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Geographical Setting

Japan is an island country in the North Pacific Ocean. It lies off the northeast

coast of mainland Asia and faces Russia,Korea, and China. Four large islands and

thousands of smaller ones make up Japan. The four major islands-

Hokkaido,Honshu,Kyushu and Shikoku form a curve that extends for about 1,900



Japan is a land of great natural beauty. mountains and hills cover about 70% of

the country. IN fact, Japanese islands consist of the rugged upper part of a

great mountain range that rises from the floor of the North Pacific Ocean.

Jagged peaks, rocky gorges, and thundering mountain waterfalls provide some of

the country's most spectacular scenery. Thick forests thrive on mountansides,

adding to the scenic beauty of the Japanese islands. Forests cover about 68% of

the country's land.

Japan lies on an extremely unstable part of the earth's crust. As a result, the

land is constantly shifting. This shifting causes two of Japan's most striking

features-- earthquakes and volcanoes. The Japanese islands have about 1500

earthquakes a year. Most of them are minor tremors that cause little damage, but

severe earthqaukes occur every few years. Underseaquakes sometimes cause huge,

destructive tidal waves, called tsunami, along Japan's Pacific coast. The

Japanese islands have more than 150 major volcanoes. Over 60 of these volcanoes

are active.

Numerous short, swift rivers cross Japan's rugged surface. most of the rivers

are too shallow and steep to be navigated. Their waters are used to irrigate

farmland, and their rapids and falls supply power for hydroelectric plants. Many

lakes nestle among the Japanese mountains. Some lie in the craters of extinct

volcanoes. A large number of hot springs gush from the ground throughout the

country. The Japanese islands have a total land area of about 337,708 sqkm. The

islands , in order of size, are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku. The sea of

Japan washes the country's west coast and the Pacific ocean lies to the east.


Regional climates in Japan can be compared to those of the East Coast of the

United States. Kyushu and Shikoku have a climate much like that of Perth. They

have long hot summers and mild winters. The island Honshu's generally has

warm,humid summers. Winters are mild in the south and cold and snowy in the


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...ies of the language for use in different social contexts; these varieties

are called social styles of speech. A large number of dialects are spoken

throughout Japan's four main islands (Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu), as

well as on the smaller islands, such as the Ryukyu Islands. Some dialects-for

instance, those spoken in the southern parts of Japan, notably on the islands of

Kyushu and Okinawa-are virtually incomprehensible to the speakers of other

dialects. As a result of this diversity of dialects, the Japanese use a standard,

or common, dialect to facilitate communication throughout the country. The two

dialect families with the largest number of speakers are the dialect spoken in

and around Tokyo, which is the common dialect, and the dialects of the Kansai

region in western Japan, spoken in cities such as Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe. Due to

the spread of the common dialect through television and radio, most people

outside the Tokyo region speak the common dialect as well as a local dialect.


World Book Encyclopedia (Cd Rom) Grolier Encyclopedia (Cd Rom) Encarta 96

Encyclopedia (Cd Rom) JETRO (Internet Site) CIA World Factbook (Internet Site)

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