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regions of japan
For more detailed information on Japanese
government policy and other such matters,
see the following home pages.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website
http://www.mofa.go.jp/
Web Japan
http://web-japan.org/
REGIONS OF JAPAN
The fusion of historical divisions and modern
administrative needs
0
300km
N
Hokkaido
1
Hokkaido
Hokkaido
Sapporo
SEA OF JAPAN
1
31
32
33
34
35
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
Okayama
Hiroshima
Tottori
Shimane
Yamaguchi
Kyushu
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
Fukuoka
Saga
Nagasaki
Oita
Kumamoto
Kagoshima
Miyazaki
Fukuoka
42
41
35
40
43
Kyushu
44
45
39
31
29
Hiroshima
36 Kobe
38
Kagawa
Tokushima
Kochi
Ehime
T
he Japanese archipelago consists of mostly
mountainous islands that stretch from
northeast to southwest about 2,800 km long.
In total land area (377,915 sq km, 2006), it is a
bit larger than Finland or Italy and roughly the
same size as the American state of Montana.
The four major islands are Hokkaido, Honshu,
Shikoku, and Kyushu. Japan’s total population
in 2005 was 127,645,000.
Hokkaido Region
This region is formed by Hokkaido Island—
the northernmost and the second largest
26
28
18
Kyoto
25
Osaka
37
Shikoku
36
37
38
39
17
33
Shikoku
46
3
4
6
5
34
32
2
Chubu
Chugoku
Kita-Kyushu
Niigata
Toyama
Ishikawa
Fukui
Nagano
Yamanashi
Gifu
Shizuoka
Aichi
27
30
24
Kinki
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
15
16
8
19
21
Sendai
7
Honshu
9
Tohoku
2
3
4
5
6
7
Aomori
Akita
Iwate
Miyagi
Yamagata
Fukushima
10
11
Nagoya 20
23
Kawasaki 13 Chiba
Mie
Shiga
Kyoto
Nara
Osaka
Hyogo
Wakayama
22
14
PACIFIC OCEAN
12
Yokohama
Kanto
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
Gumma
Tochigi
Ibaraki
Saitama
Chiba
Tokyo
Kanagawa
of Japan’s four main islands—and several
surrounding islands. This island is separated
from Honshu to the south by the Tsugaru
Strait (although the two islands are connected
by train service via an undersea tunnel). The
climate is very different from the rest of Japan.
It is generally cooler in the summer and very
cold in the winter. Hokkaido is criss-crossed
by mountain ranges and is famous for its
natural scenery, including virgin forests, active
volcanoes, and large lakes. Kushiro Marsh, in
the east of Hokkaido, is famous as a paradise
for migrating birds such as the Japanese redcrested crane. Part of the Shiretoko Peninsula
47
Okinawa
Eight Regions of Japan
REGIONS OF JAPAN
1
in northeast Hokkaido was designated a World
Heritage site in 2005.
Hokkaido was first settled in the sixteenth
century by Japanese who began to trade with
the indigenous Ainu people there, but it was
in the late nineteenth century that the island’s
full-scale development was launched by the
Meiji administration.
Fishing and forestry are important parts of
Hokkaido’s agriculture and underlie much of
the island’s industrial activity, including food
processing, woodworking, pulp, and paper
industries.
The capital city, Sapporo, is famous for
the Snow Festival held in early February,
with many large sculptures made of snow
and ice on display, forming spectacular
scenes. Hakodate, a large city in the south
of Hokkaido, is noted for its beautiful night
views. Within Japan’s system of prefectures,
Hokkaido alone is categorized as a “circuit,”
though it is the equivalent of a prefecture.
Tohoku Region
This largely mountainous region
encompasses all of northeastern Japan. Centers
of population are found along the coastlines
of the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan,
and in several basins. The Tohoku region has
short summers and long winters, interspersed
with beautiful spring and autumn seasons.
Shirakami Sanchi, located in south Aomori
Prefecture and Akita Prefecture, has a largescale primeval forest of beech trees; it was
registered as a World Heritage site in 1993.
The Tohoku area is primarily agricultural:
65% of cultivated land is rice paddy fields,
which account for almost a quarter of all
the paddy fields throughout the country.
However, it is not rare for a cool summer to
damage the crops. Fishing and forestry are
also important. Industrial activities include
electrical appliances, chemical production,
pulp processing, cement, and petroleum
refining, with some production of petroleum
and natural gas. Sendai is the largest city.
Matsushima, a group of more than 260
small islands in Miyagi Prefecture, is counted
among the three most beautiful sights in Japan.
It takes about half an hour by train from
Sendai to Matsushima. Three large, colorful
festivals are held each summer in the Tohoku
region. They are Nebuta Matsuri, held in
Aomori and Hirosaki; Tanabata Matsuri, in
Sendai; and Kanto Matsuri, in Akita.
Kushiro Marsh
Breeding ground of
the Japanese crane
and Japan’s largest
wetlands area, Hokkaido
Prefecture’s Kushiro
Marsh is part of Kushiro
Shitsugen National Park.
© Bon Color Photo Agency
Kanto Region
The Kanto region lies in the southeastern
part of Honshu and is dominated by the
Kanto Plain, Japan’s largest plain. The climate
is generally mild, and the four seasons
are sharply delineated. This region, which
includes such key cities as Tokyo, Yokohama,
Kawasaki, Saitama, and Chiba, is the most
populous region of Japan. The hub of the
region—the Tokyo-Yokohama district—is
the core of Japan’s commerce and industry.
The Keihin Industrial Zone and the Keiyo
Industrial Region, extending along the shore
of Tokyo Bay, form the largest industrial zone
of Japan.
The satellite suburbs, within about a two
hours’ commuting distance from downtown
Tokyo, are expanding, resulting in the
urbanization of a large portion of the Kanto
region. Though agricultural activity has
decreased in general, it is still thriving in the
areas to the east and north, and contributes to
the region’s economy.
Tokyo is the capital of Japan. It is home
to most large domestic corporations, foreign
companies, and the head offices of the mass
media. Tokyo is also a center of education.
The city is famous as a center of culture and
entertainment. It offers a variety of modern
and traditional arts. Classical and popular
music are performed at Tokyo’s many concert
halls, and there are numerous museums and
art galleries. Sightseeing tours of the city by
bus have regular scheduled departures. The
REGIONS OF JAPAN
2
bus, called Hato (pigeon), visits famous spots
such as the Tokyo Tower, Ginza, and Asakusa.
Asakusa, where many traditional events and
festivals are held, still retains the atmosphere
of old Tokyo. Metropolitan Tokyo consists of
the 23 wards of urban Tokyo, 26 cities, 5 towns,
and 8 villages.
Chubu Region
The Chubu region in central Honshu faces
both the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan.
The climate varies greatly according to the
area: while the Sea of Japan side is famous
for heavy snowfall, the Pacific side generally
enjoys a mild climate throughout the year.
Some towns, located on plateau, are very
popular as summer retreats due to their cool
climate. The Japan Alps, which has several
lofty mountains and is thus called the Roof
of Japan, extends from north to south in the
Chubu region.
The Chubu region has some of Japan’s
longest rivers and one of the largest riceproducing areas, located along the Sea
of Japan. It has three industrial areas: the
Chukyo Industrial Zone, which is home to
the main facility of Toyota Motors; the Tokai
Industrial Region, where Yamaha is based;
and the Hokuriku Industrial Region. In
addition to rice, agricultural products include
tea, mandarin oranges, strawberries, grapes,
peaches, and apples.
The most famous landmark of this largely
mountainous region is Mount Fuji. It is Japan’s
highest (3,776 meters, or 12,388 feet) and most
highly regarded mountain, considered sacred
by some Japanese. Its conical form has inspired
generations of artists and is world renowned
as a symbol of Japan. During the climbing
season, from July 1 to August 31, it is crowded
with climbers. Other sightseeing spots in
the Chubu region are the Izu Peninsula in
Shizuoka Prefecture, which has a subtropical
climate, many beautiful beaches, and a great
number of hot springs; and Zenkoji in Nagano
Prefecture, a well-known temple that attracts
a large number of visitors from all over the
country.
Kinki Region
Located in west central Honshu, the Kinki
region is Japan’s second most important
area in terms of industry. The ancient capital
of Kyoto is in Kinki. So, too, are the cities
of Osaka and Kobe (one of Japan’s most
important ports), which form the center of
commerce for western Japan. Rice and citrusfruit production, lumbering, and fishing are all
important to the region’s economy.
Kyoto, once the capital of Japan and the
residence of emperors from 794 to 1868, is
famous for its temples, shrines, and other
historic sites, and is a virtual storehouse of
officially designated National Treasures and
Important Cultural Properties. As a noted
tourist resort, Kyoto attracts millions of
tourists every year, from throughout Japan and
the world. The Historic Monuments of Ancient
Kyoto were registered as a World Heritage site
in 1994.
Osaka is the financial center of western
Japan. It is an industrial center as well,
especially for chemicals, machinery, steel, and
metal. Both the Tokaido Shinkansen and the
Sanyo Shinkansen depart from and arrive at
Shin-Osaka station (with the exception of some
trains going from Tokyo through to Hakata,
Kyushu, or Hiroshima).
Offering yet another of the three most
beautiful views of Japan, Amanohashidate is
a sandbar in northeastern Kyoto Prefecture. It
is noted for the beauty of its more than 6,000
gnarled pine trees.
The term Kansai refers to an area centering
roughly on the cities of Osaka, Kyoto, and
Kobe. While Kinki has well-defined borders
and is an official geographical designation,
Kansai is used in a cultural and historic
context, and in contradistinction to Kanto.
Snow country
A home in a rural village
of the Chubu region’s
Niigata Prefecture, which
is known for its heavy
snow falls.
© Kodansha
REGIONS OF JAPAN
3
People living in this region are said to speak
with a Kansai accent, for example.
Chugoku Region
The Chugoku region, encompassing the
whole western tip of Honshu, is mountainous,
with many small basins and coastal plains.
The Inland Sea coast, an important area
of industry and commerce, is the most
populous part of the region. Large riceproducing areas are concentrated along the
plains of the Sea of Japan and the Okayama
Plain. The warm, dry climate of the Inland Sea
coast is ideal for growing oranges.
The last of the three most scenic spots in
Japan, Itsukushima, also known as Miyajima,
is an island in Hiroshima Prefecture. Famous
for its torii gate, which stands in the bay,
Itsukushima Shrine became a World Heritage
site in 1996.
Two cities in Japan—Hiroshima, in the
Chugoku region, and Nagasaki, in the Kyushu
region—underwent atomic bombings during
World War II. Near the Peace Memorial Park
in Hiroshima stands the Atomic Bomb Dome,
which was registered as a World Heritage site
in 1996.
Shikoku Region
Shikoku (the smallest of Japan’s four main
islands) along with various satellite islands
constitute this region, which spreads across
the Inland Sea. The high, steep mountains
serve as a limit to farming and habitation, and
there is little large-scale industry. However,
new development has been spurred by
completion of two chains of bridges (Seto
Ohashi) that link Shikoku with Honshu.
The climate on the Pacific side of Shikoku is
subtropical.
Naruto Strait, connecting Tokushima
P re f e c t u re a n d Aw a j i s h i m a , i n H y o g o
Prefecture, is well known for its large
whirlpools.
Gion Festival
A parade of huge ornate
floats (dashi) is featured in
this July festival held in the
Kinki region city of Kyoto.
© Kodansha
Kyushu Region
Kyushu, the southernmost of the
four major islands, and more than 1,400
surrounding islands make up the Kyushu
region. Kyushu Island has a mountainous
i n t e r i o r, w i t h p l a i n s a l o n g t h e c o a s t ,
volcanoes, and hot springs. The climate
is subtropical. Agriculture, stock farming,
hog raising, and fishery all flourish. The
Kita Kyushu Industrial Zone contains
a concentration of heavy and chemical
industries.
Kyushu is connected to Honshu by road
and rail via a bridge and undersea tunnels.
Hakata Station in Fukuoka Prefecture is the
terminus of the Sanyo Shinkansen.
Major sightseeing spots are Beppu in Oita
Prefecture, a resort town famous for its hot
springs; Mt. Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture; and
Sakurajima in Kagoshima Prefecture.
Okinawa Prefecture is a chain of 60 islands
located far to the south of Kyushu. Okinawa,
once called Ryukyu, was an independent
kingdom until the seventeenth century and,
as such, developed its own distinct dialect
and cultural traditions. After World War II
and until 1972, Okinawa was controlled by
the U.S. military. Tourism is the main industry.
Because of the warm climate throughout the
year, marine sports are popular. There are many
beautiful islands in Okinawa, such as Ishigakijima and Miyako-jima, known for their coral
reefs.
Shimantogawa
This Kochi Prefecture
river is the second largest
in the Shikoku region.
© Kodansha
REGIONS OF JAPAN
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