Japan- The land

Maps courtesy of www.theodora.com/maps, used with permission  

Maps courtesy of www.theodora.com/maps, used with permission  

Japan is made up of four main islands and thousands of smaller ones which lie in the north Pacific Ocean. The four main islands are Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku.

Most of the land is covered by mountains and hills and many of the mountains are active volcanoes. There are about 60 active volcanoes in Japan and there are often earthquakes throughout the country.

Mt Fuji at dawn. Getty Images

Mt Fuji at dawn. Getty Images

Japan's most famous mountain is Mount Fujiyama, or Mount Fuji. It is an active volcano about 100 kilometres from Tokyo. It is considered by the Japanese to have an almost perfect shape, and it is the subject of countless paintings and photographs.

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Thick forests cover many of the mountains. Most of the people live on the flat land in the valleys between the mountains or on the plains near the coast of each island.

Honshu is the island with the largest population. It is linked to Hokkaido by an underground tunnel and to Shikoku and Kyushu across the sea by a series of bridges.


Japan's climate varies from north to the south. In the south, the winters are mild and the summers are hot. In the north, the winters are cold and snowy, and the summers are mild. All parts of Japan get plenty of rain. Big storms called typhoons often cause floods and damage houses and crops during the summer months from August to October. -

A pond in a Japanese garden. Getty Images

A pond in a Japanese garden. Getty Images


Most of Japan's mountains are covered with forests of fir, larch and spruce trees. In the south where the weather is warmer, bamboo and camphor trees grow.

Japan is famous for its flowering plants which include azaleas and cherry blossom trees.

There are many festivals that celebrate flowers,  such as the spring cherry blossom and the November chrysanthemum festival. The chrysanthemum is Japan's national flower.

There are many national parks in Japan where the people can enjoy the natural beauty of the country.


Macaque monkeys in a hot pool. Getty

Macaque monkeys in a hot pool. Getty

Brown bears, wolves and deer live in the forests and foxes and badgers, otters, mink and weasels live in many parts of Japan.

The Japanese macaque monkeys live in the forests and on the coasts. They are famous for sitting in the natural hot springs to warm themselves.  Macaques have thick fur that protects them from the cold and snow in winter.

Life in Japan

A Tokyo street. Getty Images

A Tokyo street. Getty Images

Tokyo is Japan's capital city. The name means 'eastern capital' and it has been the capital since 1868.  About 8 million people live in the centre of the city and it is one of the biggest cities in the world. Millions more people live in suburbs around the city. The people travel to and from the city by train and by car on the city's many expressways.

Millions of people work in the city, which is a centre for banking and financial businesses.

In and around Tokyo there are many factories where food is processed, textiles, cameras, electrical goods, computers and other machinery are made. Ships and cars are built and books and chemicals are produced.

Tokyo is a popular destination for tourists and many thousands of people work in hotels, restaurants and other tourist related businesses.

A group of women wearing the traditional kimono. Getty Images

A group of women wearing the traditional kimono. Getty Images

People of Tokyo and other Japanese cities live in small apartments in high-rise buildings. There are also single or double-storey houses with small courtyard gardens. People shop in supermarkets, large department stores and in shopping malls. There are fresh food markets too.  

The kimono is the traditional dress in Japan. The kimono was introduced into Japan by Buddhist monks from china more than 1200 years ago. A kimono is a loose-fitting costume made from silk or cotton. Men, women and children wear the kimono.

A bullet train speeds past Mt Fuji. Getty Images

A bullet train speeds past Mt Fuji. Getty Images

Japan's famous bullet trains in Tokyo. Bullet trains travel from Tokyo to other Japanese cities. These trains can travel at speeds of up to 300 kilometres per hour.


Japan has one of the largest fishing industries in the world. Every village on the coast has its own fleet of fishing boats. These big, powerful boats can travel thousands of kilometres to catch fish in the world's oceans. The fish caught include sardines, tuna and salmon. Japanese also farm fish and shellfish such as oysters.
The oysters kept on some farms are used to make pearls for jewellery. A tiny piece of shell is put into the oyster. The oyster is irritated by the shell and produces a substance called nacre which coats the piece of shell. The oyster coats the shell with many layers of nacre and forms a pearl. The oysters are kept in wire basket to protect them until, after two to three years, it is time to open the shells and harvest the pearls.

Japan:Fact File

Official name: Japan                                                                                                               Capital city: Tokyo                                                                                                                    Official language: Japanese

Population: 126 534 536 (estimated in January 2016)  

Government: a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government; the people vote to elect members of parliament.                                                                                            Head of government: Prime minister                                                                                      Head of State: Emperor Akihito

Religion: the main religions are Shinto and Buddhism

Area: 377 801 square kilometres.                                                                                        Highest mountain: Mount Fuji 3776 metres

Money: yen

Agricultural products: rice, pigs, chicken, tea, fruit, tobacco, potatoes,  vegetables, fish. Manufactured goods: electrical goods, cars, machinery, iron and steel products, chemicals, textiles, paper, ship building.

Sports: baseball, volleyball, table- tennis, tennis, skating and basketball are popular Traditional sports are judo, karate, kendo and sumo.

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Sumo wrestlers are very big.

Sumo wrestlers are very big.

Some information about Sumo wrestling

Japanese Sumo wrestling is one of the oldest martial arts in Japan. Sumo wrestling began as a part of the Shinto religion about 1500 years ago. The wrestling matches were dedicated to the gods in prayers for a good harvest.  Sumo wrestling matches begin with a traditional ceremony. The wrestlers, each accompanied by two assistants march in and perform bows, stamp their feet and other rituals before the contest begins. Wrestlers then try to push or throw their opponents out of the ring which is known as the dohyo or try to push the opponent down onto the mat. The wrestler who first touches the floor with something other than the soles of his feet or leaves the ring before his opponent, loses.

Japanese Food

Examples of a day's menu:

A Japanese breakfast might include a clear miso (bean curd) soup, some boiled rice and fried egg.

Sushi. Getty Images

Sushi. Getty Images

 Lunch might include noodles and pickled vegetables or sushi which is thin slices of raw fish served in blocks of rice, wrapped in dried seaweed called nori. It may be dipped into soy sauce before being eaten.

Dinner might be a nabemono, which are cooked stews using either fish, seafood, chicken or meat and with or without vegetables. The stew is cooked and served bubbling in its pot at the table and everyone dips in to take a serving. One special kind of nabemono is beef sukiyaki. Its made with thinly sliced pieces of beef quickly cooked at the table and dipped into raw egg before its eaten. Nabemono dishes are popular in the cooler months of autumn and winter. Tempura might be another choice. Seafood and vegetables are dipped into a light batter of flour, eggs and iced water and then fried quickly in oil.

Sea vegetables are popular foods. They are certain kinds of marine algae (seaweeds) such as kelp, rockweed, gulfweed, and laver. When fresh seaweeds are cooked they taste like salty green vegetables. They can also be dried. Sea vegetables are used in stews and broth, soups and salads. Some are used to wrap sushi and dried fish.

The Japanese drink tea, beer and a wine made from rice known as sake.

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Read about the Japanese flag and listen to the national anthem:


Read about bunraku, an ancient Japanese form of puppetry, on the kidcyber page:

Traditional Asian puppetry