Japan: land and climate
Japan consists of over 1,000 islands situated east of the Asian mainland. The four largest islands, Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku account for 97% of Japan's land mass. For centuries Japan was remote from all but China and Korea and, inevitably, its cultural traditions have been influenced by these countries.
Volcanic mountain ranges occupy much of the interior of the islands and leave very little room for farming. Arable crops, such as rice, are farmed intensively.
The traditional Japanese diet consisted mainly of seafood, rice, grains, soy beans, vegetables and pickles, but little dairy food and meat. Fishing has always been an important activity, and images of fishermen, fish and other marine creatures can be seen on many Japanese objects.The natural world has always had profound significance for the Japanese people: great mountains, ancient trees or fast-flowing rivers were venerated as the residence of the gods.
In Japan's north islands, winters are cold and bring considerable snowfall; in the south islands, summers are hot and humid. All the seasons, especially the brief spring and autumn, are watched and appreciated for their particular qualities.
In winter, it was traditional for town-dwellers to make trips to observe deserted fields obliterated by a blanket of snow.
The indigenous flora and fauna, blossoms, leaves, flowers, birds and insects are all much admired for their beauty. Japanese people's love and respect for the natural world can be observed again and again in the objects they have created.