The Ch?goku region in Japan
|o Total||31,922.26 km2 (12,325.25 sq mi)|
(1 October 2010)
|o Density||240/km2 (610/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+9 (JST)|
The Ch?goku region (Japanese: ?, Hepburn: Ch?goku-chih?, pronounced [t:?okt?iho:]), also known as the San'in-San'y? (, San'in-San'y?-chih?), is the westernmost region of Honsh?, the largest island of Japan. It consists of the prefectures of Hiroshima, Okayama, Shimane, Tottori, and Yamaguchi. In 2010, it had a population of 7,563,428.
Ch?goku literally means "middle country", but the origin of the name is unclear. Historically, Japan was divided into a number of provinces called koku, which were in turn classified according to both their power and their distances from the administrative center in Kansai. Under the latter classification, most provinces are divided into "near countries" (??, kingoku), "middle countries" (, ch?goku), and "far countries" (??, ongoku). Therefore, one explanation is that Ch?goku was originally used to refer to the collection of "middle countries" to the west of the capital. However, only five (fewer than half) of the provinces normally considered part of Ch?goku region were in fact classified as middle countries, and the term never applied to the many middle countries to the east of Kansai. Therefore, an alternative explanation is that Ch?goku referred to provinces between Kansai and Ky?sh?, which was historically important as the link between Japan and mainland Asia.
Historically, Ch?goku referred to the 16 provinces of San'ind? () and San'y?d? (), which led to the region's alternative name described below. However, because some of the easternmost provinces were later subsumed into prefectures based primarily in Kansai, those areas are, strictly speaking, not part of the Ch?goku region in modern usage.
In Japanese, the characters and the reading Ch?goku began to be used to mean "China" after the founding of the Republic of China. The same characters are used in Chinese to refer to China, but pronounced Zh?ngguó, lit. "Middle Kingdom" or "Middle Country" (Wade Giles: Chungkuo). It is similar to the use of the West Country in English for a region of England.
Primarily in the tourism industry, in order to avoid confusing the Ch?goku region with China, the Ch?goku region is also called the "San'in-San'y? region". San'in ("y?n of the mountains") is the northern part facing the Sea of Japan. San'y? ("yáng of the mountains") is the southern part facing the Seto Inland Sea. These names were created using the y?nyáng-based place-naming scheme.
Overfishing and pollution reduced the productivity of the Inland Sea fishing grounds; and San'yo is an area concentrated on heavy industry. In contrast, San'in is less industrialized with an agricultural economy.
The Ch?goku region consists of the following prefectures: Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Shimane, and Tottori. Okayama is also included, although only Bitch? Province was considered a Middle Country; Mimasaka Province and Bizen Province, the other two components of modern-day Okayama, were considered Near Countries. Ky?sh?, Shikoku, and Kansai neighbor the Ch?goku region.
The Ch?goku region is characterized by irregular rolling hills and limited plain areas and is divided into two distinct parts by mountains running east and west through its center.