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(hōn`sho͞o), 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. FujiFuji, Mount
, Fujiyama
, or Fuji-san
, volcanic peak, 12,389 ft (3,776 m) high, central Honshu, Japan, in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park (472 sq mi/1,222 sq km; est. 1936).
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 (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.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an island of Japan, with coasts on the Sea of Japan, the Pacific Ocean, the Japanese Inland Sea, and the Tsugaru (Sangarskii), Kii, and Kammon straits. The island measures more than 1,400 km in length and, with nearby smaller islands, has an area of approximately 230,000 sq km, making it Japan’s largest island. Population, approximately 90 million (1977).

The coast of Honshu extends more than 8,000 km. The Pacific coast has numerous inlets, while the coast of the Sea of Japan is more even. The island’s topography mainly features mountains of low and medium elevation. Three longitudinal mountain chains are found in the north, the primary one being the Ou-sam-myaku. In the central part of Honshu, where the island is crossed by the Fossa Magna tectonic trough, the ranges Hida-sammyaku, Kiso-sammyaku, and Akaishi-sammyaku rise to elevations of 2,500–3,000 m and more; the ranges have alpine topography. Mount Fuji, a volcano rising to an elevation of 3,776 m, is also situated in the central part of the island.

In the southwest there are two longitudinal belts of mountains separated by a depression in which Lake Biwa, the largest on Honshu, and Osaka Bay are located. Plains are small and found primarily along the coast; the principal ones are Kanto, Nobi, Kinki, and Echigo. Volcanoes occur in many regions, primarily in the interior. The island has about 20 active volcanoes and many extinct ones. Sulfur deposits such as the one at Matsuo are of volcanic origin. There are also deposits of iron (Kadoma), copper (Osarizawa and Saku), lead and zinc (Kamioka), and petroleum and fuel gas (along the Sea of Japan in Niigata Prefecture and on the Kanto Plain). The island is highly seismic.

The island has an oceanic monsoonal climate, temperate in the north and subtropical in the south. Average January temperatures range from –2° to +5°C, and average July temperatures range from 20° to 25°C. Annual precipitation is 1,000–3,000 mm, and more than 4,000 mm at places on the windward slopes of the mountains. Maximum precipitation occurs in the summer. In the northwest there is also increased precipitation caused by the winter monsoon, often in the form of snow. Typhoons are frequent in the fall.

Honshu’s rivers are mountainous and short and have many rapids, as well as flash floods in the summer. They have considerable hydroelectric power potential. The principal rivers are the Shinano, Tone, and Kiso. A significant amount of the rivers’ water is used to irrigate rice fields. Broad-leaved forests and sections of taiga occur in the mountains of the north, while subtropical evergreen and coniferous forests grow in the south. The plains are cultivated and densely populated.

The main cities of Honshu are Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Kyoto, Yokohama, and Kobe.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


the largest of the four main islands of Japan, between the Pacific and the Sea of Japan; regarded as the Japanese mainland; includes a number of offshore islands and contains most of the main cities. Pop.: 100 995 000 (1995). Area: 230 448 sq. km (88 976 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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The earthquake rocked eastern Honshu island at 10:31 p.m.
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