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Join date : 2010-08-15
Age : 27

PostSubject: Geography   Sun Jul 07, 2013 5:39 pm

Japan is an island nation in East Asia comprising a stratovolcanic archipelago extending along the Pacific coast of Asia. Measured from the geographic coordinate system, Japan stretches from 24° to 46° north latitude and from 123° to 146° east longitude. The country is southeast of the Russian Far East, separated by the Sea of Okhotsk; slightly east of Korea, separated by the Sea of Japan; and east-northeast of China and Taiwan, separated by the East China Sea. The closest neighboring country to Japan is the Russian Federation.

The major islands, sometimes called the "Home Islands", are (from north to south) Hokkaido, Honshu (the "mainland"), Shikoku and Kyushu. There are also 2,456 islands, including Okinawa, and islets, some inhabited and others uninhabited. In total, as of 2006, Japan's territory is 377,923.1 km2 (145,916.9 sq mi), of which 374,834 km2 (144,724 sq mi) is land and 3,091 km2 (1,193 sq mi) water.

Composition and topography:

About 72% of Japan is mountainous, with a mountain range running through each of the main islands. Japan's highest mountain is Mt. Fuji, with an elevation of 3,776 m (12,388 ft). Since so very little flat area exists, many hills and mountainsides are cultivated all the way to the top. 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. Hot springs are numerous and have been exploited as an economic capital by the leisure industry.

The mountainous islands of the Japanese Archipelago form a crescent off the eastern coast of Asia. They are separated from the mainland by the Sea of Japan, which historically served as a protective barrier. The country consists of four principal islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu; more than 3,000 adjacent islands and islets, including Izu Ooshima in the Nanpo Islands; and more than 200 other smaller islands, including those of the Amami, Okinawa, and Sakishima chains of the Ryukyu Islands. The national territory also includes the small Bonin or Ogasawara Islands, which include Iwo Jima and the Volcano Islands (Kazan Retto), stretching some 1,100 kilometers from the main islands. A territorial dispute with Russia, dating from the end of World War II, over the two southernmost of the Kuril Islands, Etorofu and Kunashiri, and the smaller Shikotan and Habomai Islands northeast of Hokkaido remains a sensitive spot in Japanese-Russian relations as of 2005. Excluding disputed territory, the archipelago covers about 377,000 square kilometers. No point in Japan is more than 150 kilometers from the sea.

The four major islands are separated by narrow straits and form a natural entity. The Ryukyu Islands curve 970 kilometers southward from Kyushu.

The distance between Japan and the Korean Peninsula, the nearest point on the Asian continent, is about 200 kilometers at the Korea Strait. Japan has always been linked with the continent through trade routes, stretching in the north toward Siberia, in the west through the Tsushima Islands to the Korean Peninsula, and in the south to the ports on the south China coast.

The Japanese islands are the summits of mountain ridges uplifted near the outer edge of the continental shelf. About 73 percent of Japan's area is mountainous, and scattered plains and intermontane basins (in which the population is concentrated) cover only about 25 percent. A long chain of mountains runs down the middle of the archipelago, dividing it into two halves, the "face", fronting on the Pacific Ocean, and the "back", toward the Sea of Japan. On the Pacific side are steep mountains 1,500 to 3,000 meters high, with deep valleys and gorges. Central Japan is marked by the convergence of the three mountain chains—the Hida, Kiso, and Akaishi mountains— that form the Japanese Alps (Nihon Arupusu), several of whose peaks are higher than 3,000 meters. The highest point in the Japanese Alps is Mount Kita at 3,193 meters. The highest point in the country is Mount Fuji (Fujisan, also erroneously called Fujiyama), a volcano dormant since 1707 that rises to 3,776 meters above sea level in Shizuoka Prefecture. On the Sea of Japan side are plateaus and low mountain districts, with altitudes of 500 to 1,500 meters.

None of the populated plains or mountain basins are extensive in area. The largest, the Kanto Plain, where Tokyo is situated, covers only 13,000 square kilometers. Other important plains are the Noobi Plain surrounding Nagoya, the Kinai Plain in the Osaka-Kyoto area, the Sendai Plain around the city of Sendai in northeastern Honshu, and the Ishikari Plain on Hokkaido. Many of these plains are along the coast, and their areas have been increased by reclamation throughout recorded history.

The small amount of habitable land has prompted significant human modification of the terrain over many centuries. Land was reclaimed from the sea and from river deltas by building dikes and drainage, and rice paddies were built on terraces carved into mountainsides. The process continued in the modern period with extension of shorelines and building of artificial islands for industrial and port development, such as Port Island in Kobe and Kansai International Airport in Osaka Bay. Hills and even mountains have been razed to provide flat areas for housing.

Rivers are generally steep and swift, and few are suitable for navigation except in their lower reaches. Most rivers are fewer than 300 kilometers in length, but their rapid flow from the mountains provides a valuable, renewable resource: hydroelectric power generation. Japan's hydroelectric power potential has been exploited almost to capacity. Seasonal variations in flow have led to extensive development of flood control measures. Most of the rivers are very short. The longest, the Shinano River, which winds through Nagano Prefecture to Niigata Prefecture and flows into the Sea of Japan, is only 367 kilometers long. The largest freshwater lake is Lake Biwa, northeast of Kyoto.

Extensive coastal shipping, especially around the Seto Inland Sea (Seto Naikai), compensates for the lack of navigable rivers. The Pacific coastline south of Tokyo is characterized by long, narrow, gradually shallowing inlets produced by sedimentation, which has created many natural harbors. The Pacific coastline north of Tokyo, the coast of Hokkaido, and the Sea of Japan coast are generally unindented, with few natural harbors.

In November 2008 Japan filed a request to expand its claimed continental shelf. In April, 2012 the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf recognized around 310,000 km2 of seabed around Okinotorishima, giving Japan priority over access to seabed resources in nearby areas. According to U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, the approved expansion is equal to about 82% of Japan's total land area. The People's Republic of China and South Korea have opposed Japan's claim because they view they view Okinotorishima not as an island, but a group of rocks.
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