Tōhoku region

The Tōhoku region (東北地方 Tōhoku-chihō), Northeast region, or Northeast Japan consists of the northeastern portion of Honshu, the largest island of Japan. This traditional region consists of six prefectures (ken): Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, and Yamagata.[1]

Tōhoku retains a reputation as a remote, scenic region with a harsh climate. In the 20th century, tourism became a major industry in the Tōhoku region.

Tōhoku region

The Tōhoku region in Japan
The Tōhoku region in Japan
 • Total66,951.97 km2 (25,850.30 sq mi)
 (June 1, 2019)
 • Total8,682,011
 • Density130/km2 (340/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+09:00 (JST)


In mythological times, the area was known as Azuma (吾妻, あづま) and corresponded to the area of Honshu occupied by the native Ainu. The area was historically the Dewa and the Michinoku regions,[2] a term first recorded in Hitachi-no-kuni Fudoki (常陸国風土記) (654). There is some variation in modern usage of the term "Michinoku".[3]

Tōhoku's initial historical settlement occurred between the seventh and ninth centuries, well after Japanese civilization and culture had become firmly established in central and southwestern Japan. The last stronghold of the indigenous Emishi on Honshu and the site of many battles, the region has maintained a degree of autonomy from Kyoto at various times throughout history.

Cast iron teapots like this one sit atop stoves during the long winters in Tōhoku.

The haiku poet Matsuo Bashō wrote Oku no Hosomichi (The Narrow Road to the Deep North) during his travels through Tōhoku.

In the 1960s, ironworks, Steelmaking, cement, chemical industry, pulp, and petroleum refining industries began developing. The region is traditionally known as a less developed area of Japan.[4]

The catastrophic 9.0-Magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, inflicted massive damage along the east coast of this region, killed 15,894[5] people and was the costliest natural disaster ever which left 500,000 people homeless along with radioactive fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

Vatican. Legation from Tōhoku. Luis Sotelo, speaking with Hasekura Tsunenaga

Christianity in Tōhoku

Masamune, feudal lord of Date clan, expanded trade in the Tōhoku region. Although initially faced with attacks by hostile clans, he managed to overcome them after a few defeats and eventually ruled one of the largest fiefdoms of the later Tokugawa shogunate. He built many palaces and worked on many projects to beautify the region. He is also known to have encouraged foreigners to come to his land. Even though he funded and promoted an envoy to establish relations with the Pope in Rome, he was likely motivated at least in part by a desire for foreign technology, similar to that of other lords, such as Oda Nobunaga. Further, once Tokugawa Ieyasu outlawed Christianity, Masamune reversed his position, and though disliking it, let Ieyasu persecute Christians in his domain. For 270 years, Tōhoku remained a place of tourism, trade and prosperity. Matsushima, for instance, a series of tiny islands, was praised for its beauty and serenity by the wandering haiku poet Matsuo Bashō.

He showed sympathy for Christian missionaries and traders in Japan. In addition to allowing them to come and preach in his province, he also released the prisoner and missionary Padre Sotelo from the hands of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Date Masamune allowed Sotelo as well as other missionaries to practice their religion and win converts in Tōhoku.


The most often used subdivision of the region is dividing it to "North Tōhoku" (北東北 Kita-Tōhoku) consisting of Aomori, Akita, and Iwate Prefectures and "South Tōhoku" (南東北 Minami-Tōhoku) consisting of Yamagata, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures.


Historical population
1884 3,957,085—    
1898 4,893,747+23.7%
1920 5,793,974+18.4%
1940 7,164,674+23.7%
1950 9,021,809+25.9%
1955 9,334,442+3.5%
1970 9,031,197−3.2%
1975 9,232,875+2.2%
1980 9,572,088+3.7%
1985 9,730,352+1.7%
1990 9,738,284+0.1%
1995 9,834,124+1.0%
2000 9,817,589−0.2%
2010 9,335,636−4.9%
2018 8,768,559−6.1%
Note: All figures since 1920 are October, except 2018 which is Apr.
Source: Japan Census figures except latest which from ja:東北地方

The population decline of Tōhoku, which began before the year 2000, has accelerated, now including previously dynamic Miyagi. Despite this, Sendai City has grown, in part due to relocations of people affected by the 2011 disaster. The population decline of Aomori, Iwate and Akita Prefectures, Honshu's three northernmost, began in the early 1980s after an initial loss of population in the late 1950s. Fukushima Prefecture, prior to 1980, had traditionally been the most populated, but today Miyagi is the most populated and urban by far.

Geography and Climate

Northern Japan from the International Space Station
The Tōhoku region and Hokkaido seen from space

Tōhoku, like most of Japan, is hilly or mountainous, with the Ōu Mountains running north-south. The inland location of many of the region's lowlands has led to a concentration of much of the population there. Coupled with coastlines that do not favor seaport development, this settlement pattern resulted in a much greater than usual dependence on land and rail transportation. Low points in the central mountain range make communications between lowlands on either side of the range moderately easy.

Tōhoku was traditionally considered the granary of Japan because it supplied Sendai and the Tokyo-Yokohama market with rice and other farming commodities. Tōhoku provided 20 percent of the nation's rice crop. The climate is colder than in other parts of Honshū due to the stronger effect of the Siberian High, and permits only one crop a year on paddy fields. The pacific coast of Tohoku, however, is generally much less snowy than the region's popular image and has among the smallest seasonal temperature variation in Japan. The city of Iwaki, for instance, has daily mean temperatures ranging from 3°C in January to 23.9°C in August.

Cities and populated areas

Designated cities
  • Sendai (population: 1,045,000)
Core cities
View of Iwaki station in Iwaki city - panoramio 78
Other cities

Points of interest

Natural features


See also


  1. ^ Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric. (2005). "Tōhoku" in Japan Encyclopedia, p. 970, p. 970, at Google Books
  2. ^ Hanihara, Kazuro. "Emishi, Ezo and Ainu: An Anthropological Perspective," Japan Review, 1990, 1:37 (PDF p. 3).
  3. ^ McCullough, Helen Craig. (1988). The Tale of the Heike, p. 81, p. 81, at Google Books; excerpt, "Furthermore, in the old days, the two famous eastern provinces, Dewa and Michinoku, were a single province made up of sixty-six districts, of which twelve were split off to create Dewa."
  4. ^ Dentsu. (1970). Industrial Japan, Issues 18-26, p. 58; retrieved 2013-4-17.
  5. ^ "National Police Agency of Japan Damage Situation and Police Countermeasures associated with 2011Tohoku district - off the Pacific Ocean Earthquake" (PDF). March 10, 2016.


External links

Coordinates: 38°54′N 140°41′E / 38.900°N 140.683°E

2008 Iwate–Miyagi Nairiku earthquake

On June 14, the 2008 Iwate earthquake struck the Tōhoku region of northeastern Honshū in Japan. Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) officially named this earthquake the Iwate–Miyagi Nairiku earthquake in 2008 (平成20年(2008年)岩手・宮城内陸地震).This earthquake occurred in the south of the inland of Iwate Prefecture at 8:43 JST on June 14 (23:43 UTC on June 13). The JMA magnitude was estimated at Mj 7.2, and the moment magnitude by USGS was at Mw 6.9. The epicenter was located at 39°01.7′N 140°52.8′E, about 85 kilometres (55 mi) north of Sendai and about 385 kilometres (240 mi) north-northeast of Tokyo.The strongest shaking was measured in the cities of Ōshū (Iwate) and Kurihara (Miyagi), both of which were measured as "strong 6" on the Japan Meteorological Agency seismic intensity scale, shindo (震度, shindo). Peak ground acceleration readings were high, with a maximum vector sum (3 component) value of 4,278 cm/s2 (4.36g).


Aizu (会津) is the westernmost of the three regions of Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, the other two regions being Nakadōri in the central area of the prefecture and Hamadōri in the east. As of October 1, 2010, it had a population of 291,838. The principal city of the area is Aizuwakamatsu.

During the Edo period, Aizu was a feudal domain known as Aizu Domain (会津藩, Aizu-han). It was part of Mutsu Province; the area once was part of Iwase Province in the 8th century and, before the prefectural system, Iwashiro Province. Although never an official province in its own right, Aizu was considered as such de facto, and even today local Japan Rail stations prefix "Aizu-" to names instead of "Iwashiro-", as it was for stations around the center of Fukushima Prefecture.

Akita Prefecture

Akita Prefecture (秋田県, Akita-ken) is a prefecture located in the Tōhoku region of Japan. The capital is the city of Akita.

Aomori Prefecture

Aomori Prefecture (青森県, Aomori-ken) is a prefecture of Japan located in the Tōhoku region. The capital is the city of Aomori.

Fukushima Prefecture

Fukushima Prefecture (福島県, Fukushima-ken) is a prefecture of Japan located in the Tōhoku region. The capital is the city of Fukushima.


Hamadōri (浜通り) is the easternmost of the three regions of Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, the other two being Nakadōri in the central area of the prefecture and Aizu in the west. Hamadōri is bordered by the Abukuma Highlands to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east.

The principal city of the area is Iwaki.

Iwate Prefecture

Iwate Prefecture (岩手県, Iwate-ken) is a prefecture in the Tōhoku region of Japan. Located on the main island of Honshu, it contains the island's easternmost point. The capital is Morioka. Iwate has the lowest population density of any prefecture outside Hokkaido. Famous attractions include the Buddhist temples of Hiraizumi, including Chūson-ji and Mōtsū-ji with their treasures, Fujiwara no Sato, a movie lot and theme park in Esashi Ward, Oshu City, Tenshochi, a park in Kitakami City known for its big, old cherry trees and Morioka Castle in Morioka City.

List of newspapers in Japan

The first dailies were established in Japan in 1870. In 2009 the number of the newspapers was 110 in the country.Below is a list of newspapers published in Japan. (See also Japanese newspapers.)

Michinoku Pro Wrestling

Michinoku Pro Wrestling (みちのくプロレス, Michinoku puroresu) (originally known as North Eastern Wrestling) is a Japanese professional wrestling professional wrestling promotion founded by The Great Sasuke in 1993. It was the first independent wrestling promotion in Japan to not base its operations in Tokyo, but rather in Morioka, Iwate. Since, the promotion is primarily focused on the Lucha libre style of wrestling, many of their wrestlers don masks and special motifs as they compete in the ring. However, Michinoku Pro has accepted wrestlers from various styles (such as shoot style and strong style) and backgrounds over the years. In 2003, Sasuke left the running of the promotion to Jinsei Shinzaki.

Miyagi Prefecture

Miyagi Prefecture (宮城県, Miyagi-ken) is a prefecture in the Tōhoku region of Japan. The capital is Sendai.

Mutsu Province

Mutsu Province (陸奥国, Mutsu no kuni) was an old province of Japan in the area of Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate and Aomori Prefectures and the municipalities of Kazuno and Kosaka in Akita Prefecture.

Mutsu Province is also known as Ōshū (奥州) or Michinoku (陸奥 or 道奥). The term Ōu (奥羽) is often used to refer to the combined area of Mutsu and the neighboring province Dewa, which together make up the entire Tōhoku region.


Nakadōri (中通り, Nakadōri) is a region comprising the middle third of Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. It is sandwiched between the regions of Aizu to the west and Hamadōri to the east. The principal cities of the area are Kōriyama and the prefecture's capital, Fukushima.

Natori River

The Natori River (名取川, Natorigawa) is a river located in central Miyagi prefecture, in the Tōhoku region of northern Japan. It starts at Mount Kamuro in the Ōu Mountains and flows in an easterly direction through the cities of Natori and Sendai. The river's headwaters start in the Zao Mountain range, it flows through the Sendai Plain and ends by draining into Sendai Bay. The river's estuary is located on Japan's east coast, and faces the Pacific Ocean. The river's flow is the greatest during the snow melt season from March – April, the rainy season from June – July and during the typhoon season from September – October. The river's length is 55 km, and its tributaries are the Hirose, Masuda and Goishi Rivers. The Natori provides water for 1 million people in the city of Sendai.

Northern Fujiwara

The Northern Fujiwara (奥州藤原氏 Ōshū Fujiwara-shi) were a Japanese noble family that ruled the Tōhoku region (the northeast of Honshū) of Japan during the 12th century as their own realm. They succeeded the semi-independent Emishi families of the 11th century who were gradually brought down by the Minamoto clan loyal to the Imperial Court in Kyoto. Ultimately they were conquered by the Kantō samurai clans led by Minamoto no Yoritomo.

During the 12th century, at the zenith of their rule, they attracted a number of artisans from Kyoto and created a capital city, Hiraizumi, in what is now Iwate Prefecture. They ruled over an independent region that derived its wealth from gold mining, horse trading and as middlemen in the trade in luxury items from continental Asian states and from the far northern Emishi and Ainu people. They were able to keep their independence vis-a-vis Kyoto by the strength of their warrior bands until they were overwhelmed by Minamoto no Yoritomo in 1189.

Below is a family tree of the Fujiwaras who show up most frequently in historical accounts.

*a.k.a. Izumi (no) Saburo

(Adopted kin are not shown.)

Tōhoku dialect

The Tōhoku dialect (東北方言, Tōhoku hōgen), commonly called 東北弁 Tōhoku-ben, is a group of the Japanese dialects spoken in Tōhoku Region, the northeastern region of Honshū. Toward the northern part of Honshū, the Tōhoku dialect can differ so dramatically from standard Japanese that it is sometimes rendered with subtitles in the nationwide media and it has been treated as the typical rural accent in Japanese popular culture.


Tōsandō (東山道, literally, "eastern mountain circuit" or "eastern mountain region") is a Japanese geographical term. It means both an ancient division of the country and the main road running through it. It is part of the Gokishichidō system. It was situated along the central mountains of northern Honshu, Tōhoku region.

This term also refers to a series of roads that connected the capitals (国府, kokufu) of each of the provinces that made up the region.

The Tōsandō region encompasses eight ancient provinces.

Ōmi Province

Mino Province

Hida Province

Shinano Province

Kōzuke Province

Shimotsuke Province

Mutsu Province

Dewa ProvinceAfter 711, Tōsandō was understood to include Musashi province.

Uzen Province

Uzen Province (羽前国, Uzen-no kuni) is an old province of Japan in the area of Yamagata Prefecture (consisting mostly minus Akumi District). It was sometimes called Ushū (羽州), with Ugo Province.

This province was in the Tōhoku region of Honshū island. It was the place where the Mogami clan was established.

Yamagata Prefecture

Yamagata Prefecture (山形県, Yamagata-ken) is a prefecture located in the Tōhoku region of Japan. Its capital is Yamagata.

Yoneshiro River

The Yoneshiro River (米代川, Yoneshirogawa) is a river in Tōhoku region of the northern portion of the island of Honshū in Japan. It is 136 kilometres (85 mi) long and has a watershed of 4,100 square kilometres (1,600 sq mi). The river rises from Mount Nakadake and Mount Shikakudake in the Ōu Mountains and Mount Hachimantai near the border of Akita Prefecture with Iwate and Aomori Prefectures, and flows to the west through northern Akita Prefecture into the Sea of Japan at Noshiro, Akita.

47 Prefectures
Affected areas
Nuclear Accidents
and Incidents
Relief and


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