Interesting Geography Trivia About Japan

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Here are some interesting geography facts about Japan.

Japan is and Archipelago

Japan is an Eastern Asia, island chain located between the North Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan, east of the Korean Peninsula.

Japan is an archipelago made up of 6,852 islands.  The four largest islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku and account for 97% of Japan’s total area.

Japan’s Megacity

The Greater Tokyo Area which contains the capital city of Tokyo is a megacity and the most populated city in the world. A megacity is a very large city with a population of more than ten million people.

One-third of the population of Japan resides in and around Tokyo.

The International Space Station orbited 420 kilometers (261 miles) above the island nation, providing a nighttime view of Tokyo.
The International Space Station orbited 420 kilometers (261 miles) above the island nation, providing a nighttime view of Tokyo in February of 2021. Tokyo’s lights are a cooler blue-green color than those of many other world cities. The color is caused by the more common use of mercury vapor lighting rather than sodium vapor lighting, which produces an orange-yellow light.

High Life Expectancy in Japan

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Japan has the highest life expectancy at birth with an average age of 84.

Japan’s Rugged Terrain

With a mostly rugged and mountainous terrain, about 73 percent of Japan is forested, mountainous, and unsuitable for agricultural, industrial, or residential use. Related: Japan’s Snow Country

View of the Ishikari Mountains from the summit of Asahi-dake, Japan's highest peak on the Japanese island of Hokkaido.
View of the Ishikari Mountains from the summit of Asahi-dake, Japan’s highest peak on the Japanese island of Hokkaido. Photo: CIA, public domain.

The highest natural point in Japan is Mount Fuji with an elevation of 3,776 meters.

The lowest natural point in Japan is Hachiro-gata with an elevation of 4 meters below sea level.

Volcanic Activity in Japan

There are 108 active volcanoes in Japan.  

Notably historically active volcanoes include: Asama (Honshu Island’s most active volcano), Aso, Bandai, Fuji, Iwo-Jima, Kikai, Kirishima, Komaga-take, Oshima, Sakurajima, Suwanosejima, Tokachi, Yake-dake, and Usu.   

Sakurajima is one of Japan's most active volcanos. A major eruption in 1914 connected it to the mainland of Japan. Image: NASA, taken from the International Space Station.
Sakurajima is one of Japan’s most active volcanos. A major eruption in 1914 connected it to the mainland of Japan. Image: NASA, taken from the International Space Station.

Both Unzen (elev. 1,500 m) and Sakura-jima (elev. 1,117 m), which lies near the densely populated city of Kagoshima, have been deemed Decade Volcanoes by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior.  

Mount Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan is an active volcano.

Seismic Activity in Japan

Located near major tectonic plate boundaries and situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire, Japan is very seismically active with around 1,500 earthquakes each year.  Each year, Japan records the most earthquakes in the world.

The deadliest earthquake has been the 7.9 magnitude 1923 Great Kantō earthquake, with 105,385 deaths.  

The strongest earthquake on record was the 9.0 magnitude 2011 Tōhoku earthquake which resulted in 15,891 deaths.

Poster of the Great Tohoku Earthquake (northeast Honshu, Japan) of March 11, 2011 - Magnitude 9.0
USGS Poster of the Great Tohoku Earthquake (northeast Honshu, Japan) of March 11, 2011 – Magnitude 9.0.

Deepest Underwater Postbox

Japan is home to the world’s deepest underwater postbox as recognized by Guinness World Records in 2002.  Located in Susami, a fishing town in Wakayama Prefecture, over 32,000 pieces of mail have been posted to the box since it was installed in 1999.  

Accessible by diving, senders deposit notes written by oil-based paint marker on water-resistant paper into the mailbox.  The mail is collected every few days and sent on to the recipients.

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