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August 2011

Japan

Japan

Easter Siberia. 5-60. [Kuril Islands]

Easter Siberia. 5-60. [Kuril Islands]

Japan, a country of islands, extends along the eastern or Pacific coast of Asia. The four main islands, running from north to south, are Hokkaido, Honshu (or the mainland), Shikoku, and Kyushu. About 3,000 smaller islands are included in the archipelago including Bonin Islands (Ogasawara-gunto), Daito-shoto, Minami-jima, Okino-tori-shima, Volcano Islands (Kazan-retto), and Ryukyu Islands (Nansei-shoto) which includes Okinawa . In total land area, Japan is slightly smaller than California. As Japan is situated in a volcanic zone along the Pacific depth, frequent low intensity earth tremors and occasional volcanic activity are felt throughout the islands. Destructive earthquakes occur several times a century. Hot springs are numerous and have been developed as resorts.

Because the islands run almost directly north-south, the climate varies considerably. Sapporo, on the northernmost main island, has warm summers and long, cold winters with heavy snowfall. Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe, in central and western parts of the largest island of Honshu, experience relatively mild winters with little or no snowfall and hot, humid summers. Fukuoka, on the island of Kyushu, has a climate similar to that of Washington, DC, with mild winters and short summers. Okinawa is subtropical.

The Kuril Islands (pronounced: koo−REEL) are located north of Japan in the Sakhalin oblast of Eastern Siberia. They stretch approximately 775 mi/1,247 km between the Kamchatka Peninsula (Russia) and Hokkaido Island (Japan), and separate the Sea of Okhotsk from the Pacific Ocean. Iturup is the largest of the 30 islands in the chain. The islands are mainly of volcanic origin. Active volcanoes are present and earthquakes are frequent.

Communities engaged in sulfur mining, hunting, and fishing exist within the mostly subarctic climate (low temperature; also, high humidity, and persistent fog). The islands offer deepwater, ice−free natural harbors as well as rich fisheries in the surrounding waters.

On August 19, 2011 Japan experienced a magnitude 6.3 earthquake near the East coast of Honshu Island and the Kuril Islands experienced a magnitude 5.3 earthquake. For more information on earthquakes, visit the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program.

CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes; The Columbia Gazeteer, 8/2011; 10/2011; 8/2011

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