Mountains of Japan
Japan is an island country located on the archipelago, which was formed as a result of numerous volcanoes. The arc-shaped cluster of islands stretches from north to south for 3,500 kilometers. All of the islands are predominantly mountainous. The tallest mountain in the country, Mount Fuji, is located 150 km from the capital. Mount Fuji is a sacred mountain and a source of inspiration for poets and artists. Japanese mountains are characterized by alpine serrations, the exception being the massifs with smooth outlines in the south of Kyushu. The highest mountains are called the Japanese Alps, and are located in the center of Honshu, near Tokyo.
There is no consensus in the scientific community about what a cluster of Japanese islands is. Some scientists see them as a submerged micro-continent, because Japan is characterized by an increased thickness of the crust. The archipelago is located over a specific zone of thrusting of the island crust over the oceanic crust, part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The core axis of Hokkaido was formed by the sedimentary-volcanogenic processes. In the west, there are additionally Upper Cretaceous and Cenozoic deposits. The north-east of Honshu, the structure of which is dominated by Paleozoic sediments, represented by terrigenous strata, is separated from its southwestern part by a meridional graben. All these sediments are laid down in folds. The western coast of Honshu is formed by green Neogene tuffs. In the southwestern part, Japan has a zonal structure with general rejuvenation zones. The Hida Zone is composed of the oldest Precambrian rocks. Paleozoic volcanogenic-sedimentary deposits, which have undergone folding deformation, are developed along the southeast. Along the border with the outer zones stretches the Cretaceous belt.
Earthquakes occur almost every day on one of the many islands, indicating that the process of mountain building is incomplete.
Climate in the mountains of Japan
The Japanese islands lie at several latitudes and are washed by four seas and the Pacific Ocean, causing considerable differences in climate between the north and the south of the country. Conventionally there are several climatic zones on the territory of Japan. Long frosty winter with an average temperature of -15 °С and cold summer are typical for Hokkaido Island. Rainfall is moderate up to 700 mm. The islands, washed by the Sea of Japan, are covered with heavy snowfalls in winter. Summers are generally warm. On the Central Highlands, the temperature changes significantly during the day. The winter and summer seasons are clearly defined. On the Pacific Islands, winters are cold with little precipitation, but summers are hot and humid. The southwestern islands have a subtropical climate with warm winters with temperatures of +16°C and hot summers up to +35°C. Rainfall is high all year round, up to 1200 mm.
The country is covered by an extensive network of large and small mountain rivers. Japan’s longest river is the Shinano, located on Honshu Island. It originates in the Japanese Alps and flows into the Sea of Japan. There are two other large waterways Kitakami (294 km), Tone (322 km), Kiso (229 km) and Tenryu (213 km). Quite long is Tessho and Ishikari, 268 km long, located on Hokkaido Island. There are many small freshwater lakes on the islands. At the same time, one of the most ancient lakes, Lake Biwa, which has historical and cultural value, is located near Kyoto. Its average depth is 41 km. The second largest lake in Japan (220 km?) is Kasumigaura. It is located in the east of Honshu Island. Currently, Lake Kasumigaura is used for fishing, irrigation, and tourism. A feature of Japan is the presence of numerous crater lakes. The largest of them is Towada on Honshu Island. It is situated at an altitude of 400 m above sea level.
Flora and Fauna
The flora of Japan is rich and diverse, owing to its high humidity and wide range of climatic conditions. It has over 17 thousand plant species, of which the most famous are the sakura and the plum. More than half of the territory is covered by forests. The northern islands are dominated by coniferous forests. And in the north of Hokkaido Island, spruces and firs dominate, and in the south, cypresses and pines. The heart of the island is occupied by broadleaved forests of beech, maple, and oak. Cypresses and pines grow well in the north of Honshu Island. In the central part of the island, birch, willow, and walnut grow, but in the south they are replaced by evergreen forests of Japanese magnolia and toothed oak, also spread in the north of the islands of Kyushu and Shikoku. Here you can also find bamboo and banyan, as well as laurel forests. Further south across the archipelago are tropical and subtropical forests. These are characterized by the presence of bananas, palms, tree ferns and ficuses. In some places on the islands, thousand-year-old Japanese cryptomeria can be found up to 50 meters high. On the central mountain range of Hokkaido Island, thickets of rhododendrons and heather are typical above the forest border and then change to alpine meadows. Azaleas and peonies bloom everywhere in spring and chrysanthemums in November.
The animal life is less diverse, which is due to the isolation of the islands. For the same reason, there are a lot of endemics. Thus, some species of woodpeckers, pheasants, dragonflies, crabs, sharks, snakes, salamanders and marine mammals are not found anywhere else. In the north of the country in the forests live brown bear, short-legged wolf, foxes, weasels, mountain antelope. Hares, martens, squirrels and flying squirrels are common. Of birds, swallows, cuckoos, sparrows, thrushes, and woodpeckers are often seen. Ducks, swans, and cranes live on lakes, and albatrosses and snipes live on seashores.
Mountainous regions of Japan
The island has several mountain ranges stretching from north to south. The Hidaka Range is 100 km long, with an average elevation of 1400-1800 m. The highest point of the mountain range is 2025 m and belongs to Mount Hiroshiri. The western slopes of the ridge are more gentle. The attraction is the terraces along the sea coast. The Tokachi array stretches in the central part of the island at a distance of 100 km. The highest point is located on Mount Asahi. This volcano last erupted in 1739, so it is considered dormant. But even now, from the crevices in its slopes actively emit hot gases. In Japanese, the name of the ridge means the Great Snow Mountain. On its slopes is the Daisetsuza’n National Park.
Near the northwest coast of the island is a volcano Rishiri height of 1721 m. The volcano resembles Japan’s most famous volcano in outline, so it has the popular name Rishiri Fuji. In good weather it is possible to observe it from the Russian coast. Nowadays this volcano is considered to be extinct. Syari volcano is located in the northwest of Hokkaido. Its height is 1547 m. It is also extinct.
On its territory is the highest mountain in the country, Mount Fuji (3,800 m). Numerous temples and other religious buildings are built on the slopes of the mountain. A distinctive feature of the volcano is its clear geometric shape in the form of a regular cone. The diameter of the crater of the volcano is about 500 meters and its depth is 200 meters. Mount Fuji and the surrounding area are part of the Fuji Hakone-Izu National Park. There are three mountain ranges on the island: Hida, Kiso, and Akaishi. Hida is 140 m long and has a maximum height of 3,190 m on Mount Yarigotake. It belongs to the Tubu-Sangaku National Park. The Kiso Ridge is 150 m long and reaches a height of 2956 m on Mount Komagatake. It has fairly steep slopes, along which numerous rivers flow down into Kiso and Tenryu. Mount Komagatake attracts climbers and is part of Onuma National Park. The highest point of the Akaishi Range is Mount Kita, which reaches a height of 3,193 meters. Mount Kita is the second highest mountain in Japan, but it is also the highest nonvolcanic mountain in the country. Hikers appreciate the gentle slopes that allow them to climb and admire the local nature. Slightly lower elevations are Mount Aino (3189 m), Mount Arakawa (3141 m), Mount Akaishi (3120 m), Mount Shiomi (3047 m), Mount Senjo (3033 m), and others.
The mountains of the island reach a maximum height of 1,788 m (the inactive Kuju volcano), and their average height is about 1,000 m. There are several active volcanoes. The most active volcano in the country is Aso, with a height of 1592 m. On the island is a volcanic group Kirishima, which is formed by 23 volcanoes. The highest peaks are Karakunidake and Takachihonomine, reaching a maximum height of 1700 m. They belong to the Kirishima-Yaku National Park, which also includes caldera lakes. Sakurajima volcano is also active and one of the most dangerous in the country. The volcano has three peaks and each has a crater, with the highest Kitadake reaching 1,117 meters. Ash emissions occur annually, indicating the continuation of its activity. Kyushu is famous for its numerous thermal springs. The most famous of them are near the town of Bappu, and they are caused by the activity of Aso volcano.
The Sanuki Range is the main mountain system that rises among the plains of the island. Its highest point is Mount Ishizuchi (1982 m). Mount Tsurugi (1955 m), Kamegamori (1896 m), Miune (1893 m), and Sasagamine (1859 m) are slightly lower.
Mount Fujiyama is Japan’s calling card
Mount Fuji, on the island of Honshu, has been depicted in numerous pictures since ancient times, due to its unique, almost perfect conical shape.
Fuji is considered not only a place visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists each year, but also a sacred place for Buddhists and Shinto people. The highest mountain in the entire Land of the Rising Sun, which is also an active volcano, is almost 3,800 meters (3,776 m) high. However, modern geologists and volcano researchers say that there is no need to fear an eruption of Mount Fujiema in the near future. Volcano, which according to ancient beliefs is home to the souls of the dead, has been sleeping since 1708.
The surroundings of Fujiyama, which thanks to the efforts of local authorities are preserved almost in pristine condition, quite often attract the attention of numerous contemporary artists and professional photographers. By the way, at the very top of Mount Fuji there are still structures that were built by human hands: it is a meteorological station, in which observations of weather changes and the volcano are carried out, a post office and even a jinja. For those who are not familiar with this definition, let’s clarify, a jinja is a Shinoist temple. Jinja in Japan were erected only in those places where any miracles happened or which were distinguished by extraordinary beauty. It is not surprising at all that the Japanese shrine was built on Mount Fujiyama, which, according to experts, is considered the most beautiful and extraordinary place in Japan.
By and large, Fuji can safely be included in the list of the most beautiful sights of the Land of the Rising Sun. However, to be very precise, Fujiyama can also be attributed to the most beautiful volcanoes on our planet. It is for this reason the Japanese authorities included Fuji, its surrounding area and the Five Legendary Lakes of Fuji in the Fuji Hakone-Izu National Park. This park was founded back in 1936, and its area is about 1,230 square kilometers. Naturally, the most famous mountain in Japan, which is quite often mentioned in Japanese culture and history, attracts the attention of travelers from all corners of our planet.
It is also interesting that the stratovolcano Mount Fujiema is part of a mountain range named…. Japanese Alps. “What could Fuji have in common with the Alpine mountains, the ridge of which stretches in the Old World?”, almost every tourist may ask the question. Indeed, the fact that Fuji is part of the mountain range of the Japanese Alps is little known. The three mountain ranges in the Land of the Rising Sun were not named Alps by the Japanese, but by an Englishman named William Gowland. It was this native of the Old World who wrote the “Guide to Japan” for tourists, popularized by Walter Westen, who at one time was a missionary and brought faith in Jesus Christ to the inhabitants of the country, located on the islands.
If we consider that Fujiyama is part of the ridge of the Japanese Alps, then we should definitely specify that it is the highest mountain range. Although, to be fair, it should be noted that the definition “Japanese Alps” is quite rarely mentioned in the works of geologists and historians, especially when it comes to the majestic, mysterious and beautiful Mount Fujiema.
Mount Fujiema in Japan – the origin of the name
If you delve into such a difficult question, what is the origin of the name of Mount Fujiema, you can simply get confused in the many versions that are put forward by historians and linguists. If you decipher the Chinese character (and there are quite a few in the Japanese script), which means Fuji, then we can assume that the name of the volcano means immeasurable wealth. In addition, the second character suggests that Fujiyama is also a noble person. Which of these definitions to believe is unclear. There is a proverb, known to almost every Russian-speaking traveler, it goes like this: “The farther you go into the woods, the more firewood you gather. The more a researcher studies the origin of the name of the mountain, the more puzzles he faces. In the 10th century in one of the many stories, we can find a reference to the fact that the name of Mount Fuji means “immortality” or … “the soldier slowly climbing the mountain. Even more interesting: until the 10th century, Mount Fuji was designated by hieroglyphs meaning “immortality,” “eternity,” and “incomparability.”
Europeans have tried to understand the origin of the name of the highest mountain in the Land of the Rising Sun and the Europeans: John Batchelor, who in addition to missionary work studied the Ainu language, has suggested that Fujiyama means “fire. It would seem to be quite simple, and most importantly, such a name would be fully consistent with the volcano, which at one time threw into the air red-hot lava. But then a Japanese linguist intervened in the dispute and pointed out to Batchelor that the character he mistook for fire meant “an old woman, commanding or fanning fire. There has even been speculation that the conical stratovolcano came to be called as a result of a change in the hieroglyph “ho.” If you try to explain in clear terms what this short word means, it turns out something like this: a slender mountain, which stands like a spike of rice! Perhaps the origin of the name Fujiyama is worth stopping: there are several dozen other versions, and each of them to date has not been recognized as official. Simply put, these days, what the name of Mount Fujiema means has not been fully elucidated. Moreover, even the beginning of all versions is different.
Mount Fuji – structure
As mentioned above, Mount Fujiyama in Japan is an active but dormant volcano. The diameter of the crater of this beautiful mountain, whose name is often found in Japanese poetry, is just over half a kilometer. Its depth, according to recent research by scientists, is only slightly more than 200 meters. Despite the fact that Fuji has been asleep in Japan since 1708, before, the area surrounding the mountain was constantly flooded with streams of red-hot lava. The thing is that Fujiyama is not one volcano (literally speaking): the conical mountain was formed as a result of powerful eruptions of four earlier volcanoes than Fuji. Moreover, modern experts have been able to prove that eruptions here lasted for thousands of years. It was the huge amount of lava that formed the modern conical shape of Fujiyama.
The first volcano, which scientists call the “old Fuji”, was formed more than 80,000 years ago, while the modern (new) Fujiema is relatively “young”, it started growing “only” 11,000 years ago. About 20,000 years ago Fujiyama went on a rampage: constant explosions and lava eruptions lasted for thousands of years! As lava flowed down the slopes of the “old Fuji” volcano and blocked numerous streams and mountain rivers, the beautiful and world-famous “Five Fuji Lakes” appeared. By the way, the “Five Fuji Lakes” are a magnificent spectacle and deserve to be written about them in a separate article: not without reason they are all together considered one of the best and most popular resorts in all Japan.
On the volcano Fuji and at its foot you can find a huge number of hot springs, which create small warm ponds. But the climate of Fuji can safely be called severe: in the hottest month near the mountain air temperature warms up only to +18 degrees Celsius, but in winter at the top of the stratovolcano it often drops to – 38 degrees.
Fujiyama – a close connection to Japanese culture
As has been mentioned repeatedly in this material, Fujiyama has been sung by Japanese poets in their works and depicted on canvases by famous artists. It is true that the Japanese have always been prone to exaggeration. For example, in the Edo panel, Fujiyama is depicted as “bound by eternal snows.” If you look at an engraving by the no less famous artist Ogata Gekko, you can see a snow-covered Fuji, with a fearsome dragon climbing to the top. Historian Alexander Meshcheryakov, who has devoted most of his life to studying Japanese culture, claims that in all creations, be they poems, paintings or legends, the image of Mount Fuji is far from its true appearance.
There is nothing surprising in such a touching attitude to the main “visiting card” of the Land of the Rising Sun. According to an ancient myth, it was almost impossible to conquer Mount Fuji, only a true hero could climb to the top. Such a daredevil, having overcome all difficulties, received the main gift – immortality. Even the modern Japanese, who invented ultramodern technology but were raised on ancient legends and poetry since childhood, believe sacredly that this smoke comes from the fire that burns from the magical elixir of immortality.
It is surprising that the first written references and drawings of Fujiyama are attributed by historians to the 8th century. According to research, at that time the volcano was still often exploding and throwing columns of ash into the air. Surprisingly, not a single chronicle or engraving depicts the magnificent volcano Fuji erupting! Why the Japanese did not want to talk about the wrath of Fujiyama is still a mystery. Probably it’s because this mountain is sacred for every resident of the Land of the Rising Sun and its eruptions are tried to be forgotten as soon as possible.
Stratovolcano Fujiyama, as everyone has already understood, is considered a sacred place for every Buddhist and person professing the Shinoist cult. For this reason, the name “calling card of Japan” has been used by many major companies, for example, Fuji. By the way, this is not the only company whose name is based on the name of the mountain. Sociologists who studied most Japanese companies came to a staggering conclusion: if you look at the phone book of Japan, which lists all its companies and enterprises, the number of names with the prefix Fuji, will take more than eight pages! Numerous scholars and Buddhists who read the results of the sociological study were extremely indignant at this state of affairs. Many specialists thought it unworthy to use the sanctity of Fujiyama in their company name. Another part of the scholars suggested that a special tax be levied on these businesses and firms. The funds received for the use of the Fuji name were supposed to be used for the maintenance and development of Japan’s Fuji Hakone-Izu National Park.
Mount Fuji in Japan – a dream of climbers and travelers
Climbing the mountain, sacred to the Japanese everyone who is fond of mountain climbing dreams. Almost all routes that can be used to climb to the summit of Mount Fuji, are open only in summer (early July to late August) . However, even in July part of the mountain is still covered with snow, and climbing Fuji is strictly prohibited in these areas. Despite its relatively low altitude (compared to Mount Everest), Mount Fuji is not conquerable by everyone. No wonder ancient legends say that only true heroes can reach its summit. For this reason, with the beginning of the tourist season on Fujiyama a huge number of centers are opened, where lifeguards work and the so-called Yamagoya, places where you can buy food and drinking water. Interestingly, “yamagoya,” can be literally translated into Russian, the word would mean “hut.
Officially recognized only four routes that can be used to climb the mountain. However, some careless tourists use the services of guides, wishing to earn extra money, and go on the difficult and dangerous sections. Prefectural authorities appeal to such climbers with a request not to make a mistake that could cost them their lives. By the way, these dangerous routes are used by the Japanese themselves, although they travel on reinforced and powerful bulldozers that deliver food and, if necessary, evacuate injured travelers from Mount Fuji.
Until 2005, it was common to see gliders soaring over the National Park from the mountain. After a series of deaths caused by strong wind gusts on Fuji, gliding became less popular, although it is not officially banned. Sometimes you can see several gliders launching from the slopes of Fujiyama (not from its crater, of course). As mentioned above, Fujiyama, its surrounding area, and the Five Fuji Lakes are part of Fuji Hakone-Izu National Park. Therefore, a tourist who is guided to the legendary Fujiyama should obligatory follow all the rules, which are detailed in different languages in special booklets. It should be remembered that disturbing the peace of the monks of the Shinoist temples is strictly forbidden. They themselves will invite the tourist at a certain time and introduce him to their faith, history, culture and traditions.
However, it is always worth remembering the most important rule: “No garbage! For throwing bags, bottles, tourists can be fined and banned from even approaching the territory of the National Park in the future. By the way, when climbing Mount Fuji, everyone is given a special bag: not even to put their garbage in, but to put a bottle, piece of paper, or bag found on the way there. Fortunately, there is almost no trash on Fujiyama, and tourists reach the summit with almost empty bags.
When climbing to the summit of Mount Fuji, where the elixir of immortality is burning, even relieving oneself in the wrong places is prohibited. Do not be afraid of this rule: on each route you can find a huge number of clean toilets, which are even heated seat (what can I say… Japan). All of these toilets are controlled by electronics, their batteries are charged by sunlight. By the way, in case anyone does not know, bio-toilets are widespread throughout Japan. You can find them on every corner in major metropolitan areas, and they are all free, almost all…. All except the toilets on Fujiyama. It will cost the traveler 100 yen to visit them. The enterprising Japanese probably made them payable only because there is nowhere for a tourist on the mountain to go except to break the rule, and in the Land of the Rising Sun most of the population simply does not understand how one can break a certain restriction. At the end of this article I would like to say that according to “dry” statistics, slightly more than 200,000 people visit Mount Fujiema each year. However, this figure includes only those tourists who climb the sacred mountain: visitors to the Five Fuji Lakes Resort are not counted in the 200,000.