Japan is an archipelago, or string of islands, on the eastern edge of Asia with Tokyo as its capital. There are four main islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. It consists of a great string of islands in a northeast-southwest arc that stretches for approximately 1,500 miles (2,400 km) through the western North Pacific Ocean. The Japanese landscape is rugged, with more than four-fifths of the land surface consisting of mountains. There are many active and dormant volcanoes, including Mount Fuji (Fuji-san), which, at an elevation of 12,388 feet (3,776 meters), is Japan’s highest mountain.
By the time of the Edo Period (1600–1868) Japan was a powerful military state, yet isolated from the rest of the world. Edo (now Tokyo) became one of the world’s great cities and is thought to have had a population in excess of 1 million at the beginning of the 18th century – greater than London or Paris at the time. Hard work is something attributed to the Japanese people. Children are taught to show respect for others, especially parents and bosses. They learn to do what’s best for their family or company and worry less about their own needs. The Japanese people have a deep affection for the beauty of the landscape. The ancient Shinto religion believes the natural features like mountains, waterfalls, and forests have their own spirits, like souls.
Japanese cuisine consists mainly of rice, fish, and vegetables, but little meat. With little fat or dairy, this diet is very healthy, which helps Japanese people live, on average, longer than any other people in the world. The most well-known Japanese dish is probably sushi, a dish that includes fresh fish, seaweed and lightly-seasoned rice.
- More than a thousand earthquakes hit Japan every year. Japan also has about 200 volcanoes, 60 of which are active Lake Biwa, the largest in Japan, covers 259 square miles (670 square km) of central Honshu.
- The cherry tree (Sakura), celebrated for its spring blossoms, long one of the symbols of Japan, is planted throughout the country.
- Witness the astounding skills of the Japanese macaques (also known as snow monkeys) to survive the icy winters in Honshu, Japan.
- Japanese waters are inhabited by whales, dolphins, porpoises, and fish.
- Many Japanese homes have a Buddhist altar.