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JAPAN KNOWLEDGE

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Japan Archipelago

Japan is an island country blessed with green in far east Asia.
This island country consists of about 7,000 big and small islands, and most of the people live in 4 largest island: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu.
Japan is isolated from Eurasia continent by sea of Japan, and east side of the island is on pacific ocean.
Cold current called Liman current and Kuril current from North, and warm current called Tsushima and Nihon current flow into the sea around Japan.
These current makes the wind blowing to Japanese mountains humid, and rains over Japan, and grow greens all over.
In addition, this island is long from north to south. So the climate differ from area to area.

 

Region and prefectures

Surrounded by sea, more than 70% occupied by mountains, long island from north to south, under these situations Japan has variety of climate by area and season.
In order to understand Japan, first required to know about geographical information.
Japan is divided into 47 prefectures and 8 regions. When we think about climates, we can divide Japan into 12 regions as below.

 

Hokkaido

Hokkaido has the region which has the largest area. On this vast land, farming acts large proportion in the economy.
Almost half of the year is winter and heavily snow. It is quite rare to be more than 30℃ in summer.

Prefectures: Hokkaido

 

Tohoku

Ouu mountain range runs in the middle of Tohoku north to south, and most of the land is occupied by mountains area.
Winter season is long same as Hokkaido. Agriculture and fishing are popular and more than 25% of rice in Japan is coming from this area

Prefectures: Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Yamagata, Miyagi, Fukushima

 

North Kanto

Agricultural area, blessed with full of nature, located at north of Kanto plain
In addition to the agriculture, manufacturing is also popular and so-called North Kanto Industrial area

Prefectures: Ibaragi, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama

 

South Kanto

Highest population density as you can tell that Tokyo, capital city is in this area. Suburb in west and city area in east is distinctive.
There is 10℃ difference in temperature at maximum throughout year

Prefectures: Chiba, Tokyo, Saitama

 

Chubu Hokuriku Koushin

Mainly facing sea of Japan, separated from pacific sea area by Echigo mountain-region and Hida mountain range
winter season is quite severe, but as coast area is a plain an agriculture is popular and famous for rice production

Prefectures: Niigata, Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui, Yamanashi, Nagano

 

Chubu Tokai

Located almost center of Honshu island. Four seasons are distinctive; hot summer and heavy snow in winter
Typhoon often go through Mie in Autumn

Prefectures: Gifu, Aichi, Mie

 

Kinki

Sea of Japan at North and Pacific ocean at South. It has the biggest lake called Biwako, suppling plenty of water in the area
Nada Hyogo and Fushimi Kyoto are famous Sake brewing area

Prefectures: Shiga, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Nara, Wakayama

 

Chugoku

2 distinctive area: industrial area along inland sea of Seto called “San Yo” and Agricultural area with ancient Izumo culture along sea of Japan called “San In”
Climate of San Yo is moderate and stable, but in San In it snows heavily in winter

Prefectures: Tottori, Shimane, Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi

 

Shikoku

Like Chugoku, Northern inland sea of Seto area and Southern Pacific ocean area is different.
Stable northern climate and heavy rain and typhoon in South.

Prefectures: Kagawa, Tokushima, Ehime, Kochi

 

North Kyushu

Relatively warm throughout the year. There is an agricultural area around Tsukushi plain
Kyushu is famous for Shochu production, but brew Sake as well in this area especially in Ooita

Prefectures: Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Ooita

 

South Kyushu

South end of Honshu island. There are a lot of volcanos such as Kirishima volcano
Famous for hog raising, and shochu production using sweet potato grown in this area

Prefectures:  Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Kagoshima

 

Okinawa

Isolated islands at south of Honshu, and have unique Ryukyu culture
What they can get from farming and fishing is unique. Famous for awamori using sugar cane grown in this island

Prefectures: Okinawa

 

Mountain region / range

There are a lot of mountain region, range and highland in Japan, as about 70% of the land is mountain area.
These mountains provide clean water and grow green in the islands.
Please understand about water additionally through understanding geographical mountain locations.

  1. Kitami mountain region
    Mountain region, such as Teshiodake, runs from North to South in North East of Hokkaido.
    It is a watershed dividing sea of Japan side and sea of Okhotsk. Getting lower as it goes North East.
  2. Ishikari mountain region
    Located at the center of Hokkaido. Ishikari-dake has the highest peak.
    It forms a watershed dividing pacific ocean side, sea of Japan side and sea of Okhotsk side
  3. Yubari mountain range
    Mountain range in central area of Hokkaido. Coal mining used be popular and supported heavy industries.
    It brings high level of mineral to Yubari rive, so agricultures are popular around the river.
  4. Hidaka mountain region
    Mountain region at south of Hokkaido. Forming a cirque from ice age at the top of mountains
    It brings plenty of water to Saru river, Shizunai river and Shinkan river
  5. Shirakami mountain region
    Registered as World Heritage due to its beech forest. It runs from South West of Aomori to North West of Akita.
    This beech forest has high water holding capacity and so-called green dam.
  6. Dewa mountain region
    located over Aomori, Akita and Yamagata. It forms Yokote basin and Shinjo basin at the foot.
    It also has beech forest, and it snows heavily due to seasonal wind from sea of Japan in winter
  7. Ouu mountain region
    Running 500km from North to South at the middle of Tohku.
    It runs through prefectural border, and also separate climatic province of sea of Japan side and pacific ocean side.
  8. Kitagami highland
    Located at East of Iwate prefecture. This highland is used as a rangeland of animals such as horse.
    highland plants are living and an antelope, which is registered as a natural monument, also lives.
  9. Abukuma highland
    Running from Abukuma river in Miyagi to Kuji river in Ibaragi for 170km. Most of the highland located in Fukushima
    Relatively gentle. Not much rain, snow throughout years.
  10. Echigo mountain range
    Running in Niigata and Fukushima prefecture. It has 2 national parks
    it forms a watershed of Shinano river and Agano river in sea of Japan side and Tone river in pacific ocean side.
  11. Kanto mountain region
    Separating Kanto and Chubu. North area is Chichibu mountain region and south area is Tanzawa mountain region which are smaller regions
    It is a water source of a lot of rivers in Kanto and Chubu: Tone river, Arakawa river, Tama river, Sagami river and more.
  12. Hida mountain range
    Located in North of Chubu, and so-called North alps.
    Most of the area is a national park.
  13. Kiso mountain range
    Running from south to north at the middle of Honshu island, so-called Middle alps
    There are 4 lakes, such as Suwa lake, and suppling water to Kiso river and Tenryu river
  14. Akaishi mountain range
    The last alps of Japan, South alps.
    It has second highest mountain called Kitadake, and most of the area is a national park
  15. Kii mountain region
    Occupying southern half of Kii peninsula at south of Kink
    It has a secret place for Kumano faith, and is a world heritage.
  16. Chugoku mountain region
    Running from West to East in Chugoku and separation climatic province in north and south.
    supplying many river in the area, but mountain region itself is not so high and there are a lot of plains at the foot.
  17. Sanuki mountain range
    Mountain range located North East of Shikoku
    Located at the prefectural border of Kagawa and Tokushima.
  18. Shikoku mountain region
    Running from west to east in the middle of Shikoku and separation climatic province in north and south

    In Ehime, there are many mountains with high water holding capacity, so agriculture is popular in this area
  19. Tsukushi mountain region
    Located in Fukuoka, Saga and Nagasaki. As it has been eroded uniquely, it has unique geographical figure.

    At North it has a mountain with more than 1000m elevation, but in south it has a plans widely.
  20. Kyushu mountain region
    Steep mountain range runs from south to west at South of Kyushu

    It has 3 living volcanos: Aso mountain, Unzendake and Sakurajima

 

Climate

As explained above, Japan has different climatic province due to sea, mountains, distinctive 4 seasons and long land from South to North
Cold and warm current around Japan supply humidity in seasonal wind and this wind hit the mountains to rain or snow depending on the seasons.
In June, there is a rainy season called Tsuyu, and once it starts it last for about a month.
Additionally, typhoons come to Japanese island in summer and autumn seasons especially in September.
In this long island, there are 9 different climatic provinces as below.

 

Hokkaido climatic province

It is categorized as subarctic zone, which is same as Siberia and Alaska.
Temperature and humidity is low, and 4 seasons are clearly separated. There is no rainy season.
Nevertheless, it can be divided more into 6 different climatic groups due to seasonal wind blowing from all directions.

 

Sea of Japan climatic province

4 seasons are clearly separated in this area as well. In winter it snows heavily due to seasonal wind from a continent and day length is short.
Temperature in summer is relatively low, but when foehn phenomena occurs in Tohoku it records high temperature temporarily.
It makes San In area and Tohoku area differ slightly in summer.

 

Sanriku climatic province

Unlike sea of Japan side, it is quite rare to snow in Sanriku area facing pacific ocean due to Ouu mountain range.
Nevertheless, sometimes seasonal wind called Yamase blows in summer, and it might snow even in summer season
In autumn, typhoon pass this area and the precipitation is peaked in this season.

 

Inland climatic province

As this area is far from sea, the precipitation is quite low throughout the year.
In this area, the difference in temperature in summer and winter, and in day and night is biggest in Japan.
Cold dry wind from mountains called Oroshi blows into the area. It causes Foehn phenomena and Bora phenomena.

 

Tokai climatic province

Tokai means facing pacific ocean. Generally, it rains in summer and relatively warm in winter.
Typhoon pass this area, so the precipitation is high in autumn.
As a contrast, it does not rain in winter.

 

Setouchi climatic province

Climate and humidity is the most stable throughout the year in Japan.
On the other hand, it causes a water shortage except the rainy season.
In Okayama, they use catch copy “a country of sunny weather”.

 

North Kyushu climatic province

In winter, the weather tends to be bad; short day time and might snow in some area.
In summer, it does not rain much and the temperature is relatively high. Nevertheless, typhoon passes through this area.
In Kyushu, it neighbors various climatic provinces, and the climate is affected by closed neighbored climatic province.

 

Nankai climatic province

It is affected by typhoon the most: heavy rain, high humidity and high temperature in summer.
On the other hand, the climate is stable and relatively warm in winter.
Annual precipitation reaches more than 3000mm due to rainy season and typhoon.

 

Okinawa climatic province

As the islands are surrounded by warm current Kuroshio, the climate is affected by ocean.
It is categorized as tropical zone, so hot in summer. The temperature is high in winter.
It rains a lot due to typhoon in summer.

 

Rice field

Rice is one of the most important elements in sake brewing.
Taste and fermentation process are different with each sake rice.
To cultivate rice, there is a condition which is ideal for sake rice and the conditions are shown below.

 

Condition where sake rice grow well
  • Big temperature difference in day and night
  • Notorious soil
  • Large land
  • Long day time
  • Technical experts for sake rice cultivation

 

The area satisfying the conditions above is found in mountains in Japan.
Breweries used to use the rice cultivated in the best condition even from different prefectures.
These days, there are more and more breweries use local rice to differentiate the taste from the other products
Please find the example of major sake rice and its locality below.

 

Major variety of sake rice grown and prefectures
Yamada Nishiki 山田錦:    Hyogo
Gohyakumangoku 五百万石:   Niigata
Omachi 雄町:                              Okayama
Hattan Nishiki 八反錦:               Hiroshima
Goriki 強力:                                  Tottori
Ginpu 吟風:                                 Hokkaido
Kame No O 亀の尾:                    Yamagata
Dewa Sansan 出羽燦々:             Yamagata

Toji (brewer)

Brewer, called Toji, is also one of the most important elements to decide the taste and quality of sake.
In the brewing process, there are a lot of process which has to be done by people.

Brewer used be a seasonal workers, mainly farmers.
Farmers cultivate crops in summer, but there is no job in winter season.
So, they started to work in breweries, and as time passes brewery start to hire full time brewers.
These full time brewers exchange information locally and develop the local school of brewing technique.

There are various schools of brewing technique, and 3 schools played important role in the history.

 

3 famous school of toji
Nanbu toji

It is one of the most famous and biggest school of Toji based in Ishidoriya-cho Iwate.
This school is called Nanbu Ryu.

 

Echigo toji

The school called Echigo Ryu and based in Niigata.
Second biggest school.

 

Tanba toji

School of Toji based in Hyogo.
Tanba contribute to the development of sake production in breweries in Nada Hyogo, where has the biggest production of sake nowadays.
After the development of breweries in Nada, they contribute to hand down basic technique of sake brewing all over Japan.