Secret of Sakhalin Island (Karafuto)
Sakhalin (Karafuto in Japanese) is a very long (c.a. 1000 km) but narrow (200 km in
its largest extent) island located between Japan and Russian
Maritime Territory. It is separated from Asian continent by a
narrow strait of 6 km width and for that reason, first,
Westerners thought it should be a peninsula. With Kuril
Islands, Sakhalin is one of the territories disputed between
Japan and Russia and its belonging has not yet been
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since the 1st of December 2002.
Sakhalin Island has a very old history. For a long time the
island has been served for a bridge to link Japan and the
continent. During the glacial epoch, Japan Sea was a huge
lake and Japan, directly connected to the continent. Even
after the thaw, the road passing through Sakhalin and
Hokkaido remained easier to use than the passage of Korean strait
because the straits are narrower and shallower. Here is the
time table of Sakhalin Island since 0 A.D. to nowadays. The
most events are unknown in the western literature.
Mamiya Rinzo is the Japanese explorer who proved first time
Sakhalin should be an island. Actually he went around the island to
make a precise map and then crossed the strait to reach the
Chinese trading post of Deleng at Amur River. Here are an
account of his adventure and pictures of that epoch.
Maps of the region
The frontier between Japan and Russia has changed frequently
during the last 2 centuries and for that reason the
territorial claim of the both sides is not clear. We show
here the modifications of the frontier between 2 countries
since the treaty of Shimoda in 1855. There are also some
Modification of the frontier
Here is a collection of Sakhalin related Web pages, including
the territorial dispute over Kuril Islands and Ainu (indigenous people of the region).
If you want to know more about the history of the region,
you have to study Japanese and Russian languages. Please
visit the web page of Free Light Software, specialized in multimedia
educational software. You can download and test the demo
versions before purchasing products.
If you are looking for a book related to the Russia-Japan relationship
or any other Asian and Far-East Russian topics,
please take a glance at the web page of "Asian Rare Books" located at New York city.
You can even search your favorite books by a key word.
If you are looking for an information on other Russian regions,
please click on the thumbnail picture above.
Here is a list of Japanese vocabulary used in the history of northern territory.
It shows also how to write it in Japanese characters and related links.
The most oldest existing map describing that part of the
world. Big rectangle at center of the map is
Hokkaido while Sakhalin is represented by a small rectangle
north. Heap of tiny islands on east of Hokkaido represents
Kurils up to Kamchatka Peninsula.
The forms are quite different from the reality but the
localities such as villages, caps and rivers appear in the
order so this map should have been drawn from true
Mamiya's map (1808)
During his 2 trips to Sakhalin,
Mamiya Rinzo made a precise map by using scientific
instruments. The form of the island appeared for the first
time correctly drawn excepting the north eastern cost where he
has never been. The information inside the island such as
mountains and the form of rivers has been got from the information coming from
Old Russian map (1854)
This is an old Russian map which was drawn after Mamiya's
still follows the habit of the western world at that period:
geographic names of the area are noted in Japanese, for example
Mamiya instead of Strait of Nevelskoi and Karafuto instead
Compiled from the materials courteously offered by Organization
for the return to Japan of South Sakhalin.
We express our gratitude for that help to Mr Kunitake
Watanabe, the president of the organization.
Most recent update: January 19, 2020
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