Geography and Natural Resources of Japan

Geography and Natural Resources of Japan

Background Information.

This lesson is designed to give students an understanding of Japan’s basic geography and distribution of natural resources. Japan is composed of the four large islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku and two Pacific Ocean island groups:  the Ryukyu Islands and the Bonin Islands. Close to 70% of Japan is mountainous due to the country’s location within a volcanic zone. Japan is considered to have relatively few natural resources compared to other industrialized countries. Although much of Japan’s natural resources stem from the country’s access to the ocean, Japan also has agricultural and some mineral resources. Conrad Totman’s essay “The British Isles and Japanese Archipelago: A Comparison of Environmental Basics” contains additional information about Japan’s geography.  

Learning Goals.

Students will learn the basic geography and resource distribution of Japan including the names and relative locations of the four main islands, major topographical features and names and location of major water bodies.

Students will be introduced to the variety of maps that are used ranging from topographical maps, climate maps, to natural resource maps.

Students will learn how to read maps using keys.

Students will learn about natural resources.

Essential Question.

What are the key physical features of Japan? How can we incorporate these features into a map?



Focus Activity Ideas.

Display various types of maps of the United States on the front board. Engage students in conversation about each map. What is the purpose of the map? What are the main features of the map? What symbols or signs are visible on the map? What is the purpose of having a key on the map? It may be helpful to  give students a sense of Japan’s location in the context of the world. (In Asia, near China/Korea, across the Pacific from the US

Main Lesson Activity Ideas.

This procedure can be implemented for groups of students (3-4) or students may work independently.

1.       Give students copies of blank maps of Japan to use as templates and a packet of resource maps (topographical, natural resource, political, ) of Japan as examples. It also may be helpful to give students fact sheets such as lists of Japan’s natural resources, with additional information that they might incorporate into their maps.

2.       Supply students with blank paper/ poster board

3.       Students can use materials such as play dough, colored pencils, markers, etc. to create an image of Japan on their paper/ poster board.

4.       Colored pencils, scissors, glue, colored paper etc. can be used to produce labels which students can use to point out the features of the islands which they consider important.

Summative Activity Ideas.

Ask students (or groups of students) to pair up and have them compare their maps. Instruct the students to make a list of the similarities and differences between their map and their partner’s map. If desired student pairs/ groups can present to the class these similarities and differences.   


Grade Level,Elementary; Theme,Environment; Topic,Geography; Type,Lesson Plan; Subject Area,Social Studies;
geography, natural resources, climate, topography, maps,geography