Geography of Japan

The Japanese territory consists of a volcanic archipelago with more than 3,000 islands, highlighting four main islands: Hokkaido , Honshu (more extensive), Shikoku and Kyushu .

The insular territory has an indented coastline, which favors the construction of ports, on which Japan is heavily dependent to maintain foreign trade, the fishing structure and the cabotage system (navigation that occurs only between national ports).

Physical and natural aspects of Japan


The relief of Japan is of young formation (Tertiary Period of the Cenozoic Era), mountainous (84% of the territory) and with geological structure of modern folds.

The territory is located in the Far East (east) of Asia, being on the convergence of tectonic plates in the area known as the Pacific Ring or Ring of Fire, being subject to intense geological instability – active volcanism (more than 60 volcanoes) and earthquakes , which determine the emergence of tsunamis . The rugged terrain makes it difficult to occupy the interior, but favors the maintenance of native natural areas.

The highest point in the country corresponds to Mount Fuji , with an altitude of 3,776 meters. Its last eruption occurred in 1707, and a new eruption would endanger the lives of millions of people living in Tokyo and nearby areas, as well as destroying infrastructure, such as roads and railways that link Japan’s most populous cities.

Mount Fuji, classified in 2013 as a cultural heritage by Unesco, is located about 100 km southwest of Tokyo (Honshu Island) and receives approximately 300,000 visitors during the two summer months when mountaineering is authorized.

The plains (16% of the territory) have high demographic densities, being geographically squeezed in inland areas, largely located in areas close to rivers, such as Honshu Island, and on the coast, such as the Kanto-Keya Plain in Tokyo.


Regarding hydrography, Japan has small rivers, but with hydroelectric potential, in addition to use for irrigation.

The Shinano River , located on Honshu Island, is the longest in the territory, with 367 km, crossing valleys and plains with those of Saku, Ueda, Nagano and Echigo (most important).

Other rivers also stand out: Tone (322 km) – metropolitan region of Tokyo (Honshu Island), Ishikari (268 km) and Teshio (256 km) – both on Hokkaido Island, Mogami (229 km) – Honshu Island.

The Arakawa River , although only 173 km long, gains importance as it crosses the capital Tokyo (Honshu Island).


To the north of the archipelago, the cold sea current called Oya Shivo , together with the geographic position (latitude) of the country, determines the existence of areas with cold climate, in Hokkaido Island, and temperate oceanic climate, in the north-central portion of Honshu, that are used for agricultural cereal production.

In the south-central portion of Honshu and on the islands of Shikoku and Kyushu, the subtropical climate appears and, in the extreme south, an area with a tropical characteristic appears. The center-south of the territory is under the influence of the warm sea current of Kuro Shivo, which, together with the monsoon climate, determines the existence of areas with milder climates, which are used for the production of rice, orange, tea and Blackberry.


Regarding vegetation, the country has a high concentration of preserved areas. The forests, influenced by the climate, are temperate and subtropical. There are also conifers further north and in the higher areas, due to the influence of altitude (mountainous relief). Bamboo trees are also found in the territory.

After the Second World War, the country showed a continuous increase of forests, expanding the planted areas by four times between the 1960s and 2000s, which currently correspond to 69% of the national territory, half of which belong to private property, mainly individuals, who account for 98% of this total.

The Forest Code allows landowners to receive low-interest loans and special tax treatment in exchange for sustainable practices in land use and occupation.

Human aspects of Japan

According to, Japan is recognized worldwide for having the highest life expectancy or life expectancy, at 83.5 years, due to the excellent quality of life, resulting from the application of excellent social policies regarding the provision of essential public services related to health.

The population over 65 already represents a quarter of the absolute population and, in 2060, it will reach about 40%, according to calculations of the Japanese government. Comparatively, life expectancy in Brazil is 74 years and that of the Democratic Republic of Congo is approximately 50 years. In relation to the HDI published in 2015, the country ranks 17th, with an index of 0.890.

Immigrants represent only 1.6% of the absolute population, just over 2 million, with a total of 90,000 illegal. The country, however, prefers the path of encouraging birth as a way of maintaining its culture.

Japan values religious freedom , with the majority religions being Shinto and Buddhism, which represent 84% of the population. The rest of the population follows Christianity, Confucianism, Taoism and Shamanism.

It is one of the most populous, populated and urbanized countries – 93% of the population lives in the city. The main population concentration is on the island of Honshu, highlighting the high urban concentration in the coastal strip of the island facing the Pacific Ocean.

This area originated a gigantic urban-industrial spot, which extends to Shikoku and Kyushu, known as the Tokkaido megalopolis , made up of the cities of Tokyo, Kawasaki, Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, Kobe and Osaka, a totally turbulent urban area. The population of the megalopolis exceeds 35 million inhabitants.

Economy of Japan

Japan is the third largest economy in the world, surpassed only by the USA and China. Despite its territorial limitation, it relied heavily on the international capitalist market and on high-tech production, to rebuild after the defeat in World War II.

The Japanese economy is based on the secondary and tertiary sectors, that is, the country produces its wealth mainly through industrial activity and services. Despite this, Japanese agriculture has a prominent place when it comes to domestic supply, but with low use of labor in view of modern agricultural techniques, considering that only 14% of Japanese lands are lowland, which also suffer heavily urban occupation. The rural properties are small, with an average of 1.4 hectares. The terraces are developed on the slopes, as a way to expand the cultivated areas.

The first manufacturing units in Japan emerged in the second half of the 19th century, notably those linked to the textile sector, which took advantage of the large amount of raw materials, such as silk and cotton. At the beginning of the 20th century, as a result of military expansionism, heavy industries, such as steel, metallurgy and mechanics, began to be implanted in the country.

The lack of mineral and energy resources led the government to seek to compensate for the increasing imports with increasing export volumes of manufactured goods, a policy that has existed since the end of the 19th century and that characterizes the country until today. The need to be focused on the foreign market and the territorial configuration in the archipelago explain the location of the country’s large industrial centers, always close to the coast, with emphasis on the southeast coast of Honshu Island – presence of the Tokkaido megalopolis.

The four main islands (Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu), which represent 97% of the territory, are the ones with the largest urban-industrial agglomerations. In the southeast of Honshu Island, the largest megalopolis in the world, called Tokkaido, is home to great industrial and post-industrial diversity. In this region, the cities of Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Yokohama, Kobe, Kyoto, Kitakyushu and Fukuoka stand out.

Currently, Japan is responsible for a large part of the world trade in consumer goods: watches, cameras, cell phones, cars, motorbikes, computers, electronic devices and appliances, in addition to high-tech related to the robotics, microelectronics, fine chemicals and informatics.

Geography of Japan

General data:

Japan (Nippon)

  • Capital: Tokyo .
  • Nationality:
  • Location:East Asia.
  • Area:372,819 kmĀ².
  • Climate:temperate continental (N) and subtropical (S).
  • Characteristics:mountains (most of them), 225 volcanoes (65 active), frequent earthquakes, hot springs, geysers and sulphurous waters, plains on the coast and inland from the island of Honshu.
  • Main cities:Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama, Nagoya, Sapporo, Kyoto and Kobe.
  • Population: 127 million (2016).