Japan Physical Characteristics
The geography of the Japan is irregular and harsh, shaped by an intense and recent endogenous activity. The reliefs occupy more than 3/4 of the territory and, except for those of volcanic origin, are steep and arranged in short systems interrupted by fractures, including the vast tectonic depression that cuts the central area of Honshu, dividing the northern Japan from the southern one. At its edge stands Mount Fuji (commonly known as Fujiyama, Japanese Fujisan), an active volcano which, with its 3776 m, constitutes the highest elevation in the country. At the opposite end of the depression rise the Japanese Alps (with some peaks higher than 3000 m). Among the few floodplains, the one of Tokyo stands out, in the center of thePacific coastal region of Honshu. From the geological point of view, Japan is an intraoceanic magmatic arc that embraces a marginal back-arc basin (the Sea of Japan). In the innermost part of the ocean trenches in front of its eastern coast, the subduction of the pacific plate is underway, with which the very strong seismicity and widespread volcanism (over 160 active volcanoes) that characterize above all the north-eastern Japan are connected.
Rivers are generally short and torrential; having to overcome numerous and considerable differences in height, they lend themselves to the production of hydroelectric energy, but not to navigation. The Shinano and the Tone, which both flow on the island of Honshu, one towards the Sea of the Japan and the other towards the Pacific Ocean, are, respectively, the longest river and the one with the greatest basin. Among other waterways, the Ishikari stands out on the island of Hokkaido. The lakes are numerous, of various origins and generally of modest size, except the Biwa, in Honshu, of tectonic origin, which exceeds 670 km 2.
According to computerminus.com, the considerable extension in latitude of the Japanese archipelagos (over 24 °), the presence of monsoons, the fractionation of the relief and sea currents are all factors of great variety in climatic conditions. The winter monsoon, of Siberian origin, strikes the Japan from October to April, causing disturbances on the west coast, while the east coast is protected by the mountains. From May to September, on the other hand, the summer monsoon blows from the S, bringing rains in the southern and eastern regions, abundant especially in June and July. Precipitation is therefore clearly seasonal on the Pacific coast and more regularly distributed on the other. Average temperatures are even more affected by astronomical and geographical factors: in winter they range from −5 ° C in Hokkaido to 10 ° C in Kyushu; in summer from 16 to 27 ° C. The Japan
Although very densely populated and from ancient times, the Japanese territory still retains a large vegetation cover, which affects just under 70%. Much of it, however, is due to anthropic interventions. The limited extensions of spontaneous vegetation, however, are of extreme interest because they are characterized by a remarkable biodiversity, both for the number of species and for the number of endemics (over a third of the approximately 4500 species surveyed). The fauna of the Japan is also quite rich and original compared to that of the neighboring regions. The strong climatic differences between the northern and southern regions mean that typically northern species and subtropical and tropical climate species coexist in the country. The Japanese islands have long been connected with the mainland, so that other more widespread ones have been added to the endemic species. Among the endemics, the macaque of Japan (Macaca fuscata), the dormouse of the Japan (Glirurus japonicus), the copper pheasant ( Syrmaticus soemmerringii) and the giant salamander of the Japan ( Andrias japonicus), the largest living amphibian, species of great biogeographical importance. Very common are the raccoon dog ( Nyctereutes procionoides), also present in much of northern continental Asia, and the sika deer( Cervus nippon nippon), which inhabits various subspecies in various areas of China and the island of Formosa. Among the endangered species are the Iriomote cat ( Mayailurus iriomotensis) and the Japan otter ( Lutra nippon); the Japanese crested ibis (Nipponica nippon) was declared extinct in 1997; the Japanese sea lion (Zalophus japonicus), once widespread in the northern seas, is also probably extinct. Near the Ryukyu Islands, at the southern end of the country, a small population of dugong survives (Dugong dugon), a marine mammal of the order of the Sirenii; endemic to these islands are the Pryer’s woodpecker (Sapheopipo noguchii) and the spiny rat (Tokudaja osimensis); finally, the Ryukyu also represent the extreme northern edge of the neofocena range (Neophocaena phocaenoides), a small cetacean characterized by the absence of a dorsal fin. In the seas of Honshu and Hokkaido lives the Longman’s mesoplodon (Indopacetus pacificus), belonging to the group of the so-called beaked whales; there are also the walrus (Odobenus rosmarus), coming from the cold arctic waters, and the Alaskan callorino (Callorhinus ursinus), an otarid similar to sea lions. 14% of the territory is protected by parks and nature reserves.