Dramatic clouds encircled the island nation of Japan in late January 2021. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired a true-color image of the wintery scene on January 20.
Slightly smaller than the state of California, USA, Japan stretches over 1,900 miles (3,000 km) from the northeast to the southwest and lies between the North Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan. The highly volcanic archipelago contains four main islands and about 6,848 smaller islands and islets. The main islands, which are captured in this image, are Hokkaido in the north; Honshu—the largest and most populous island; Kyushu in the south; and Shikoku tucked along the southeast flank of Honshu.
Bright white snow caps the mountains on the western coasts of the main islands. With roughly 67 percent of Japan’s land covered in rugged mountains, the combination of winter snow and steep slopes creates the perfect conditions for world-class skiing.