Distances were formerly calculated in miles or a similar measure; but now they must be counted in days or hours. Steam and electricity have so conquered space that linear measure has been superseded by diurnal or horary measure. Moreover, whereas we were taught in geography that a river or a lake or an ocean " separates" one country from another, we should also understand that a river or a lake or an ocean may connect two countries, and even lofty mountains may not be insurmountable barriers.
From this point of view Japan is connected with the United States of America by the Pacific Ocean and is only about ten days distant. And, by the Trans-Siberian Railway, it is about two weeks' distance from England. Japan, therefore, is not difficult of access and is more and more inviting to travelers, to whom she is furnishing ever-better accommodations and ever-greater modern conveniences on sea and land. Her beautiful scenery and interesting people are charms which more and more draw visitors.
Japan is reached from America by several routes across the Pacific. There are various lines of steamers running between Japan and Vancouver, Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, San Francisco, and Mexican and South American ports. The quickest time is made by the Canadian Pacific steamers, the fastest of which make the trip in about ten days. They take a northerly course, where the weather is uncertain, although the steamers themselves are very comfortable. The lines from Seattle, Tacoma, and Portland also take the northerly route. The steamers from San Francisco (and South America) run via Honolulu (or Hilo) by a southerly route, which is favored with more sunny weather but takes a few days longer.
Japan, formerly only an insular nation, has, by the annexation of Korea, become a peninsular, a continental, nation. Insular Japan consists of a long, narrow strip of islands (small, middle-sized, and large), lying off the eastern coast of Asia. It stretches from Kamschatka to the Philippines, from 50° 56' N. to 21° 45' N. It is not strange, therefore, that it is impossible to speak of the climate of Japan as one thing: it is several things, it is almost all things; it is plural - climates, weathers - with big differences within only a few miles. Even Japan proper, which includes Yezo, Hondo ("Main Island"), Shikoku, and Kiūshiu, and lies mainly between the same parallels of latitude as the Mississippi Valley states, presents even more various climates than may be found between Minnesota and Louisiana. And when the Kurile Islands in the extreme north and Formosa in the extreme south are included the extremes cannot meet. And Korea, now Chasen, has its own climate, both similar in some points and different in others. The Kurile Islands, of course, are frigid, and have practically no animal or vegetable life of importance (except seals); while the beautiful island of Formosa is half in the tropics, with a corresponding climate, and abounds in valuable products, like camphor, tea, sugar, salt, tobacco, opium.
Not only the extent of Japan from north to south and the wide differences of depression and elevation, but also the monsoons and ocean currents affect the climate. For instance, the eastern coast, along which runs the Kuro Shio ("Black Stream"), with a moderating influence like that of the Gulf Stream, is much warmer than the western coast, which is swept by Siberian breezes and Arctic currents. Almost all parts are subject to sudden changes of weather.
In general, the climate of Japan is fairly salubrious and on the whole delightful. The extremes of heat and cold are not so great as in Chicago, for instance, but are rendered more intolerable and depressing by the humidity of the atmosphere. It is also said that there is in the air a great lack of ozone (only about one-third as much as in most Western lands); and for this reason Occidentals at least are unable to carry on as vigorous physical and mental labor as in the home lands. The excessive humidity is due to the insular position and heavy rainfall. No month is exempt from rain, which is most plentiful from June on through September; and those two months are the schedule dates for the two "rainy seasons." September is also likely to bring a terrible typhoon. Except in the northern and western, and in the mountainous, districts, snow is infrequent and light, and fogs are rare. The spring is the most trying, and the autumn the most charming, season of the year.
Japan is a mountainous country. A long range of high mountains runs like a backbone through the main island, and very high peaks abound. Formerly Mount Fuji was literally the "peerless one," on account not only of its beauty but also of its height (about 12,365 feet); but since the acquisition of Formosa, Mount Morrison (about 13,000 feet high) competes for first place on that point. But, in popular estimation, Fuji will always be what a pun on its name makes it - "no second" like it.
Japan is also a volcanic country, with plenty of subterranean fires, which pour out smoke, lava, ashes, and stones from volcanoes, and sulphuric and other mineral water from numerous hot springs. And it is one evidence of the universality of the religious or devout spirit that names like "Little Hell" and "Big Hell" are bestowed upon such places. While fortunately volcanic eruptions are comparatively rare, earthquakes are too frequent. Violent shocks, however, do not come often, but are prone to occur suddenly. It is, therefore, not at all strange that the most unique feature of the Imperial University at Tōkyō is its department of seismology with a seismograph.
On account of both the insular situation and the mountainous character of Japan, there is plenty of falling water, which produces waterfalls, rivers (short and swift), lakes, and swamps. Heavy rains, especially if prolonged, are pretty certain to make the rivers swell and rush impetuously over their sandy banks and cause annually a great destruction of property and a loss of human lives. Tidal waves also are not infrequent. Japan, not unlike Holland, has its constant fight with water, both salt and fresh.
The long and irregular coast line of Japan supplies numerous bays and harbors, both natural and made to order, with shelter for shipping of all kinds. The number of "open ports," where suitable conveniences are provided for foreign trade, had risen from only six in the early days of Meiji to thirty-six at the end of Meiji. The original six are Nagasaki, Yokohama, Hakodate, Ōsaka, Kōbe, and Niigata, the last-named not having been of any special importance in foreign commerce. Of the new ports, Muroran and Otaru in the Hokkaidō; Shimizu (near Shizuoka), Tsuruga, Yokkaichi, and Shimonoseki on the main island; Moji in Kiūshiu; Nawa in Riūkiū; and Keelung, Tamsui, Takow, and Anping in Formosa, have come into importance.
It is a matter of course that fishing and marine industries furnish a means of livelihood to millions of people. But it also follows, as a necessary corollary, that the winds and the waves exact a heavy toll in boats, men, and merchandise. The Pacific Ocean is by no means always as quiet as its name would indicate.
The commonest trees are the pine, cedar, maple, oak, lacquer, camphor, camellia, plum, peach, and cherry; but the last three are grown for their flowers rather than for their fruit or wood. The bamboo, which grows abundantly, is one of the most useful plants, and is extensively employed also in ornamentation.
In the fauna of Japan we do not find such great variety. Fish and other marine life are very abundant; freshwater fish are also numerous. Birds are also quite numerous; and some of them, like the so-called "nightingale" (uguisu), are sweet singers. The badger, bear, boar, deer, fox, hare, and monkey are found; cats, chickens, dogs, horses, oxen, rats, and weasels are numerous; but sheep and goats are rare. Snakes and lizards are many; but really dangerous animals are comparatively few, except the foxes and badgers, which are said to have the power to bewitch people! The zoülogical pests of Japan are fleas, mosquitoes, and rats, all of which are quite troublesome; but modern methods have minimized the extent of their power.
Japan proper is divided geographically into nine"circuits," called Gokinai, Tōkaidō, Tōsandō, Hokurikudō, Sanindō, Sanyōdō, Nankaidō, Saikaidō, Hokkaidō.
The word dō, which appears in all the names except the
first, means "road" or "highway," Some of these appellations are not much used at present; but others are retained in various connections, especially in the names
of railways, banks, companies, or schools. A common
official division of the largest island (Hondo) is into
Central, Northern, and Western. Japan was also subdivided into 85 Kuni ("Province"), the names of which
are still retained in general use to some extent. But, for
purposes of administration, the empire is divided into 3 Fu ("municipality") and 43 Ken ("prefecture"), besides
Yezo (or Hokkaidō), Formosa, and Korea, each of which
is administered as a "territory" or "colony." The distinction between Fu and Ken is practically one in name only. These large divisions are again divided: the former into Ku ("urban district") and Gun ("rural district"); and the latter into Gun. There are also more than 50 incorporated cities (Shi) within the Fu and Ken. Moreover, the Gun is subdivided into Chō ("town") and Son ("village").
The area of Japan , not including Korea, is about 175,000 square miles, somewhat larger than Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin; while Korea, with about 80,000 square miles, is larger than Nebraska but smaller than Kansas. While the prefix "Great" does not apply to Japan with reference to its extent, it is certainly appropriate to its elements and features. Within the Empire of Japan are great mountains with grand scenery, great and magnificent temples, great cities, and a great many people. Even in the country districts the villages are almost contiguous, so that it is an infrequent experience to ride a mile without seeing a habitation; and in the large cities the people are huddled very closely together.The latest official statistics (those for 1913) gave the population (exclusive of Formosa, Sakhalin, and Korea) as 54,843,083, of whom the males exceeded the females by about 500,000. If the population of Formosa and Sakhalin be added, the total is more than 58,000,000. The population of Korea is about 13,000,000.