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1.Geography and Weather
  Climate means the general weather conditions of a particular 
region. It refers to the average weather or the regular variations 
in weather in a region over a period of years. A placefs climate 
depends on its location (latitude, longitude, altitude), size, 
and on the surrounding geographical conditions. 

A view of land, location and size
   Japan is comprised of four main islands and thousands of small 
islands between 122-148 degree E, and 23-46 degree N off the east 
coast of Asia. The total area of Japan is about 370,000 square Km 
which is almost the same size as Germany. Generally speaking, all 
the islands are mountainous and volcanic. The main part of Japan 
faces the Pacific Ocean while the other side faces the Sea of Japan. 

Click the world map below for Japan's location 
and surrounding sea currents.

Climate influenced by the winds and oceans
   The climate of Japan is heavily influenced by seasonal winds 
brought on by Asian Monsoons. The summer winds are caused by 
high air pressure systems over the Pacific Ocean. They bring 
heavy precipitation on the areas facing the Pacific Ocean. 
The winter winds caused by a Siberian high air pressure system 
bring heavy snowfall on the areas facing the Sea of Japan. 
The spring and autumn winds are brought on by extra-tropical 
depressions which cause the very dramatic weather conditions 
throughout Japan. 
The cold winter winds and hot summer winds are made mild by 
the surrounding sea temperatures and currents. Therefore, 
the climate in Japan is not too tropical nor is it as cold 
as Siberia. 

Climate influenced by the distance of "Latitudes"
   Because Japan is nearly 3000km long from north to south, 
we experience a wide range of weather and climatic conditions. 
For example, although Hokkaido and the northern parts of Japan 
have heavy snowfall in January and February, on the other hand, 
Okinawa, the southern most part of Japan has warm weather during 
the same time of the year. 

Okinawa has a subtropical climate which produces warm winters and 
hot summers. Tropical flowers can be seen throughout the year, as 
well as beautiful coral reefs that surround the islands.

On the other hand, Hokkaido is known for its dry and comfortable 
summers and long icy winters. Locals as well as tourist are 
attracted to its scenic beauty, which offers them the chance to 
watch the drift ice on Sea of Okhotsk and participate in winter 
sports like skiing and skating. 

Climate described in a novel
   The climate of Niigata, which faces the Sea of Japan, was 
described in a very famous Japanese novel called gYukiguni 
(Snow Country)h which was written by Yasunari Kawabata. 
This famous novel even earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature. 
In the first sentence from the book it says, gThe train came 
out of the long tunnel into the snow country.h 
This novel makes you understand that the train has traveled 
from Tokyo to Niigata. These two cities are geographically very 
close but the weather conditions are extremely different between 
the two due to the high mountains that divide them. On a winter 
day the weather in Tokyo will be very dry and sunny but in 
Niigata it will be cloudy with heavy snowfall.
Climate transitions
    The central part of Japan has four distinct seasons; winter, 
spring, summer and fall. The summers are quite humid while the 
winters are cold and dry. Spring and autumn are transition 
periods between the other two seasons and can be quite moderate 
in temperature. These transition periods between winter and 
summer are not so obvious in the northern and southern parts 
of Japan. See for "24 SEKKI."
   Japan's main rainy season is called "Tsuyu" in Japanese. 
The stationary rain front, which is called "Baiu-zensen", 
moves gradually from south to north. The rainy season begins 
in early May in Okinawa. It does not reach Honshu until around 
the 10th of June and ends around the 20th of July. 
Needless to say an umbrella is very much needed during this 
time. The gBaiu-zensenh dissipates in northern Japan before 
reaching Hokkaido in late July. The beginning of this rainy 
season is called "Tsuyu-iri" and is very important for rice 

   Japanese rice field waiting for the Tsuyu-iri 
coming around June.

The end of the season is called "Tsuyu-ake". 
The Japan Meteorological Agency announces the end of "Rainy
season" every year. While Japanese people may welcome this 
season they also dislike it very much due to the rain fall 
that it produces. 

  After the end of the rainy season in late July, most Japanese 
regions are exposed to scorching hot summer days. In this season, 
it is not too uncommon for people to suffer from sunstrokes and 
or heat strokes. During this time Japan is quite often hit by 
typhoons. Typhoons are the equivalent of hurricanes and cyclones. 
Hurricanes originate off the American coast and cyclones originate 
off the Indian coast. Typhoons, however, form in the West Pacific. 
Even though they are powerful and bring destruction to Japan, 
most Japanese feel that the rain that is brought is a gift from 
heaven. Good use is made of these powerful storms for rice 
plantations and even a good deal of drinking water is produced 
by these storms.

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