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What are the Northern Territories?

- Basic information about the Northern Territories -

Location and area

    The Northern Territories consist of islands northeast of the main island of Hokkaido. The Habomai Islands includeing Kaigara, Suisho, Akiyuri, Yuri, Shibotsu and Taraku are scattered from 3.7 km offshore to the northeast of the Nemuro Peninsula.  Shikotan Island is located 22 km northeast of the Habomai Islands. Kunashiri Island lies halfway between the Nemuro and Shiretoko peninsulas. This 122km long island extends from 16 km off the Notsuke Peninsula to the northeast. Etorofu is a 204-km-long island, located 22.5 km northeast of Kunashiri. The total area covered by these islands is 5,036 square kilometers, almost equivalent to the size of Chiba Prefecture.


     Although 17,291 people lived in the Northern Territories when World War II ended on August 15, 1945, they were forced to evacuate the islands by 1949 and 80% of them settled in Hokkaido,which adjoins the Northern Territories. At present (end of March, 2009) 7,692 former residents are still alive, while 44.5% have already passed away.

Prewar state


     Because warm and cold currents mix in the northern sea, this area abounds in marine resources and has long ranked among the three leading fishing grounds in the world. Main marine products of this area include kelp, salmon, cod and king crab. The average catch of three years from 1939 to 1941 was approximately 210,000 tons, which was \52 million at that time, and accounted for 23% of the total catch in Hokkaido. By area, 131,250 tons (mostly kelp) came from Habomai; 11,250 tons from Shikotan; 45,000 tons from Kunashiri and 22,500 tons from Etorofu.
Forestry, salmon hatchery, and mining (sulfur, gold and silver) in Kunashiri and Etorofu and stock farming (horses) in Kunashiri were also conducted in addition to fishing in prewar days.
Chinominochi, Kunashiri

Shikotan elementary school , Shikotan

Hokkaido Chishima Research Center , Etorofu

Present state

               The Four Northern Islands are currently illegally occupied by Russia. They claim that the Four Islands are part of the Province of Sakhalin, which is one of 89 federal districts composing the Russian Federation (Kunashiri and Shikotan are part of the South Kuril district and Etorofu is part of the Kuril district).
The main industries of the Four Islands are fishing and marine product processing. It is said that the population of the islands has decreased dramatically since the Hokkaido Toho-Oki Earthquake in 1994.

Shana, Etorofu
Furukamappu, Kunashiri


Northern Territories Countermeasures Headquarters

History of the Northern Territories

Hokkaido government's views on the Northern Territories issue

Measures for the reversion of the Northern Territories

Photos of the Northern Territories



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