Regions of Japan
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Regions of Japan

By Molly Kaiser for The J-Pop Exchange

In contrast to the United States, Japan is a unitary state in which the central government is supreme and other rights and powers are delegated to sub-national regions.

The island country has eight of these major regions: Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kanto, Chubu, Kinki, Chugoku, Shikoku and Kyushu. Within these regions, there are 47 prefectures–districts that operate directly below the national government. The following is a rundown of the eight regions and their attributes:


Hokkaido is the northernmost region in Japan and the second largest. It makes up ⅕ of Japan’s total land. Bordered by the Sea of Japan to the West, the Sea of Okhotsk on the North and the Pacific Ocean on the East and South, the area has a cool climate and a mountainous terrain, with mountains and volcanoes running from North to South.

Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaido and is the tourism and commercial center of the region. The capital is known for its beer, skiing and the annual Sapporo Snow Festival.


Tohoku has six prefectures and sits directly below Hokkaido. It is known for its natural landscapes including hot springs, mountains and lakes. The region is subject to extreme winter weather. In 2011, the area was hit by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami which was the most powerful earthquake ever in Japan, and the fourth most powerful in the world.

Its largest city is Sendai, which has a population of more than one million, and is the second largest city north of Tokyo. It’s nicknamed the “City of Trees” because zelkova trees fill the landscape.


Kanto is situated below Tohoku to the east and is home to Tokyo, Japan’s capital and its largest city with a population of 13.96 million. Kanto is an area within Honshu, the largest island of Japan, and is home to a third of the population of the country (42+ million).

In addition to the Tokyo metropolitan area, Kanto is home to the ancient capital of Kamakura and Lake Ashi, which has views of Mount Fuji. The Saitama mountains and Chiba beaches also make for exciting tourist destinations.


Chubu is to the West of Kanto and is home to nine prefectures. Its major city is Nagoya and it has coastlines on both the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean. The central part of the country is split by the Japanese Alps, which divide the region into the Pacific side, which has sunny winters, and the Sea of Japan side, which has snowy winters.

Mount Fuji is located in Chubu and is the highest mountain in Japan at almost 4,000 meters. It is an active volcano that most recently erupted in 1707. The mountain is worshiped as a sacred landmark and has had a lasting impact on Japanese culture.


The Kansai, also known as the Kinki region, is in south central Japan. The Keihanshin region in Kansai (comprised of Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe) is the second largest region in Japan behind the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan area.

The Kansai region is the historical and cultural center of Japan. Four of Japan’s national parks are within this region, and six out of seven of the top prefectures for national treasures like castles, temples, art and other historical artifacts are within Kansai.


The Chugoku region is also called the San'in-Sanyo region and is the Western-most island on Japan’s main island of Honshu. It has five prefectures, including Hiroshima. Hiroshima is the capital of this region, and is a thriving metropolis years despite its destruction by the 1945 atomic bomb.

In Japanese characters, Chugoku means China, so some call it the San'in-Sanyo region to avoid confusion. The Sanyo region along the Seto Inland Sea is a highly urbanized and industrialized region whereas the San’in region off the Sea of Japan is more rural.


The smallest of the four main islands of Japan, Shikoku translates to “four countries” and has four prefectures: Ehime, Kagawa, Kochi and Tokushima. The region is a strong agricultural asset because of its land, natural resources and mild winters.

Mountains divide the region into a north and south region, facing the Seto Inland Sea and Pacific Ocean, respectively. The southern region is larger, more mountainous and has a small population.


Kyushu is the southernmost of Japan’s big islands except for Okinawa. In terms of geography, the island has many hot springs, mountains, and is subject to tectonic activity because of its volcanic ranges. Kyushu’s main agricultural products are rice, tea, tobacco, sweet potatoes, soy and silk.

The area is also known for its subtropical climate in the south and heavy rainfall. Mount Aso is located in this region, which is the world’s largest active volcanic crater.


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