Nature of Japan
Brief Overview of Japanese Nature
Nearly 7000 Islands Compose Japanese Archipelago
Japan is an island nation in East Asia comprising a stratovolcanic archipelago extending along the Pacific coast of Asia.
The major islands, sometimes called the "Home Islands", are (from north to south) Hokkaido, Honshu (the "mainland"), Shikoku and Kyushu.
The Ryukyu Islands, which includes Okinawa, are a chain to the south of Kyushu.
There are also total of 6,825 islands in Japan. Together they are often known as the Japanese Archipelago.
The archipelago covers about 377,000 square kilometers, and no point in Japan is more than 150 kilometers from the sea.
Most Volcanic Nation with Many Hot Springs
Japan's highest mountain is Mount Fuji, with an elevation of 3,776 m. Since so very little flat area exists, many hills and mountainsides are cultivated all the way to the top.
Japan has 108 active volcanoes. 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.
Meanwhile, hot springs are numerous in the country, because of its volcanic activity. Therefore, Japan is well known as the world most developed hot spring country.
One of the Most Forested Countries in the World
About 68 percent of Japan is forested. Japan is known for the 3rd most forested developed country after Sweden and Finland.
Also, about 73 percent of the land is Mountainous, and unsuitable for agricultural, industrial, or residential use. As a result, the habitable zones, mainly located in coastal areas, have extremely high population densities. Japan is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.
1. Beautiful Four Seasons of Japan (7:48)
2. Seasonal Scenery in Japan (2:43)
Seasons of Japan
Season is an Essence of Japanese Nature
The Japanese are infatuated about the weather and the seasons. In the Japanese food, presenting seasonality of “Shun” is one of the most important lessons, and in the Japanese poetry, putting the seasonal reference is the essence. Also, it is customary to begin letters and emails with a rhetorical statement about climatic changes. As a long and narrow archipelago, Japan does indeed offer interesting changes between seasons, with a variety of climates and offerings throughout the year.
Spring in Japan
Nothing says Japan like the image of a “Sakura” cherry blossom in bloom. The delicate pink flowers have become an internationally recognized symbol of the Japanese aesthetic and of the country’s affinity for admiring nature. As the winter chill makes way for a cleansing breeze, the anticipation of warmer weather begins with predictions of when the sakura are to bloom. Known as the sakura zen sen, or the sakura blossom front, the coming of the cherry blossoms begins in the southern Kyushu islands in February and runs north through Aomori and Hokkaido into as late as May. The fresh air and eagerness to get outside make spring and the Japanese ritual of flower watching, referred to as “Hanami”, the perfect excuse to gather under the cherry blossoms and admire their beauty. A tradition dating as far back as the Heian period (794 – 1185), Hanami today sees thousands of locals and visitors gather in parks, gardens and even cemeteries across the country to share food and drink and feel a bit closer to nature. A wonderful and unique Japanese experience that should not be missed.
Summer in Japan
The high humidity in summer is often a good excuse to head for the coolness of the many mountains throughout Japan. More than a respite from the summer heat, most cities at higher elevations offer rustic accommodations and a variety of local attractions to complement the surrounding nature. Beaches, lakes and rivers are other popular destinations during the summer season, with activities ranging from river rafting and surfing, to sunbathing and BBQ.
But even with the heat and humidity, summer in Japan can be a very cool time. Two not-to-miss summer experiences are a “Matsuri”, Japanese festival, and a Hanabi taikai, Japanese fireworks display. With many cities offering their own Matsuri, some of them have more than thousand year history, there is always a chance to see and take part in something completely different. Music, dancing, games and many stands selling a wide variety of seasonal fare, a summer Matsuri is a great time to enjoy a living Japanese tradition. Likewise, fireworks displays are another Japanese tradition dating back over hundreds of years. One of the most famous originated as a competition between rival fireworks makers, these events attract thousands of people to watch the summer skies light up accompanied by oohs and awes.
Autumn in Japan
In Japan, fall is considered by many to be the most comfortable season. While cities are alive with shopping, cafes, open-air restaurants and nightlife is in full swing, the cooler weather also encourages excursions to temples or Ryokans (traditional inns), which are numerous throughout the countryside. Whether a short train rides from the city or an overnight stopover, the range of colors in the fall foliage is a memorable experience. Typified by the rich hues of the Japanese maple, known as “Momiji" and which translate literally as red leaves, the fall vistas in Japan are not to be missed.
Another reason for the popularity of fall is the food. While fresh ingredients are the staple of Japanese cuisine, fall is arguably the time of year that features the best ingredients. From seafood to produce, fall offers a wide variety of in-season options that make their way to the table in restaurants and “Izakaya” across the country. Even if only for the food, fall in Japan will bring you back for seconds.
Winter in Japan
Winter in Japan can range from the sublime beauty of a snow covered mountain side to an intimate setting around a hot pot of Japanese stew known as nabe, literally meaning simply pot but offering a taste of Japanese hospitality few other dishes can rival. Whatever your pleasure, each offers some of the best experiences available in Japan at any time of year.
Ever since the immensely successful Sapporo Winter Olympic in 1972 and Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998, Japan has become a leading destination for winter sports. Whether an expert snowboarder ready to take on the fresh powder of Hokkaido or a recreational skier looking for a relaxing adventure at one of Japan’ s hundreds of ski resorts, winter in Japan has something to offer at every level. Even if you have never tried winter sports, rentals and lessons are always available, or for even more excitement, try your hand at snowmobiling on a specially laid out course.
Biodiversity of Japan
Japan has nine forest eco-regions which reflect the climate and geography of the islands. They range from subtropical moist broadleaf forests in the Ryukyu and Bonin Islands, to temperate broadleaf and mixed forests in the mild climate regions of the main islands, to temperate coniferous forests in the cold, winter portions of the northern islands. Japan has over 90,000 species of wildlife, including the brown bear, the Japanese macaque, the Japanese raccoon dog, and the Japanese giant salamander. A large network of national parks has been established to protect important areas of flora and fauna as well as thirty-seven Ramsar wetland sites. Four sites have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for their outstanding natural value.