Mountains, hills and forests cover over two thirds of Japan, while residential and industrial areas account for less than ten percent of land area. In winter, drift ice can be observed in the seas off Hokkaido, while mangrove jungles cover Okinawa's southernmost islands. These are little known facts among foreign travelers, who tend to visit mainly the heavily urbanized and industrialized regions around Tokyo and Osaka and along the Tokaido and Sanyo coasts.

Wooded mountains in Gumma Prefecture
Oirase stream in Aomori Prefecture

Ranging all the way from subarctic Hokkaido to subtropic Okinawa, the Japanese archipelago exhibits a large variety of flora and fauna. Places of particular scenic natural beauty have been designated national parks. There are currently 30 national parks scattered evenly from the northern tip of Hokkaido to the southernmost islands of Okinawa.

Below is a short list of some of the most popular plants found in Japan:

Sakura (Cherry)

The cherry blossom is Japan's unofficial national flower and symbol. Please check out the cherry blossom page for more details.

Ume (Japanese Plum)

Blooming several weeks ahead of the cherry blossoms, plum blossoms are an early sign of spring. Please check out the plum page for more details.

Momiji (Japanese Maple)

The Japanese maple is the king of spectacular autumn colors. It is widely used as a decorative tree in gardens.

Matsu (Pine)

Green throughout the year, the pine tree symbolizes youth and longevity and is used as decorative plant in most Japanese gardens. Pine trees are also very popular for bonsai.

Take (Bamboo)

Few plants are used in as many ways as bamboo. The quickly growing evergreen has been used in construction and various arts and crafts for many centuries. Not at last, bamboo shoots (takenoko) are a very popular spring delicacy.

The Japanese fauna varies from brown bears in Hokkaido to tropical snakes in Okinawa. Japanese monkeys live throughout the country except in Hokkaido. Other famous Japanese animals include the crane, the Japanese deer, the fox (kitsune), and the raccoon dog (tanuki).

Japanese monkeys
Tokyo crow
Japanese deer

Last updated: February 12, 2004
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