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Hokkaido (北海道 Hokkaidō, literal meaning: "North Sea Route", Ainu: Mosir), formerly known as Ezo, is the second largest island of Japan. The Tsugaru Strait separates it from Honshu, although it is connected to Honshu by the underwater Seikan Tunnel. The largest city on Hokkaidō is the prefectural capital, Sapporo.
Hokkaido has been the homeland of the Ainu race since time immemorial. Many place names, such as Sapporo, are derived from the Ainu language.
Hokkaido was known as Ezo until the Meiji Restoration. Shortly after the Boshin War of 1868, a group of Tokugawa loyalists led by Enomoto Takeaki proclaimed the island's independence as the Republic of Ezo, but the rebellion was crushed in May 1869. For a few years following the Meiji Restoration, Hokkaido was separated into 4 prefectures.
Hokkaido Island is located at the north end of Japan, near Russia, and has coastlines on the Sea of Japan, the Sea of Okhotsk, and the Pacific Ocean. The center of the island has a number of mountains and volcanic plateaus, and there are coastal plains in all directions. Major cities include Sapporo and Asahikawa in the central region and the port of Hakodate facing Honshu.
The prefecture of Hokkaidō incorporates several smaller islands, including Rishiri Island , Okushiri Island , and Rebun Island . (By Japanese reckoning, the prefecture also incorporates several of the Kuril Islands.) Because the prefectural status of Hokkaido is denoted by the dō in its name, it is rarely referred to as "Hokkaido Prefecture," except when necessary to distinguish the prefecture from the island.
An earthquake of magnitude 8.0 struck near the island on September 25, 2003 at 19:50:07 (UTC).
It is divided into four parts:
- Eastern Route (道東):
- Abashiri (網走)
- Shiretoko (知床)
- Akanko (阿寒湖)
- Kussharoko (屈斜路湖)
- Mashuko (摩周湖)
- Kushiro (釧路)
- Obihiro (帯広)
- Tokachigawa (十勝川)
- Southern Circuit (道南):
- Noboribetsu (登別)
- Touyako (洞爺湖)
- Central Circuit (道央):
- Otaru (小樽)
- Jozankei (定山溪)
- Shikotsuko (支笏湖)
- Furano (富良野)
- Biei (美瑛)
- Asahikawa (旭川)
- Sounkyo (層雲峽)
There are still many undisturbed forests in Hokkaidō, including:
- 6 national parks:
- 5 quasi-national parks (準国立公園)
- 12 circuital natural reserves
Hokkaidō is the only prefecture in Japan that is divided into subprefectures. This is mostly due to its great size: many parts of the prefecture are simply too far away to be effectively administered by Sapporo. Subprefectural offices in Hokkaidō carry out many of the duties that prefectural offices would fulfill elsewhere in Japan.
See also: List of cities in Hokkaido
In 1869, Hokkaido was divided into 11 provinces and 86 districts. The provinces were dissolved in 1882, and replaced with Hakodate Prefecture, Sapporo Prefecture and Nemuro Prefecture. In 1886, the three prefectures were replaced with Hokkaido-chō (北海道庁) The provinces with their districts were as follows
Oshima (渡島国, -no kuni) (the southern part of modern-day Oshima and Hiyama subprefectures)
Shirihesi (後志国) (modern-day Shiribeshi Subprefecture minus Abuta plus northern Hiyama)
- Futoru (太櫓郡) Dissolved April 1, 1955 when Futoru Village merged with Tōsetana Town from Setana District to form Kitahiyama Town
- Utasutsu (歌棄郡) Dissolve January 15, 1955 when Utasutsu Village was incorporated into Suttsu Town, Suttsu District, Neppu Vilalge merged with Suttsu District's Kuromatsunai Village and part of Tarukishi Village to form Sanwa Village (now Kuromatsunai Town)
Isoya (磯屋郡, later respelled 磯谷郡)
- Bikuni (美国郡) Dissolved September 30, 1956 when Bikuni Town was incorporated into Shakotan Town, Shakotan District.
- Oshiyoro (忍路郡) Dissolved April 1, 1958 when Shioya? Village was incorporated into Otaru City
- Takashima (高島郡) Dissolved September 1, 1940 when Takashima Town was incorporated into Otaru
- Otaru (小樽郡) Dissolved September 1, 1940 when Asato? Village was incorporated into Otaru
Ifuri (胆振国) (modern-day Iburi Subprefecture, Yamakoshi District of Oshima, Abuta in Shiribeshi, the cities of Chitose and Eniwa in Ishikari and Shimukappu Village in Kamikawa
Ishikari (石狩国) (modern-day Ishikari Subprefecture minus Chitose and Eniwa, all of Sorachi Subprefecture and the southern half of Kamikawa Subprefecture excluding Shimukappu)
Teshio (天塩国) (all of modern-day Rumoi Subprefecture and the northern half of Kamikawa Subprefecture)
Kitami (北見国) (modern-day Soya Subprefecture and Abashiri Subprefecture minus part of Abashiri District)
Hitaka (日高国) (modern-day Hidaka Subprefecture)
Tokachi (十勝国) (modern-day Tokachi Subprefecture)
Kushiro (釧路国) (modern-day Kushiro Subprefecture and part of Abashiri Subprefecture)
Nemuro (根室国) (mainland portion of modern-day Nemuro Subprefecture plus Habomai Rocks and Shikotan Island
Chishima (千島国) (originally the islands of Kunashiri and Etorofu, later included Shikotan and the Kuril Islands
- Kunashiri (国後郡) (occupied and administered by Russia, see Kuril Island conflict)
- Etorofu (択捉郡) (occupied and administered by Russia)
- Furebetsu (振別郡) (dissolved April, 1923 when its villages merged with several villages in Shana and Etorofu districts to form the village of Rubetsu in Etorofu)
- Shana (紗那郡) (occupied and administered by Russia)
- Shibetoro (蘂取郡) (occupied and administered by Russia)
Shikotan (色丹郡) (split off of Hanasaki District in 1885; currently occupied and administered by Russia)
- Uruppu (得撫郡) Acquired in Treaty of Saint Petersburg, ceded in San Francisco Treaty
- Shimushiro (新知郡) Acquired in Treaty of Saint Petersburg, ceded in San Francisco Treaty
- Shumushu (占守郡) Acquired in Treaty of Saint Petersburg, ceded in San Francisco Treaty
Hokkaido is known for its cool summers (which attract many tourists from other parts of Japan) and icy winters. The average August temperature is around 22°C (72°F), while the average January temperature ranges from -12°C to -4°C (10°F to 25°F) depending on elevation and latitude. The island tends to see isolated snowstorms that develop long-lasting snowbanks, in contrast to the constant flurries seen in the Hokuriku region.
During the winter, passage through the Sea of Okhotsk is often complicated by large ice floes broken loose from the Kamchatka Peninsula. Combined with high winds that occur during winter, this brings air travel and maritime activity almost to a halt on the northern coast of Hokkaido.
Hokkaido's largest city is the capital, Sapporo. Other major cities include Hakodate in the south and Asahikawa in the central region.
Hokkaidō is Japan's predominant agricultural area. It leads the country in the production of rice and fish, and shares the lead in vegetable farming.
Although there is some light industry (most notably paper milling, brewing (Sapporo beer ), and food production), most of the population is employed by the service sector. Tourism is an important industry, especially during the cool summertime that attracts campers and hot spring-goers from across Japan. During the winter, skiing and other winter sports continue to bring tourists to Hokkaido (the Winter Olympics was held in Sapporo in 1972).
Hokkaido's only land link to the rest of Japan is the Seikan Tunnel. Most travelers to the island arrive by air: the main airport is New Chitose Airport in Chitose, just south of Sapporo. Tokyo-Chitose is the world's busiest air route, handling 45 widebody round trips on three airlines each day. One of the airlines, Air Do was named after Hokkaidō. Hokkaido can also be reached by ferry from Sendai, Niigata and some other cities.
Within Hokkaido, there is a fairly well-developed railway network (see Hokkaido Railway Company), but many cities can only be accessed by bus or car.
Last updated: 08-01-2005 04:57:45