Hokkaido Prefecture

Template:Japanese prefecture Hokkaido Template:Audio (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.



The Nihon-shoki is often said to be the first mention of Hokkaido in recorded history. According to the text, Abe no Hirafu lead a large navy and army to northern areas from 658 to 660 and came into contact with the Mishihase and Emishi. One of the places Hirafu went to was called Watarishima, which is often believed to be present-day Hokkaido. However, many theories exist in relation to the details of this event, including the location of Watarishima and the common belief that the Emishi in Watarishima were the anscestors of the present-day Ainu.

During the Nara and Heian periods, people in Hokkaido conducted trade with the Dewa Province, the outpost of the Japanese central government. From the medieval ages, the people in Hokkaido began to be called Ezo. Around the same time Hokkaido came to be called Ezochi or Ezogashima. The Ezo mainly relied upon hunting and fishing and obtained rice and iron through trade with the Japanese.

In the Muromachi period, the Japanese created a settlement at the south of the Oshima peninsula. As more people moved to the settlement to avoid battles, disputes arose between the Japanese and the Ainu. The disputes eventually developed into a battle. Takeda Nobuhiro killed the Ainu leader and established a Japanese victory. Nobuhiro's descendants became the rulers of the Matsumae Han, which ruled the south of Ezochi until the end of the Edo period.

The Matsumae Han's economy relied upon trade with the Ainu. The Matsumae family was granted exclusive trading rights with the Ainu in the Azuchi-Momoyama and Edo periods. The Han gradually changed trade conditions so they came to favor Japanese merchants. As a result, some Ainu rebelled against the Matsumae han, but the rebellions were defeated. During the Meiji Restoration, the Shogunate realized there was a need to prepare northern defenses against Russian aggressions and took over most control of Ezochi. The Shogunate made the Ainu burden slightly easier, but did not change the overall form of rule.

Hokkaido was known as Ezochi until the Meiji Restoration. Shortly after the Boshin War in 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. Ezochi was subsequently put under control of the Colonization Office. When establishing the Colonization Office, the Meiji Government decided to change the name of Ezochi. Matsuura Takeshirō submitted 6 ideas, including names such as Kaihokudo (海北道) and Hokkkaido (北加伊道) to the government. The government eventually decided to use the name Hokkaido, but decided to write it as 北海道, as a compromise between 海北道 and because of the similarity with names such as Tokaido (東海道). According to Matsuura, the name was thought up because the Ainu called the region "Kai." In 1882, the Colonization Office was abolished, and Hokkaido was separated in to three prefectures, Hakodate, Sapporo, and Nemuro. In 1886, the three prefectures were abolished, and Hokkaido was put under the Hokkaido Agency. Hokkaido became equal with other prefectures in 1947, when the revised Local Autonomy Law became effective.


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)
Missing image
Sounkyo, Gorge in Daisetsu-zan Volcanic Area
  • 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 one of two prefectures in Japan that are divided into subprefectures (the other being Nagasaki Prefecture. 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



Much of the content of the history section in this article comes from the equivalent Japanese-language wikipedia article (http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%8C%97%E6%B5%B7%E9%81%93) (retrieved May 10, 2005).

Template:Prefecture navobox !align=center|Subprefectures |- || Abashiri | Hidaka | Hiyama | Iburi | Ishikari | Kamikawa | Kushiro | Nemuro | Oshima | Rumoi | Shiribeshi | Sorachi | Soya | Tokachi |- !align=center|Cities |- ||Abashiri | Akabira | Asahikawa | Ashibetsu | Bibai | Chitose | Date | Ebetsu | Eniwa | Fukagawa | Furano | Hakodate | Ishikari | Iwamizawa | Kitahiroshima | Kitami | Kushiro | Mikasa | Monbetsu | Muroran | Nayoro | Nemuro | Noboribetsu | Obihiro | Otaru | Rumoi | Sapporo | Shibetsu | Sunagawa | Takikawa | Tomakomai | Utashinai | Wakkanai | Yubari |- | align="right" | edit (https://academickids.com:443/encyclopedia/index.php?title=Template:Hokkaido&action=edit) |}


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