Introduction to the Landforms and Geology of Japan

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Central Honshu

Central Honshu (the Kanto and Chubu regions) is the widest part of Honshu Island, in which three island arcs, the Northeast Japan Arc, the Southwest Japan Arc, and the Izu-Bonin Arc, meet one another and intensive crustal movement makes the geomorphological and geological structures extremely complicated. Central Honshu is divided by the Itoigawa-Shizuoka Tectonic Line (ISTL), the Median Tectonic Line (MTL), and the volcanic front. The ISTL is a fault zone running north-south in the central part of Honshu and is the boundary between the Southwest Japan Arc and the Northeast Japan Arc. The MTL, the length of which is over 1000 km, is a fault zone consisting mainly of right-lateral strike-slip faults. It is clearly traced from Kyushu to the ISTL. The MTL separates the Southwest Japan Arc into the outer (Pacific side) and inner (continental side) zones. The volcanic front running in the direction of the extension of the Northeast Japan Arc turns toward the Izu-Bonin Arc in front of the ISTL. In central Honshu, an area on the northern side of the volcanic front is in the Northeast Japan inner arc and an area on the southern side is in the Northeast Japan outer arc. However, features of the Northeast Japan Arc (outer arc) and of Southwest Japan Arc (outer zone) are found together in the southern area. The geomorphological structure in the outer zone of the Southwest Japan Arc appears in northeast Japan beyond the ISTL.

For the basement rocks (geotectonic subdivisions), see also “Outline of landforms and geology of Japan”.

Eastern side of ISTL

The Kanto Plain spreads to the south of the Abukuma Mountain, which is the largest plain in Japan. The Kanto Plain is in a large subsidence area depressed more than 1000 m during the Quaternary. The plain is covered with thick Quaternary sediments including a large amount of volcanic ash derived from volcanoes to the west of the plain such as the Hakone and the Fuji volcanoes. The deposited volcanic ash was weathered to become clay known as the Kanto loam.

The Miura Peninsula and the Boso Peninsula are situated in the southern Kanto Plain. Hills consisting of Tertiary rocks are distributed in the Miura Peninsula and the southern part of the Boso Peninsula. These hills are regarded as an outer ridge (uplift zone on the boundary between a forearc basin and a trench) formed by the Philippine Sea Plate descending at the Sagami Trough. The Kanto Plain to the north of the hills, therefore, can be considered as a forearc basin.

The Echigo Mountains and the Mikuni Mountains, which are to the north of the Kanto Plain, is in the southern end of the Northeast Japan inner arc. These mountain ranges are composed of Paleozoic-Mesozoic sedimentary rocks (accretionary complex) and felsic plutonic rocks.

The Kanto Mountains are located on the west of the Kanto Plain. Although this mountain range is in the Northeast Japan Arc to the east of the ISTL, their landforms and geology have the same features as the outer zone of the Southwest Japan Arc. In the Kanto Mountains, high-pressure type metamorphic rocks (Sambagawa Belt), a Jurassic accretionary complex (Chichibu Belt), and a Cretaceous-Tertiary accretionary complex (Shimanto Belt) are distributed from north to south. These belts extending from southwest Japan are curved to be northward convex near the ISTL. The Kanto Mountains are placed on the east side of the curved belts. The top of the convex is located in the area where the Izu-Bonin Arc collides with Honshu. Therefore, the bending is thought of resulting from this collision. Tertiary felsic plutonic rocks (granite) intruding the older rocks are exposed in the southwestern Kanto Mountains.

The Tanzawa Mountains consisting of Neogene volcanic rocks spewed on a seafloor and quartz diorites intruding the rocks are situated on the south of the Kanto Mountains. The Tanzawa Mountains, which were part of the Izu-Bonin Arc moving northward, collided and accreted to Honshu eight million years ago, and then was uplifted by continuing collision of the Izu-Bonin Arc.

The Izu Peninsula also collided with Honshu two to one million years ago, which was located far off the south of the Japanese Islands as the Izu block on the Izu-Bonin Arc. The basement of the peninsula comprises lava and volcaniclastic rocks (Middle Miocene-Pliocene) including shallow-marine sediments. Quaternary volcanoes were formed on the basement.

 

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