Japan - Geography

Japan - Geography

Japan is a small island country in Pacific Ocean. It was formed due to a chain of many volcanic eruptions due to which it broke off from Asia's mainland and forming Japan as we know it today. Even today there are more than 100 active volcanoes in Japan. 

Japan has a long coastline of almost 29,751 kms, which is longer than China's coastline. They mainly use it for fishing, which is the major food source for the Japanese and also to carry out their export oriented trade.

An amazing fact about Japan is that no place in the country is more than 150 kms from the coast.

Borders :-

Some neighboring countries to Japan are 
  1. Russia lies to Northwest of Japan and is its nearest neighbor. Sea of Okhotsk lies between Japan and Russia.
  2. The Korean Peninsula lies to its west and is separated by Sea of Japan.
  3. China lies to southwest of Japan and is separated from Japan by East China Sea.

Physical Geography :-

The topography of Japan mainly consists of mountains (both volcanic and snowy), the islands and extensive forests covers.

The Islands :-

Japan is made up of more than 6,800 islands out of which only 430 are inhabited. The 4 largest islands Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku form the major portion of Japan and are also called as the Home Islands. 

Major Islands of Japan



  • Honshu is the largest of these 4 islands. It is also the seventh largest island in the world. The topography of this island is mainly mountains, some of which are even volcanic.The highest of these mountains is Mt Fuji (3,776 m). Tokyo, the capital of Japan is located n this island.
  • Hokkaido island is located to the north of Honshu island and both these islands are separated by Tsugaru Strait. The topography of Hokkaido mainly consist of mountainous volcanic plateaus at its center surrounded by coastal plains.
  • Kyushu is located to the south of Honshu island and is the main agricultural hub of Japan. The agricultural products include rice, tea, tobacco, sweet potatoes and soy. Japan's most active volcano Mt Aso is located here. Kyushu is also famous for its hot springs.
  • Shikoku is the smallest of Japan's main islands. It is located to the east of Kyushu and south of Honshu. Its varied topography consist of mountainous regions in the south and lowland plains on the Pacific coasts. Due to its sub tropical climate, it is also used for agriculture and fruit cultivation. 

The Mountains

Mountains are the major part of Japan's topography. Almost 70% of Japan's land is covered with mountains. Japan is the only country other than Norway to have more than 60% of its area covered with mountains. These mountain ranges run from north to south and divide Japan in two parts, i.e. The East part which faces the Pacific Ocean and the West Part which faces the Asian mainland. 
The mountain ranges vary from snow clad mountains to volcanic mountains.



The Japanese Alps are located on the island of Honshu and bisects it. The Japanese Alps encompasses the Hida Mountains, the Kiso Mountains and the Akaishi Mountains. The highest peak in Japan, Mt Fuji is located in these ranges. The Japanese Alps are categorized as Northern Alps, Central Alps and Southern Alps. Mount Ontake is a well known active volcano located in the region. It erupted recently in 2014.

The Japanese Alps are known for their picturesque sceneries and skiing resorts.

Forests :-

Japan is one of the most extensively forested countries. Almost two third country's area is under forest. Japan is the only country after Sweden and Finland, which has the highest forest cover. This is remarkable considering Japan is one of the most densely populated country. The extensive mountain ranges help preserve the forest covers. Unlike other tropical rain forests, the Japanese forests grow back quickly after they are cut down.

There are three major categories of natural forests in Japan :-
  1. The coniferous forests of spruce and fir in alpine zones and eastern and northern Hokkaido.
  2. Cool temperature deciduous forests of oak in central Honshu and southern Hokkaido.
  3. Broad leaf evergreen forests with laurel and chiquapin in western Honshu. Shikoku and Kyushu.
About 41% of forests in Japan are artificially planted. Cedar makes up the major portion of these forests.

Rivers :-

The rivers in Japan are famous for their rapid flow, short and steep gradient. Due to Japan's mountainous terrain, waterfalls are a part of almost every river. These rivers are not known world wide but they have special importance in the country. They are used extensively for producing hydro electricity.

Shinano is the longest river in the country and is located on the Honshu island. It originates at Mount Kobushi in Japanese Alps, flows towards north and empties in Sea of Japan. It is 367 km long. It is also important for inland waterway.

The other major rivers are Tone and Ishikari. Ishikari river is known for its stunning views of cherry trees and beautiful mountains. It is also one of the best picnic spots in the country.


Major Regions in Japan 

Japan is divided into 9 major regions. These are not official administrative units, but were used traditionally for regional division of Japan. 




Prefectures :-

For administrative purposes, Japan is divided into 47 prefectures. These prefectures form the first level of judicial and administrative division of Japan. The prefectures were created during the early Meiji Period to replace the old feudal domains, which were ruled by feudal lords in 1868.

It consists of 43 proper prefectures, 2 urban prefectures, 1 circuit or territory and 1 metropolis.
Below is the list of prefectures as per their region.

1. Hokkaido :-
    It consists of only one prefecture which is Hokkaido itself.

2. Tohoku :-
    There are 6 prefectures in this region, they are
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
3. Kanto has 7 prefectures as below

  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
  • Ibaraki
  • Saitama
  • Tokyo
  • Chiba
  • Kanagawa
4. Chubu :-
    This region has 9 prefectures
  • Niigata
  • Ishiawa
  • Toyama
  • Nagano
  • Fukui
  • Gifu
  • Yamanashi
  • Aichi
  • Shizouka
5. Kansai :-
    The 7 prefectures in this region are
  • Hyogo
  • Kyoto
  • Shiga
  • Osaka
  • Nara
  • Mie
  • Wakayama
6. Chugoku :-
    It consists of following 5 prefectures
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
7. Shikoku :-
    4 prefectures here include
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Tokushima
  • Kochi
8. Kyushu and Okinawa :-
    The 8 prefectures in this region are
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Kumamoto
  • Oita
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
  • Okinawa                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
References :-

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