Kurile Islands

The Kuril Islands, also known as Kurile Islands, stretch northeast from Hokkaido, Japan, to Kamchatka; very much as the Ryukyu islands stretch southwest from Saikaido (Kyushu), Japan, to Taiwan. They separate the Sea of Okhotsk from the North Pacific Ocean.

They are known in Japanese as the クリル列島 = Kuriru retto (=Kuril Archipelago) or 千島 (= the thousand islands). They were inhabited by the Ainu from time immemorial until they were expelled from the northernmost by the Russians in the eighteenth century. Japan inherited them all in 1875 in exchange for ceding Sakhalin to Russia. Russia reclaimed them after the WWII, but the legality is disputed by Japan in a continuing Kuril Island conflict in claims for the southernmost islands, called Northern Territories in Japan, see Foreign relations of Japan.

The islands are renowned for their fogginess but are rich in seaweed and marine life, such as fish and otters. The northernmost, Oyakoba, is an almost perfect volcanic cone rising sheer out of the sea and has led to many Japanese eulogies in haiku, wood-block prints, etc., extolling its beauty, much as they do the more well-known Fuji.

See also: Treaty of San Francisco


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