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Japan's Geography and Culture
Many people know Japan, but not many people know about Japan. Japan is mainly known for its cartoons, called anime, its cherry blossoms, and its iconic flag, the white rectangle with the red dot in the dead center. Many historians and students also know it as the country who brought the United States into a World War. Even though these things are true, Japan is so much more.
Japan’s geography consists of many things, including thousands of islands, making it an archipelago. Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku are the the four biggest islands. Japan is 145,883 square miles, or 377,835 square kilometers, in area, all of it made up of islands. Over half of Japan is covered in mountains and forests and its closest neighbors are Korea, China, and Russia. The major mountain range is the Japanese Alps, which is mainly in the Chübu region on the largest island, Honshu. The tallest mountain/volcano in Japan is Mt. Fuji, which is also located in this mountain range. Due to the three tectonic plates that meet each other in the country, Japan has over 1,000 earthquakes each year and more than 200 volcanoes, 60 of them active (including Mt. Fuji) and can be triggered by the earthquakes.
Bodies of water play an important role in Japan. Because it is a string of islands, Japan is surrounded by waters such as the North Pacific Ocean, the Sea of Japan, the East China Sea, the Korea Strait, and the Philippine Sea. The North Pacific Ocean borders eastern Japan. The Philippine Sea is to the south, and the East China Sea on Japan’s southwest borders. The Korea Strait is the strip of water that separates Japan from South Korea. The Inland Sea is the body of water separating the major islands of Shikoku, Honshu, and Kyushu. Japan also has a few ocean currents running through it, providing to be useful once they discovered hydroelectric-power generation. The main currents are Kuroshio, the Tsushima Current, and the Kurile Current.
Japan’s climate is moderate, but it is heavily influenced by winds and currents. For example, the northern and southwestern parts are significantly colder because of the winds of Siberia, which also causes heavy rain as well as snowfall. Additionally, the ocean current of Kurile makes the climate even colder. In summer, the southeastern monsoons cause it to rain in southern and eastern parts of Japan. As a result, these parts have a warm and humid climate. The Kuro Siwo current also contributes to the warm climate. Because of its heavy rainfall and ideal climate, the mountainous regions are covered in forests. The popular species of trees are the Japanese red pine, the Japanese cirrus, and the Japanese cedar. These forests also provide timber, fuel, and paper pulps. The mountain and valleys contain subtropical forests, while temperate forests are found in the north. Also because of the ideal climate, cherry blossoms are planted throughout Japan and are known as one of the many stereotypical Japan things.
The bodies of water also provide an important natural resource for Japan; fish. The diet of the people of Japan is mostly fish. It also meets the demand for gold, magnesium, and silver. Not only that, but it supplies iron, lead, and copper as well as having many oil refineries and steel plants for their respective resources (oil and steel). Japan has to import many of its natural energy sources, as it has very little to none.
Japan’s population is about 127.1 million people. For a while, Japan had a population problem, since the country was getting overpopulated and it was completely out of control. In 2015, the population was at an overall decline, as the number of deaths was significantly higher than the number of births. The female population was also larger than the male by about 2%. The history of Japanese settlement goes back to about 10,000 years ago, when there were land bridges connecting Japan to Korea and Siberia. Around the third century BC, the Japanese had started to settle into proper communities and start their own culture.
One of the many societies that is multicultural is Japan. Also they’ve adopted other traditions, they’ve mainly stuck to their own. For example, a huge celebration in Japan is the cherry blossom festival. This festival was created because of the 1912 shipment of cherry blossom trees from Japan to America as a type of friendship present. More traditions are the ancient way of making tea, musicals and plays, as well as the modern-day cartoons (anime), and some classical music.
Japan is a constitutional parliament*, meaning it is run by a prime minister and the people in power in the parliamentary part of government must abide by their constitution (established in 1947). It is not to be confused with any type of democracy, however, since the Japanese civilians do not directly elect the prime minister. Japan’s three branches of government are, like America, legislative, judicial, and executive. The legislative branch is called the Diet, which is also Japan’s parliament. It is the highest form of state-power and the only law-making branch. The citizens can vote in elections for the Diet once they reach the age of 20. The other two branches, judicial and executive, are also much like America’s versions. The judicial branch consists of a Supreme Court, which rules whether things are constitutional or not, and the executive branch consists of a cabinet. The cabinet gets collective responsibility for the exercise of administrative authority.
An important part of every country’s economy is its gross domestic product, or GDP. Japan is the 22nd country on the world leaderboard, with a GDP of $4.8 trillion and $37,390 per capita. It also has the 3rd largest economy in the world. Japan is a free market economy, meaning that it is an economy in which there is free competition and prices are based on supply and demand with little or no government control. The unemployment rate is 3.7% of the population and they make 780 Japanese yen ( ¥ ) an hour. One american dollar equals 111.6196 Japanese yen, so they are making about $6.99 an hour at minimum wage.
Personally, I don’t think Japan is all that bad. Sure, the quality of living in some industrial areas might not be the best, but the country is rich enough in culture and history to be absolutely astonishing. The unemployment rate in Japan is also lower than America’s, which is definitely a sign that they aren’t failing as a country.
From its cherry blossom festivals to its industrial community, Japan is a country that should never be overlooked. It may not have the best GDP, but it’s still an economic power. It may not have the best form of government, but the country isn’t in total anarchy. If you add everything up and compare them, the advantages outweigh the drawbacks.
*Multiple sites have said that Japan is a constitutional parliament, while others say it is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government. I went with the option I had more information on.