Comparing Japan and Thailand

Thailand and Japan are two countries situated in the Australian, Asian and Pacific (A.A.P) region. There are many similarities and differences in their physical and human geographies. Japan is an archipelago of 3900 mountainous islands with a total land size of 377 835km2. Located in East Asia along the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’ Japan ranges from North 50 30I to 210 and East 970 3I to 1030 3I. In contrast, Thailand is a larger country with a total landmass of 511 770km2. It is located in South East Asia on the Indo-China and Malayan peninsula. Thailands landmass ranges from 70 5I to 200 5I North and 970 to 105o 41 East. Thailand has a tropical climate that experiences monsoonal influences, whereas Japan has a diverse climate, ranging from sub-tropical in the south to alpine conditions on the elevated peaks. Japan has an aging population, which is twice the size of Thailand’s. 90% of Japans 126 million people live on only 20% of its dry land. Dissimilarly, Thailands population is more evenly spread with a distribution of 117 persons per km2. Japan is a More Developed country (M.D.C) with a GNP per capita of US$34 500, which makes it Asia most affluent country. Japan Economy relies on services and high technology industries. Thailand is a Less-Developed country (L.D.C) with a GNP per capita of US$8 800. Thailands population relies more on a subsistence way of life. In fact 75% of its inhabitants making their living from farming.
Japan is an island archipelago with over 3900 islands. The four main islands, Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku stretch for over 3 800 kilometres. The country situated on the edge of large tectonic plates which are constantly moving providing an unpredictable countryside. The Pacific Ocean, Sea of Japan, Korea Strait and the East China Sea surround the Japanese archipelago.

Unlike Japan, Thailand is not a group of islands, it is however a larger country with a land area of 511 770km2. Thailand’s extends 2500km from North
50 30I to 210 and 1250km from East 970 3I to 1030 3I. The most southern land extends down the Malayan peninsula and borders with Malaysia. The country also borders with Burma, Laos and Cambodia as well as the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Thailand.

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Similarly, both Japan and Thailand have elevated landscapes. Japan physical geography is described as rugged and mountainous. Over 80% of the land is at an elevated level and there are 532 mountains over 2000 metres. The mountain ranges extend across the islands from north to south. The main ranges are located throughout the central areas of the four main islands. The highest mountain is on Honshu, Mt Fuji is 3776m above sea level, other large mountains are Mt Kita, 3192m, Mt Hotaka 3190m and Mt Asahi 2290m. The lowest point is Hachiro-gata and -4m below sea level. Thailand is described as a hilly country with some mountains located in the North and South. The highest mountain is Inthanon Mountain at 2595m; other substantial mountains are Luang Chiang Dao at 2182 and Mt Mokochu at 1964m.

There are many volcano located on the Japanese islands, of which 60 are still active. There are over 1500 earthquakes reported each year, most cause little or no damage but some can be disastrous. In contrast, there are no active volcanoes in Thailand and only minor earthquakes occur. Japan experiences seismic activity such as volcanoes and earthquakes because it is located on the edge of large tectonic plates which are regularly moving. These plates are what cause Japan to have such an elevated landform. Thailand only experiences earthquakes because it is located on an area of folding and not the edge of tectonic plates. Edges of the tectonic plates run throughout Asia and have become known as ‘the Pacific Ring of Fire’.
Compared to Japan, Thailand has very few forest and trees. Substantial amounts of land have been cleared for agricultural purposes. Only 25% of the land has been left with coverings of forests and woodlands. Japan has 68% of land surfaced with forests and woodlands. 34% of Thailand’s landmass is considered arable, which enables it to be cultivated. In contrast, only 11% of Japanese land in considered arable. This is because of the steep rugged land that is throughout Japan. Only 1% of Japan’s landmass has permanent crops being cultivated, whereas 6% of Thailand land has permanent crops. Similar, Japan and Thailand both have 2 per-cent of their land covered with permanent crops. Japan and Thailand are heavily reliant on the production of rice and because of this the land must be saturated with water. In Thailand 44 000 km2 of land is irrigated, on the other hand, only 27 820km2 of Japanese land is also irrigated. Although this is a smaller amount, it is quite considerable because of Japan’s restricted land area.

Japan has a wide variety of minerals most of which are in quantities too small to provide for all of Japans industry needs. Because of this many of Japan’s industries must import many minerals and raw materials, such as iron ore, bauxite and petroleum form other countries. On the other hand, Thailand does not need to import large amounts of minerals and raw materials. There are large supplies of tin, iron ore, manganese, rubber, bauxite, natural gas, tungsten, tantalum, timber, lead, gypsum, lignite and fluorite.
Both countries have many large rivers systems but they are vastly different. Thailands rivers are deep, wide and slow moving; the rivers are like this because Thailand is a relatively flat country. The rivers enable many industries, such as the timber industry, to use the rivers to transport logs down stream for milling. While on the contrary, Japanese rivers are far too shallow, narrow and fast-flowing to be used for any purpose expect for hydro-electricity schemes. Rivers play an important role in Thai life. Many markets and sales take place in small boats along the river systems. Thailands major rivers are the Chao Phraya, Mekong, Chi and Mun. Japans major rivers are the Shinano, Ishikari and Tenryu. Likewise both Japan and Thailand have many lakes scattered though-out the countries. Many lakes in Japan have been formed in the craters of ‘extinct’ volcanoes.

Thailand and Japan have opposing climates. Thailands climate is categorised as tropical unlike Japans, which is classed as a temperate climate. Japan climate alters with its latitudinal range and elevation. The southern islands, Kyushu and Shikoku are classed as sub-tropical with long, hot summers and mild winters. Hokkaido and the northern reaches of Honshu have more of a temperate climate with short summers and severe long winters. Thailand’s climate does not indicate such variation, although the Northern Mountains are cooler during the winter. Three seasons can be recognised in Thailand. A rainy season takes place from June to October, a cool season from November to February and a hot season from March to May. Similarly both countries climates are influenced by monsoons. Thailand’s climate is influenced by a Southwest monsoon, which brings rain from June to October. However, Japan is influenced by a southeastern monsoon, which also delivers rain from June to October. The amount of rain Japan receives also alters with latitudinal range and elevation. Hokkaido receives an average annual rainfall of 1015 mm and the mountains of Honshu receive an average of 3810mm yearly. In contrast Thailand’s rainfall does not differentiate on a regional basis. Bangkok, in central Thailand receives an average rainfall of 1400mm each year and the southern peninsula is subject to an annual precipitation of 2500mm. A significant distinction between the two countries is the fact that Japan receives annual snowfalls whereas Thailand experiences predominantly hot and humid conditions all year round.

There are numerous differences between Thailands and Japans human geography. Compared with Japan, Thailand has only a small population of 59 million. Japan’s population is 125 931 533, of which 90% live on only 20% of its dry land. Japanese people are drawn to these coastal lowlands because much of Japan is uninhabitable and because of this all major industries are built on the lowlands. The lowland regions have a population density of 1561 persons per km2, the overall population density of 340 per km2. Japan has the highest physiographic density (population to uninhabitable land) of any major nation. This opposes Thailand, which has an overall population of 117 persons per km2. Thailand does not have a problem with uneven population distribution, because it is a country that has not yet industrialised to a substantial level. This means that there are not a large number of jobs available in the cities to transmigrate for.
The two countries have populations which, are structured very differently. Japan has an aging population where 16% are over the age of 65. While only 5% of Thai people are over the 65-year age bracket. This may be contributed to many factors one of which is, by western standards Thailand has a poor health care system that fails to look after the sick and elderly. Japan has an ageing population because less than one female child is born per women of childbearing age. This could be caused by Japanese women choosing to concentrate on their careers rather than having a family. The two countries also have different age structures in other areas. 15% of Japans population is between the ages of 0 and 14 compared to Thailand where 29% of the population are between 0 and 14. Likewise both Japan and Thailand have a similar percentage of the population between 15 and 64 years of age. In Thailand 66% are in the 15 64 year age bracket and 69% of the Japanese population are of a similar age.
Both countries are relatively low population growth rates. Thailand has a growth rate of 1.03% and Japan has a growth rate of 0.2%. In fact the UN estimates that Japans population will decrease to 121 million by 2025. By that time Thailands population would have risen by 8 million. It is estimated that it will take 330 years for Japans population to double, in contrast Thailands population will need 64 years to double. Identically, Japan and Thailand have a death rate of 7 people per every 1000 people. A threat to Thailand’s population is the spread of AIDS. In 1992 the government estimated that almost two-thirds of all deaths would be AIDS-related by the end of the decade. This is because almost 90% of all men have their first sexual experiences in brothel. The government has initiated many programs to help kerb these statistics which have worked. 70% of Thai people are now using contraceptives unlike Japan where only 57% of the population use contraceptives.
Japan has an infant mortality rate of 3.8 deaths per 1000 live births, unlike Thailand which has mortality rate is a large 35.7 deaths per 1000. This can be contributed to the differences in their standards of health care which is as a results of their differing levels of economic development. The level of health care also has effects on the life expectancy figures. At the present time the people of Thailand have a life expectancy of Male 64.89 years and Female 72.49 years. In Contrast, Japanese men have a life expectancy of 76.91 years and the women have a life expectancy of 83.25 years. Both Japan and Thailand have largely monocultural societies, i.e.; the majority is from the same ethnic background. 75% of Thailands population are of Thai originality and 99% of Japanese are of Japanese origin.

Correspondingly, both Japan and Thailand main religion is Buddhism, 95% in Thailand and 84% in Japan. The style of Buddhism varies between the two countries, Thailand practices Theravada Buddhism, while Japanese people take part in Shinto Buddhism. Likewise, Christianity plays little part in each country, less than 1% of the population in both countries practice the religion.

There are numerous and immense differences between countries level of economic development. Japans economy is heavily reliant on services and high technology industries such as motor vehicle production steel equipment and electrical equipment. These industries are of high value and demonstrate Japans M.D.C status. In contrast, Thailand is an L.D.C; 75% of the population live by subsistence farming of rice and maize.
In terms of the Gross National Product (GNP) Japan is Asia’s richest country, the second richest in the world. Japans GNP in 1997 was a huge US $3.08 trillion whilst Thailand’s GNP for 1997 was US$525 billion. The GNP per capita in Japan is US$34 500 compared to a diminutive US$8 800 in Thailand.
Thailand and Japan have economies that are structured differently from one another. 10% of Thailand’s GNP is gathered by agricultural means, whereas only 2% of Japans economy is collected in the same fashion. The majority of Japans GNP (56.5%) is composed of the service sector whilst in Thailand only 28% of the GNP is earned by the same means. Japan is much more industrialised than Thailand. This is reflected in the fact that 42% of Japans GNP is derived from the industrial sector, compared to 28% of Thailand’s GNP. There are many other differences between their economies. In 1997 Thailand had an economic growth rate of -0.4% while Japan’s economy was growing at a rate of 1%, but similarly both Japan and Thailand’s growth rate had slowed from previous years. There are also differences between the two countries inflation rates. Thailand has an inflation rate (or consumer price index) of 5.6% while Japans is a relatively small 1.7%.
It is estimated that in 1997 Thailand had a labor force of 32 million while at the same time Japan had a labor force of 67 million. The labor forces are set up differently in each country. Thailands people are regarded as hard working but receive only low-wages. Japan work force is considered equally hard working, highly trained and earn far more money than their Thai counterparts. 60% of Thailands demographic earn money in the unstable agriculture and fishing sectors compared to only 7% in Japan. Because of both countries having easy access to the sea, fishing plays an important role in each countries economy. Japan maintains one of the worlds largest fishing fleets and accounts for 15% of the worlds catch. The majority (50%) of Japans population is employed in the trade and service sector though only 25% of Thailand are employed in the sector; this figure also includes the governments work force. 15% of Thailands population is employed in the industry sector and 11% is employed in the commerce segment. In Japan 33% is employed by manufacturing, mining and construction companies and 7% is employed in utilities and communication.
Unlike Thailand, Japan is in the envious position of exporting more than they import. In 1997 Japan exported US$421 billion worth of goods which included machinery, cars and consumer electronics, at the same time importing US$339 billion worth of raw materials, fossil fuels, food and manufactured goods. This enables Japan to have zero external debt. In contrast Thailand has an overseas debt of US$90 billion. This is because they import more than they export. In 1997 US$73.5 billion of goods were imported, these goods include machinery and other equipment, consumer goods and fossil fuels. In the same year US$51.6 billion dollars worth of goods were exported. These goods consisted of manufactured products (82%), fish and agricultural products. Both, Thailand and Japan gain large amounts of foreign currency from the tourism industry. Tourism is Thailand’s largest earner of foreign exchange earnings and over 7 million tourists arrive each year. In 1996 Japan had 4.3 million tourist arrivals but Unlike Thailand; there were more Japanese people heading overseas than were arriving. 16 694 769 Japanese people traveled overseas. Japanese people are more likely to head overseas than Thais because they have larger disposable incomes.
Similarly, both Japan and Thailand were severely hit by the Asian financial crisis, which began on the Thai stock exchange. Many banks and business went bankrupt and the Thai Baht devalued by 40%. Both countries required foreign aid from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Thailand received a rescue package of US$14 billion. The rescue packages granted the countries time to initiate reforms and turn their economies around.

Although there are many differences between Japan’s and Thailand’s physical and human geographies, there are also many similarities.


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