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In this chapter:

  • Due to the very different climates Japan experiences in the north and south, the species of plants in Japan can be unique to their area and very different between regions
  • The north is home to evergreen trees like conifers, which are trees with cones
  • The south has more tropical plants, like palm trees and camphor with mangroves on the coast
  • The central areas that are temperate have more broad-leaved trees like oaks and chestnuts
  • Japan celebrates the blooming of some plants with festivals like the cherry trees, the lotus flower and chrysanthemums
  • Fewer animal species are found in Japan than plant species. There are, however, 38 native animals in Japan
  • Japan is the home of a large number of birds, many of which are water birds
  • The giant salamander of Japan is the largest amphibian in the world


Japan has two very different climates. This means that the species of plants in Japan can be vastly different from the top to the bottom of Japan. Japan has both arctic and tropical species of plant. Altogether there are approximately 17 000 different types of plant on the Japanese islands. A lot of the land in Japan is covered in flora. Approximately 68% of Japan is forest. The majority of this forest terrain is on the mountains. The low flatlands of Japan have been turned into farmland and used to build the cities of Japan.


In the north of Japan there are a lot of evergreen trees. Conifers, which are trees that have cones, are the dominant species. The spruce, fir and larch are conifers that can be found in the north.
Southern Japan has a more tropical climate than the colder north. Here, one would find camphor trees and palms. There are also a lot of tree ferns in the south, which are plants that grow in the air on other plants like the palm. The coast in the south of Japan is home to a number of mangrove swamps. Bamboo grows in the river valleys.  See Image 1
Central Japan has a temperate climate (between the two extremes of hot and cold). Central Japan is, essentially, the island of Honshu. Red cedar trees, which have a beautiful timber, can be found here. Trees in central Japan are broad-leaved. Some of the broad-leaved species that are found here include oak, maple, chestnut and beech trees.


The flowering of different species of plant in Japan is accompanied by celebrations. Japan has celebrations for the flowering of the cherry trees in spring. In August, the lotus flowers bloom and the chrysanthemums arrive in November. See Image 2 and Image 3
The cherry blossoms that appear at the beginning of spring are very important to the Japanese. Television stations and newspapers cover the emergence of these flowers daily. These flowers are a very beautiful and distinctive characteristic of Japan. Another feature of these flowers that makes them unique, and compels the media and people of Japan to follow their progress is, once these trees have flowered they last only three days and then fall to the ground.


In Japan, the animal species are far less varied than the plant species. There are 38 animals in Japan that are indigenous. These animals are found nowhere else in the world. Japan has 450 different bird species and 140 different mammals. Like the plant species that are distinct to the different climates in Japan, so are some of the animal species.


Among the many birds of Japan are the numerous water birds. Cormorants, herons, swans, ducks and cranes can be found throughout Japan in the rivers, ponds, lakes and on the coast. Land birds that can be seen in Japan are birds like sparrows, thrushes, robins, swallows and nightingales.
Watch the video on the Cormorant
In the north of Japan, there are sub-arctic birds that enjoy the cold temperatures found there. The raven and the eagle owl are two sub-artic birds found in the north. There are also two types of deer found here, the red and brown deer.


The animals in the south of Japan are suited to the tropical temperatures created by the close proximity to the Tropic of Cancer. In the waters in the south, there are tropical fish and sea snakes that have deadly venom. These can be found around the coral reefs. The spiny mouse and the ryukyu rabbit also make the south of Japan their home.
The Japanese macaque, a red-faced monkey, is a common mammal in Japan. The Japanese macaque in the north of Honshu can be found keeping warm in the hot waters of the onsen (hot springs). See Image 4
The sika deer has different colours in summer and winter. The deer is a red colour with brown spots in summer and then in winter the coat becomes a dark fur. See Image 5

Insects and reptiles

Japan also has lots of different insect and reptile species. One of these species is the giant salamander, which is the largest amphibian in the world.
See animation

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Question 1/5

1. Southern Japan is ___________ than northern Japan.


less monsoonal

more tropical



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