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Tourists flock to the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido during the short springs and summers to see the famous color-blocked plantings of the region’s flower farms. The imposing mountains of the island, snow-capped even in summer, reflect the more difficult reality of life on Japan’s northernmost island. The mountainous terrain and harsh, snowy winters make large-scale development and agriculture difficult. The local capital of Sapporo was designated only in 1868, when the government under the newly-instated emperor chose a more inland, easily-defensible location. The capital’s name is actually Ainu in origin, and Hokkaido is one of only two regions in Japan with any significant population and cultural influence from Ainu, the indigenous peoples of the Japanese islands.

 

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