Regional Geography of Japan/Tohoku and Hokkaido


  1. Physical Characteristics
  2. Human Characteristics
  3. Economic Characteristics
  4. References

Physical Characteristics

Relative Location:

Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Some other East Asian countries near Japan are South Korea, North Korea, and China. Russia is also close to northern Japan. The Tohoku Region of Japan is the northernmost region of Japanís Honshu island. Hokkaido is a region in itself, and is also Japanís northernmost island. Bodies of water that surround Japan are the Pacific Ocean to itís eastern side and the Sea of Japan on the western side.


Landscape and Physical Environment:

According to Pulsipher and Pulsipherís World Regional Geography, ďLying along a portion of the Pacific Ring of Fire the entire Japanese island chain is particularly vulnerable to disastrous volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis.Ē Because of Japanís origin being volcanically related, it is an very mountainous country. Notable mountains in the Tohoku region are Mt. Gassan, Mt. Iwaki, and the Hakkoda Mountains. Some other well known mountains in Hokkaido are Mt. Hakodate, Mt. Tengu, and Mt. Yubaridake.


Weather and Climate:

Generally, Japan has a wet climate. World Regional Geography states, ďJapan and Taiwan actually receive monsoon rains twice: once in the spring, when the main monsoon moves towards the land, and again in autumn, as the winter monsoon forces warm air off the continent.Ē My geography text goes on to explain that most of Japanís autumn precipitation comes down as snow in the north. This makes sense, because in the winter, Tohoku and Hokkaido are two areas that have some of the most snowfall annually in the world. Snow statistics on explains that Sapporo city on the island of Hokkaido receives over 6 meters of snowfall each winter!

Human Characteristics

Population, Density and Age/Sex Characteristics:

According to The Times Desktop Atlas of the World, Japan has a population 127,967,000 people. Men make up roughly 49% of the population, while women make up slightly more at 51%. The population of Japan is currently on the decline though. Japanís population is steadily aging while the amount of births in the country lowers. The PRB website states, ďIn Japan, more than one-third (36 percent) of the population is projected to be ages 65 and older by 2050, up from 28 percent now.Ē


Language and Religion:

The main language of Japan is Japanese. There are 3 forms of writing for this language: hiragana, katakana, and kanji. Hiragana and katakana are similar to a kind of alphabet, each hiragana and katakana symbol represents a sound that can be put together to make sounds. Katakana is usually only used to spell foreign names or words though. Kanji is a form of writing directly borrowed from the Chinese language. Different from hiragana and katakana, kanji are symbols that can represent sounds or whole words. This can make kanji a bit harder to read since one canít sound out kanji as one could reading hiragana or katakana, one just has to memorize what each kanji means.

For religions, according to The Times Desktop Atlas of the World, the three most practiced religions in Japan are Shinto, Buddhism, and Christianity. Buddhist and Shinto shrines can be found all over Japan. This gives Japan a rare aura as one explores the country. In the city of Tokyo for example, its common to see shrines and temples that are hundreds of years old next to skyscrapers and other forms of advanced architecture. While there are not as many practitioners of Christianity as there are Shinto and Buddhist practitioners, Christianity has become more common in recent history. Hundreds of years ago, Christianity was tolerated for a short time in Japan as it benefitted trade with western nations. Once Tokugawa Ieyasu came in to power as shogun though, he chose to isolate the nation and no longer allowed the practice of Christianity in Japan.


Cultural and Ethnic Groups:

According to Japan is mainly made up of people who are Yamato Japanese. The second largest group of people in Japan are Ryukyuan Japanese. Chinese, Korean, Latin America, Filipino, and Ainu make up the other larger ethnic groups in the nation. The Ainu are a population that is indigenous to Hokkaido and the northern parts of Honshu. The Ainu had many clashes with the Japanese throughout history and were eventually forced to assimilate into Japanese society. In 2008, the Ainu were finally recognized as an indigenous population in Japan.

Economic Characteristics

Major Economic Activities:

After Japanís defeat in WWII, World Regional Geography discusses how Japan made an amazing economic recovery after. World Regional Geography attributes Japanís economic success to its state aided and export oriented market. Something else that helps Japanís successful market are productivity innovations. One such innovation system in Japan is the Kaizen system. When describing this system World Regional Geography states, ďIn this system, production lines are constantly surveyed for errors, which helps ensure that fewer defective parts are produced.Ē


Imports and Exports:

World Regional Geography describes some of Japanís exports being automobiles and technology, using Sony, Panasonic, Nikon, and Toyota as some examples. Many of these exports go to North America and Europe. For imports, Japan brings in a lot of fossil fuels from other nations. According to, Japan is the second largest importer of fossil fuels in the world.


GNP and GNP Per Capita:

According to, GNP per capita in Japan is 38,550 as of 2017. The world bank also has Japanís GNP listed at 5.765 trillion. BBC news explains that Japanís economy ranks as the third largest in the world, only behind the U.S. and China. Though Japanís economy had began to decline in the 1990ís and again in the 2000ís, Japan still has an economy that has an influence all over the world.


2018 World Population Data Sheet With Focus on Changing Age Structures

Ethnic Groups And Nationalities In Japan

Gregory Sousa -

U.s. Energy Information Administration - Eia - Independent Statistics and Analysis

Japan Country Profile


Pulsipher, L. M., Pulsipher, A., Johansson, O., & Goodwin, C. M. (2017). World regional geography: Global patterns, local lives. New York, NY: W.H.

Freeman and Company. Top of Form


Desktop atlas of the world. (2015). London: Times Books.


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Submitted by Davis Clouse on April 12, 2019.