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Land and Resources, Natural Resources

Japan has had to build its enormous industrial output and high standard of living on a comparatively small domestic resource base. Most conspicuously lacking are fossil fuel resources, particularly petroleum. Small domestic oil fields in northern Honshu and Hokkaido supply less than 1 percent of the country’s demand. Domestic reserves of natural gas are similarly negligible. Coal deposits in Hokkaido and Kyushu are more abundant but are generally low grade, costly to mine, and inconveniently located with respect to major cities and industrial areas (the areas of highest demand). Japan does have abundant water and hydroelectric potential, however, and as a result the country has developed one of the world’s largest hydroelectric industries.

Japan is also short on metal and mineral resources. It was once a leading producer of copper, but its great mines at Ashio in central Honshu and Besshi on Shikoku have been depleted and are now closed. Reserves of iron, lead, zinc, bauxite, and other ores are negligible.

While the country is heavily forested, its demand for lumber, pulp, paper, and other wood products exceeds domestic production. Some forests in Hokkaido and northern Honshu have been logged excessively, causing local environmental problems. Japan is blessed with bountiful coastal waters that provide the nation with fish and other marine foods. However, demand is so large that local resources must be supplemented with fish caught by Japanese vessels in distant seas, as well as with imports. Although arable land is limited, agricultural resources are significant. Japan’s crop yields per land area sown are among the highest in the world, and the country produces more than 60 percent of its food.

 

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