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Geography of Japan

Japan, a country of islands, extends along the eastern or Pacific coast of Asia. The main islands, running from north to south, are Hokkaido, Honshu (or the mainland), Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa, which is about 380 miles southwest of Kyushu. About 3,000 smaller islands are included in the archipelago. In total land area, Japan is slightly smaller than California.

About 73% of the country is mountainous, with a mountain chain running through each of the main islands. Japan's highest mountain is world-famous Mt. Fuji (12,385 ft.). Since so little flat area exists, many hills and mountainsides are cultivated all the way to the top. 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 developed as resorts.

Japanese Archipelago extends from north to south along the eastern coast of Eurasia Continent or the farthermost west of Pacific Ocean. Japan belongs to the temperate zone with distinct four seasons, but varies from cool temperate in north to subtropical in south. The climate is also affected by the seasonal winds blown from the continent to the ocean in winters and vise versa in summers. Late June and early July are a rainy season except Hokkaido as a seasonal rain front or baiu zensen (梅雨前線) stays above Japan. In summers and early autumns typhoons, grown from tropical depressions generated near the equator, attack Japan with a furious rainstorm. Its varied geographical features divide Japan into six principal climatic zones. · Hokkaido (北海道): Belonging to the cool temperate zone, Hokkaido has long, cold winters and cool summers. Precipitation is not large.

· Nihonkai (日本海)or Sea of Japan: The northwest seasonal wind in winters give heavy snowfalls. In summers it is less hot than in the Pacific area but sometimes experiences extreme hot temperature due to the Foehn wind phenomenon.

· Chuo-kochi (中央高地) or Central highland: A typical inland climate gives large temperature differences between summers and winters and between days and nights. Precipitation is not large throughout a year.

· Setonaikai (瀬戸内海) or Inland Sea: The mountains in Chugoku and Shikoku regions block the seasonal winds and bring mild climate and many fine days throughout a year.

· Taiheiyo (太平洋) or Pacific Ocean: It experiences cold winters with little snowfall and hot, humid summers due to the southeast seasonal wind.

· Nansei-shoto (南西諸島) or Southwest Islands: It has a subtropical climate with warm winters and hot summers. Precipitation is very large especially affected by the rainy season and typhoons

Location: Eastern Asia, island chain between the North Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan, east of the Korean Peninsula.

Geographic coordinates: 36 00 N, 138 00 E

Map references: Asia

total: 377,835 kmē
land: 374,744 kmē
water: 3,091 kmē
note: includes Bonin Islands (Ogasawara-gunto), Daito-shoto, Minami-jima, Okino-tori-shima, Ryukyu Islands (Nansei-shoto), and Volcano Islands (Kazan-retto)

Area - comparative: slightly smaller than California

Land boundaries: 0 km

Coastline: 29,751 km

Maritime claims:
exclusive economic zone: 200 nautical miles
territorial sea: 12 nautical miles; between 3 nautical miles and 12 nautical miles in the international straits - La Perouse or Soya Strait, Tsugaru, Osumi, and Eastern and Western Channels of the Korea or Tsushima Strait

Climate: varies from tropical in south to cool temperate in north

Terrain: mostly rugged and mountainous

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Hachiro-gata -4 m
highest point: Fujiyama 3,776 m

Natural resources: negligible mineral resources, fish

Land use:
arable land: 11%
permanent crops: 1%
permanent pastures: 2%
forests and woodland: 67%
other: 19% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 27,820 kmē (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: many dormant and some active volcanoes; about 1,500 seismic occurrences (mostly tremors) every year; tsunamis

Environment - current issues: air pollution from power plant emissions results in acid rain; acidification of lakes and reservoirs degrading water quality and threatening aquatic life; Japan is one of the largest consumers of fish and tropical timber, contributing to the depletion of these resources in Asia and elsewhere

Environment - international agreements:
party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol

Geography - note: strategic location in northeast Asia

See also : Japan, Japanese addressing system