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Mainland Japan (内地 naichi ?, lit. "inner lands") is a term to distinguish the area of Japan from its outlying territories. It was an official term in the pre-war period, distinguishing Japan and the colonies in East Asia. After the end of World War II, the term became uncommon, but still is used as an unofficial term to distinguish the area of Japan from Okinawa or Hokkaidō.

The literal Japanese meaning might best be translated as inner Japan or inner lands. The term "mainland" is an inaccurate translation because mainland is usually the continental part of a region, as opposed to the islands.

It is also somewhat confusing as Mainland Japan is defined to consist of several major islands (Hokkaidō, Honshū, Kyūshū, Shikoku) and many minor ones. The term mainland Japan is also sometimes used to translate Honshū, the largest island, though naichi not.

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Historical usage

In the Japanese Empire of the pre-war period, naichi referred to the mainland of the empire under the Common Law (共通法), Article 1. It included:

The other territories of the empire, such as Korea, Taiwan, Kwantung or Nan'yō Islands were excluded, and called gaichi (外地, lit. "outer lands") instead.

Modern usage

After Japan lost all the former colonies, or gaichi, in 1945, the pairing term naichi became uncommon in the most parts of the country. However, the residents of Hokkaidō and Okinawa still use naichi to refer to the "mainland", excluding these areas. The colloquial usage is officially "incorrect", as both areas are legally within naichi, but the term is frequently used that way in the areas.

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