The Chubu, or central, region encompasses nine prefectures in the midland of Japan, west of the Kanto region. The region is the widest part of Honshu and is characterized by high, rugged mountains. The Japanese Alps divide the country into the sunnier Pacific side, known as the front of Japan, or Omote-Nihon, and the colder Sea of Japan side, or Ura-Nihon, the back of Japan. The region comprises three distinct districts: Hokuriku, a coastal strip on the Sea of Japan that is a major wet-rice producing area; Tosan, or the Central Highlands; and Tokai, or the eastern seaboard, a narrow corridor along the Pacific Coast.
Hokuriku lies west of the massive mountains that occupy the central Chubu region. The district has a very heavy snowfall and strong winds. Its turbulent rivers are the source of abundant hydroelectric power. Niigata Prefecture is the site of domestic gas and oil production. Industrial development is extensive, especially in the cities of Niigata and Toyama. Fukui and Kanazawa also have large manufacturing industries. Hokuriku developed largely independently of other regions, mainly because it remained relatively isolated from the major industrial and cultural centers on the Pacific Coast. Because port facilities are limited and road transport hampered by heavy winter snows, the district relied largely on railroad transportation.
The Tosan district is an area of complex and high rugged mountains--often called the roof of Japan--that include the Japanese Alps. The population is chiefly concentrated in six elevated basins connected by narrow valleys. Tosan was long a main silk-producing area, although output declined after World War II. Much of the labor formerly required in silk production was absorbed by the district's diversified manufacturing industry, which included precision instruments, machinery, textiles, food processing, and other light manufacturing.
The Tokai district, bordering the Pacific Ocean, is a narrow corridor interrupted in places by mountains that descend into the sea. Since the Tokugawa period (1600-1867), this corridor has been important in linking Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. One of old Japan's most famous roads, the Tokaido, ran through it connecting Edo (Tokyo, since 1868) and Kyoto, the old imperial capital; in the twentieth century, it became the route of new super-express highways and high-speed railroad lines.
A number of small alluvial plains are found in the corridor section. A mild climate, favorable location relative to the great metropolitan complexes, and availability of fast transportation have made them truck-gardening centers for out-of-season vegetables. Upland areas of rolling hills are extensively given over to the growing of mandarin oranges and tea. The corridor also has a number of important small industrial centers. The western part of Tokai includes the Nobi Plain, where rice was grown by the seventh century A.D. Nagoya, facing Ise Bay, is a center for heavy industry, including iron and steel and machinery manufacturing.
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