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The Northern Territories issue

"The Northern Territories issue" refers to the fact that four northern islands (Habomai, Shikotan, Kunashiri and Etorofu) that are parts of Japanese territory were invaded by the armed forces of the Soviet Union (today’s Russia) at the end of the Second World War and remain occupied by Russia without legal grounds.

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Overview of the Northern Territories

Four northern islands (Habomai, Shikotan, Kunashiri and Etorofu) located east of Hokkaido remain occupied by Russia without any legal grounds. These four islands, which belong to Japan, are referred to as the Northern Territories.

Go to the overview of the Northern Territories page
the Northern Territories
An image from a Landsat satellite
(Photo credit: TRIC/NASDA/EOSAT.1992)

History of the Northern Territories

Space-time Map Learn about the Northern Territories beyond space and time.

Click on the map for details.

Looking at the history of the Northern Territories, from the northern exploration by the Edo shogunate to the treaty negotiations with Russia and the invasion and illegal occupation by the Soviet Union, it is clear that the four northern islands are Japanese territory. After the war, a movement for the return of these islands, which began with the wishes of former islanders, spread widely as the ardent wish of the Japanese people.

The Northern Territories described by former islanders: memories and historical testimonies

The 17,291 islanders who once lived on the four northern islands were expelled in the Soviet invasion. A history of hardship remains in the memories of the islanders, and their testimonies allow us to know the true history.

Go to historical testimonies page
Digest version of former islanders’ experiences (image)

Digest version of former islanders’ experiences

This is a digest version of interviews with former residents of the four northern islands.

Interview details
  • Island memories
  • Soviet occupation
  • Escape
  • Life under occupation
  • Repatriation
  • Thoughts for the island
 Mr. Chuhei Yamamoto(photo)

Mr. Chuhei Yamamoto, Shibetoro Village, Etorofu Island

Born in 1935 (age 10 at the end of the war)

Interview details
  • Repatriation
Mr. Yoichi Mikami(photo)

Mr. Yoichi Mikami, Rubetsu Village, Etorofu Island

Born in 1937 (age 8 at the end of the war)

Interview details
  • Soviet occupation
  • Repatriation
Mr. Shohei Yamamoto(photo)

Mr. Shohei Yamamoto, Shibetoro Village, Etorofu Island

Born in 1928 (age 17 at the end of the war)

Interview details
  • Soviet occupation
  • Repatriation in 1947
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