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Japan's Geography and Terrain

Japan is an archipelago, or string of islands, on the eastern edge of Asia. It has an incredibly diverse terrain which varies between the four main islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu and the (roughly) 4,000 smaller islands!

The mountains are a key feature of Japan’s terrain with around 50% of the country being mountainous. Mount Fuji is the most well known mountain and is a popular tourist attraction as it is the highest peak in Japan and is conveniently located a short train ride from central Tokyo. However, despite being dormant since 1707, it is still considered an active volcano. The Japanese Alps which consists of 21 mountains also run down the center of the largest island, Honshu. This is also a popular tourist destination and is a site for pilgrimages as well as skiing.

Geographically, Japan can be considered hazardous as three tectonic plates meet nearby. The contact and friction created by the plates moving generates seismic waves resulting in earthquakes. Although earthquakes are fairly common (around 2000 a year according the the Japan Meteorological Agency) and vary in severity, there have been a few recent devastating events one of which was the Great Sendai Earthquake (also known as the Tohoku earthquake) of 2011 which initiated further natural disasters including aftershocks and a large tsunami. The tsunami was responsible for the devastating Fukushima nuclear accident.

The tectonic plates are also responsible for some incredible natural environments including Japan’s famous onsens or hot springs. Every region has hot springs so it’s unlikely that you’ll have to travel far to find one. Onsens are created by water below ground being heated geothermally, by magma below the earth’s crust. This creates naturally warm baths which have many dissolved minerals and flaunt various health benefits. Official onsens require at least one of the 19 chemical elements associated with hot springs and the water must have been heated to above 25°C when it comes out of the ground. Most traditional onsens are public baths so you would be required to wash using showers before entering the onsen itself. There are, however, many private baths available nowadays which can be enjoyed individually.

Japan is also home to many beautiful beaches. Okinawa is one of the most famous regions for beaches and boasts warm water year round with the temperature rarely falling below 15°C even in winter. White sand beaches with turquoise waters are popular for snorkelling, swimming and sunbathing and shingle beaches are often popular for their fantastic views and wildlife.


Alex Rock in Japan


Inside Japan Tours



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