- Physical Characteristics
- Relative location
- Landscape and Physical
- Weather and climate
- Population, Density and
- Language and religion
- Cultural/ethnic groups
- Major economic
- Imports and Exports
- GNP and GNP per capita
east, off the coast of mainland china.
To its North lies Russian controlled Sakhalin Island. To its East lies Korea, separated by 120
miles through the Korean Strait, and China lies 500 miles away through the East
China Sea. Japan is an archipelago
island nation and is often compared to the British Isles because of its
isolated location from the mainland of the Continent. The country of Japan is made up of 4
main islands, Hokkaido in the far north, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu in the far
south, as well as 7,000 smaller islands in the Pacific. The country is approximately 25% bigger
than the UK and 75% the size of France.
From Hokkaido to Kyushu (Northern tip to Southern tip) the distance is
approximately the same as from Bangor, Maine, to Mobile Alabama (Ellington, 1).
Landscape and Physical Environment
prominent topographical feature in Japan is its mountains. 75% of the land in Japan is mountain
terrain, although not particularly high they are heavily wooded. In the central island of Honshu some
ranges reach as high as 10,000 feet (Ellington, 5.) The small amount of flat plain areas in
Japan means that most of the population lives within a few flat areas. The largest plain being the Kanto plain
where Tokyo resides. Japan sits at
the meeting point of three tectonic plates, the Eurasian, Pacific and
Philippines Plate. This makes Japan
very prone to earthquakes, and Tsunamis as well as exposing it to volcanic
activity. Japan is also a part of
the “Ring of Fire” as zone of seismic and volcanic activity in the
Pacific spanning from California to Japan.
The Japanese archipelago was formed from subduction of tectonic plates,
since it is a relatively new land formation, it has very little natural
resources, only small deposits of coal, oil, iron, and other minerals. It is roughly 25% bigger than Italy.
Weather and Climate
For the most
part Japan has a temperate climate, with the exceptions of colder Hokkaido in
the north and warmer Kyushu in the south.
Its pacific islands such as the Ryukyuan Islands can be humid
subtropical and tropical rainforest climates. Mainland Japan is said to have 4
distinct seasons, with humid hot summers and cold snowy winters. Climate and weather tend to vary
however, based on mountains, ocean currents, and latitude.
Population, Density and Age/Sex characteristics
size, small amount of developable area, and high population create a great
space problem for the country. High
population density is much more prevalent in large citifies such as Tokyo. 92% of Japan’s population lives in
an urban area, and its population density is 3,012 people per square km. compared to the U.S.’s 212 per
square km. and U.K.’s
1,105. Japan also has a problem of
a declining population with a birth rate of 1.4, not unusual for a developed
country but not offset by immigrant into the country. There is also the problem of too many
older people and not enough young people to care for them. 12% of the population is below 15
compared to 28% of the population is above 65. In 2050 those numbers will be
13% and 36% respectively (PRB, 2018).
Language and Religion
widespread language spoken is Japanese.
The language itself however has many regional dialects, the Tokyo
dialect is proper or standard Japanese, but dialects exits in Osaka, Kansai,
and other prefectures. Japanese is
written using different sets of symbols or Kana. Kanji are Chinese Characters that have
been adapted, Hiragana is a simplified version of Kanji used for vowel sounds,
and Katakana are another set of Kana used for loan words from English and other
languages. The Ryukyuan language
and Ainu Language are spoken to a degree in Hokkaido and the Ryukyu Islands and
some Korean speakers do exist.
influences of Japan are numerous and rich in its history. Shinto (Traditional Japanese Religion),
Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism have all influenced Japanese Religion and
culture in some capacity. Shinto
belief consists of spirits and gods from nature or Kami, whom they
worship. It is the most prominent
religion in Japan and the oldest one to exist there. Buddhism is also prevalent coming all
the way from India to China and Korea and then Japan in the 550’s
CE. Buddhism in Japan later evolved
and became somewhat intertwined with Shinto beliefs. Famously, Zen Buddhism emerged as a sect
out of Japan. Although Buddhism and
Shintoism exist in Japan only about 26% of Japanese consider themselves very
religious (CIA, 2019).
Japan has a
very homogenous population with 98.5% of people identifying as Yamato Japanese,
the dominant native ethnic group dating from the 6th century. From Neolithic and Paleolithic times,
the Yamato are thought to be descendants from Yayoi and Jomon
people who moved to the archipelago.
However, other ethnic groups do exist within Japan. The Ainu people are natives to Hokkaido,
Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands.
They have their own distinct language and writing and a unique and rich
history. They are known for their
traditional robed dress, full beards, and their tradition of tattooing around
women’s lips. They also
practice their own animist religion.
They have a long history of repression by the Japanese government, only
in recent times has the Japanese government made steps to recognize them and
improve their standards of living.
The people of
the Ryukyus are another distinct ethnic group, although not recognized by the
Japanese government. Up until 1879
the Ryukyu islands were not a part of Japan until its annexation. The Ryukyu have their own language and
religion, during the Meiji Period after its annexation they were repressed and
the government sought to assimilate them, because of this and World War II many
dispersed to Hawaii and other places.
There is also a
sizable amount of Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos, Brazilians living within Japan.
Major economic activities
Japan is a
devolved country and an economic powerhouse, less that 5% of Japanese are
employed in primary industries (fishing, mining, etc.), 17% have manufacturing
jobs in the secondary sector, and relatively few are unemployed. Construction and food processing are
large industries, but Japan is most well known for its electronics and
technology industries. Electronics,
robotics, aerospace, and cars are all major sources of economic activity in
Japan. Since Japan has very little
in terms of natural resources much of its manufacturing relies on research and
development of technology. 68% of
the population is employed in the service industry. A significant number of women
participate in the workforce, not uncommon for developed countries. Japan has a highly educated workforce of
67 million, and they engage in activities such as finance, banking, entertainment,
and law (Ellington, 134).
Imports and Exports
Japan is a
leading country in international trade, ones of its biggest exports is
automobiles, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Mitsubishi are all in high demand all
over the world. Cell phones,
microelectronics, and industrial robots are also major exports. Japan lacks raw materials however, and
so their imports include oil, coal, iron, copper, etc. Most trade is done with China, Korea,
United States, and Australia. Japan
has also invested much into alternative energy primarily nuclear energy (Ellington,
GNP and GNP per capita
The GNP per
capita according to PRB is, $45,470.
The total GNP of Japan is $5.6 Trillion. That number is behind the U.S. but is
very good for a developed country with little natural resources or land. For reference U. S’s GNP per
Capita is $60,000. China’s
GNP per Capita is $16,760. China is
a much larger and more populous country, yet evidently it has much more
inequality of wealth. Although
Japan has little land area, and a smaller population there is a better standard
of living for all. The literacy
rate is 99% in Japan, and mostly a service economy (PRB, 2018).
World Fact book: Japan, 2019,
Lucien. Asia In Focus: Japan. ABC-CLIO, 2009. UNO Library,
Data. WorldPopData.org, PRB,
Submitted by Ryan Clarke on 4/18.