Honshu

Honshu (hōnˈshō) [key], island (1990 pop. 98,352,000), c.89,000 sq mi (230,510 sq km), central Japan. It is c.800 mi (1,290 km) long and from c.30 to 150 mi (50–240 km) wide and is the largest and most important island of Japan. It is separated from Hokkaido by the Tsugaru Strait, from Kyushu by Shimonoseki Strait, and from Shikoku by the Inland Sea. Honshu is predominantly mountainous, rising to 12,389 ft (3,776 m) at Mt. Fuji (the highest peak of Japan), and has many volcanoes. It has valuable forest, but a limited amount of arable land. Oil, zinc, and copper are found on the island. The Shinano, the longest river of Japan, traverses central Honshu. Most of the rivers of the island are short and swift, feeding many small hydroelectric plants. Earthquakes are common, and have at times been devastating (1923, 1995, 2011) in parts of the island. The climate of Honshu has a wide range from the north with its snowy winters to the subtropical south. Agriculture is varied; rice, other grains, cotton, fruits, and vegetables are grown. The bulk of Japan's tea and silk comes from Honshu. The population is concentrated in lowland areas. Most important of these is the Kanto or Kwanto Plain (c.5,000 sq mi/12,950 sq km) in the central part of the island; it contains the Tokyo-Yokohama industrial belt. Other large industrial regions include Osaka-Kobe (in the Kinki district), and Nagoya (on the Nobi Plain). Most of Japan's great ports are on Honshu. Kyoto, formerly the capital of Japan, is an ancient seat of culture and also the chief handicraft center of Honshu. Electronics, metallurgical, chemical, and textile industries are very important on the island, although the larger cities have diverse industries. Politically the island is divided into 34 prefectures. Japan has steadily increased the number of bridges and tunnels connecting Honshu with its other islands. Three new bridge systems have been built across the Inland Sea between Honshu and Shikoku, and the Seikan Tunnel (completed 1988) now connects Honshu with Hokkaido. The island was formerly sometimes called Hondo.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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