Kyushu, meaning "nine provinces" (from its ancient administrative structure), is the southernmost of the main islands and in modern times comprises seven prefectures. It was the stepping stone to Honshu for early migrants from the Korean Peninsula and a channel for the spread of ideas from the Asian mainland. Kyushu lies at the western end of the Inland Sea. Its northern extremity is only about 1.6 kilometers from Honshu, and the two islands are connected by the Kammon Bridge and by three tunnels, including one for the Japan Railways Group's Shinkansen (bullet train). The region is divided not only geographically but also economically by the Kyushu Mountains, which run diagonally across the middle of the island. The north, including the Kitakyushu industrial region, became increasingly urbanized and industrialized after World War II, while the agricultural south became relatively poorer. The hilly northwestern part of the island has extensive coal deposits, the second largest in Japan, which formed the basis for a large iron and steel industry. An extensive lowland area in the northwest between Kumamoto and Saga is an important farming district.
The climate of Kyushu is generally warm and humid, and the cultivation of vegetables and fruits is supplemented by cattle raising. The cities of Kitakyushu and Sasebo are noted for iron and steel production, and Nagasaki is noted for manufacturing. Nagasaki is a city of historical and cultural importance, a center for Chinese and Western influences from the sixteenth century on, and the only port open to foreign ships during most of the Tokugawa period. Like Hiroshima, it also was rebuilt after being devastated by an atomic bomb attack in 1945.
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