TOKYO KYOTO OSAKA HIROSHIMA
dazzles with bright lights and
high-tech gadgetry while the cherry blossoms in Kyoto’s Maruyama Park
are symbols of peace and beauty, as they have been for over 1,000 years.
Since 1950, Japan has seen exceptional economic growth, becoming one of
the world’s most powerful economies. Bustling cities burst with skyscrapers,
bullet trains and trendy nightlife. The brief economic dip in the 1990s
is starting to recede into the distance, as rampant consumerism again picks up
Yet beneath the brash modernity beats an ancient heart. This is still the
realm of the exquisite art of the geisha and the skill of the sumo
wrestler; where ancient festivals are celebrated and food is elevated to an
art form. And Japan is still a land of great natural beauty, from the
snow festivals and lavender farms of the northern isle of Hokkaido to the
sun-drenched beaches of the subtropical south. Whether you choose to climb
Mount Fuji or relax at volcanic hot spring resorts, Japan is
Japan is separated from the Asian mainland by 160km (100 miles) of sea. About
70% of the country is covered by hills and mountains, a number of which are
active or dormant volcanoes. A series of mountain ranges runs from northern
Hokkaido to southern Kyushu. The Japanese Alps (the most prominent range) run in
a north-south direction through central Honshu. The highest mountain is Mount
Fuji at 3,776m (12,388ft). Lowlands and plains are small and scattered, mostly
lying along the coast and composed of alluvial lowlands and diluvial uplands.
The coastline is very long in relation to the land area, and has very varied
features. The deeply indented bays with good natural harbors tend to be adjacent
to mountainous terrain.
The Japanese archipelago stretches over 3000km (1900 miles) from the temperate,
northernmost island of Hokkaido to the subtropical islands of Okinawa in the
south. Both Tokyo and Kyoto are located on Honshu, the largest and economically
and culturally most important of the four major islands. Shikoku and Kyushu lie
to the southwest. Much of the archipelago is mountainous and only a small
percentage of land is available for agriculture and development. Thus large
areas remain forested while towns and cities tend to be densely populated. The
coastline is indented with numerous bays, inlets and small islands.