How does the geography of Japan and Korea help influence national identity?

Geography of Korea and Japan Unit 1 – Comparative Asian Societies: Korea & Japan

Key Questions

 How does the geography of Japan and Korea help influence national identity?

 How susceptible are Japan and the Koreas to natural disasters?

 How does geography affect the foreign relations between China, Japan, the Koreas?

 How does the geography of Japan and Korea affect their national security?


• The Japanese archipelago (island chain) consists of 3,900 islands. The FOUR most important are -Honshû, Shikoku, Kyûshû and Hokkaidô.

• At the closest point, the main Japanese islands are 120 miles away from the mainland.

• Unlike China and Korea, the borders of Japan have stayed relatively stable throughout most of its history due to its geographic status as a group of islands.

In comparison, Great Britain, which is, at the narrowest point of the English Channel, only 21 miles from Europe.

Great Britain


Japan • Cultural differences between the east

(Kanto region) and the west (Kansai region) of Honshu date to the earliest times.

• The Kanto region centers on the Kanto plain, the site of the present capital and Japan’s largest city, Tokyo.

• The early capitals Nara and Kyoto, however, were located in the Kansai region, another area of relatively flat land in the west.

Japan and the Korean Peninsula • The total land space of the Japanese islands is

about 142,000 square miles (377,915 sq. km).

The population and areas of agriculture are

therefore concentrated together.

• By comparison, the whole Korean peninsula is

about 220,258 sq. km and China is 9,596,961

sq. km = 4th largest in the world.

Tokyo • Formerly known as Edo. Tokyo means “eastern capital. ” (to –

east / kyo – capital)

• Became capital of Japan during Meiji Restoration in 1868. Prior to that it became an important city under the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1603.

• One of 47 Prefectures in Japan. City population = 8.7 million

• Largest metropolitan area in the world – 35 million people / New York is third with 22 million.

• Ranked MOST EXPENSIVE CITY in the WORLD by (Osaka is 3rd)

• Tokyo experienced 2 major catastrophes in the 20th century:

1. 1923 Great Kanto earthquake – 144,000 dead & missing

2. U.S. bombing of Tokyo in 1944 killed between 75- 144,000 dead & missing.

How Geography Saved the Japanese from the Mongols! • The Japanese attribute their victory over the Mongols to

storms that wrecked the Mongol fleets during both attempted invasions in 1274 and 1281.

• They concluded that Japan was protected from invasion by a divine wind, or Kamikaze, which was invoked in World War II to inspire pilots to launch suicide attacks on allied ships.

• As Central Asian nomads, the Mongols had little experience of the sea and used subjugated Chinese and Koreans to build their fleets.

• The Mongols that did manage to land are reputed to have had some success against the Japanese, who struggled to match their skilled use of mounted archers.

• But on both occasions, the Mongols and the Chinese and Korean troops under their command, headed back out to sea to try to ride out approaching typhoons – and that proved to be their downfall.

The Korean Peninsula • The whole Korean peninsula is about 220,258 sq. km:

– South Korea is 99,720 sq. km.

– North Korea is 120,538 sq. km

• Mountains & hills are THE significant geographical feature on the Korean peninsula. There are very few lowlands and those that exist tend to be the sites of major cities today.