaido,
Honshu (the "mainland"),
Shikoku and Kyushu. There
are 6,852 islands in total, including the Nansei Islands, the
Nanpō Islands and islets, with 430 islands being inhabited and others
uninhabited. In total, as of 2006, Japan's territory is
377,923.1 km2 (145,916.9 sq mi), of which
374,834 km2 (144,724 sq mi) is land and 3,091 km2
(1,193 sq mi) water.
Location: Eastern Asia, island chain between the North Pacific Ocean
and the Sea of Japan, east of the Korean Peninsula.
Map references: Asia, Oceania
total: 377,915 km²
land: 364,485 km²
water: 13,430 km²
notes: Includes the Bonin Islands, Daitō Islands, Minami-Tori-shima,
Okinotorishima, the Ryukyu Islands, and the
Volcano Islands. Ownership
Senkaku Islands and
Liancourt Rocks (Japanese:Takeshima,
Korean:Dokdo) is in dispute.
Land boundaries: the ocean
Coastline: 29,751 km (18,486 mi)
territorial sea: 12 nmi (22.2 km; 13.8 mi); between 3
and 12 nmi (5.6 and 22.2 km; 3.5 and 13.8 mi) in the
international straits—La Pérouse (or Sōya Strait), Tsugaru Strait,
Osumi, and Eastern and Western Channels of the Korea or Tsushima
exclusive economic zone: 200 nmi (370.4 km; 230.2 mi)
contiguous zone: 24 nmi (44.4 km; 27.6 mi)
Climate: varies from tropical in south to cool temperate in north
Terrain: mostly rugged and mountainous, can easily be compared to
Norway, both having about 70% of their land in the mountains.
Natural resources: small deposits of coal, oil, iron, and minerals.
Major fishing industry.
arable land: 11.65%
permanent crops: 0.83%
other: 87.52% (2012)
Irrigated land: 25,000 km² (2010)
Total renewable water resources: 430 km3 (2011)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 90.04 km3/yr (20%/18%/62%)
per capita: 714.3 m3/yr (2007)
Composition, topography and geography
A topographic map of Japan.
A map of Japan's major cities, main towns and selected smaller
About 73% of
Japan is mountainous, with a mountain range running
through each of the main islands. Japan's highest mountain is Mount
Fuji, with an elevation of 3,776 m (12,388 ft). Japan's
forest cover rate is 68.55% since the mountains are heavily forested.
The only other developed nations with such a high forest cover
Finland and Sweden.
Since there is little level ground, many hills and mountainsides at
lower elevations around towns and cities are often cultivated. As
Japan is situated in a volcanic zone along the Pacific deeps, frequent
low-intensity earth tremors and occasional volcanic activity are felt
throughout the islands. Destructive earthquakes occur several times a
century. Hot springs are numerous and have been exploited as an
economic capital by the leisure industry.
The mountainous islands of the
Japanese archipelago form a crescent
off the eastern coast of Asia. They are separated from the mainland by
the Sea of Japan, which historically served as a protective barrier.
The country consists of four major islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku,
and Kyushu; with more than 6,500 adjacent smaller islands and islets
("island" defined as land more than 100 m in circumference),
Izu Islands and
Ogasawara Islands in the Nanpō Islands,
and the Satsunan Islands, Okinawa Islands, and
Sakishima Islands of
the Ryukyu Islands.
The national territory also includes the
Volcano Islands (Kazan Retto)
such as Iwo Jima, located some 1,200 kilometers south of mainland
Tokyo. A territorial dispute with Russia, dating from the end of World
War II, over the two southernmost of the Kuril Islands, Etorofu and
Kunashiri, and the smaller
Island and Habomai Islands
Hokkaido remains a sensitive spot in Japanese–Russian
relations (as of 2005[update]). Excluding disputed territory, the
archipelago covers about 377,000 square kilometers. No point in Japan
is more than 150 kilometers from the sea.
The four major islands are separated by narrow straits and form a
natural entity. The
Ryukyu Islands curve 970 kilometers southward from
The distance between
Japan and the Korean Peninsula, the nearest point
on the Asian continent, is about 200 kilometers at the Korea Strait.
Japan has always been linked with the continent through trade routes,
stretching in the north toward Siberia, in the west through the
Tsushima Islands to the Korean Peninsula, and in the south to the
ports on the south
The Japanese islands are the summits of mountain ridges uplifted near
the outer edge of the continental shelf. About 73 percent of Japan's
area is mountainous, and scattered plains and intermontane basins (in
which the population is concentrated) cover only about 27 percent. A
long chain of mountains runs down the middle of the archipelago,
dividing it into two halves, the "face", fronting on the Pacific
Ocean, and the "back", toward the Sea of Japan. On the Pacific side
are steep mountains 1,500 to 3,000 meters high, with deep valleys and
Japan is marked by the convergence of the three mountain
chains—the Hida, Kiso, and Akaishi mountains—that form the
Japanese Alps (Nihon Arupusu), several of whose peaks are higher than
3,000 meters. The highest point in the
Japanese Alps is
Mount Kita at
3,193 meters. The highest point in the country is
Mount Fuji (Fujisan,
also erroneously called Fujiyama), a volcano dormant since 1707 that
rises to 3,776 meters above sea level in Shizuoka Prefecture. On the
Japan side are plateaus and low mountain districts, with
altitudes of 500 to 1,500 meters.
None of the populated plains or mountain basins are extensive in area.
The largest, the Kantō Plain, where
Tokyo is situated, covers only
13,000 square kilometers. Other important plains are the Nōbi Plain
surrounding Nagoya, the Kinai Plain in the Osaka–
Kyoto area, the
Sendai Plain around the city of
Sendai in northeastern Honshū, and
the Ishikari Plain on Hokkaidō. Many of these plains are along the
coast, and their areas have been increased by reclamation throughout
The small amount of habitable land has prompted significant human
modification of the terrain over many centuries. Land was reclaimed
from the sea and from river deltas by building dikes and drainage, and
rice paddies were built on terraces carved into mountainsides. The
process continued in the modern period with extension of shorelines
and building of artificial islands for industrial and port
development, such as Port
Island in Kobe and the new Kansai
International Airport in
Osaka Bay. Hills and even mountains have been
razed to provide flat areas for housing.
Rivers are generally steep and swift, and few are suitable for
navigation except in their lower reaches. Although most rivers are
less than 300 kilometers in length, their rapid flow from the
mountains provides a valuable, renewable resource: hydroelectric power
generation. Japan's hydroelectric power potential has been exploited
almost to capacity. Seasonal variations in flow have led to extensive
development of flood control measures. Most of the rivers are very
short. The longest, the Shinano River, which winds through Nagano
Niigata Prefecture and flows into the Sea of Japan, is
only 367 kilometers long. The largest freshwater lake is Lake Biwa,
northeast of Kyoto.
Extensive coastal shipping, especially around the Seto Inland Sea
(Seto Naikai), compensates for the lack of navigable rivers. The
Pacific coastline south of
Tokyo is characterized by long, narrow,
gradually shallowing inlets produced by sedimentation, which has
created many natural harbors. The Pacific coastline north of Tokyo,
the coast of Hokkaidō, and the Sea of
Japan coast are generally
unindented, with few natural harbors.
In November 2008,
Japan filed a request to expand its claimed
continental shelf. In April 2012, the U.N. Commission on the Limits
of the Continental Shelf recognized around 310,000 square kilometres
(120,000 sq mi) of seabed around Okinotorishima, giving
Japan priority over access to seabed resources in nearby areas.
According to U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf,
the approved expansion is equal to about 82% of Japan's total land
area. The People's Republic of
South Korea have opposed
Japan's claim because they view
Okinotorishima not as an island, but
as a group of rocks.
Köppen climate classification
Köppen climate classification map of Japan.
A village in
Niigata Prefecture in January
Kabira Bay on Ishigaki Island,
Okinawa Prefecture in March
Sakura blossoms with
Himeji Castle in
Hyōgo Prefecture in April
Nagano Prefecture in October
Most regions of Japan, such as much of Honshu,
Shikoku and Kyushu,
belong to the temperate zone with humid subtropical climate (Köppen
climate classification Cfa) characterized by four distinct seasons.
However, its climate varies from cool humid continental climate
Köppen climate classification
Köppen climate classification Dfb) in the north such as northern
Hokkaido, to warm tropical rainforest climate (Köppen climate
classification Af) in the south such as Ishigaki in the Yaeyama
The two primary factors influences in Japan's climate are a location
near the Asian continent and the existence of major oceanic currents.
Two major ocean currents affect Japan: the warm Kuroshio Current
(Black Current; also known as the
Japan Current); and the cold Oyashio
Current (Parent Current; also known as the Okhotsk Current). The
Kuroshio Current flows northward on the Pacific side of
warms areas as north as the South Kantō region; a small branch, the
Tsushima Current, flows up the Sea of
Japan side. The Oyashio Current,
which abounds in plankton beneficial to coldwater fish, flows
southward along the northern Pacific, cooling adjacent coastal areas.
The intersection of these currents at 36 north latitude is a bountiful
Japan's varied geographical features divide it into six principal
Hokkaido (北海道, Hokkaidō): Belonging to the humid continental
Hokkaido has long, cold winters and cool summers.
Precipitation is not great.
Japan (日本海, Nihonkai): The northwest seasonal wind in
winter gives heavy snowfall, which south of Tohoku mostly melts before
the beginning of spring. In summer it is a little less rainy than the
Pacific area but sometimes experiences extreme high temperatures due
to the foehn wind phenomenon.
Central Highland (中央高地, Chūō-kōchi): A typical inland
climate gives large temperature variations between summers and winters
and between days and nights. Precipitation is lower than on the coast
due to rain shadow effects.
Seto Inland Sea
Seto Inland Sea (瀬戸内海, Setonaikai): The mountains in the
Shikoku regions block the seasonal winds and bring mild
climate and many fine days throughout the year.
Pacific Ocean (太平洋, Taiheiyō): The climate varies greatly
between the north and the south but generally winters are
significantly milder and sunnier than those of the side that faces the
Sea of Japan. Summers are hot due to the southeast seasonal wind.
Precipitation is very heavy in the south, and heavy in the summer in
the north. The climate of the Ogasawara
Island chain in the Pacific
Ocean ranges from a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate
classification Cfa) to tropical savanna climate (Köppen climate
classification Aw) with temperatures being warm to hot all year round.
Ryukyu Islands (南西諸島, Nansei-shotō): The climate of these
islands ranges from humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate
classification Cfa) in the north to tropical rainforest climate
Köppen climate classification
Köppen climate classification Af) in the south with warm winters and
hot summers. Precipitation is very high, and is especially affected by
the rainy season and typhoons.
Japan is generally a rainy country with high humidity. Because of its
wide range of latitude, seasonal winds and different types of ocean
Japan has a variety of climates, with a latitude range of
the inhabited islands from 24° to 46° north, which is comparable to
the range between
Nova Scotia and
The Bahamas in the east coast of
Tokyo is at about 35 degrees north latitude, comparable
to that of Tehran, Athens, or Las Vegas.
Regional climatic variations range from humid continental in the
northern island of
Hokkaido extending down through northern
the Central Highland, then blending with and eventually changing to a
humid subtropical climate on the Pacific Coast and ultimately reaching
tropical rainforest climate on the
Yaeyama Islands of the Ryukyu
Islands. Climate also varies dramatically with altitude and with
location on the
Pacific Ocean or on the Sea of Japan.
Japan has warm summers but long, cold winters with heavy
Japan in its elevated position, has hot summers and
moderate to short winters with some areas having very heavy snow, and
Japan has long hot summer and short mild winters. The
generally temperate climate exhibits marked seasonal variation such as
the blooming of the spring cherry blossoms, the calls of the summer
cicada and fall foliage colors that are celebrated in art and
The climate from June to September is marked by hot, wet weather
brought by tropical airflows from the
Pacific Ocean and Southeast
Asia. These airflows are full of moisture and deposit substantial
amounts of rain when they reach land. There is a marked rainy season,
beginning in early June and continuing for about a month. It is
followed by hot, sticky weather. Five or six typhoons pass over or
Japan every year from early August to early October, sometimes
resulting in significant damage. Annual precipitation averages between
1,000 and 2,500 mm (40 and 100 in) except for the areas such
Kii Peninsula and Yakushima
Island which is Japan's wettest
place with the annual precipitation being one of the world's
highest at 4,000 to 10,000 mm.
Maximum precipitation, like the rest of East Asia, occurs in the
summer months except on the Sea of
Japan coast where strong northerly
winds produce a maximum in late autumn and early winter. Except for a
few sheltered inland valleys during December and January,
Japan is above 25 millimetres (1 in) of rainfall
equivalent in all months of the year, and in the wettest coastal areas
it is above 100 millimetres (4 in) per month throughout the year.
In winter, the
Siberian High develops over the Eurasian land mass and
Aleutian Low develops over the northern Pacific Ocean. The result
is a flow of cold air southeastward across
Japan that brings freezing
temperatures and heavy snowfalls to the central mountain ranges facing
the Sea of Japan, but clear skies to areas fronting on the Pacific.
Mid June to mid July is generally the rainy season in Honshu, Shikoku
and Kyushu, excluding Hokkaidō since the seasonal rain front or baiu
zensen (梅雨前線) dissipates in northern
Honshu before reaching
Hokkaido. In Okinawa, the rainy season starts early in May and
continues until mid June. Unlike the rainy season in mainland Japan,
it rains neither everyday nor all day long during the rainy season in
Okinawa. Between July and October, typhoons, grown from tropical
depressions generated near the equator, can attack
Japan with furious
The warmest winter temperatures are found in the Nanpō and Bonin
Islands, which enjoy a tropical climate due to the combination of
latitude, distance from the Asian mainland, and warming effect of
winds from the Kuroshio, as well as the
Volcano Islands (at the
latitude of the southernmost of the Ryukyu Islands, 24° N). The
coolest summer temperatures are found on the northeastern coast of
Hokkaidō in Kushiro and Nemuro Subprefectures.
Sunshine, in accordance with Japan’s uniformly heavy rainfall, is
generally modest in quantity, though no part of
Japan receives the
consistently gloomy fogs that envelope the
Sichuan Basin or Taipei.
Amounts range from about six hours per day in the Inland Sea coast and
sheltered parts of the Pacific Coast and
Kantō Plain to four hours
per day on the Sea of
Japan coast of Hokkaidō. In December there is a
very pronounced sunshine gradient between the Sea of
Japan and Pacific
coasts, as the former side can receive less than 30 hours and the
Pacific side as much as 180 hours. In summer, however, sunshine hours
are lowest on exposed parts of the Pacific coast where fogs from the
Oyashio current create persistent cloud cover similar to that found on
Kuril Islands and Sakhalin.
As an island nation,
Japan has the 7th longest coastline in the
world. A few prefectures are landlocked: Gunma, Tochigi,
Saitama, Nagano, Yamanashi, Gifu, Shiga, and Nara. As
Mt. Fuji and the
Japanese Alps provide a rain shadow, Nagano and Yamanashi
Prefectures receive the least precipitation in Honshu, though it still
exceeds 900 millimetres (35 in) annually. A similar effect is
found in Hokkaido, where
Okhotsk Subprefecture receives as little as
750 millimetres (30 in) per year. All other prefectures have
coasts on the Pacific Ocean, Sea of Japan,
Seto Inland Sea
Seto Inland Sea or have a
body of salt water connected to them. Two prefectures—
Okinawa—are composed entirely of islands.
The hottest temperature ever measured in Japan, 41.0 °C
(105.8 °F), occurred in Shimanto, Kochi on August 12, 2013.
Main article: Environmental issues in Japan
Environment - current issues: In the 2006 environment annual
report, the Ministry of Environment reported that current major
issues are: global warming and preservation of the ozone layer,
conservation of the atmospheric environment, water and soil, waste
management and recycling, measures for chemical substances,
conservation of the natural environment and the participation in the
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty,
Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species,
Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes (Basel Convention), Law
of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection (Montreal
Protocol), Ship Pollution (MARPOL 73/78), Tropical Timber 83, Tropical
Timber 94, Wetlands (Ramsar Convention), Whaling
signed and ratified: Climate Change-
The aftermath of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.
Ten percent of the world's active volcanoes—forty in the early 1990s
(another 148 were dormant)—are found in Japan, which lies in a zone
of extreme crustal instability. As many as 1,500 earthquakes are
recorded yearly, and magnitudes of 4 to 7 are common. Minor tremors
occur almost daily in one part of the country or another, causing
slight shaking of buildings. Major earthquakes occur infrequently; the
most famous in the twentieth century was the great Kantō earthquake
of 1923, in which 130,000 people died. Undersea earthquakes also
expose the Japanese coastline to danger from tsunamis (津波).
On March 11, 2011
Japan was subject to a devastating magnitude 9.0
earthquake and a massive tsunami as a result. The March 11 quake was
the largest ever recorded in
Japan and is the world's fourth largest
earthquake to strike since 1900, according to the U.S. Geological
Service. It struck offshore about 371 kilometres (231 mi)
Tokyo and 130 kilometres (81 mi) east of the city of
Sendai, and created a massive tsunami that devastated Japan's
northeastern coastal areas. At least 100 aftershocks registering a 6.0
magnitude or higher have followed the main shock. At least 15,000
people died as a result.
Japan has become a world leader in research on causes and prediction
of earthquakes. The development of advanced technology has permitted
the construction of skyscrapers even in earthquake-prone areas.
Extensive civil defence efforts focus on training in protection
against earthquakes, in particular against accompanying fire, which
represents the greatest danger.
Another common hazard are several typhoons that reach
Japan from the
Pacific every year and heavy snowfall during winter in the snow
country regions, causing landslides, flooding, and avalanches.
Main article: Regions of Japan
Japan is informally divided into eight regions. Each contains several
prefectures, except the
Hokkaido region, which covers only Hokkaido
The region is not an official administrative unit, but has been
traditionally used as the regional division of
Japan in a number of
contexts: for example, maps and geography textbooks divide
the eight regions, weather reports usually give the weather by region,
and many businesses and institutions use their home region as part of
their name (Kinki Nippon Railway, Chūgoku Bank, Tohoku University,
Japan has eight High Courts, their jurisdictions do not
correspond to the eight regions.
Main article: Extreme points of Japan
This is a list of the extreme points of Japan, the points that are
farther north, south, east or west than any other location.
Hokkaido – 45°31'35″N, 141°55'09″E
Including land currently disputed with Russia: Cape Kamuiwakka
(カムイワッカ岬, Kamuiwakka-misaki)), Etorufu – 45°33'N,
Okinotorishima – 20°25'N, 136°04'E
Yonaguni – 24°27′N, 122°59′E
Minami-Tori-shima – 24°18′N, 153°58′E
Japan (main islands)
Northernmost point: Cape Sōya, Wakkanai,
Hokkaido – 45°31'N,
Cape Sata on Ōsumi Peninsula, Minamiōsumi,
Kagoshima – 30°59'N, 130°39'E
Westernmost point: Kōsakibana (神崎鼻), Sasebo (formerly Kosaza),
Nagasaki – 33°13'N, 129°33'E
Cape Nosappu (納沙布岬, Nosappu-misaki)),
Hokkaido – 43°22'N, 145°49′E
Hachirōgata – -4 m
Mount Fuji – 3,776 m
The Ogasawara islands.
The only part of
Japan with antipodes over land are the Ryukyu
Islands, though the islands off the western coast of Kyūshū are
The northernmost antipodal island in the Ryukyu
Nakanoshima, is opposite the Brazilian coast near Capão da Canoa. The
other islands south to the Straits of Okinawa correspond to southern
Brazil, with Gaja
Island being opposite the outskirts of Santo
Antônio da Patrulha,
Takarajima with Jua,
Amami Ōshima covering the
villages of Carasinho and Fazenda Pae João,
Ginoza, Okinawa with
Palmas, Paraná, the
Kerama Islands with Pato Branco, Tonaki Island
with São Lourenço do Oeste, and Kume
Island corresponding to Palma
Sola. The main
Daitō Islands correspond to near Guaratuba, with Oki
Island near Apiaí.
Sakishima Islands beyond the straits are antipodal to Paraguay,
from the Brazilian border almost to Asunción, with Ishigaki
overlapping San Isidro de Curuguaty, and the uninhabited Senkaku
Islands surrounding Villarrica.
Geology of Japan
List of islands of Japan
List of lakes of Japan
List of mountains and hills of
Japan by height
List of national parks of Japan
List of peninsulas of Japan
List of rivers of Japan
Japanese addressing system
^ a b c d e f g "Japan". CIA World Factbook. Retrieved 11 November
^ "Shinano River". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Retrieved 11 November 2017.
^ "Lake Biwa". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Retrieved 11 November 2017.
^ Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
^ "離島の現状について" (PDF). Ministry of Land,
Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. Retrieved 2015-10-11.
^ "Forest area". The World Bank Group. Retrieved 2015-10-11.
^ "島とは何か". Center for Research and Promotion of Japanese
Islands. Retrieved 2015-10-11.
^ a b "
Japan granted more continental shelf". Upi.com. Retrieved 29
Japan Climate Charts Index". Retrieved 2015-10-11.
^ "Yakushima World Heritage property". Ministry of the Environment.
^ "The length of the coast for the countries of the world". Retrieved
^ "Coastline Lengths / Countries of the World". world.bymap.org.
Prefecture sees highest temperature ever recorded in
41 Archived 2013-08-13 at the Wayback Machine. - Asahi Shimbun
^ Annual Report on the Environment in
Japan 2006, Ministry of the
All Geography of
Japan information taken from the "Japan". The World
Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. .
This article incorporates public domain material from the
Library of Congress Country Studies document "Japan".
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