Long isolated from the neighbouring Asian continent lies a seemingly inscrutable, but fascinating island chain. The Japanese Archipelago is a treasure trove of natural wonders, ranging from coral reefs and tropical fish to sea-ice and fur seals. lt rises to alpine meadows home to high altitude butterflies and birds, and falls through rich waters to one of the deepest ocean trenches in the world. It is washed by great ocean currents, one cold from the north, one warm from the south, which connect Japan to the Bering Sea and the tropical Pacific. These islands witness nature at its most calamitous, with avalanches, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunami, typhoons and blizzards as frequent events. The thousands of islands that make up this diverse chain vary from tiny rocky islets supporting rare and endemic seabirds to a great arcing crescent of land rising to alpine peaks over 3000 m in altitude that are home to endemic giant salamanders and Asiatic black bears. Migrant birds further connect Japan with distant lands as far away as Australia and New Zealand, northeast Russia and Alaska, and South and Southeast Asia.
The web of life that binds these Japanese islands together into a natural whole, distinguishing them and connecting them, has been Mark Brazil's fascination for more than thirty years. The distinctive biodiversity of these extraordinary islands has been the subject of his writing for equally as long. The Nature of Japan presents not only a broad view of this geographical and biological diversity, but through personal essays reveals Brazil's passion for the nature and seasons of his adopted home.
Prologue: A brief walk on the wild side
Part 1: In Winter’s Grip
1: Sea Eagle Sunrise
2: Lords of Hokkaido
3: Messengers of the Gods and Mountain Monarchs
Part 2: The Rush of Spring
4: The Shape Shifters
5: Moon, Sun, and Stars!
6: Kimun Kamuy Lord of the Mountains
Part 3: In the Heat of Summer
7: Toki – the Japanese Phoenix
8: Slippers of the Gods
9: Gross Grails and Folk Tails
Part 4: Autumn into Winter
10: Golden Days and Silver Nights
11: Shimobashira, Shika and Shaké
12: Angels of Winter
Part 5: Endings and Origins
Of Cherry Blossoms and Concrete
Appendix: Notes on Source Articles
"The Nature of Japan is more than just a delightful read – the distillation of more than three decades of Mark's careful observations and amazing adventures, hiking and skiing around the Japanese archipelago – it is an insight into the Japanese relationship with nature."
– Ian Redmond OBE