The Sea Is Never Far Away…
The sea is never more than 200 km away from any point in Japan.
With nearly four thousand islands making up the Japanese archipelago, Japan has a long and varied coastline totaling 29,750 km. Coastal landscapes vary from 60 km-long sandy beaches of Kujukurihama in Chiba Prefecture, to irregular areas with peninsulas, inlets and offshore islands, such as the Goto peninsula, islands of Tsukushima and Iki. The many inlets provided havens from whence wako pirates once went forth to terrorize Asia during the 1600s.
Spectacular steep cliffs, rise perpendicularly out of the sea in some places, the result of coastlines being thrust upwards by earthquake-shifting movements of the Pacific Plate.
Honshu the largest of four main islands, is the seventh largest in the world. Narrow straits separate Japan’s four main islands: The Tsugaru Strait (Hokkaido and Honshu); the narrow Kammon Strait (Honshu and Kyushu); the Inland Sea or Seto Naikai (Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu). Japanese engineers have helped lessen isolation of Japan’s islands by building bridges and tunnels between them.
The seawaters surrounding Japan are some of the richest fishing grounds in the world — the result of three ocean currents that flow by Japan. One of these bountiful fishing grounds lies where the cold Kurile current flows southward and meets the warm Japan Current off Hokkaido. Another lies in the rich ocean-life in the coral reefs of Okinawa and other southern islands fed by the purplish salty warm-water current called the Kuroshio or Black Current. The Kuroshio Current flows northwards on the southeastern coast of Japan, then branching off into the Tsushima Current, it flows northeastward along the western coastline and through the Sea of Japan. Here it confronts another current entering the Sea of Japan from the north – called the Liman Current (a branch of the cold Okhotsk Current that flows along the eastern coast). The mixing of all these currents produces the abundant fishery resources in Japanese waters.
Japanese people are thus essentially island peoples whose sustenance and survival have depended on the sea since prehistoric and ancient times. Huge piles of shells or shell middens dug up by archaeologists show us that the sea sustained the prehistoric people of the Jomon era for nearly a thousand years. The inhabitants of Jomon Japan fed off various animals and marine plants living on the bottom of the inter-tidal zone, as well as on the seashores and estuaries above. Harpoon and fish hook artifacts reveal that they were likely the most advanced deep-sea fishermen in prehistoric times. Japanese today still feast on the very same fish and kelp diet that the Jomon people were accustomed to.
Did YOU know …
The world’s largest crustacean and arthropod, the giant Japanese spider crab or takaashigani crab lives around vents at depths of 50-300m of the Pacific Ocean? It is known to measure 3.7 m from the tip of one outstretched claw to another.
Living fossils such as the horseshoe crab, the slit shell, and the frilled shark are found in the depths of the sea bordering Japan?
Follow these links to find out more fascinating facts about sea-life around Japan.