Japan’s Main Island of Honshu

Things to know about Honshu Japan

Honshu Definition

A lot of foreign travelers are not aware that Japan is actually made up of four main islands. These islands include Hokkaido, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Honshu. The largest of these is Honshu and this is where the capital city of Tokyo is located. Other than the fact that Honshu is the largest, it is also the most populated which comprises more than 50 percent of the Japanese population.

The word Honshu literally means “main island” or “main province” because it is sandwiched between the three other smaller main islands of Japan. It is also called the main island because of its size and importance not only in Japanese history but its culture as well. This part of Japan may be the most visited because it is home to a number of its main cities and main business districts – including the capital city of Tokyo.

Honshu Map and Location

This particular island of Japan is located northeast of the islands of Kyushu and Shikoku. Then, it is located south of Hokkaido. To its south and east is the North Pacific Ocean while on its west lies the Sea of Japan.

Honshu Size and Regions

The total size of Honshu is roughly about 220,000 square kilometers with a total length of 1,300 kilometers. Its width varies between 50 kilometers as the smallest and 200 kilometers as the largest. Out of the entirety of Japan, it has the longest coastline of about 5,000 kilometers. Its highest point will be the summit of Mount Fuji which towers at about 3,800 kilometers.

This island of Japan is so large that it needs to be sub-divided into five more regions or prefectures. These include Tohoku, Chubu, Kansai, Chugoku, and Kanto. The Tohoku prefecture is located in the Northeast portion of the island which is best known for its coasts and seafood. Other than this, it is also widely visited for its ski resorts and hot springs during the winter time. The Chubu Prefecture is known as the central section of the island. This place is best visited for the Japan Alps and Nagoya.

The Kansai region and the Kanto region may be among the two most popular regions not only in Honshu but in all of Japan. It is home to the capital city of Tokyo, Mount Fuji, and other cities such as Osaka and Kyoto. Kansai is found on the west while Kanto is found in the east. Lastly, the western tip of Chugoku is the region closest to the island of Kyushu. This prefecture is well-known for the subtropical city of Hiroshima.

The History of Honshu Japan

Honshu Japan Earthquake

The 2011 Tohoku Earthquake is probably one of the most devastating modern disasters that happened not only in Japan but the entire world. It is an unavoidable natural calamity that claimed the lives of more than hundreds of thousands of people.

It all started with a 9.0 Magnitude earthquake that shook the cities to their core. It is the largest recorded earthquake that ever hit the country. The world was shocked and pained to watch home videos taken by the local residents.  It forced citizens to seek safety outside of their buildings and homes. The earthquake caused minor collapse and fires in many parts of Tohoku.

When they thought the worst was over, all were surprised when a 30-foot tsunami swept through the Miyagi prefecture. It had cleared everything in its path and took the lives of people who did not have enough time to reach higher ground. Since the epicenter of the earthquake was located off the shore, the violent quake had forced the ocean above it to move. Because of this, it had caused a major tsunami in Japan and minor ones reaching up to North America.

At the end of it, all the combination of the tsunami and earthquake has forced several nuclear reactors in the region to fail with Fukushima as one of the worst hit. The meltdown turned the prefecture into a no-go zone forcing thousands of people out of their homes. It had affected people’s livelihood. For those who have known Fukushima as their home for all their life, they now have no choice but to look elsewhere for a new home.

Honshu and its people

Honshu Population

All in all, Honshu has a population of roughly 100 million which comprises more than 50 percent of the Japanese people. It is the seventh-largest island in the world, the most populous island in Japan, and the second most populous island in Asia (next to Java of Indonesia). What is interesting about this is that 25 percent of the 103 million is found in the Kanto region alone.

For those who are wondering why this is where most of the main business districts are located. This is also where the Greater Tokyo Area is found. Not only is it home to local residents, it is also home to foreign migrants who work for international companies located in Tokyo.

Culture and Language of Honshu

Since Honshu is home to Kyoto, the historical capital city of Japan and Tokyo, the modern capital city of Japan, the culture in this part of the country is very strong. Many of Japan’s well-preserved towns, museums, temples, and the like are mostly located on this large island. Honshu is also home to the majority of Japan’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites which are all well-preserved destinations for history and culture.

Festivals to see and visit

Aoi Matsuri

The Aoi Festival celebrated in Kyoto is one of the festivals in Japan with the most elaborate parades. The parades consist of individuals in historical costumes and makeup because they relive the glory days of Kyoto when it was still the capital city of Japan. More than 500 people are included in the parades all dressed in noble and aristocratic style clothing. At the end of the parade, offerings are given to the deities of the Kamo Shrine – an offering by the Emperor to the gods. It is one of the three most popular festivals in Japan.

Cherry Blossom Viewing Festival

Viewing Cherry Blossoms in Japan is one of the most popular means to enjoy the April months in the country. This is the time when cherry trees bloom its finest and most beautiful blossoms. Celebrated as the Hanami festival, people wine and dine under the trees for days starting the peak of the blooms. It is said that this is the best way for families and friends to bond in the warm weather of the spring time. It is also one of the best ways to enjoy and appreciate the beauty that nature has to offer. It is a celebration of renewed life and beauty.

Best Places to Visit in Honshu

Amusement Parks

Tokyo Disneyland

Every child’s dreamland, Tokyo Disneyland is a theme park located in the Kanto region of Japan. However, despite its name, it is actually located in Chiba and not Tokyo. The good thing is that it is very accessible from the city and anyone can get to this place from most points of Tokyo.

There is a total of seven themed areas in Tokyo Disneyland that everyone would surely love. The first of this would be the World Bazaar, Adventureland, Westernland, Fantasyland, Mickey’s Toontown, Critter country and Tomorrowland. There are places best for children with incredibly fun rides. There are also places for thrill seekers as well.

Universal Studios Japan

Also known as USJ, the Universal Studios of Japan is found in the Kansai Prefecture. It is located in Konohana-Ku, Osaka. This tourist destination is closely based from its forefather, the Universal Studios of Florida. The main attractions include the Harry Potter themed area and the anime/manga themed areas of the theme park. There are good spots to be enjoyed but both children and adults.

Historical Places


Also known as the “Pure Water Temple”, Kiyomizu-Dera is among the most visited and popular temples of Japan. It was given its name because it used to be located at the site of the Otowa Waterfall in Kyoto. The waterfall still exists today and is found in the temple’s main hall.  The water is so pure that temple goers actually drink from the streams. It is believed that this temple water shall bring good health, longevity, and good fortune to anyone who shall drink it.

Since it was built in 780, it is one of the oldest temples in Japan. It is well-preserved and helps tourists get a glimpse of the beauty of Japan’s historical culture. Because of the role that it plays in portraying the history and culture of Japan, it is considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994.

Himeji Castle

This particular castle is also known as the “White Heron Castle” because of its iconic whiteness. Its high walls and the entire castle complex are painted clear white. It is one of the most well-preserved castles in Japan and it is very prototypical of historical Japanese architecture.

Just like the Kiyomizu-Dera, the Himeji castle was also considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since the 1990s because of its strong representation of Japan’s regal history, clan powers, and more. It is also considered as one of Japan’s three premier castles.

Tokyo Tower

One of the highest peaks in Japan, Tokyo tower stands at an incredible height of 333 meters. It is the world’s tallest, self-supporting steel tower. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. This particular tower is believed to be designed based on the iconic Eiffel Tower but was made slightly bigger and taller. It is said that the construction of the Tokyo Tower is a symbol of Japan’s post-war success and economic growth.

For those who are afraid of heights, viewing the tower from the bottom is still worthwhile. During the day, the tower gives an incredible view of the city.  There is a park at the bottom of the tower which is quite popular at night because of the impressive lights.

Fushimi Inari-Taisha

This particular place is probably one of the most Instagrammed tourist destination in Japan. Located in Kyoto, it is a walking path through a tunnel which is made of continuous torii gates. This is known as the Senbon Torii or Thousands of Torii Gates. Each Tori had been donated by individuals or companies and an inscription of its donor can be found at the back of each gate.

The temple is actually built to honor the Shinto god of Rice, Inari. What is interesting about the place is that the temple had been in Kyoto even before the city was considered as the country’s capital. This place is popular as well because of its fox statues, often confused as wolf statues, all over the temple. It is believed that foxes are the messenger of Inari.

Nature and Parks

Mount Fuji

This mountain is not only the highest peak of the island, it is also considered as the highest elevation in all of Japan. What is interesting about Mount Fuji is that it is not actually a mountain but an active volcano. It is one of Japan’s Three Holy Mountains.

This place is one of the most iconic tourist destinations in Japan which can be viewed in many of Honshu’s main cities and prefectures. Its picturesque beauty has captivated both local and foreign travelers through the centuries. It is depicted in art, photography, literature, and other forms of artistic media. Because of Mount Fuji alone, UNESCO honors 25 areas around Fujiyama as cultural heritage sites including the mountain itself.

Honshu Port

There is actually no specific place known as “Honshu port” since the entire island has more than 5,000 kilometers of coastlines. Because of this, there are different places to visit for an enjoyable vacation in the sea. However, there are only a few main cities with large ports enough to be placed for trade. These include Tokyo Harbor in Tokyo bay opening to the Northern Pacific Ocean, the Kobe port located in Southeastern Honshu and the Noshiro Port which is located at the Northernmost tip of Honshu.