Japanese plants Wednesday, Jun 7 2006 

The great variety and luxuriance of Japanese plant life is mainly caused by the heat and moisture of Japanese summers. More than 17,000 species of flowering and nonflowering plants are found, and many are widely cultivated. The white and red plum and the cherry bloom early and are particularly admired. The Japanese hills are colorful with azaleas in April, and the tree peony, one of the most popular cultivated flowers, blossoms at the beginning of May. The lotus blooms in August, and in November the blooming of the chrysanthemum, the national flower of Japan, occasions one of the most celebrated of the numerous Japanese flower festivals. Other flowers include the pimpernel, bluebell, gladiolus, and many varieties of lily. Few wild flowers are found, because the small area of arable land is heavily farmed and permits little space for uncultivated vegetation in the plains.

The predominant variety of Japanese tree is the conifer; a common species is the sugi, or Japanese cedar, which sometimes attains a height of 46 m (150 ft). Other evergreens include the larch, spruce, and many varieties of fir. In Kyushu, Shikoku, and S Honshu subtropical trees, such as the bamboo, camphor tree, and banyan are found, and the tea plant and wax tree are cultivated. In central and N Honshu the trees are those of the Temperate Zone, such as the beech, willow, chestnut, and many conifers. Lacquer and mulberry trees are cultivated extensively, and the cypress, yew, box, holly and myrtle are plentiful. In Hokkaido the vegetation is subarctic and similar to that of S Siberia. Spruce, larch, and northern fir are the most common trees; some forests contain alders, poplars, and beeches. The most common Japanese fruits are peaches, pears, and oranges.

The Japanese practice a unique kind of landscape gardening. Japanese gardens attempt to reproduce in miniature a stylization of natural landscapes. The Japanese also cultivate dwarf trees, such as the cherry and plum, which, through skillful pruning, are kept as low as 30 cm (12 in). The potted flora that are dwarfed by special methods of culture are called bonsai.

Natural Resources Wednesday, Jun 7 2006 

The most important natural resources of Japan are agricultural. Although arable land is limited, Japan has among the highest crop yields per land area sown in the world, and the country is almost self-sufficient in food production. Japan’s large waterpower potential has been extensively developed, but mineral resources are limited. The country must import most of its mineral requirements.

Japan’s climatic conditions Wednesday, Jun 7 2006 

The Japanese islands extend through approximately 17° of latitude, and Japan’s climatic conditions vary widely. Average mean temperatures range from about 5° C (about 41° F) in Nemuro (Hokkaido) to about 16° C (about 61° F) on Okinawa. Short summers and severe long winters characterize Hokkaido and the N part of Honshu. The severity of the winters is caused in great part by the NW winds blowing from Siberia and the cold Okhotsk (or Oyashio) Current, which flows S into the Sea of Japan. To the S and E of this region the winters are considerably moderated by the influence of the warm KUROSHIO (or Japan) Current. In Shikoku, Kyushu, and S Honshu the summers are hot and humid, almost subtropical, and the winters are mild with comparatively little snow. Japan lies in the path of the SE monsoons, which add considerably to the oppressive humidity of the summers. Yearly precipitation ranges from about 1015 mm (about 40 in) on Hokkaido to 3810 mm (150 in) in the mountains of central Honshu. From June to October tropical cyclones, also called typhoons, occur; they can cause great damage, especially to shipping.

Earthquakes Wednesday, Jun 7 2006 

Earthquakes are frequent in Japan. A survey showed that seismic disturbances, mostly of a minor nature, occurred more than three times a day. Geological research has shown that, possibly under the continuous impact of these disturbances, the W coast of the Japanese islands is settling, while the Pacific coast is rising. The E coast is subject to earthquakes affecting large areas and usually accompanied by great tidal waves; these shocks seem to begin at the bottom of the ocean near the NE coast of Honshu, where a gigantic crater is thought to exist more than 8 km (5 mi) below the surface. The most disastrous earthquake in Japanese history occurred in 1923. It was centered in Sagami Bay and damaged Tokyo and Yokohama; about 143,000 persons were killed by the earthquake and its aftermath.

Japanese Regions Wednesday, Jun 7 2006 

Topographically, Japan is a rugged land of high mountains and deep valleys, with many small plains. Because of the alternating sequence of mountain and valley, and the rocky soil, only an estimated 11% of Japan is arable land. Plains and mountains. The Japanese plains lie chiefly along the lower courses of the principal rivers, on plateaus along the lowest slopes of mountain ranges, and on lowlands along the seacoast. The most extensive plains are in Hokkaido: along the Ishikari R. in the W part of the island, along the Tokachi R. in the SE, and around the cities of Nemuro and Kushiro on the E central shore. Honshu has several large plains. That of Osaka contains the cities of Kobe, Kyoto, and Osaka; the plain of Kanto is the site of Tokyo; and Nagoya is the location of the plain of Nobi. The plain of Tsukushi is the most important level area in Kyushu. The mountains of Japan are the most conspicuous feature of the topography. Mountain ranges extend across the islands from N to S, the main chains sending off smaller ranges that branch out laterally or run parallel to the parent range, and frequently descend to the coast, where they form bays and harbors. In the N, the island of Hokkaido is marked by a volcanic range that descends from the Kurils and merges in the SW part of the island with a chain branching from Point Soya in the NW tip. These mountains branch into two lines near Uchiura Bay, on the SW coast, and reappear on the island of Honshu in two parallel ranges. The minor range, situated entirely in the NE, separates the valley of the Kitakami R. from the Pacific Ocean. The main range continues toward the SW until it meets a mass of intersecting ridges that enclose the plateau of the Shinano R. and forms a belt of mountains, the highest in Japan, across the widest part of the island. The highest peak, at 3776 m (12,389ft), is Fuji, an extinct volcano near Yokohama, which, because of its exceptional beauty, is one of the favorite themes of Japanese art. One of the subsidiary chains in the central mountain mass is called the Japanese Alps because of the grandeur of the landscape; the highest elevation in the chain is Mt. Yariga (3180 m/10,433 ft). Farther S is another chain of high peaks of which Mt. Shirane (3192 m/10,472 ft) is the highest. The islands of Shikoku and Kyushu are dotted with mountain ranges, although none contains any peak higher than Ishizuchi (1981 m/6499 ft) on the island of Shikoku. Volcanoes are common in the Japanese mountains; some 200 volcanoes are known, about 50 of which are still active. Thermal springs and volcanic areas emitting gases are exceedingly numerous. Rivers and Lakes. Although Japan is abundantly watered—almost every valley has a stream—no long navigable rivers exist. The larger Japanese rivers vary in size from swollen freshets during the spring thaw or the summer rainy season to small streams during dry weather. Successions of rapids and shallows are so common that only boats with extremely shallow draft can navigate. The longest river in Japan is the Shinano, on Honshu, which is about 370 km (about 230 mi) long; other large rivers on Honshu are the Tone, Kitakami, Tenryu, and Mogami. The important rivers of Hokkaido include the second largest river of Japan, the Ishikari, and the Teshio and Tokachi. The Yoshino is the longest river in Shikoku. Japan’s many lakes are noted for their scenic beauty. Some are located in the river valleys, but most are mountain lakes and many are summer resorts. The largest lake is Biwa, on Honshu, which covers about 672 sq km (about 259 sq mi).

Japanese Resources Wednesday, Jun 7 2006 

The islands of Japan are the projecting summits of a huge chain of mountains originally a part of the continent of Asia, from which they were detached in the Cenozoic era. The long and narrow main island, Honshu, measures less than 322 km (200 mi) at its greatest breadth; no part of Japan is more than 161 km (100 mi) from the sea. The coastline of Japan is exceedingly long in proportion to the area of the islands and totals, with the many bays and indentations, about 29,750 km (about 18,500 mi). The greatest amount of indentation is on the Pacific coast, the result of the erosive action of the tides and severe coastal storms. The W coast of Kyushu, on the East China Sea, is the most irregular portion of the Japanese coast. Few navigable inlets are found on the E coast above Tokyo, but S of Tokyo Bay are many of the best bays and harbors in Japan. Between Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu is the Inland Sea, dotted with islands and connected with the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan by three narrow straits through which oceanic storms rarely pass. The W coast of the islands of Japan, on the almost tideless Sea of Japan, is relatively straight and measures less than 4830 km (less than 3000 mi); the only conspicuous indentations in the coastline are Wakasa and Toyama bays in Honshu.

Japan Wednesday, Jun 7 2006 

JAPAN, in Japanese Dai (“great”) Nihon or Nippon (“origin of the sun”), hence, Land of the Rising Sun, constitutional monarchy, E Asia, comprising four large islands, as well as the Ryukyu Islands and more than 1000 lesser adjacent islands. It is bounded on the N by the Sea of Okhotsk, on the E by the Pacific Ocean, on the S by the Pacific Ocean and the East China Sea, and on the W by Korea Strait and the Sea of Japan. The Japanese islands extend in an irregular crescent from the island of Sakhalin (Russia) to the island of Formosa, or Taiwan (Republic of China). Japan proper consists of the large islands of Hokkaido, the northernmost; Honshu, the largest, called the mainland; Shikoku; and Kyushu, the southernmost. The combined area of these islands is about 362,000 sq km (about 140,000 sq mi). The total area of Japan is 377,835 sq km (145,882sq mi). The Kuril Islands, N of Hokkaido and formerly included in Japan proper as Chishimaretto, were occupied by the USSR at the conclusion of World War II under an agreement reached at the YALTA Conference in 1945. Until the unconditional surrender of Japan to the Allied powers on Sept. 2, 1945, the Japanese Empire controlled, in addition to present-day Japan and the Kuril Islands, an area of about 1,651,100 sq km (about 637,500 sq mi), including Korea, Taiwan, Manchuria, the leased territory of Guangdong, the Pescadores, Karafuto (the S half of Sakhalin), and the South Sea Mandated Territories, comprising the Marshall, Mariana (except Guam, a U.S. possession), and Caroline islands, which were made a Japanese mandate by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, after World War I. For the disposition of these territories and others acquired by Japanese conquest during World War II, see History section.

Hello world! Wednesday, Jun 7 2006 

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