Mount Fuji, the tallest mountain in Japan, is actually an active volcano.
Japan, an island nation where more than 70 percent of the land is covered in mountains and hills, sits in the Pacific Ocean in what is called the Ring of Fire. Here massive plates of Earth's crust collide, creating volcanoes and deep sea trenches, and unleashing forces that are literally, earth-shattering: the islands are rocked by three minor earthquakes each day, or 1500 earthquakes every year. One out of every ten of the world's active volcanoes is found in Japan.
Japan has a rich cultural history stretching back tens of thousands of years. The Jomon and Ainu, two of Japan's earliest cultures, left behind some of the world's oldest pottery fragments. By 500 B.C. migrants from China and Korea introduced wet-land rice farming and metal-working.
Japan is home to the world's oldest surviving monarchy. Emperor Akihito can trace his lineage all the way back to Emperor Jimmu, who ascended the throne in 660 B.C. A legendary figure, Jimmu is regarded as the direct descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu.
Travel Fun: Mon
Before embarking on your family vacation, why not create a mon, or family crest? Mon were symbols of recognition for families and clans, or organizations such as merchant and artisan guilds. Most mon are designed in a circular pattern and feature animals or plants.
Here's the mon of the imperial family, that you can color. The mon is a yellow or gold chrysanthemum with 16 petals:
Here's another mon, used by the Tokugawa shoguns (generals), with three hollyhock leaves inside a circle:
What would your mon, or family crest look like? As you travel through Japan, how many mon can you find?
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