Japan is located in East Asia and stretches from 24° to 46° north latitude and from 123° to 146° east longitude. It is nestled between other countries of East Asia, lying east-northeast of China and Taiwan across the East China Sea and slightly east of Korea, separated by the Sea of Japan. Russia`s far eastern coasts are near, situated on the other side of the Sea of Okhotsk. Japan is to the southeast. With a total of 6,852 islands, 73 percent of Japan is highly forested and mountainous, unsuitable for the Japanese people`s domestic needs. Therefore most of the population lives in cities dotting the coasts.
The major islands, or “home islands” are (from north to south) Hokkaido, Honshu (the mainland), Shikoku and Kyushu. Other islands and islets, including tropical Okinawa, together alongside the main islands make up what`s called the Japanese archipelago. Some of these smaller islands are inhabited, others vacant.
Japan is informally divided into eight regions with each region containing several prefectures. Hokkaido is the only region with one prefecture, Hokkaido. Though not official administrative units, these areas are important regarding many daily issues, from weather reports to businesses and company names. As can be expected, many of these regions and prefectures retain their own sense of cultural individuality in one way or another.