|Area||83,454 km² (1)|
Hokkaidō (北海道, literal meaning: "North Sea Route"), formerly known as Ezo, Yezo, Yeso, or Yesso, 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.
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 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.
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