The northernmost of the main islands that comprise Japan. It's also Japan's largest prefecture.

Hokkaido was originally home to an indigenous Caucasian race known as the Ainu. The Japanese gradually displaced them starting around the time of the Meiji Restoration.

Hokkaido is known for its beautiful landscapes and delicious (and inexpensive) food. The weather is very cold in the winter, but is cool and dry in the summer. Many residents of metropolitan areas elsewhere in the country, like Tokyo and Kyoto, visit Hokkaido in the summer to escape the heat and humidity.

Hokkaido's chief exports are seafood, dairy, potatoes, grain and grain-based products, and corn. Hokkaido, especially the cities of Hakodate and Sapporo, is also known for its ramen and beer.

If you go, I suggest getting around by car. The rail service is underdeveloped and sporadic, and you'll end up wasting a lot of time that way. Renting a bicycle and wandering around the fields is very nice. You can stop by at produce stands and eat some corn-on-the-cob or baked potatoes with butter. Yum yum.

Japan > Hokkaido

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(Location: around 42 - 46th parallel, south of Sakhalin, north of Honshu.)

Hokkaido is 1) an island in Japan, 2) a group of islands, and 3) the prefecture that is the group of islands. Many locations of Hokkaido have names originating from the Ainu language. While the general area was historically inhabited by Ainus, the majority of citizens now are of the Japanese majority race. Furthermore, in many locations cows outnumber humans. Other inhabitants include sea otters and seals. Visited by tourists, whales and iceburgs. Rural houses in the winters are often buried up to second floor window in snow.

Most populated cities

City         Pop.    Node status
Sapporo   1,837,646  (nn)    ← capital of Hokkaido prefecture
Asahikawa   363,238  (.)
Hakodate    286,399  (N)
Kushiro     190,896  ()
  
"()" = nodeshell
 "." = brief writeup
 "n" = medium-sized writeup
 "N" = large writeup

Islands with Greatest Area

Island(s)           km²
hokkaido         78,422
etorofu-to *      3,184
kunashiri-to *    1,500
shikotan-to *       255
rishiri-to          183
okushiri-to         143
habomai-shoto *     100
rebun-to             82

* Japan-Russia Northern Territory Issue

The islands with * have been recognized as Japanese territory during the period of 1854 - 1946. Japanese inhabitants were forced out by the Soviets in 1946. Today, they are inhabited by Russian border patrols, despite the fact that Russia acknowledges there is no internationally recognized border here. Japan argues that the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty did not include the return of the four islands, and wishes cooperation with Russia in a peaceful return of the islands.
The United States government also states in its official document that the phrase "Kurile Islands" in the San Francisco Peace Treaty "does not include and was not intended to include the Habomai islands, or Shikotan, or the islands of Kunashiri and Etorofu which have always been part of Japan proper and should, therefore, in justice be acknowledged as under Japanese sovereignty."

~ Official homepage for the Japan-Russia Territorial Issue, by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan:
http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/europe/russia/territory/index.html

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