The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Hokkaido Prefecture

(Redirected from Hokkaido)

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 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):
    • Hakodate (函館)
      • Yunokawa (湯の川)
    • Noboribetsu (登別)
    • Touyako (洞爺湖)
  • Central Circuit (道央):
    • Sapporo (札幌市)
    • 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)
  • Northern Circuit (道北):
    • Wakkanai (稚内)

There are still many undisturbed forests in Hokkaidō, including:


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

Former Provinces

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


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.

Major Cities

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 Hokkai. 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.

External links

Last updated: 08-01-2005 04:57:45
The contents of this article are licensed from under the GNU Free Documentation License. How to see transparent copy