1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Japan/01 Geography

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

JAPAN

I.—Geography

The continent of Asia stretches two arms into the Pacific Ocean, Kamchatka in the north and Malacca in the south, between which lies a long cluster of islands constituting the Japanese empire, which covers Position and Extent. 37° 14′ of longitude and 29° 11′ of latitude. On the extreme north are the Kuriles (called by the Japanese Chishima, or the “myriad isles”), which extend to 156° 32′ E. and to 50° 56′ N.; on the extreme south is Formosa (called by the Japanese Taiwan), which extends to 122° 6′ E., and to 21° 45′ N. There are six large islands, namely Sakhalin (called by the Japanese Karafuto); Yezo or Ezo (which with the Kuriles is designated Hokkaidō, or the north-sea district); Nippon (the “origin of the sun”), which is the main island; Shikoku (the “four provinces”), which lies on the east of Nippon; Kiūshiū or Kyushu (the “nine provinces”), which lies on the south of Nippon, and Formosa, which forms the most southerly link of the chain. Formosa and the Pescadores were ceded to Japan by China after the war of 1894–1895, and the southern half of Sakhalin—the part south of 50° N.—was added to Japan by cession from Russia in 1905. Korea, annexed in August 1910, is separately noticed.

Coast-line.—The following table shows the numbers, the lengths of coast-line, and the areas of the various groups of islands, only those being indicated that have a coast-line of at least 1 ri (21/2 m.), or that, though smaller, are inhabited; except in the case of Formosa and the Pescadores, where the whole numbers are given:—

   Number. Length of
coast in
miles.
Area
in square
miles.
Nippon 1 4,765.03 99,373.57
Isles adjacent to Nippon 167 1,275.09 470.30
Shikoku 1 1,100.85 6,461.39
Isles adjacent to Shikoku 75 548.12 175.40
Kiūshiū 1 2,101.28 13,778.68
Isles adjacent to Kiūshiū 150 2,405.06 1,821.85
Yezo 1 1,423.32 30,148.41
Isles adjacent to Yezo 13 110.24 30.51
Sakhalin (Karafuto) 1 Unsurveyed 12,487.64
Sado 1 130.05 335.92
Okishima 1 182.27 130.40
Isles adjacent to Okishima 1 3.09 0.06
Awaji 1 94.43 217.83
Isles adjacent to Awaji 1 5.32 0.83
Iki 1 86.47 50.96
Isles adjacent to Iki 1 4.41 0.47
Tsushima 1 409.23 261.72
Isles adjacent to Tsushima 5 118.80 4.58
Riūkiū (or Luchu) Islands 55 768.74 935.18
Kuriles (Chishima) 31 1,496.23 6,159.42
Bonin (Ogasawara Islands) 20 174.65 26.82
Taiwan (Formosa) 1 731.31 13,429.31
Isles adjacent to Formosa 7 128.32  Not surveyed
Pescadores (Hoko-tō) 12 98.67 85.50
  —— ————— —————
Totals 549 18,160.98 173,786.75

If the various smaller islands be included, a total of over 3000 is reached, but there has not been any absolutely accurate enumeration.

It will be observed that the coast-line is very long in proportion to the area, the ratio being 1 m. of coast to every 9.5 in. of area. The Pacific Ocean, which washes the eastern shores, moulds their outline into much greater diversity than does the Sea of Japan which washes the western shores. Thus the Pacific sea-board measures 10,562 m. against 2887 m. for that of the Japan Sea. In depth of water, too, the advantage is on the Pacific side. There the bottom slopes very abruptly, descending precipitously at a point not far from the north-east coast of the main island, where soundings have shown 4655 fathoms. This, the deepest sea-bed in the world, is called the Tuscarora Deep, after the name of the United States’ man-of-war which made the survey. The configuration seems to point to a colossal crater under the ocean, and many of the earthquakes which visit Japan appear to have their origin in this submarine region. On the other hand, the average depth of the Japan Sea is only 1200 fathoms, and its maximum depth is 3200. The east coast, from Cape Shiriya (Shiriyazaki) in the north to Cape Inuboye (Inuboesaki) near Tōkyō Bay, though abounding in small indentations, has only two large bays, those of Sendai and Matsushima; but southward from Tōkyō Bay to Cape Satta (Satanomisaki) in Kiūshiū there are many capacious inlets which offer excellent anchorage, as the Gulf of Sagami (Sagaminada), the Bays of Suruga (Surugawan), Ise (Isenumi) and Osaka, the Kii Channel, the Gulf of Tosa (Tosonada), &c. Opening into both the Pacific and the Sea of Japan and separating Shikoku and Kiūshiū from the main island as well as from each other, is the celebrated Inland Sea, one of the most picturesque sheets of water in the world. Its surface measures 1325 sq. m.; it has a length of 255 m. and a maximum width of 56 m.; its coast-lines aggregate 700 m.; its depth is nowhere more than 65 fathoms, and it is studded with islands which present scenery of the most diverse and beautiful character. There are four narrow avenues connecting this remarkable body of water with the Pacific and the Japan Sea; that on the west, called Shimonoseki Strait, has a width of 3000 yds., that on the south, known as Hayamoto Strait, is 8 m. across; and the two on the north, Yura and Naruto Straits, measure 3000 and 1500 yds. respectively. It need scarcely be said that these restricted approaches give little access to the storms which disturb the seas outside. More broken into bays and inlets than any other part of the coast is the western shore of Kiūshiū. Here three promontories—Nomo, Shimabara and Kizaki—enclose a large bay having on its shores Nagasaki, the great naval port of Sasebo, and other anchorages. On the south of Kiūshiū the Bay of Kagoshima has historical interest, and on the west are the bays of Ariakeno-ura and Yatsushiro. To the north of Nagasaki are the bays of Hakata, Karatsu and Imari. Between this coast and the southern extremity of the Korean peninsula are situated the islands of Iki and Tsushima, the latter being only 30 m. distant from the peninsula. Passing farther north, the shoreline of the main island along the Japan Sea is found to be comparatively straight and monotonous, there being only one noteworthy indentation, that of Wakasa-wan, where are situated the naval port of Maizuru and the harbour of Tsuruga, the Japanese point of communication with the Vladivostok terminus of the Trans-Asian railway. From this harbour to Osaka Japan’s waist measures only 77 m., and as the great lake of Biwa and some minor sheets of water break the interval, a canal may be dug to join the Pacific and the Sea of Japan. Yezo is not rich in anchorages. Uchiura (Volcano Bay), Nemuro (Walfisch) Bay and Ishikari Bay are the only remarkable inlets. As for Formosa, the peculiarity of its outline is that the eastern coast falls precipitously into deep water, while the western slopes slowly to shelving bottoms and shoals. The Pescadores Islands afford the best anchorage in this part of Japan.

Mountains.—The Japanese islands are traversed from north to south by a range of mountains which sends out various lateral branches. Lofty summits are separated by comparatively low passes, which lie at the level of crystalline rocks and schists constituting the original uplands upon which the summits have been piled by volcanic action. The scenery among the mountains is generally soft. Climatic agencies have smoothed and modified everything rugged or abrupt, until an impression of gentle undulation rather than of grandeur is suggested. Nowhere is the region of eternal snow reached, and masses of foliage enhance the gentle aspect of the scenery and glorify it in autumn with tints of striking brilliancy. Mountain alternates with valley, so that not more than one-eighth of the country’s entire area is cultivable.

The king of Japanese mountains is Fuji-yama or Fuji-san (peerless mount), of which the highest point (Ken-ga-mine) is 12,395 ft. above sea-level. The remarkable grace of this mountain’s curve—an inverted catenary—makes it one of the most beautiful in the world, and has obtained for it Fuji. a prominent place in Japanese decorative art. Great streams of lava flowed from the crater in ancient times. The course of one is still visible to a distance of 15 m. from the summit, but the rest are covered, for the most part, with deep deposits of ashes and scoriae. On the south Fuji slopes unbroken to the sea, but on the other three sides the plain from which it rises is surrounded by mountains, among which, on the north and west, a series of most picturesque lakes has been formed in consequence of the rivers having been dammed by ashes ejected from Fuji’s crater. To a height of some 1500 ft. the slopes of the mountain are cultivated; a grassy moorland stretches up the next 2500 ft.; then follows a forest, the upper edge of which climbs to an altitude of nearly 8000 ft., and finally there is a wide area of ashes and scoriae. There is entire absence of the Alpine plants found abundantly on the summits of other high mountains in Japan, a fact due, doubtless, to the comparatively recent activity of the volcano. The ascent of Fuji presents no difficulties. A traveller can reach the usual point of departure, Gotemba, by rail from Yokohama, and thence the ascent and descent may be made in one day by a pedestrian.

The provinces of Hida and Etchiu are bounded on the east by a chain of mountains including, or having in their immediate vicinity, the highest peaks in Japan after Fuji. Six of these summits rise to a height of 9000 ft. or upwards, and constitute the most imposing assemblage of mountains The Japanese Alps. in the country. The ridge runs due north and south through 60 to 70 m., and has a width of 5 to 10 m. It is mostly of granite, only two of the mountains—Norikura and Tateyama—showing clear traces of volcanic origin. Its lower flanks are clothed with forests of beech, conifers and oak. Farther south, in the same range, stands Ontake (10,450 ft.), the second highest mountain in Japan proper (as distinguished from Formosa); and other remarkable though not so lofty peaks mark the same regions. This grand group of mountains has been well called the “Alps of Japan,” and a good account of them may be found in The Japanese Alps (1896) by the Rev. W. Weston. On the summit of Ontake are eight large and several small craters, and there also may be seen displays of trance and “divine possession,” such as are described by Mr Percival Lowell in Occult Japan (1895).

Even more picturesque, though less lofty, than the Alps of Japan, are the Nikko mountains, enclosing the mausolea of the two greatest of the Tokugawa shōguns. The highest of these are Shirane-san (7422 ft.), Nantai-san (8169 ft.), Nyohô-zan (8100 ft.), and Omanago (7546 ft.). They are The Nikko Mountains. clothed with magnificent vegetation, and everywhere they echo the voices of waterfalls and rivulets.

In the north of the main island there are no peaks of remarkable height. The best known are Chiokai-zan, called “Akita-Fuji” (the Fuji of the Akita province), a volcano 7077 ft. high, which was active as late as 1861; Ganju-san (6791 ft.), called also “Nambu-Fuji” or Iwate-zan, Mountains of
the North.
remarkable for the beauty of its logarithmic curves; Iwaki-san (5230 ft.), known as Tsugaru-Fuji, and said by some to be even more imposing than Fuji itself; and the twin mountains Gassan (6447 ft.) and Haguro-san (5600 ft.). A little farther south, enclosing the fertile plain of Aizu (Aizu-taira, as it is called) several important peaks are found, among them being Iide-san (6332 ft.); Azuma-yama (7733 ft.), which, after a long interval of quiescence, has given many evidences of volcanic activity during recent years; Nasu-dake (6296 ft.), an active volcano; and Bandai-san (6037 ft.). A terrible interest attaches to the last-named mountain, for, after having remained quiet so long as to lull the inhabitants of the neighbouring district into complete security, it suddenly burst into fierce activity on the 15th of July 1888, discharging a vast avalanche of earth and rock, which dashed down its slopes like an inundation, burying four hamlets, partially destroying seven villages, killing 461 people and devastating an area of 27 sq. m.

In the province of Kōzuke, which belongs to the central part of the main island, the noteworthy mountains are Asama-yama (8136 ft.), one of the best known and most violently active volcanoes of Japan; Akagi-san, a circular range of peaks surrounding the basin of an old crater and rising Mountains of Kōzuke, Kai
and Shinano.
to a height of 6210 ft.; the Haruna group, celebrated for scenic beauties, and Myogi-san, a cluster of pinnacles which, though not rising higher than 3880 ft., offer scenery which dispels the delusion that nature as represented in the classical pictures (bunjingwa) of China and Japan exists only in the artist’s imagination. Farther south, in the province of Kai (Kōshiu), and separating two great rivers, the Fuji-kawa and the Tenriu-gawa, there lies a range of hills with peaks second only to those of the Japanese Alps spoken of above. The principal elevations in this range are Shirane-san—with three summits, Nōdori (9970 ft.), Ai-no-take (10,200 ft.) and Kaigane (10,330 ft.)—and Hōōzan (9550 ft.). It will be observed that all the highest mountains of Japan form a species of belt across the widest part of the main island, beginning on the west with the Alps of Etchiu, Hida and Shinano, and ending on the east with Fuji-yama. In all the regions of the main island southward of this belt the only mountains of conspicuous altitude are Omine (6169 ft.) and Odai-gaharazan (5540 ft.) in Yamato and Daisen or Oyama (5951 ft.) in Hōki

The island of Shikoku has no mountains of notable magnitude. The highest is Ishizuchi-zan (7727 ft.), but Mountains of Shikoku. there are several peaks varying from 3000 to 6000 ft.

Kiūshiū, though abounding in mountain chains, independent or connected, is not remarkable for lofty peaks. In the neighbourhood of Nagasaki, over the celebrated solfataras of Unzen-take (called also Onsen) stands an extinct volcano, whose summit, Fugen-dake, is 4865 ft. high. More notable Mountains of Kiūshiū.is Aso-take, some 20 m. from Kumamoto; for, though the highest of its five peaks has an altitude of only 5545 ft., it boasts the largest crater in the world, with walls nearly 2000 ft. high and a basin from 10 to 14 m. in diameter. Aso-take is still an active volcano, but its eruptions during recent years have been confined to ashes and dust. Only two other mountains in Kiūshiū need be mentioned—a volcano (3743 ft.) on the island Sakura-jima, in the extreme south; and Kirishima-yama (5538 ft.), on the boundary of Hiūga, a mountain specially sacred in Japanese eyes, because on its eastern peak (Takachiho-dake) the god Ninigi descended as the forerunner of the first Japanese sovereign, Jimmu.

Among the mountains of Japan there are three volcanic ranges, namely, that of the Kuriles, that of Fuji, and that of Kirishima. Fuji is the most remarkable volcanic peak. The Japanese regard it as a sacred mountain, and numbers Volcanoes. of pilgrims make the ascent in midsummer. From 500 to 600 ft. is supposed to be the depth of the crater. There are neither sulphuric exhalations nor escapes of steam at present, and it would seem that this great volcano is permanently extinct. But experience in other parts of Japan shows that a long quiescent crater may at any moment burst into disastrous activity. Within the period of Japan’s written history several eruptions are recorded the last having been in 1707, when the whole summit burst into flame, rocks were shattered, ashes fell to a depth of several inches even in Yedo (Tōkyō), 60 m. distant, and the crater poured forth streams of lava. Among still active volcanoes the following are the best known:—

Name of Volcano.
Height in feet.
Remarks.
Tarumai (Yezo) 2969. Forms southern wall of a large ancient crater now occupied by a lake (Shikotsu). A little steam still issues from several smaller cones on the summit of the ridge, as well as from one, called Eniwa, on the northern side.
Noboribetsu (Yezo)
 1148.
In a state of continuous activity, with frequent detonations and rumblings. The crater is divided by a wooded rock-wall. The northern part is occupied by a steaming lake, while the southern part contains numerous solfataras and boiling springs.
Komagatake (Yezo)
 3822.
The ancient crater-wall, with a lofty pinnacle on the western side, contains a low new cone with numerous steaming rifts and vents. In a serious eruption in 1856 the S.E. flank of the mountain and the country side in that direction were denuded of trees.
Esan 2067. A volcano-promontory at the Pacific end of the Tsugaru Strait: a finely formed cone surrounded on three sides by the sea, the crater breached on the land side. The central vent displays considerable activity, while the rocky walls are stained with red, yellow and white deposits from numerous minor vents.
Agatsuma (Iwaki)
 5230.
Erupted in 1903 and killed two geologists.
Bandai-san  (Iwashiro)
 6037.
Erupted in 1888 after a long period of quiescence. The outbreak was preceded by an earthquake of some severity, after which about 20 explosions took place. A huge avalanche of earth and rocks buried the Nagase Valley with its villages and inhabitants, and devastated an area of over 27 sq. m. The number of lives lost was 461; four hamlets were completely entombed with their inhabitants and cattle; seven villages were partially wrecked; forests were levelled or the trees entirely denuded of bark; rivers were blocked up, and lakes were formed. The lip of the fracture is now marked by a line of steaming vents.
Azuma-yama (Fukushima)
 7733.
Long considered extinct, but has erupted several times since 1893, the last explosion having been in 1900, when 82 sulphur-diggers were killed or injured; ashes were thrown to a distance of 5 m., accumulating in places to a depth of 5 ft.; and a crater 300 ft. in diameter, and as many in depth, was formed on the E. side of the mountain. This crater is still active. The summit-crater is occupied by a beautiful lake. On the Fukushima (E.) side of the volcano rises a large parasitic cone, extinct.
Nasu (Tochigi) 6296. Has both a summit and a lateral crater, which are apparently connected and perpetually emitting steam. At or about the main vents are numerous solfataras. The whole of the upper part of the cone consists of grey highly acidic lava. At the base is a thermal spring, where baths have existed since the 7th century.
Shirane (Nikko) 7422. The only remaining active vent of the once highly volcanic Nikko district. Eruption in 1889.
Shirane (Kai) 10,330. Eruption in 1905, when the main crater was enlarged to a length of 3000 ft. It is divided into three parts, separated by walls, and each containing a lake, of which the middle one emits steam and the two others are cold. The central lake, during the periods of eruption (which are frequent), displays a geyser-like activity. These lakes contain free sulphuric acid, mixed with iron and alum.
Unzen (Hizen) 4865. A triple-peaked volcano in the solfatara stage, extinct at the summit, but displaying considerable activity at its base in the form of numerous fumaroles and boiling sulphur springs.
Aso-take (Higo) 5545. Remarkable for the largest crater in the world. It measures 10 m. by 15, and rises almost symmetrically to a height of about 2000 ft., with only one break through which the river Shira flows. The centre is occupied by a mass of peaks, on the W. flank of which lies the modern active crater. Two of the five compartments into which it is divided by walls of deeply striated volcanic ash are constantly emitting steam, while a new vent displaying great activity has been opened at the base of the cone on the south side. Eruptions have been recorded since the earliest days of Japanese history. In 1884 the ejected dust and ashes devastated farmlands through large areas. An outbreak in 1894 produced numerous rifts in the inner walls from which steam and smoke have issued ever since.
Kaimon  (Kagoshima Bay)
 3041.
One of the most beautiful volcanoes of Japan, known as the Satsuma-Fuji. The symmetry of the cone is marred by a convexity on the seaward (S.) side. This volcano is all but extinct.
Sakura-jima (Kagomshima Bay)
 3743.
An island-volcano, with several parasitic cones (extinct), on the N. and E. sides. At the summit are two deep craters, the southern of which emits steam. Grass grows, however, to the very edges of the crater. The island is celebrated for thermal springs, oranges and daikon (radishes), which sometimes grow to a weight of 70 ℔.
Kiri-shima  (Kagoshima Bay)
 5538.
A volcanic range of which Takachiho, the only active cone, forms the terminal (S.E.) peak. The crater, situated on the S.W. side of the volcano, lies some 500 ft. below the summit-peak. It is of remarkably regular formation, and the floor is pierced by a number of huge fumaroles whence issue immense volumes of steam.
Izuno Oshima  (Vries Island)
 (Izu) 2461.
The volcano on this island is called Mihara. There is a double crater, the outer being almost complete. The diameter of the outer crater, within which rises the modern cone to a height of 500 ft. above

the surrounding floor, is about 2 m.; while the present crater, which displays incessant activity, has itself a diameter of 1/4 m.

Asama (Ise) 8136. The largest active volcano in Japan. An eruption in 1783, with a deluge of lava, destroyed an extensive forest and overwhelmed several villages. The present cone is the third, portions of two concentric crater rings remaining. The present crater is remarkable for the absolute perpendicularity of its walls, and has an immense depth—from 600 to 800 ft. It is circular, 3/4 m. in circumference, with sides honeycombed and burned to a red hue.

Some of the above information is based upon Mr. C. E. Bruce-Mitford’s valuable work (see Geog. Jour., Feb. 1908, &c.).

Earthquakes.—Japan is subject to marked displays of seismic violence. One steadily exercised influence is constantly at work, for the shores bordering the Pacific Ocean are slowly though appreciably rising, while on the side of the Japan Sea a corresponding subsidence is taking place. Japan also experiences a vast number of petty vibrations not perceptible without the aid of delicate instruments. But of earthquakes proper, large or small, she has an exceptional abundance. Thus in the thirteen years ending in 1897—that is to say, the first period when really scientific apparatus for recording purposes was available—she was visited by no fewer than 17,750 shocks, being an average of something over 31/2 daily. The frequency of these phenomena is in some degree a source of security, for the minor vibrations are believed to exercise a binding effect by removing weak cleavages. Nevertheless the annals show that during the three centuries before 1897 there were 108 earthquakes sufficiently disastrous to merit historical mention. If the calculation be carried farther back—as has been done by the seismic disaster investigation committee of Japan, a body of scientists constantly engaged in studying these phenomena under government auspices,—it is found that, since the country’s history began to be written in the 8th century A.D., there have been 2006 major disturbances; but inasmuch as 1489 of these occurred before the beginning of the Tokugawa administration (early in the 17th century, and therefore in an era when methods of recording were comparatively defective), exact details are naturally lacking. The story, so far as it is known, may be gathered from the following table:—

Date A.D. Region. Houses
 destroyed.
Deaths.
684 Southern part of Tosa [note 1]
869 Mutsu [note 2]
1361 Kiōto
1498 Tōkaidō 2,000 [note 3]
1569 Bungo 700
1596 Kiōto 2,000
1605 (31/1) Pacific Coast 5,000
1611 (27/9) Aizu 3,700
1614 (2/12) Pacific Coast (N.E.) 1,700
1662 (16/6) Kiōto 5,500 500
1666 (2/2) Pacific Coast (N.E.) 1,500
1694 (19/12) Ugo 2,760 390
1703 (30/12) Tōkyō 20,162 5,233
1707 (28/10)  Pacific Coast of Kiūshiū and Shikoku  29,000 4,900
1751 (20/5) Echigo 9,100 1,700
1766 (8/3) Hirosaki 7,500 1,335
1792 (10/2) Hizen and Higo 12,000 15,000
1828 (18/2) Echigo 11,750 1,443
1844 (8/5) Echigo 34,000 12,000
1854 (6/7) Yamato, Iga, Ise 5,000 2,400
1854 (23/12) Tōkaidō (Shikoku) 60,000 3,000
1855 (11/11) Yedo, (Tōkyō) 50,000 6,700
1891 (28/10) Mino, Owari 222,501 7,273
1894 (22/10) Shōnai 8,403 726
1896 (15/6) Sanriku 13,073  27,122
1896 (31/8) Ugo, Rikuchu 8,996 209
1906 (12/2) Formosa 5,556 1,228
  1. An area of over 1,200,000 acres swallowed up by the sea.
  2. Tidal wave killed thousands of people.
  3. Hamana lagoon formed.

In the capital (Tōkyō) the average yearly number of shocks throughout the 26 years ending in 1906 was 96, exclusive of minor vibrations, but during the 50 years then ending there were only two severe shocks (1884 and 1894), and they were not directly responsible for any damage to life or limb. The Pacific coast of the Japanese islands is more liable than the western shore to shocks disturbing a wide area. Apparent proof has been obtained that the shocks occurring in the Pacific districts originate at the bottom of the sea—the Tuscarora Deep is supposed to be the centre of seismic activity—and they are accompanied in most cases by tidal waves. It would seem that of late years Tajima, Hida, Kōzuke and some other regions in central Japan have enjoyed the greatest immunity, while Musashi (in which province Tōkyō is situated) and Sagami have been most subject to disturbance.

Plains.—Japan, though very mountainous, has many extensive plains. The northern island—Yezo—contains seven, and there are as many more in the main and southern islands, to say nothing of flat lands of minor dimensions. The principal are given in the following table:—

Name. Situation. Area. Remarks.
Tokachi plain Yezo. 744,000 acres. 
Ishikari plain Yezo. 480,000 acres. 
Kushiro plain Yezo.  1,229,000 acres. 
Nemuro plain Yezo. 320,000 acres. 
Kitami plain Yezo. 230,000 acres. 
Hidaka plain Yezo. 200,000 acres. 
Teshio plain Yezo. 180,000 acres. 
Echigo plain Main Island. Unascertained. 
Sendai plain Main Island. Unascertained. 
Kwanto plain Main Island. Unascertained.  In this plain lie the capital, Tōkyō, and the town of Yokohama.
 It supports about 6 millions of people.
Mino-Owari plain   Main Island.   Unascertained.  Has 11/2 million inhabitants.
Kinai plain Main Island. Unascertained.  Has the cities of Osaka, Kiōto and Kobe, and 21/2 million people.
Tsukushi plain Kiūshiū. Unascertained.  The chief coalfield of Japan.

Rivers.—Japan is abundantly watered. Probably no country in the world possesses a closer network of streams, supplemented by canals and lakes. But the quantity of water carried seawards varies within wide limits; for whereas, during the rainy season in summer and while the snows of winter are melting in spring, great volumes of water sweep down from the mountains, these broad rivers dwindle at other times to petty rivulets trickling among a waste of pebbles and boulders. Nor are there any long rivers, and all are so broken by shallows and rapids that navigation is generally impossible except by means of flat-bottomed boats drawing only a few inches. The chief rivers are given in the following table:—

Length
in miles.
Source. Mouth.
Ishikari-gawa 275 Ishikari-dake Otaru.
Shinano-gawa 215 Kimpu-san Niigata.
Teshio-gawa 192 Teshio-take Sea of Japan.
Tone-gawa 177 Monju-zan, Kōzuke Choshi (Shimosa).
Mogami-gawa 151 Dainichi-dake(Uzen) Sakata.
Yoshino-gawa 149 Yahazu-yama (Tosa) Tokushima (Awa).
Kitakami-gawa 146 Nakayama-dake (Rikuchiu)  Ishinomaki (Rikuzen).
Tenriu-gawa 136 Suwako (Shinano) Tōtōmi Bay.
Go-gawa or Iwa-megawa 122 Maruse-yama (Bingo) Iwami Bay.
Abukuma-gawa 122 Asahi-take (Iwashiro) Matsushima Bay.
Tokachi-gawa 120 Tokachi-dake Tokachi Bay.
Sendai-gawa 112 Kunimi-zan (Hiuga) Kumizaki (Satsuma).
Oi-gawa 112 Shirane-san (Kai) Suruga Bay.
Kiso-gawa 112 Kiso-zan (Shinano) Bay of Isenumi.
Arakawa 104 Chichibu-yama Tōkyō Bay.
Naga-gawa 102 Nasu-yama (Shimotsuke)  Naka-no-minato (Huachi).

Lakes and Waterfalls.—Japan has many lakes, remarkable for the beauty of their scenery rather than for their extent. Some are contained in alluvial depressions in the river valleys; others have been formed by volcanic eruptions, the ejecta damming the rivers until exits were found over cliffs or through gorges. Some of these lakes have become favourite summer resorts for foreigners. To that category belong especially the lakes of Hakone, of Chiuzenji, of Shōji, of Inawashiro, and of Biwa. Among these the highest is Lake Chiuzenji, which is 4375 ft. above sea-level, has a maximum depth of 93 fathoms, and empties itself at one end over a fall (Kegon) 250 ft. high. The Shōji lakes lie at a height of 3160 ft., and their neighbourhood abounds in scenic charms. Lake Hakone is at a height of 2428 ft.; Inawashiro, at a height of 1920 ft. and Biwa at a height of 328 ft. The Japanese associate Lake Biwa (Omi) with eight views of special loveliness (Omi-no-hakkei). Lake Suwa, in Shinano, which is emptied by the Tenriu-gawa, has a height of 2624 ft. In the vicinity of many of these mountain lakes thermal springs, with remarkable curative properties, are to be found.  (F. By.) 

Geology.—It is a popular belief that the islands of Japan consist for the most part of volcanic rocks. But although this conception might reasonably be suggested by the presence of many active and extinct volcanoes, Professor J. Milne has pointed out that it is literally true of the Kuriles alone, partially true for the northern half of the Main Island and for Kiūshiū, and quite incorrect as applied to the southern half of the Main Island and to Shikoku. This authority sums up the geology of Japan briefly and succinctly as follows (in Things Japanese, by Professor Chamberlain): “The backbone of the country consists of primitive gneiss and schists. Amongst the latter, in Shikoku, there is an extremely interesting rock consisting largely of piedmontite. Overlying these amongst the Palaeozoic rocks, we meet in many parts of Japan with slates and other rocks possibly of Cambrian or Silurian age. Trilobites have been discovered in Rikuzen. Carboniferous rocks are represented by mountain masses of Fusulina and other limestones. There is also amongst the Palaeozoic group an interesting series of red slates containing Radiolaria. Mesozoic rocks are represented by slates containing Ammonites and Monotis, evidently of Triassic age, rocks containing Ammonites Bucklandi of Liassic age, a series of beds rich in plants of Jurassic age, and beds of Cretaceous age containing Trigonia and many other fossils. The Cainozoic or Tertiary system forms a fringe round the coasts of many portions of the empire. It chiefly consists of stratified volcanic tuffs rich in coal, lignite, fossilized plants and an invertebrate fauna. Diatomaceous earth exists at several places in Yezo. In the alluvium which covers all, the remains have been discovered of several species of elephant, which, according to Dr Edmund Naumann, are of Indian origin. The most common eruptive rock is andesite. Such rocks as basalt, diorite and trachyte are comparatively rare. Quartz porphyry, quartzless porphyry, and granite are largely developed.” Drs von Richthofen and Rein discuss the subject in greater detail. They have pointed out that in the mountain system of Japan there are three main lines. One runs from S.W. to N.E.; another from S.S.W. to N.N.E., and the third is meridional. These they call respectively the “southern schist range,” the “northern schist range,” and the “snow range,” the last consisting mainly of old crystalline massive rocks. The rocks predominating in Japan fall also into three groups. They are, first, plutonic rocks, especially granite; secondly, volcanic rocks, chiefly trachyte and dolerite; and thirdly, palaeozoic schists. On the other hand, limestone and sandstone, especially of the Mesozoic strata, are strikingly deficient. The strike of the old crystalline rocks follows, in general, the main direction of the islands (S.W. to N.E.). They are often overlain by schists and quartzites, or broken through by volcanic masses. “The basis of the islands consist of granite, syenite, diorite, diabase and related kinds of rock, porphyry appearing comparatively seldom. Now the granite, continuing for long distances, forms the prevailing rock; then, again, it forms the foundation for thick strata of schist and sandstone, itself only appearing in valleys of erosion and river boulders, in rocky projections on the coasts or in the ridges of the mountains. . . . In the composition of many mountains in Hondo (the main island) granite plays a prominent part. . . . It appears to form the central mass which crops up in hundreds of places towards the coast and in the interior. Old schists, free from fossils and rich in quartz, overlie it in parallel chains through the whole length of the peninsula, especially in the central and highest ridges, and bear the ores of Chū-goku (the central provinces), principally copper pyrites and magnetic pyrites. These schist ridges rich in quartz show, to a depth of 20 metres, considerable disintegration. The resulting pebble and quartz-sand is very unproductive, and supports chiefly a poor underwood and crippled pines with widely spreading roots which seek their nourishment afar. In the province of Settsu granite everywhere predominates, which may be observed also in the railway cuttings between Hiōgo and Osaka, as well as in the temples and walls of these towns. The waterfalls near Kobe descend over granite walls and the mikageishi (stone of Mikage), famous throughout Japan, is granite from Settsu. . . . In the hill country on the borders of Ise, Owari, Mikawa and Tōtōmi, on the one side, and Omi, Mino and Shinano, on the other, granite frequently forms dark grey and much disintegrated rock-projections above schist and diluvial quartz pebbles. The feldspar of a splendid pegmatite and its products of disintegration on the borders of Owari, Mino and Mikawa form the raw material of the very extensive ceramic industry of this district, with its chief place, Seto. Of granite are chiefly formed the meridional mountains of Shinano. Granite, diorite and other plutonic rocks hem in the winding upper valleys of the Kiso-gawa, the Saigawa (Shinano river) and many other rivers of this province, their clear water running over granite. Also in the hills bordering on the plain of Kwanto these old crystalline rocks are widely spread. Farther northwards they give way again, as in the south, to schists and eruptive rocks. Yet even here granite may be traced in many places. Of course it is not always a pure granite; even hablit and granite-porphyry are found here and there. Thus, for instance, near Nikkō in the upper valley of the Daiya-gawa, and in several other places in the neighbouring mountains, a granite-porphyry appears with large, pale, flesh-coloured crystals of orthoclase, dull triclinic felspar, quartz and hornblende.” “From the mine of Ichinokawa in Shikoku come the wonderful crystals of antimonite, which form such conspicuous objects in the mineralogical cabinets of Europe.” (Rein’s Japan and Milne in Things Japanese.) The above conditions suggest the presence of tertiary formations, yet only the younger groups of that formation appear to be developed. Nor is there any sign of moraines, glacier-scorings or other traces of the ice-age.

The oldest beds which have yielded fossils in any abundance belong to the Carboniferous System. The Trias proper is represented by truly marine deposits, while the Rhaetic beds contain plant remains. The Jurassic and Cretaceous beds are also in part marine and in part terrestrial. During the whole of the Mesozoic era Japan appears to have lain on or near the margin of the Asiatic continent, and the marine deposits are confined for the most part to the eastern side of the islands.

The igneous rocks occur at several geological horizons, but the great volcanic eruptions did not begin until the Tertiary period. The existing volcanoes belong to four separate arcs or chains. On the south is the arc of the Luchu islands, which penetrates into Kiū Shiū. In the centre there is the arc of the Izu-no-Shichito islands, which is continued into Hondo along the Fossa Magna. In North Hondo the great Bandai arc forms the axis of the island and stretches into Yezo (Hokkaidō). Finally in the east of Yezo rise the most westerly volcanoes of the Kurile chain. The lavas and ashes ejected by these volcanoes consist of liparite, dacite, andesite and basalt.

Structurally Japan is divided into two regions by a depression (the “Fossa Magna” of Naumann) which stretches across the island of Hondo from Shimoda to Nagano. The depression is marked by a line of volcanoes, including Fuji, and is in part buried beneath the products of their eruptions. It is supposed to be due to a great fault along its western margin. South and west of the Fossa Magna the beds are thrown into folds which run approximately parallel to the general direction of the coast, and two zones may be recognized—an outer, consisting of Palaeozoic and Mesozoic beds, and an inner, consisting of Archaean and Palaeozoic rocks, with granitic intrusions. Nearly along the boundary between the two zones lie the inland seas of south Japan. Towards the Fossa Magna the folds bend northwards.

North and east of the Fossa Magna the structure is concealed, to a very large extent, by the outpourings of the volcanoes which form so marked a feature in the northern part of Hondo. But the foundation on which the volcanoes rest is exposed along the east coast of Hondo (in the Kwanto, Abukuma and Kitakami hills), and also in the island of Yezo. This foundation consists of Archean, Palaeozoic and Mesozoic beds folded together, the direction of the folds being N. by W. to S. by E., that is to say, slightly oblique to the general direction of this part of the island. Towards the Fossa Magna the folds bend sharply round until they are nearly parallel to the Fossa itself.  (P. La.) 

It has been abundantly demonstrated by careful observations that the east coasts of Japan are slowly rising. This phenomenon was first noticed in the case of the plain on which stands the capital, Tōkyō. Maps of sufficiently trustworthy accuracy show that in the 11th century Secular Movement. Tōkyō Bay penetrated much more deeply in a northern direction than it does now; the point where the city’s main river (Sumida or Arakawa) enters the sea was considerably to the north of its present position, and low-lying districts, to-day thickly populated, were under water. Edmund Naumann was the discoverer of these facts, and his attention was first drawn to them by learning that an edible sea-weed, which flourishes only in salt water, is called Asakusa-nori, from the place (Asakusa) of its original provenance, which now lies some 3 m. inland. Similar phenomena were found in Sakhalin by Schmidt and on the north-east coast of the main island by Rein, and there can be little doubt that they exist at other places also. Naumann has concluded that “formerly Tōkyō Bay stretched further over the whole level country of Shimosa and Hitachi and northwards as far as the plain of Kwantō extends;” that “the mountain country of Kasusa-Awa emerged from it an island, and that a current ran in a north-westerly direction between this island and the northern mountain margin of the present plain toward the north-east into the open ocean.”

Mineral Springs.—The presence of so many active volcanoes is partially compensated by a wealth of mineral springs. Since many of these thermal springs possess great medicinal value, Japan may become one of the world’s favourite health-resorts. There are more than a hundred spas, some hot, some cold, which, being easily accessible and highly efficacious, are largely visited by the Japanese. The most noteworthy are as follows:—

 Name of Spa.   Prefecture.  Quality.  Temp., F°.
Arima Hiogo Salt 100
Asama Nagano Pure 111—127
Asamushi Aomori Salt 134—168
Atami Shizuoka Salt  131—226
Beppu Oita Carbonic Acid 109—132
Bessho Nagano Pure or Sulphurous 108—113
Dogo Ehime Pure 70—110
Hakone Kanagawa Pure, Salt or Sulphurous  98—168
Higashi-yama  Fukushima  Pure or Salt 117—144
Ikao Gumma Salt 111—127
Isobe Gumma Salt Cold
Kusatsu Gumma Sulphurous 127—148
Nasu Tochigi Sulphurous  162—172
Noboribetsu   Ishikari Sulphurous 125
Shibu Nagano Salt 98—115
Chiuzenji Shizuoka Carbonate of Soda and Sulphur  114—185
Takarazuka Hiogo Carbonic Acid Cold
Ureshino Saga Carbonic Acid 230
Unzen Nagasaki Sulphurous 158—204
Wagura Ishikawa Salt 180
Yamashiro Ishikawa Salt 165
Yunoshima Hiogo Salt 104—134

Climate.—The large extension of the Japanese islands in a northerly and southerly direction causes great varieties of climate. General characteristics are hot and humid though short summers, and long, cold and clear winters. The equatorial currents produce conditions differing from those existing at corresponding latitudes on the neighbouring continent. In Kiūshiū, Shikoku and the southern half of the main island, the months of July and August alone are marked by oppressive heat at the sea-level, while in elevated districts a cool and even bracing temperature may always be found, though the direct rays of the sun retain distressing power. Winter in these districts does not last more than two months, from the end of December to the beginning of March; for although the latter month is not free from frost and even snow, the balminess of spring makes itself plainly perceptible. In the northern half of the main island, in Yezo and in the Kuriles, the cold is severe during the winter, which lasts for at least four months, and snow falls sometimes to great depths. Whereas in Tōkyō the number of frosty nights during a year does not average much over 60, the corresponding number in Sapporo on the north-west of Yezo is 145. But the variation of the thermometer in winter and summer being considerable—as much as 72° F. in Tōkyō—the climate proves somewhat trying to persons of weak constitution. On the other hand, the mean daily variation is in general less than that in other countries having the same latitude: it is greatest in January, when it reaches 18° F., and least in July, when it barely exceeds 9° F. The monthly variation is very great in March, when it usually reaches 43° F.

During the first 40 years of the Meiji era numerous meteorological stations were established. Reports are constantly forwarded by telegraph to the central observatory in Tōkyō, which issues daily statements of the climatic conditions during the previous twenty-four hours, as well as forecasts for Meteorology. the next twenty-four. The whole country is divided into districts for meteorological purposes, and storm-warnings are issued when necessary. At the most important stations observations are taken every hour; at the less important, six observations daily; and at the least important, three observations. From the record of three decades the following yearly averages of temperature are obtained:—

F°.
Taihoku (in Formosa) 71
Nagasaki (Kiūshiū) 60
Kōbe (Main Island) 59
Osaka (Main Island) 59
Okayama (Main Island) 58
Nagoya (Main Island) 58
Sakai (Main Island) 58
Tōkyō (Capital) 57
Kiōto (Main Island) 57
Niigata (Main Island) 55
Ishinomaki (Main Island)   52
Aomori (Main Island) 50
Sapporo (Yezo) 44

The following table affords data for comparing the climates of Peking, Shanghai, Hakodate, Tōkyō and San Francisco:—

  Longitude. Latitude. Mean
Temp., F°.
Peking 116° 29′ E. 39° 57′ N. 53
Shanghai 121° 20′ E. 31° 12′ N. 59
Hakodate 140° 45′ E. 41° 46′ N. 47
Tōkyō 138° 47′ E. 35° 41′ N. 57
San Francisco 122° 25′ E. 37° 48′ N. 56


  Hottest Month.  Mean Temp. of
Hottest Month.
Peking July 80
Shanghai July 84
Hakodate August 71
Tōkyō August 79
San Francisco September 63


  Coldest Month.  Mean Temp. of
Coldest Month.
Peking January 22
Shanghai January 26
Hakodate January 28
Tōkyō January 36
San Francisco January 49

There are three wet seasons in Japan: the first, from the middle of April to the beginning of May; the second, from the middle of June to the beginning of July; and the third, from early in September to early in October. The dog days (doyō) are from the middle of July till the second half of August. September Rainfall. is the wettest month; January the driest. During the four months from November to February inclusive only about 18% of the whole rain for the year falls. In the district on the east of the main island the snowfall is insignificant, seldom attaining a depth of more than four or five inches and generally melting in a few days, while bright, sunny skies are usual. But in the mountainous provinces of the interior and in those along the western coast, deep snow covers the ground throughout the whole winter, and the sky is usually wrapped in a veil of clouds. These differences are due to the action of the north-westerly wind that blows over Japan from Siberia. The intervening sea being comparatively warm, this wind arrives at Japan having its temperature increased and carrying moisture which it deposits as snow on the western faces of the Japanese mountains. Crossing the mountains and descending their eastern slopes, the wind becomes less saturated and warmer, so that the formation of clouds ceases. Japan is emphatically a wet country so far as quantity of rainfall is concerned, the average for the whole country being 1570 mm. per annum. Still there are about four sunny days for every three on which rain or snow falls, the actual figures being 150 days of snow or rain and 215 days of sunshine.

During the cold season, which begins in October and ends in April, northerly and westerly winds prevail throughout Japan. They come from the adjacent continent of Asia, and they develop considerable strength owing to the fact that there is an average difference of some 22 mm. between the Wind. atmospheric pressure (750 mm.) in the Pacific and that (772 mm.) in the Japanese islands. But during the warm season, from May to September, these conditions of atmospheric pressure are reversed, that in the Pacific rising to 767 mm. and that in Japan falling to 750 mm. Hence throughout this season the prevailing winds are light breezes from the west and south. A comparison of the force habitually developed by the wind in various parts of the islands shows that at Suttsu in Yezo the average strength is 9 metres per second, while Izuhara in the island Tsushima, Kumamoto in Kiūshiū and Gifu in the east centre of the main island stand at the bottom of the list with an average wind velocity of only 2 metres. A calamitous atmospheric feature is the periodical arrival of storms called “typhoons” (Japanese tai-fu or “great wind”). These have their origin, for the most part, in the China Sea, especially in the vicinity of Luzon. Their season is from June to October, but they occur in other months also, and they develop a velocity of 5 to 75 m. an hour. The meteorological record for ten years ended 1905 shows a total of 120 typhoons, being an average of 12 annually. September had 14 of these phenomena, March 11 and April 10, leaving 85 for the remaining 9 months. But only 65 out of the whole number developed disastrous force. It is particularly unfortunate that September should be the season of greatest typhoon frequency, for the earlier varieties of rice flower in that month and a heavy storm does much damage. Thus, in 1902—by no means an abnormal year—statistics show the following disasters owing to typhoons: casualties to human life, 3639; ships and boats lost, 3244; buildings destroyed wholly or partially, 695,062; land inundated, 1,071,575 acres; roads destroyed, 1236 m.; bridges washed away, 13,685; embankments broken, 705 m.; crops damaged, 8,712,655 bushels. The total loss, including cost of repairs, was estimated at nearly 3 millions sterling, which may be regarded as an annual average.

Flora.—The flora of Japan has been carefully studied by many scientific men from Siebold downwards. Foreigners visiting Japan are immediately struck by the affection of the people for flowers, trees and natural beauties of every kind. In actual wealth of blossom or dimensions of forest trees the Japanese islands cannot claim any special distinction. The spectacles most admired by all classes are the tints of the foliage in autumn and the glory of flowering trees in the spring. In beauty and variety of pattern and colour the autumnal tints are unsurpassed. The colours pass from deep brown through purple to yellow and white, thrown into relief by the dark green of non-deciduous shrubs and trees. Oaks and wild prunus, wild vines and sumachs, various kinds of maple, the dōdan (Enkianthus Japonicus Hook.)—a wonderful bush which in autumn develops a hue of ruddy red—birches and other trees, all add multitudinous colours to the brilliancy of a spectacle which is further enriched by masses of feathery bamboo. The one defect is lack of green sward. The grass used for Japanese lawns loses its verdure in autumn and remains from November to March a greyish-brown blot upon the scene. Spring is supposed to begin in February when, according to the old calendar, the new year sets in, but the only flowers then in bloom are the camellia japonica and some kinds of daphne. The former—called by the Japanese tsubaki—may often be seen glowing fiery red amid snow, but the pink (otome tsubaki), white (shiro-tsubaki) and variegated (shibori-no-tsubaki) kinds do not bloom until March or April. Neither the camellia nor the daphne is regarded as a refined flower: their manner of shedding their blossoms is too unsightly. Queen of spring flowers is the plum (ume). The tree lends itself with peculiar readiness to the skilful manipulation of the gardener, and is by him trained into shapes of remarkable grace. Its pure white or rose-red blossoms, heralding the first approach of genial weather, are regarded with special favour and are accounted the symbol of unassuming hardihood. The cherry (sakura) is even more esteemed. It will not suffer any training, nor does it, like the plum, improve by pruning, but the sunshine that attends its brief period of bloom in April, the magnificence of its flower-laden boughs and the picturesque flutter of its falling petals, inspired an ancient poet to liken it to the “soul of Yamato” (Japan), and it has ever since been thus regarded. The wild peach (momo) blooms at the same time, but attracts little attention. All these trees—the plum, the cherry and the peach—bear no fruit worthy of the name, nor do they excel their Occidental representatives in wealth of blossom, but the admiring affection they inspire in Japan is unique. Scarcely has the cherry season passed when that of the wistaria (fuji) comes, followed by the azalea (tsutsuji) and the iris (shōbu), the last being almost contemporaneous with the peony (botan), which is regarded by many Japanese as the king of flowers and is cultivated assiduously. A species of weeping maple (shidare-momiji) dresses itself in peachy-red foliage and is trained into many picturesque shapes, though not without detriment to its longevity. Summer sees the lotus (renge) convert wide expanses of lake and river into sheets of white and red blossoms; a comparatively flowerless interval ensues until, in October and November, the chrysanthemum arrives to furnish an excuse for fashionable gatherings. With the exception of the dog-days and the dead of winter, there is no season when flowers cease to be an object of attention to the Japanese, nor does any class fail to participate in the sentiment. There is similar enthusiasm in the matter of gardens. From the 10th century onwards the art of landscape gardening steadily grew into a science, with esoteric as well as exoteric aspects, and with a special vocabulary. The underlying principle is to reproduce nature’s scenic beauties, all the features being drawn to scale, so that however restricted the space, there shall be no violation of proportion. Thus the artificial lakes and hills, the stones forming rockeries or simulating solitary crags, the trees and even the bushes are all selected or manipulated so as to fall congruously into the general scheme. If, on the one hand, huge stones are transported hundreds of miles from seashore or river-bed where, in the lapse of long centuries, waves and cataracts have hammered them into strange shapes, and if the harmonizing of their various colours and the adjustment of their forms to environment are studied with profound subtlety, so the training and tending of the trees and shrubs that keep them company require much taste and much toil. Thus the red pine (aka-matsu or pinus densiflora), which is the favourite garden tree, has to be subjected twice a year to a process of spray-dressing which involves the careful removal of every weak or aged needle. One tree occupies the whole time of a gardener for about ten days. The details are endless, the results delightful. But it has to be clearly understood that there is here no mention of a flower-garden in the Occidental sense of the term. Flowers are cultivated, but for their own sakes, not as a feature of the landscape garden. If they are present, it is only as an incident. This of course does not apply to shrubs which blossom at their seasons and fall always into the general scheme of the landscape. Forests of cherry-trees, plum-trees, magnolia trees, or hiyaku-jikkō (Lagerstroemia indica), banks of azalea, clumps of hydrangea, groups of camellia—such have their permanent places and their foliage adds notes of colour when their flowers have fallen. But chrysanthemums, peonies, roses and so forth, are treated as special shows, and are removed or hidden when out of bloom. There is another remarkable feature of the Japanese gardener’s art. He dwarfs trees so that they remain measurable only by inches after their age has reached scores, even hundreds, of years, and the proportions of leaf, branch and stem are preserved with fidelity. The pots in which these wonders of patient skill are grown have to be themselves fine specimens of the kceramist’s craft, and as much as £200 is sometimes paid for a notably well trained tree.

There exists among many foreign observers an impression that Japan is comparatively poor in wild-flowers; an impression probably due to the fact that there are no flowery meadows or lanes. Besides, the flowers are curiously wanting in fragrance. Almost the only notable exceptions are the mokusei (Osmanthus fragrans), the daphne and the magnolia. Missing the perfume-laden air of the Occident, a visitor is prone to infer paucity of blossoms. But if some familiar European flowers are absent, they are replaced by others strange to Western eyes—a wealth of lespedeza and Indigo-fera; a vast variety of lilies; graceful grasses like the eulalia and the ominameshi (Patrina scabiosaefolia); the richly-hued Pyrus japonica; azaleas, diervillas and deutzias; the kikyo (Platycodon grandiflorum), the gibōshi (Funkia ovata), and many another. The same is true of Japanese forests. It has been well said that “to enumerate the constituents and inhabitants of the Japanese mountain-forests would be to name at least half the entire flora.”

According to Franchet and Savatier Japan possesses:—

  Families.  Genera.  Species.
Dicotyledonous plants 121  795  1934 
Monocotyledonous plants 28  202  613 
Higher Cryptogamous plants  5  38  196 
  ——  ——  —— 
Vascular plants 154  1035  2743 

The investigations of Japanese botanists are adding constantly to the above number, and it is not likely that finality will be reached for some time. According to a comparison made by A. Gray with regard to the numbers of genera and species respectively represented in the forest trees of four regions of the northern hemisphere, the following is the case:—

Atlantic Forest-region of N. America 66 genera and  155 species.
Pacific Forest-region of N. America 31 genera and 78 species.
Japan and Manchuria Forest-region  66 genera and 168 species.
Forests of Europe 33 genera and 85 species.

While there can be no doubt that the luxuriance of Japan’s flora is due to rich soil, to high temperature and to rainfall not only plentiful but well distributed over the whole year, the wealth and variety of her trees and shrubs must be largely the result of immigration. Japan has four insular chains which link her to the neighbouring continent. On the south, the Riūkiū Islands bring her within reach of Formosa and the Malayan archipelago; on the west, Oki, Iki, and Tsushima bridge the sea between her and Korea; on the north-west Sakhalin connects her with the Amur region; and on the north, the Kuriles form an almost continuous route to Kamchatka. By these paths the germs of Asiatic plants were carried over to join the endemic flora of the country, and all found suitable homes amid greatly varying conditions of climate and physiography.

Fauna.—Japan is an exception to the general rule that continents are richer in fauna than are their neighbouring islands. It has been said with truth that “an industrious collector of beetles, butterflies, neuroptera, &c., finds a greater number of species in a circuit of some miles near Tōkyō than are exhibited by the whole British Isles.”

Of mammals 50 species have been identified and catalogued. Neither the lion nor the tiger is found. The true Carnivora are three only, the bear, the dog and the marten. Three species of bears are scientifically recognized, but one of them, the ice-bear (Ursus maritimus), is only an accidental visitor, carried down by the Arctic current. In the main island the black bear (kuma, Ursus japonicus) alone has its habitation, but the island of Yezo has the great brown bear (called shi-guma, oki-kuma or aka-kuma), the “grisly” of North America. The bear does not attract much popular interest in Japan. Tradition centres rather upon the fox (kitsune) and the badger (mujina), which are credited with supernatural powers, the former being worshipped as the messenger of the harvest god, while the latter is regarded as a mischievous rollicker. Next to these comes the monkey (saru), which dwells equally among the snows of the north and in the mountainous regions of the south. Saru enters into the composition of many place-names, an evidence of the people’s familiarity with the animal. There are ten species of bat (komori) and seven of insect-eaters, and prominent in this class are the mole (mugura) and the hedgehog (hari-nezumi). Among the martens there is a weasel (itachi), which, though useful as a rat-killer, has the evil repute of being responsible for sudden and mysterious injuries to human beings; there is a river-otter (kawauso), and there is a sea-otter (rakko) which inhabits the northern seas and is highly valued for its beautiful pelt. The rodents are represented by an abundance of rats, with comparatively few mice, and by the ordinary squirrel, to which the people give the name of tree-rat (ki-nezumi), as well as the flying squirrel, known as the momo-dori (peach-bird) in the north, where it hides from the light in hollow tree-trunks, and in the south as the ban-tori (or bird of evening). There are no rabbits, but hares (usagi) are to be found in very varying numbers, and those of one species put on a white coat during winter. The wild boar (shishi or ii-no-shishi) does not differ appreciably from its European congener. Its flesh is much relished, and for some unexplained reason is called by its vendors “mountain-whale” (yama-kujira). A very beautiful stag (shika), with eight-branched antlers, inhabits the remote woodlands, and there are five species of antelope (kamo-shika) which are found in the highest and least accessible parts of the mountains. Domestic animals have for representatives the horse (uma), a small beast with little beauty of form though possessing much hardihood and endurance; the ox (ushi) mainly a beast of burden or draught; the pig (buta), very occasionally; the dog (inu), an unsightly and useless brute; the cat (neko), with a stump in lieu of a tail; barndoor fowl (niwa-tori), ducks (ahiro) and pigeons (hato). The turkey (shichi-mencho) and the goose (gachō) have been introduced but are little appreciated as yet.

Although so-called singing birds exist in tolerable numbers, those worthy of the name of songster are few. Eminently first is a species of nightingale (uguisu), which, though smaller than its congener of the West, is gifted with exquisitely modulated flute-like notes of considerable range. The uguisu is a dainty bird in the matter of temperature. After May it retires from the low-lying regions and gradually ascends to higher altitudes as midsummer approaches. A variety of the cuckoo called holotogisu (Cuculus poliocephalus) in imitation of the sound of its voice, is heard as an accompaniment of the uguisu, and there are also three other species, the kakkōdori (Cuculus canorus), the tsutsu-dori (C. himalayanus), and the masuhakari, or juichi (C. hyperythrus). To these the lark, hibari (Alauda japonica), joins its voice, and the cooing of the pigeon (hato) is supplemented by the twittering of the ubiquitous sparrow (suzume), while over all are heard the raucous caw of the raven (karasu) and the harsh scream of the kite (tombi), between which and the raven there is perpetual feud. The falcon (taka), always an honoured bird in Japan, where from time immemorial hawking has been an aristocratic pastime, is common enough, and so is the sparrow-hawk (hai-taka), but the eagle (washi) affects solitude. Two English ornithologists, Blakiston and Pryer, are the recognized authorities on the birds of Japan, and in a contribution to the Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan (vol. x.) they have enumerated 359 species. Starlings (muku-dori) are numerous, and so are the wagtail (sekirei), the swallow (tsubame) the martin (ten), the woodchat (mozu) and the jay (kakesu or kashi-dori), but the magpie (tōgarasu), though common in China, is rare in Japan. Blackbirds and thrushes are not found, nor any species of parrot, but on the other hand, we have the hoopoe (yatsugashira), the red-breast (komadori), the bluebird (ruri), the wren (miso-sazai), the golden-crested wren (itadaki), the golden-eagle (inu-washi), the finch (hiwa), the longtailed rose-finch (benimashiko), the ouzel—brown (akahara), dusky (tsugumi) and water (kawa-garasu)—the kingfisher (kawasemi), the crake (kuina) and the tomtit (kara). Among game-birds there are the quail (uzura), the heathcock (ezo-rachō), the ptarmigan (ezo-raichō or ezo-yama-dori), the woodcock (hodo-shigi), the snipe (ta-shigi)—with two special species, the solitary snipe (yama-shigi) and the painted snipe (tama-shigi)—and the pheasant (kiji). Of the last there are two species, the kiji proper, a bird presenting no remarkable features, and the copper pheasant, a magnificent bird with plumage of dazzling beauty. Conspicuous above all others, not only for grace of form but also for the immemorial attention paid to them by Japanese artists, are the crane (tsuru) and the heron (sagi). Of the crane there are seven species, the stateliest and most beautiful being the Grus japonensis (tanchō or tanchō-zuru), which stands some 5 ft. high and has pure white plumage with a red crown, black tail-feathers and black upper neck. It is a sacred bird, and it shares with the tortoise the honour of being an emblem of longevity. The other species are the demoiselle crane (anewa-zuru), the black crane (kuro-zuru or nezumi-zuru, i.e. Grus cinerea), the Grus leucauchen (mana-zuru), the Grus monachus (nabe-zuru), and the white crane (shiro-zuru). The Japanese include in this category the stork (kōzuru), but it may be said to have disappeared from the island. The heron (sagi) constitutes a charming feature in a Japanese landscape, especially the silver heron (shira-sagi), which displays its brilliant white plumage in the rice-fields from spring to early autumn. The night-heron (goi-sagi) is very common. Besides these waders there are plover (chidori); golden (muna-guro or ai-guro); gray (daizen); ringed (shiro-chidori); spur-winged (keri) and Harting’s sand-plover (ikaru-chidori); sand-pipers—green (ashiro-shigi) and spoon-billed (hera-shigi)—and water-hens (ban). Among swimming birds the most numerous are the gull (kamome), of which many varieties are found; the cormorant (u)—which is trained by the Japanese for fishing purposes—and multitudinous flocks of wild-geese (gan) and wild-ducks (kamo), from the beautiful mandarin-duck (oshi-dori), emblem of conjugal fidelity, to teal (kogamo) and widgeon (hidori-gamo) of several species. Great preserves of wild-duck and teal used to be a frequent feature in the parks attached to the feudal castles of old Japan, when a peculiar method of netting the birds or striking them with falcons was a favourite aristocratic pastime. A few of such preserves still exist, and it is noticeable that in the Palace-moats of Tōkyō all kinds of water-birds, attracted by the absolute immunity they enjoy there, assemble in countless numbers at the approach of winter and remain until the following spring, wholly indifferent to the close proximity of the city.

Of reptiles Japan has only 30 species, and among them is included the marine turtle (umi-game) which can scarcely be said to frequent her waters, since it is seen only at rare intervals on the southern coast. This is even truer of the larger species (the shōgakubo, i.e. Chelonia cephalo). Both are highly valued for the sake of the shell, which has always been a favourite material for ladies’ combs and hairpins. By carefully selecting certain portions and welding them together in a perfectly flawless mass, a pure amber-coloured object is obtained at heavy cost. Of the fresh-water tortoise there are two kinds, the suppon (Trionyx japonica) and the kame-no-ko (Emys vulgaris japonica). The latter is one of the Japanese emblems of longevity. It is often depicted with a flowing tail, which appendix attests close observation of nature; for the mino-game, as it is called, represents a tortoise to which, in the course of many scores of years, confervae have attached themselves so as to form an appendage of long green locks as the creature swims about. Sea-snakes occasionally make their way to Japan, being carried thither by the Black Current (Kuro Shiwo) and the monsoon, but they must be regarded as merely fortuitous visitors. There are 10 species of land-snakes (hebi), among which one only (the mamushi, or Trigonocephalus Blomhoffi) is venomous. The others for the most part frequent the rice-fields and live upon frogs. The largest is the aodaisho (Elaphis virgatus), which sometimes attains a length of 5 ft., but is quite harmless. Lizards (tokage), frogs (kawazu or kaeru), toads (ebogayeru) and newts (imori) are plentiful, and much curiosity attaches to a giant salamander (sansho-uwo, called also hazekai and other names according to localities), which reaches to a length of 5 ft., and (according to Rein) is closely related to the Andrias Scheuchzeri of the Oeningen strata.

The seas surrounding the Japanese islands may be called a resort of fishes, for, in addition to numerous species which abide there permanently, there are migatory kinds, coming and going with the monsoons and with the great ocean streams that set to and from the shores. In winter, for example, when the northern monsoon begins to blow, numbers of denizens of the Sea of Okhotsk swim southward to the more genial waters of north Japan; and in summer the Indian Ocean and the Malayan archipelago send to her southern coasts a crowd of emigrants which turn homeward again at the approach of winter. It thus falls out that in spite of the enormous quantity of fish consumed as food or used as fertilizers year after year by the Japanese, the seas remain as richly stocked as ever. Nine orders of fishes have been distinguished as the piscifauna of Japanese waters. They may be found carefully catalogued with all their included species in Rein’s Japan, and highly interesting researches by Japanese physiographists are recorded in the Journal of the College of Science of the Imperial University of Tokyo. Briefly, the chief fish of Japan are the bream (tai), the perch (suzuki), the mullet (bora), the rock-fish (hatatate), the grunter (oni-o-koze), the mackerel (saba), the sword-fish (tachi-uwo), the wrasse (kusabi), the haddock (tara), the flounder (karei), and its congeners the sole (hirame) and the turbot (ishi-garei), the shad (namazu), the salmon (shake), the masu, the carp (koi), the funa, the gold fish (kingyo), the gold carp (higoi), the loach (dojo), the herring (nishin), the iwashi (Clupea melanosticta), the eel (unagi), the conger eel (anago), the coffer-fish (hako-uwo), the fugu (Tetrodon), the ai (Plecoglossus altivelis), the sayori (Hemiramphus sayori), the shark (same), the dogfish (manuka-zame), the ray (e), the sturgeon (chō-zame) and the maguro (Thynnus sibi).

The insect life of Japan broadly corresponds with that of temperate regions in Europe. But there are also a number of tropical species, notably among butterflies and beetles. The latter—for which the generic term in Japan is mushi or kaichū—include some beautiful species, from the “jewel beetle” (tama-mushi), the “gold beetle” (kogane-mushi) and the Chrysochroa fulgidissima, which glow and sparkle with the brilliancy of gold and precious stones, to the jet black Melanauster chinensis, which seems to have been fashioned out of lacquer spotted with white. There is also a giant nasicornous beetle. Among butterflies (chōchō) Rein gives prominence to the broad-winged kind (Papilio), which recall tropical brilliancy. One (Papilio macilentus) is peculiar to Japan. Many others seem to be practically identical with European species. That is especially true of the moths (yachō), 100 species of which have been identified with English types. There are seven large silk-moths, of which two only (Bombyx mori and Antheraea yama-mai) are employed in producing silk. Fishing lines are manufactured from the cocoons of the genjiki-mushi (Caligula japonica), which is one of the commonest moths in the islands. Wasps, bees and hornets, generically known as hachi, differ little from their European types, except that they are somewhat larger and more sluggish. The gad-fly (abu), the housefly (hai), the mosquito (ka), the flea (nomi) and occasionally the bedbug (called by the Japanese kara-mushi because it is believed to be imported from China), are all fully represented, and the dragon-fly (tombō) presents itself in immense numbers at certain seasons. Grasshoppers (batta) are abundant, and one kind (inago), which frequent the rice-fields when the cereal is ripening, are caught and fried in oil as an article of food. On the moors in late summer the mantis (kama-kiri-mushi) is commonly met with, and the cricket (kūrogi) and the cockroach abound. Particularly obtrusive is the cicada (semi), of which there are many species. Its strident voice is heard most loudly at times of great heat, when the song of the birds is hushed. The dragon-fly and the cicada afford ceaseless entertainment to the Japanese boy. He catches them by means of a rod smeared with bird-lime, and then tying a fine string under their wings, he flies them at its end. Spiders abound, from a giant species to one of the minutest dimensions, and the tree-bug is always ready to make a destructive lodgment in any sickly tree-stem. The scorpion (sasori) exists but is not poisonous.

Japanese rivers and lakes are the habitation of several—seven or eight—species of fresh-water crab (kani), which live in holes on the shore and emerge in the daytime, often moving to considerable distances from their homes. Shrimps (kawa-ebi) also are found in the rivers and rice-fields. These shrimps as well as a large species of crab—mokuzō-gani—serve the people as an article of food, but the small crabs which live in holes have no recognized raison d’être. In Japan, as elsewhere, the principal crustacea are found in the sea. Flocks of lupa and other species swim in the wake of the tropical fishes which move towards Japan at certain seasons. Naturally these migratory crabs are not limited to Japanese waters. Milne Edwards has identified ten species which occur in Australian seas also, and Rein mentions, as belonging to the same category, the “helmet-crab” or “horse-shoe crab” (kabuto-gani; Limulus longispina Hoeven). Very remarkable is the giant Taka-ashi—long legs (Macrocheirus Kaempferi), which has legs 11/2 metres long and is found in the seas of Japan and the Malay archipelago. There is no lobster on the coasts of Japan, but there are various species of crayfish (Palinurus and Scyllarus) the principal of which, under the names of ise-ebi (Palinurus japonicus) and kuruma-ebi (Penaeus canaliculatus) are greatly prized as an article of diet.

Already in 1882, Dunker in his Index Molluscorum Maris Japonici enumerated nearly 1200 species of marine molluscs found in the Japanese archipelago, and several others have since then been added to the list. As for the land and fresh-water molluscs, some 200 of which are known, they are mainly kindred with those of China and Siberia, tropical and Indian forms being exceptional. There are 57 species of Helix (maimaitsuburi, dedemushi, katatsumuri or kwagyū) and 25 of Clausilia (kiseru-gai or pipe-snail), including the two largest snails in Japan, namely the Cl. Martensi and the Cl. Yokohamensis, which attain to a length of 58 mm. and 44 mm. respectively. The mussel (i-no-kai) is well represented by the species numa-gai (marsh-mussel), karasu-gai (raven-mussel), kamisori-gai (razor-mussel), shijimi-no-kai (Corbicula), of which there are nine species, &c. Unlike the land-molluscs, the great majority of Japanese sea-molluscs are akin to those of the Indian Ocean and the Malay archipelago. Some of them extend westward as far as the Red Sea. The best known and most frequent forms are the asari (Tapes philippinarum), the hamaguri (Meretrix lusoria), the baka (Mactra sulcataria), the aka-gai (Scapharca inflata), the kaki (oyster), the awabi (Haliotis japonica), the sazae (Turbo cornutus), the hora-gai (Tritonium tritonius), &c. Among the cephalopods several are of great value as articles of food, e.g. the surume (Onychotheuthis Banksii), the tako (octopus), the shidako (Eledone), the ika (Sepia) and the tako-fune (Argonauta).

Greeff enumerates, as denizens of Japanese seas, 26 kinds of sea-urchins (gaze or uni) and 12 of starfish (hitode or tako-no-makura). These, like the mollusca, indicate the influence of the Kuro Shiwo and the south-west monsoon, for they have close affinity with species found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. For edible purposes the most valuable of the Japanese echinoderms is the sea-slug or bêche de mer (namako), which is greatly appreciated and forms an important staple of export to China. Rein writes: “Very remarkable in connexion with the starfishes is the occurrence of Asterias rubens on the Japanese coast. This creature displays an almost unexampled frequency and extent of distribution in the whole North Sea, in the western parts of the Baltic, near the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and the English coasts, so that it may be regarded as a characteristic North Sea echinoderm form. Towards the south this starfish disappears, it seems, completely; for it is not yet known with certainty to exist either in the Mediterranean or in the southern parts of the Atlantic Ocean. In others also Asterias rubens is not known—and then it suddenly reappears in Japan. Archaster typicus has a pretty wide distribution over the Indian Ocean; other Asteridae of Japan, on the other hand, appear to be confined to its shores.”

Japan is not rich in corals and sponges. Her most interesting contributions are crust-corals (Gorgonidae, Corallium, Isis, &c.), and especially flint-sponges, called by the Japanese hoshi-gai and known as “glass-coral” (Hyalonema sieboldi). These last have not been found anywhere except at the entrance of the Bay of Tōkyō at a depth of some 200 fathoms.


EB1911 Japan - Japan and Korea.jpg