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The Landscape and Lifestyles of the People

Traditional Boat Houses, Tsuma (Dōgo Island)

The majority of the Japanese population lives on flat land close by rivers, and facing the sea. It is said that around 50% of the population is squeezed onto flat land which makes up a mere 14% of the Japanese Archipelago. This soil of this flat land is enriched by minerals brought by rivers flowing from the mountains. This fertile flat land has been utilized for rice farming (a primary industry) since long ago.

Aside from this flat land, gentle slopes in between flat land and mountains, called alluvial fans, are also utilized for farming. Alluvial fans are formed by sediment built up by rivers, and have well-drained soil, which make them ideal areas for growing crops other than rice. It is likely that areas such as these will have towns and villages nearby.

The fisheries industry is similarly dependent on the landscape. Japan is the 6th longest archipelago in the world. Considering this, one might assume there are abundant places in which the fisheries industry could flourish. However, it is not so simple. It is necessary to have bays or inlets where vessels can be boarded easily, and where boats can be moored without sinking in bad weather. In the past, the technology to build breakwater structures was not available, so places with peninsulas that provide shelter from the waves were the ideal locations to create a port. These places are where towns and villages were founded.

As demonstrated above, human settlements require certain topographical features in order to flourish. You will notice many of these features if look at an aerial shot of a town. Amid scenery that is all too common, there are elements in the landscape that are ideal for a town.

Roads were also created according to the features of the landscape. For this reason, it is important to consider the geographical features of a place and the methods of transport available at the time in order to understand why archaeological remains and traditional culture are found where they are. In the past, people did not have the technology, facilities or manpower available to create roads through mountains or embankments. In order to reach other regions, people had to utilize areas that are naturally easy to pass through, such as rivers, seas or mountain ridges to reach other regions.

If you look a little closer at the landscape around you, you can discover a whole other interesting dimension of the history and culture of the region.

Yabi River

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