Japan lies at the junction of four of the earth’s colliding plates and is bordered by deep-sea trenches. The Pacific plate on the eastern side is sliding under the Asian plate on the western side. As a result, Japan is the world’s most earthquake prone country – more than 1,500 tremors are recorded by seismologists every year. 10 per cent of the world’s earthquakes take place in Japan. It is one of the world’s best locations for keeping a record of earthquakes, and the records date back to the 12th Century. Japan is also the only country in the world to maintain a major research program in earthquake prediction.


With more than 142,807 people dead, the most disastrous earthquake ever to take place in Japan was the Great Kanto Earthquake of September 1923. The fires that broke out destroyed one-third of Tokyo and most of Yokohama, and an 11-meter high tsunami followed the quake. The most expensive earthquake and natural disaster in the world was the Great Hanshin Earthquake of January 17th, 1995 that hit Kobe and nearby cities. It cost 6,427 lives, damaged more than 190,000 buildings, and cost more than $200 billion in damage done to property alone.


On account of the many underwater volcanoes in Japanese waters and in the Pacific Ocean, Japan is also threatened by erupting volcanoes, many of their eruptions destructive and deadly. Earthquakes on the ocean-bed can send surging walls of waves called tsunamis onto its shores causing great loss of life and property damage. Japan is the most tsunami-prone country in the world.


The presence of many tall and young mountains has resulted in V-shaped valleys and the landslides or mudflow that happen after heavy rainfall or snowmelt can pose a hazard to nearby villages and cities. The tall mountains result in short rivers that rush through the gorges and steeply sloped riverbeds, producing the highest yield of fluvial sediments in the world. Japan is highly susceptible to soil erosion, flooding, and at times, to drought.


Japan amazing and innovative response to the natural challenges presented by the mountain-and-island lifestyles has been to:

  • develop one of the best volcanic eruption-earthquake prediction systems in the world (the earliest models and Milne’s seismograph were invented in Japan);
  • develop new earthquake-proof construction techniques have enabled the building of the many skyscrapers that are found in Tokyo;
  • develop one of the best tsunami warning systems in the world;
  • to construct the largest number of dams in the world;
  • construct geothermal power stations (though only 12 are in operation producing 26,9950 kilowatts of electricity due to environmental and tourist industry concerns);
  • develop one of the world’s largest hydroelectric industries
  • become the leading nation in landslide analysis, mudflow and soil erosion control;
  • develop environmental expertise in improving rivers, and conserving water resources, and understanding the crucial role of forest conversation in this respect;
  • produce one of the highest crop yields per land area sown in the world, so that 60 per cent of all the food Japan is produced locally. This is achieved through terracing, the use of irrigation, improved seed varieties, and modern agricultural chemicals and machinery. Japan is one of the world’s leading rice-producing countries with rice fields occupying more than 50 per cent of the country’s farmland. Niigata Plain is one of Japan’s largest rice-growing areas.
  • build tunnels and bridges to overcome the natural barriers of mountain and straits, resulting in several of the world’s engineering marvels.




Did YOU know


The Seikan tunnel that extends for 53.9 kilometres is the world’s longest transportation and underwater tunnel?



The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge that stretches across the Akashi Strait, linking Kobe city with Awaji Island, is the longest suspension bridge in the world. The bridge, the size of four Brooklyn Bridges, also has two towers that are higher than any other bridge towers in the world.


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