Your comprehensive travel guide to Japan - All in one place!
Japan is an archipelago, or string of islands, on the eastern edge of Asia. There are four main islands – Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. There are also nearly 4,000 smaller islands, too! Japan’s nearest mainland neighbors are the Siberian region of Russia in the north, and Korea and China in the farther south.
Almost four-fifths of Japan is covered with mountains. The Japanese Alps run down the centre of the largest island, Honshu. The highest peak and Japan’s most famous mountain is Mount Fuji, a cone-shaped volcano considered sacred by many Japanese.
Japan can be a dangerous place. Three of the tectonic plates that form the Earth’s crust meet nearby and often move against each other, causing earthquakes. More than a thousand earthquakes hit Japan every year. Japan also has about 200 volcanoes, 60 of which are still active.
The Japanese archipelago consists of four major islands and over six-thousand minor ones, covering approximately 234,890 square miles (378,000 square kilometers), and has enormous climatic variation. The four major islands are Hokkaidō, Honshū, Shikoku, and Kyūshū. The southern island group of Okinawa (the Ryūkyū Islands) is geographically, historically, and culturally distinct.
Japan faces the Pacific Ocean along the entire eastern and southern coastline. To the north and west are the Sea of Okhotsk, the Sea of Japan, and the East China Sea. The Korean peninsula is the closest point on the Asian mainland. Japanese life has always been oriented toward the ocean. The currents that converge offshore create fertile and varied fishing grounds.
The climate is shaped by Asian-Pacific monsoon cycles, which bring heavy rains from the Pacific during the summer and fall, followed by icy winds from North Asia during the winter that dump snow in the mountains.
There are approximately 1,500 volcanoes, and because the islands lie on major fault lines, earthquakes are common occurrences. Only about 15 percent of the land is level enough for agriculture, and so the population density in coastal plains and valleys is extremely high. Because of the steep mountains, there are almost no navigable inland waterways.
Japan has a fascinating and multifaceted culture; on the one hand it is steeped in the deepest of traditions dating back thousands of years; on the other, it is a society in a continual state of rapid flux, with continually shifting fads and fashions and technological development that constantly pushes back the boundaries of the possible. This is part of what makes it such a fascinating country to visit. If you are looking for something different you are sure to find it here!
The population in 1999 was 127,000,000. The country is heavily urbanized, and urban areas have extremely high population densities. According to the 1995 census, 81 million people (65 percent) live in urban areas; that constitutes only 3 percent of the land area.
During the last 150 years of industrialization and economic development, the population has grown from around thirty million to its present size. This increase occurred as a result of a rapid demographic transition characterized by an enormous movement of people from rural to urban areas, increases in longevity, widespread reliance on birth control, and transformations of family composition from large, multigenerational extended households to small nuclear families.
Life expectancy is the highest in the world, and the birthrate has been declining dramatically. Because of these trends, the population is projected to peak early in the twenty-first century and then shrink.