Japan: Geography                                              


377,915 sq km

Area Comparative

Slightly smaller than California, USA


Mostly rugged and mountainous

Natural Resources

Fish and small amounts of mineral resources


Note: With virtually no natural energy resources, Japan is the world's largest importer of coal and liquefied natural gas, as well as the second largest importer of oil.

Natural Hazards

Many dormant and some active volcanoes

About 1,500 seismic occurrences/year (mostly tremors but occasional severe earthquakes)

Tsunamis (photo) and typhoons

Environmental Issues

Air pollution and acid rain from power plant emissions

Acidification of lakes and reservoirs degrading water quality and threatening aquatic life

Japan is one of the largest consumers of fish and tropical timber—contributing to the depletion of these resources in Asia and elsewhere.


Following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan originally planned to phase out nuclear power, but it has now implemented a new policy of seeking to restart nuclear power plants that meet strict new safety standards. 


  • Mountains dominate Japan’s landscape—covering 75-80% of the country. A spine of mountain ranges divides the Japanese archipelago into two halves, the “front” side facing the Pacific Ocean, and the “back” side facing the Sea of Japan. Historically, the mountains were barriers to transportation, hindering national integration and limiting the economic development of isolated areas. However, with the development of tunnels, bridges, and air transportation in the modern era, the mountains are no longer barriers. The Japanese have long celebrated the beauty of their mountains in art and literature, and today many mountain areas are preserved in national parks.


  •  Four main islands (image) make up about 95% of Japan’s territory. More than 3,000 smaller islands constitute the remaining 5%.  Honshū is the largest of the Japanese islands, followed by Hokkaidō, Kyūshū, and Shikoku.


  • The country is traditionally divided into eight major regions: Hokkaidō, Tōhoku, Kantō, Chūbu, Kinki, Chūgoku, Shikoku, and Kyūshū and the Ryukyu Islands.   


  • Earthquakes occur regularly in Japan, and about 40 of the country’s 188 volcanoes are active—representing 10% of the world’s active volcanoes.