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This article introduces readers to the basics in Japanese geography, climate, and people. Your readers will learn what seasons are best for visiting Japan (and why), how many gaijin (foreigners) live there, whether they need to know Japanese to travel, and they’ll even know about Japanese religion. This is a must-read for anyone who is traveling to Japan and isn’t familiar with the geographical and societal factors that affect Japanese daily life.

It has been said that a trip to Japan isn’t just a trip… it’s an experience, an adventure, and a walk on the crazy side of life!

There are many quirky things unique to Japan that Americans love taking pictures of and describing at great length. Some even develop into phenomenons, like cosplaying. Despite the fascination modern American culture has with Japan, many Americans don’t really know what they’re in for when they book their airline tickets.

Japan’s Geography

Over Sx thousand islands make up the nation of Japan, but there are four islands generally considered the “main islands”: Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku. Most industrial activity and large cities, such as Tokyo, are located on the main island of Honshu.

The 142,000 square miles of Japan are spread over an area the size of California, but seventy percent of it is mountainous and agriculturally useless.

These mountains make for an interesting contrast in scenery; depending on where you choose to travel, you could be seeing a bustling city with just one mountain barely visible in the distance, or tiny towns surrounded by gorgeous mountains.

Japan’s Climate

The range of latitude found in Japan means that the cool and temperate climate of the mountainous and northern regions of Japan is sharply contrasted against the subtropical climate found in the southern regions.

The east coast of North America has a Similar range of climates, from the cold winters and warm summers found in Nova Scotia to the long summers and mild winters found in Georgia. Tokyo, the capital of Japan, has a climate similar to Los Angeles.

The ocean air usually causes a rainy season from June to July, followed by a short typhoon season from August to September. The mountains that divide Japan in half cause a cold winter for cities to the west of the mountain range, and a milder winter for those to the east.

If you want to travel to Japan in a mild season, spring and autumn are usually the best times to travel, but this varies by region.

Japan’s People

Japan is a very crowded country, with over 120 million people living in an area of land approximately the size of Montana. The population density is over 860 people per square mile, similar to that of India.

Overall, Japan is a homogenous country, but there are approximately 2.5 million foreigners from a variety of nations. Over a million North and South Koreans live in Japan. The next most common countries of origin are the Philippines and China, with half a million immigrants each.

Approximately half a million more are from countries such as Brazil, Peru, America, Canada, Great Britain, and so on.

Japanese is the primary language spoken in Japan, but a small number of people speak Korean, Chinese, Portuguese, and other languages. In the bigger cities such as Tokyo, many residents speak English, due to the high number of travelers and immigrants found there. In smaller cities, very few people speak anything other than Japanese, making either a working knowledge of the language or a Japanese-speaking guide almost certainly necessary.

Religion in Japan is not a major issue, but Shinto (an indigenous, nature-based religion) and Buddhism are the most popular religions. At least 84 percent of Japanese people practice one of the two religions, and 16 percent or fewer practice any other, including Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism.

A traveler to Japan will find much to fall in love with, and a good understanding of the geography and climate of this interesting island nation will serve you well as you prepare to explore it!

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