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Unit 2 Lesson 6: The Geography of Japan

Land
Japan consists of a 1500 mile archipelago, or chain of islands. It is made up of four large islands and about
4000 smaller islands. Most of Japans people live on the four main islands. Japan has solved the problem
of connecting the islands together by creating a system of tunnels and bridges for roads and railways.
About four-fifths of Japan is either hilly or mountainous. Several hundred peaks rise more than 6,500 feet
above sea level. The mountain areas are popular sites for recreation such as hiking but offer many
challenges. Terrace farming, which allows for farming in hilly areas, is often used to overcome one of these
challenges. The mountain areas of Japan also include volcanoes. Japan has about 190 volcanoes, of
which about 50 are active.
Plains and relatively flat areas account for about a fifth of Japan's total area and occur mainly along the
coast. Except for the Kanto Plain, on which Tokyo is situated, all are comparatively small. They are,
however, of great importance as centers of farming, manufacturing, and population.
Japan lies in the earthquake-prone belt called the Ring of Fire, which fringes most of the Pacific basin.
Earthquakes are frequent; most, however, are only minor tremors that do little or no damage. The last major
earthquake was in 2011.

Water
The rivers of Japan are generally short and swift. The longest is the Shinano, some 230 miles (370 km) in
length. Many of the rivers are used for hydroelectric power and to irrigate lowland rice fields. Floods,
especially those caused by torrential typhoon rains, sometimes cause widespread damage and many
deaths.
Virtually all the lakes of Japan are small. The largest is Biwa Lake, covering some 265 square miles (686
km 2) on Honshu (This is much smaller than Lake St. Clair, which is 430 square miles). Lakes are popular
for marine sports like fishing, boating and wind surfing. Hot springs, associated with underground volcanic
activity, are numerous. Many resorts have been built near these natural hot springs which are believed to
have health benefits.
The ocean is an important resource for Japan. It provides fish for food and export, as well as a way to
connect Japan to the rest of the world. The ocean offers challenges, however. Japan experiences about 10
typhoons each year, which are tropical cyclones that begin over the ocean. These can cause flooding, high
winds and other problems.

Vegetation
Forests cover nearly 70 percent of Japan so forestry is an important industry. In general, coniferous forests
predominate in the higher mountainous areas and in the far north. Fir, spruce, pine, and cedar are among
the chief types of trees. Elsewhere in northern Japan and throughout the central part of the country broadleaved deciduous trees, such as oak, maple, poplar, beech, ash, and elm, prevail. In many areas conifers
are mixed among the stands. Most prevalent in the south are subtropical species, mainly broad-leaved
evergreens such as camphor and laurel.
Adapted from: The Geography of Japan. 8 August 2012 <http://geography.howstuffworks.com/asia/geography-of-japan1.htm>.