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Biodiversity and Cultural Diversity in Japan 1

Biodiversity and Cultural Diversity in Japan


Sonia Contreras
Arizona State University
When it comes to biodiversity, Japan is on a league of their own. Japan has a wide range
of ecosystems and biodiversity, from astonishing mountain peaks, to beautiful seascapes, the
range of life species is vast. Japan is quite diverse, not just biologically, but culturally as well.
There are several layers to the culture in Japan, from traditional values, to more modern beliefs.
The balance between cultural and biological diversity, however, is not well-balanced. Some of
the changes occurring in Japan are not beneficial.
Japan is an archipelago consisting of over six-thousand islands (Rosenberg, 2016). There
are four main islands, Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku. Honshu is the largest of the
islands and is home to the capital of Tokyo (Rosenberg, 2016). Honshu is quite mountainous and
holds many volcanoes. Mount Fuji resides on this island. Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in
Japan (The Editors of Encyclopdia Britannica, 2013). It is considered sacred and is worshipped
by the people. Japanese people feel a sense of personal identification with the mountain. Every
year, thousands climb to a shrine that stands at the peak of Mount Fuji, many doing this as a
religious practice (The Editors of Encyclopdia Britannica, 2013).

Figure 1: Mount Fuji in Japan

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The area of Mount Fuji is surrounded with groundwater and streams. This makes
agriculture a successful part of Japanese life. With the abundance of water in Japan comes an
abundance in fishing. Japan is home to the largest wholesale fish and seafood market
(Youmeandbiodiversity, 2011). Along with fish, another food item that is well cultivated in Japan
is rice. Rice farming, along with other farming, is an important aspect of Japan. Almost half of
the land in Japan is covered by either plantations or farmlands. Another large portion is covered
by forests. Forests are home to much of Japans wildlife.

Figure 2: Map stating the levels of vegetation in Japan.


Japan is home to a vast variety of organic life. There are approximately seven-thousand
species of vascular plants in Japan, almost half of them being endemic to Japan (BCGI, 2016).
Cherry blossom trees are very much admired in Japan. They are considered symbolic of clouds
or the nature of life. The natural conditions, along with human efforts, support the diversity in the
plants. Animal life is also quite diverse. From brown bears to tropical snakes, the diversity of
animals in Japan is great (Youmeandbiodiversity, 2011). Out of the fifty species of amphibians

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alone, Japan is home for forty-four of those species. For a national bird, Japan is represented by
the green pheasant (Youmeandbiodiversity, 2011).
Japans biodiversity is suffering as well. In 2012, the Japanese river otter, along with the
Japanese black bear, was declared extinct (Editors at the Japan Times, 2013). Two mammals
important to the ecosystem were lost. Japan is currently following the Act for the Conservation
of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Editors at the Japan Times, 2013). Not enough
measures are being take, to protect the wildlife. It has been recommended that the government of
Japan change laws to maintain their biodiversity. The threat to wildlife in Japan is suspected to
come from the rise in rice paddy production. With increase in productivity comes an increase of
the use of chemicals which end up harming the environment (Editors at the Japan Times, 2013).
Japan is home to a plethora of wildlife. The diversity of plant and animal life is clear.
With increases in agricultural work, the biodiversity of Japan takes a toll. The survival of these
living organisms is dependent of human activity. The government holds the key to prevent other
extinctions like that of the black bear or river otter. If a culture of environmental awareness is
established by the government, the survival of the diverse life in Japan is safe.

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Works Cited
BCGI. (2016). The Rich and Diverse Flora of Japan. Retrieved November 23, 2016, from
https://www.bgci.org/japan/home_01/
Editors at the Japan Times. (2013). Protect Japans Biodiversity. Retrieved November 23, 2016,
from http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2012/09/18/editorials/protect-japansbiodiversity/#.WDVQatUrJhF
The Editors of Encyclopdia Britannica. (2013). Mount Fuji. Retrieved November 23, 2016,
from https://www.britannica.com/place/Mount-Fuji
Rosenberg, M. (2016). What Are the Four Main Islands of Japan? Retrieved November 23, 2016,
from http://geography.about.com/od/countryinformation/fl/Discover-the-Four-PrimaryIslands-of-Japan.htm
Youmeandbiodiversity, B. (2011). Biodiversity Hotspot: Japan. Retrieved November 23, 2016,
from https://biodilloversity.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/biodiversity-hotspot-japan/