Terrain shapes and bedrock
to COUNTRYAAH, Japan forms part of the mountain range along the northern
and western coasts of the Pacific. The origin and physical
character of the Japanese islands is a consequence of their
boundary position between the Pacific plate and the Eurasian
plate, of which the former moves west and the latter east.
For Japan, this tectonic structure appears in the form of
the 9,810 m deep Japanese tomb and a large number of islands
inside. The islands are volcanic with about 60 volcanoes
that have erupted in historical times, hot springs and
geysers, and about 20 solar fathoms. Solidified lava covers
one fifth of the island's surface. The seismic activity is
high with about 1,500 earthquakes per year, some very
powerful with epicenter at great depth and often accompanied
by earthquake waves, the so-called tsunami, with devastating
effects along the coasts.
The dominant landform in Japan is mountains, which are
broken by a large number of faults. Furthermore, there are
smaller plains and plateaus, whereby a landscape known as
honeycomb topography has emerged. From a
morphological point of view, Japan is divided into a number
of landform regions that are closely related to the mountain
range arcs formed by flat movements. The Hokkaido region
in the north includes most of Hokkaido and also (outside
Japan) parts of both the Kuriler Arch and Kamchatka Arch.
The largest mountain ranges, the Kitami Mountain and the
Hidakak Chain, go in a north-south direction and reach over
2,000 m above sea level.
The northeast region extends from Hokkaido's
narrow southern peninsula to the center of Honshu and has
several rows of mountain, lowland and volcanic areas. The
bedrock is on the Pacific side of rocks formed during the
Paleozoic, while younger tertiary rocks predominate in the
The central part of Honshu is the most
mountainous region with, among other things. Japan's highest
peak, the volcano Fuji, 3,776 meters above sea level. Fossa
Magna, a striking rift zone that gives rise to the largest
plain in Japan, continues south in the volcanic arch of the
Bonin Islands. Several mountains in this part form the
Japanese Alps, such as the Akaishi, Kiso and Hida mountains.
The southwestern region includes southern
Honshu, Shikoku and most of Kyushu, and has mountains and
lowlands in arc lines convex to the Japanese sea. An inner
zone consists mainly of granite and lava and is
characterized by faults, while an outer zone is made up of
The Ryukyu region encompasses the southern part
of Kyushu with the large volcanoes of Asosan and Sakurajima,
as well as the arcuate-stretched Ryukyu Islands, which reach
almost to Taiwan and have 16 volcanoes.
Japan's rivers have short and violent races; the largest
are Tone, Shinano, Kitakami and Kiso at Honshu and Ishikari
at Hokkaido. The largest lake is Biwa, which lies in a
tectonic sink, but volcanic lakes, beach lakes and dammed
lakes also exist.
The soil varies and from north to south are mainly pod
oil soils, brown forest soils and red soils of laterite
type. Locally, black soil occurs on terraces and hills, peat
soils in poorly drained areas and volcanic ash soils in the
Japan has a temperate monsoon climate, whose general
characteristics are determined partly by the country's
north-south extent and partly by its boundary position
between the large land mass in the west and the ocean in the
east. During the winter, the western sides of the islands
are mainly hit by the cold monsoon of the winter monsoon
from the continent. The summer monsoon, on the other hand,
provides warm and humid air from the east and south from
mid-April to September. Tropical hurricanes, typhoons, can
occur during late summer. The warm Kuroshio stream from the
south goes just east of Japan, while the branch Tsushima
stream goes west to the islands, providing ice-free ports.
The cold Oyashio stream from the north is squeezed closest
to the eastern coasts of the northern islands, with plenty
of haze and fog. The winter climate in northern Japan is
windy and cold, while summer in the south is almost
tropical. The average temperature of Hokkaido is −9 ～ C in
January and 21 ～ C in August. On the east side of Honshus,
near Tokyo, it is 4 and 27 ～ C respectively and on Kyushu 7
and 27 ～ C respectively. The rainfall is plentiful, usually
over 1,000 mm per year, some places get up to 4,000 mm. Most
rain falls in the spring and summer. Snow cover is available
at Hokkaido as well as at northern and western Honshu.
The vascular plant flora is very rich in relation to the
country's surface, more than 4,000 native or
well-naturalized species. The contrasts between north and
south are great. Hokkaido and northern Honshu in the north
have lowland deciduous forests of Europe well-known genus
such as birch, beech, oak and poplar, but other and more
species. Up to 1,500 meters above sea level at Hokkaido and
to 2,500 meters above sea level. At Honshu, boreal
coniferous forest dominates with pine trees, ajangran (Piʹcea
jezoëʹnsis), larch trees and hemlock. Above this,
strands of bush-dwarf numbers, camellia birch (Beʹtula
ermaʹnii), and Elle Aʹlnus maximowiʹczii take.
Fjällhed is only found on the highest mountains and is
largely formed by circumpolar genera and species such as
bell-heather, patchwork, lingonberry and odon.
Southern Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, especially coastal
areas, belong to the warm-temperate region, and natural
vegetation is a forest of mainly evergreen deciduous trees
(oaks, camphor, camellias and Trochodeʹndron), with
elements of certain conifers, such as cryptomeria (rare as
wild, but widely used for forest planting). This forest,
called Laurisylva, resembles the genus and species set most
of those now found in China's mountainous regions and on the
southern slopes of the Himalayas, but during tertiary also
existed in Europe. It is now largely cleared for
cultivation. As undergrowth and colonizers after grubbing,
there are several large bamboo species. In this region there
is an element of subtropical and tropical species, such as
the palm tree, Japanese cycas and several species of tree
worms. In the Ryukyu Islands, the tropical flora on the
coast is more prominent, with e.g. screw palm trees and
furthest south through mangrove.
Wildlife is greatly reduced as a result of millennia of
biotope destruction. As a traveler, you therefore see few
animals. An exception is Japanese macaque, the world's
northernmost monkey, which in many places has become
accustomed to feeding people. Of the larger mammals in
general there are, among other things, Sika deer, Japanese
serov (Capricoʹrnis criʹspus), wild boar, brown
bear, collar bear, mongoose dog and six species of molluscs,
i.a. Sable and Japanese Mard (Maʹrtes melaʹmpus).
Japanese hare (Leʹpus brachyuʹrus) and riukiukanin
are endemic in Japan.
About 530 species of birds have been observed, of which a
significant proportion are migratory birds from the Asian
mainland. Among the more well-known are Japanese tuffibis (Nippoʹnia
niʹppon), for which the remaining world population (in
Japan and China) amounts to about twenty birds (1990).
Of reptiles, there are some species of lacertids, hams,
gecko lizards, snakes and the type of copper worm and two
species of freshwater turtles. Of tentless amphibians, there
are about ten species of real toads, genuine frogs,
deciduous frogs and eastern tree frogs. The tail germs are
well represented, including angular salamanders and the more
than 1.5 m long species of Japanese giant salamanders, which
live in mountain streams.
The freshwater fish fauna comprises about forty species
of carp fish and three species of moths.
About 14% of the land area enjoys protection, distributed
among other things. 29 national parks and several thousand
nature reserves, most of which are very small. However, most
of the protected areas comprise recreational areas rather
than nature-protected areas in the Western sense.