Japan: Where Nature Shapes Life

Okay, check this out. Japan, this place full of islands, gets all shaken up pretty often. Recently, near the Ogasawara islands, this underwater volcano went boom, and poof! A new piece of land, 100m wide, popped up near Iwoto island. Cool, right?

But hold up, in Japan, this kind of volcanic action is like an everyday thing. They’re right smack in the Ring of Fire, the most seismic spot on the planet. With about 10% of the world’s active volcanoes and a whopping 1,500 earthquakes each year, Japan’s like a lab for crazy geology. And guess what? All these natural forces haven’t just shaped Japan’s land, they’ve shaped the way its people see the world too.

A Land of Constant Change

Japan’s all about islands. Four main ones are connected by bridges and trains, but the whole country’s an archipelago with over 14,000 islands. Get this, they even found 7,000 new islands just this year! These underwater volcanoes keep bringing up new land, some stick around, some vanish, and some join up with existing islands, making funky shapes. And hey, some of these volcanoes keep spewing ash and rocks for years – like the recent one!

Living here? It’s been rough. A century back, Tokyo got smashed by the Great Kanto Earthquake. Imagine this, over 100,000 folks gone in a day, and half of Tokyo wiped out! Even though Japan’s got top-notch disaster-proof buildings, nature’s thrown floods, cyclones, tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanoes, killing over 55,000 people since then.

Resilience in the Face of Nature’s Fury

But you know what’s cool? Despite all that chaos, Japanese folks bounce back strong. They’ve got this deep respect for nature and this attitude of “shou ga nai,” which means “it cannot be helped.” It’s like saying, “Hey, we can’t control nature, but we can handle how we deal with it.” They’re all about keeping the peace in society and rolling with nature’s punches.

Susan Onuma from the Japanese American Association in New York reckons that even if people think Japanese folks aren’t super active in handling stuff, they’re actually pretty strong and know how to handle the environment.

Nature Meets Faith

Their vibe might come from their religions – Shintoism and Buddhism. Shintoism’s all about nature’s power and worshiping natural spirits, while Buddhism talks about things changing all the time. So, Japanese folks embrace impermanence, and it’s in everything, from their woodblock prints to their philosophy of finding beauty in imperfection.

They’ve got a term for this too – “mono-no aware,” which is like seeing beauty in the temporary, like their obsession with cherry blossoms that bloom and drop in early spring.

Nature’s Tests

But hey, even in a place that loves the wild side of nature, disasters have been tough. In 2011, a monster quake and tsunami hit Japan, killed over 18,000 people, and wiped out towns. It was so big; it even messed with the Earth’s axis! Tomohiro Ito from Sendai City remembers it clear as day. The ground shook hard, houses vanished, and thousands died. It changed how people think there, split time into “before the quake” and “after the quake.”

Now, they’re prepped. Extra food at home, full tanks in cars – they’re ready ’cause you never know what nature might throw your way in Japan.

In a Land Always Changing

And here’s the kicker: this newest island in Japan might vanish, grow, or stick around – who knows? But in a country that’s always on the move, this new island? It’s just the start. Japan’s always evolving, and nature’s always at the helm.