Due to its isolated nature as a network of islands, Japan has developed a unique culture. Physically, the country is made up of four major islands (Kyushu, Honshu, Hokkaido, Shikoku) and several thousand small islands.
Due to its length, Japan extends from a tropical climate in the south to a temperate climate in the north. During winter, snow is common in the northern islands, while in the south, it is a mild 15-17 degrees Celsius. During the summer, the north is warm similar to central Europe, and in the south it is hot and humid with typhoons and a rainy season similar to the monsoon. its isolated nature as a network of islands, Japan has developed a unique culture. Physically, the country is made up of four major islands (Kyushu, Honshu, Hokkaido, Shikoku) and several thousand small islands.
The majority of the country is mountainous like Scandinavia, with large areas of forest. The highest peak is Mount Fuji at 3,776 m. Naturally, Japan has a thriving skiing industry. Many of the mountains are volcanic (mostly dormant) because Japan is located in an area where several tectonic plates converge. This provides many hot springs.
Japan is divided into 8 regions and 47 prefectures, each with its own local government offices. At the national level, the government consists of a constitutional monarchy, including an Emperor as the head of state and an elected government from a selection of political parties. The elected party or coalition chooses the prime minister. The political body consists of two houses, similar to the British constitution. The upper House of Councillors (Sangi-in) consists of 252 seats, half of which are elected every three years, with each member serving six years. The House of Representatives consists of 500 seats with each member serving five years. In reality, a great deal of power also rests in the hands of the government bureaucracy and with big business.
The land is slightly smaller than the area of France, and slightly bigger than Germany. 27 million people live in the 13 largest cities. Tokyo is currently the capital and has been since 1868. Prior to that, the capital was located in Kyoto. One quarter of the nation’s population lives in or around Tokyo. Japan enjoys a high standard of living and is one of the largest purchasers of luxury goods. The cost of living is very high in Japan and foreign companies have had a difficult time attempting to penetrate Japanese markets.
Since the end of the Second World War, Japan has maintained very close ties with the USA, both politically and commercially.
Japan’s closest neighbours are Korea, China and Russia. Relations have been strained with each nation due to grievances over Japan’s former imperialistic policy of the first half of last century.
Natural – Earthquakes
Earthquakes are relatively common, large earthquakes are rare. They occur on land and also out at sea causing tidal waves (tsunamis).
Man-made – Acid Rain
Air pollution drops as rain, changing the PH factor of the water in lakes and rivers, which poisons aquatic plants and animals.
The Natural Environment
The Japanese are one of the pioneers in environmental protection technology, and one of the leading countries combating pollution. However, due to the nations massive industrial power output, the countryside has suffered. Chief on the list of woes is acid rain and its resulting destruction of wildlife. One factor which has lead to Japan’s deep commitment to environmental protection is their tradition of reverence for nature and life as witnessed in their religion of Shinto. A constant threat which faces Japan is its tectonic instability. Japan is regularly hit by earthquakes. To combat this, engineers and architects have developed and built the most advanced earthquake protection in the world for its bridges and skyscrapers.