Learn more about Hokkaidō
|Image:Japan Hokkaido large.png|
|Area||83,453.57 km² (1st)|
|- % water||6.4%|
|- Population||5,627,424 (7th)|
|- Density||67.4 /km²|
|- Flower|| Hamanasu|
(Rugosa Rose, Rosa rugosa)
|- Tree|| Ezomatsu|
(Jezo Spruce, Picea jezoensis)
|- Bird|| Tanchō|
(Red-crowned Crane, Grus japonensis)
Symbol of Hokkaidō Prefecture
Hokkaidō Route", Ainu: Mosir), formerly known as Ezo, is the second largest island and largest prefecture of Japan. The Tsugaru Strait separates it from Honshū, although it is connected to Honshū by the underwater Seikan Tunnel. The largest city on Hokkaidō is the prefectural capital, Sapporo.(北海道, literal meaning: "North Sea
The Nihonshoki is often said to be the first mention of Hokkaidō in recorded history. According to the text, Abe no Hirafu led 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 Hokkaidō. 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 ancestors of the present-day Ainu.
During the Nara and Heian periods, people in Hokkaidō conducted trade with Dewa Province, an outpost of the Japanese central government. From the medieval ages, the people in Hokkaidō began to be called Ezo. Around the same time Hokkaidō 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.
During 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 Tokugawa 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.
Hokkaidō 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 Hokkaidō (北加伊道) to the government. The government eventually decided to use the name Hokkaidō, 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 Tōkaidō (東海道). According to Matsuura, the name was thought up because the Ainu called the region "Kai." Historically, many peoples who had interactions with the ancestors of the Ainu called them and their islands Kuyi, Kuye, Qoy, or some similar name, which may have some connection to the early modern form Kai. The Kai element also strongly resembles the Sino-Japanese reading of the characters 蝦夷 (Sino-Japanese /ka-i/, Japanese kun /emisi/), which have been used for over a thousand years in China and Japan as the standard orthographic form to be used when referring to Ainu and related peoples; it is possible that Matsuura's Kai was actually an alteration, influenced by the Sino-Japanese reading of 蝦夷 Ka-i, of the Nivkh exonym for the Ainu, namely Qoy. In 1882, the Colonization Office was abolished, and Hokkaidō was separated into three prefectures, Hakodate, Sapporo, and Nemuro. In 1886, the three prefectures were abolished, and Hokkaidō was put under the Hokkaidō Agency. Hokkaidō became equal with other prefectures in 1947, when the revised Local Autonomy Law became effective.
Hokkaidō 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 Honshū.
The prefecture of Hokkaidō incorporates several smaller islands, including Rishiri, Okushiri Island, and Rebun. (By Japanese reckoning, the prefecture also incorporates several of the Kuril Islands.) Because the prefectural status of Hokkaidō is denoted by the dō in its name, it is rarely referred to as "Hokkaidō Prefecture," except when necessary to distinguish the prefecture from the island.
 Seismic activity
Like the rest of Japan, Hokkaidō is seismically active. Aside from numerous earthquakes, the following volcanoes are still considered active (at least one eruption since 1850):
- See also: Category:Volcanoes of Hokkaidō
An earthquake of magnitude 8.0 struck near the island on 2003-09-25 at 19:50:07 (UTC). In 1993, an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 generated a tsunami which devastated Okushiri. On 2006-11-15, an earthquake of magnitude 8.1 generated an alert of tsunami.
 National Parks and quasi-national parks
There are still many undisturbed forests in Hokkaidō, including:
|Shiretoko National Park*||知床|
|Akan National Park||阿寒|
|Kushiro Shitsugen National Park||釧路湿原|
|Daisetsuzan National Park||大雪山|
|Shikotsu-Toya National Park||支笏洞爺|
|Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park||利尻礼文サロベツ|
|Quasi-national parks (準国立公園)|
|Onuma Quasi-National Park|
|Niseko-Shakotan-Otaru Kaigan Quasi-National Park|
|Abashiri Quasi-National Park|
|Hidaka Sanmyaku-Erimo Quasi-National Park|
|Shokambetsu-Teuri-Yagishiri Quasi-National Park|
- Twelve prefectural natural parks (道立自然公園).
|Kushiro Wetland||ja:釧路湿原||};">|| 1980-06-17
|Kiritappu Wetland||ja:霧多布湿原||};">|| 1993-06-10
- See also: Subprefectures of Japan
Hokkaidō is one of 8 prefectures in Japan that are divided into subprefectures (the others being Tokyo, Yamagata Prefecture, Nagasaki Prefecture, Okinawa Prefecture, Kagoshima Prefecture, Miyazaki Prefecture and Shimane 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.
Before the current politicial divisions and after 1869, Hokkaidō was divided into provinces. See Former Provinces of Hokkaidō.
Hokkaidō is known for its cool summers 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.
Unlike the other major islands of Japan, Hokkaidō is normally not affected by the June-July rainy season and the relative lack of humidity and typically warm, rather than hot, summer weather makes its climate an attraction for tourists from other parts of Japan.
In winter, the generally high quality of powder snow and numerous mountains in Hokkaidō make it one of Japan's most popular regions for snow sports. The snowfall usually commences in earnest in November and ski resorts (such as those at Niseko, Furano and Rusutsu) usually operate between December and April.
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 Hokkaidō.
 Major cities
- See also: List of cities in Hokkaidō
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 Hokkaidō (the Winter Olympics were held in Sapporo in 1972).
Hokkaidō'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 four airlines each day. One of the airlines, Air Do was named after Hokkaidō. Hokkaidō can also be reached by ferry from Sendai, Niigata and some other cities.
Within Hokkaidō, there is a fairly well-developed railway network (see Hokkaidō Railway Company), but many cities can only be accessed by bus or car.
 In popular culture
- A mission in Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory occurs in Hokkaidō, which Sam calls the "Alaska of Japan".
- The German singer, Bettina Storm, produced a song called "Hokkaidō" in 1973.
- Akira Kurosawa set his 1951 film adaptation of Dostoyevsky's The Idiot in Hokkaidō.
- In Pokémon Diamond and Pearl the land of Sinnoh is based on Hokkaidō and is geographically similar.
 See also
 External links
- Official Hokkaidō Prefecture homepage
- TransGlobal Highway – Proposed Hokkaidō-Sakhalin Friendship Tunnel.
- Hokkaidō travel guide from Wikitravel
|Abashiri | Hidaka | Hiyama | Iburi | Ishikari | Kamikawa | Kushiro | Nemuro | Oshima | Rumoi | Shiribeshi | Sorachi | Soya | Tokachi|
|Abashiri | Akabira | Asahikawa | Ashibetsu | Bibai | Chitose | Date | Ebetsu | Eniwa | Fukagawa | Furano | Hakodate | Wakkanai | Yubari|