Longest Rivers In Japan

The Shinano, or Chikuma, on the island of Honshu is the longest river in Japan, while the River Tone is the only other in the country 200 miles or longer.

The Shinano, or Chikuma, on the island of Honshu is the longest river in Japan. The Tone is the only other 200-mile-long river in the country. The mountainous topography of Japan allows for steep gradient streams. Most of the rivers originate from the mountains down to the cultivated farms and drain to the sea. Japan is abundantly watershed, but almost all the rivers have streams. The rivers vary in size depending on the season. In the winter the rivers thaw, overflow in the summer, and become small streams in the dry weather. Other important rivers in the country include the Abukuma, Kitakami, and Mogami.


The Shinano River is 228 miles long, and hence the longest, and also the widest, river in Japan. The river rises from the Japanese Alps in Mount Kobushi, flows northwest to meet the Sai River from Matsumoto and drains into the Sea of Japan. The junction of Chikuma and Sai is famous as the historical site where the Kawanakajima Battles broke. The river provides water for irrigation schemes in Niigata rice plains. In fact, Shinano provides a port for this town. The Okozu Canal establishment built in 1922 protects the plains of Niigata from floods and brings the needed water in the rice fields. The Bandai Bridge offers magnificent city views across the blue waters.


The Tone River has the largest watershed among Japanese rivers, and it is the second longest river in Japan at 200 miles. The river is located in Kanto, Honshu Island. The river rises from Echigo Mountains in Mount Ominakami and empties into the Pacific Ocean. It has drainage basin of around 16,840 square kilometers. The river serves more than 30 million inhabitants of Tokyo city. It acts as a major tourist destination in the area especially the Minakami Onsen hot springs. The waters offer rafting and kayaking sporting for tourists and locals looking to have fun. Together with Yoshino and Chikugo, the rivers form the famous Kurihashi Water Level Observatory.


The Ishikari River starts from the Taisetsu Mountain range on the Ishikari Mountain. Located in Hokkaido, the Ishikari River is the third longest river in the Rising Sun land with 167 miles and a drainage area of 14,330 square kilometers. It flows through Sapporo and Asahikawa where tributaries such as Uryu and Toyohira join it and drains in the East Sea. History has it that the river used to pour in the Pacific Ocean until lava from the volcanic mountains of Shikotsu dammed up the river, changing its course to the Sea of Japan. The river used to flow through Ishikari but after many constructions along its meadows shortened it by almost 100 kilometers leaving oxbow lakes in the plains. The river provides homage to families looking forward to having memorable picnics. Tourists also come to see the landscape of the river for its cherry trees and the ranging mountains.


The Teshio River is 159 miles long. The river originates from Mount Teshiodake in Hokkaido and from there travels to its mouth at the Sea of Japan. It has a basin of 5,590 square kilometers. Forests surround the upper parts of the river. As it flows into the lowlands, meanders increase giving it the winding snake look. The river offers sporting grounds for people who love canoe travel, and from Nayoro City to the estuary there is a 157-kilometer stretch perfect for canoeing. The river also provides camping grounds and water sporting activities.


The Kitakami is 155 miles long and its drainage basin covers an area of around 10,150 square kilometers. The river starts from Mount Nanashiruge, north of Iwate, flows south between the Ou Mountains and Kitakami Mountains and breaks to two mouths one draining into the Pacific Ocean and the other in Ishinomaki Bay. The river flows through rural areas of Miyagi and Iwate. Historically it offered transportation in the Edo and the Meiji period. Today the river has establishments to prevent and control flooding, providing hydroelectric power, and supplying water for irrigation.

Notable Others and the State of Japan's Major Rivers

All of the other rivers of Japan are less than 150 miles long. The Abukuma is 149 miles long with its source at Mt. Asahi and drains into the Pacific Ocean. It has a 5,390-square kilometer watershed area and provides water to over 1.2 million people living in its basin. The Mogami River located in northern Yamagata is 142 miles. The name Mogami came from the historical ages of Sengoku when the area was under the Mogami clan control. By then the river provided horse breeding areas but today people depend on it for agriculture, forestry, and tourism. Most rivers in Japan are short and not navigable. Japan has large scale rice farms, and the rivers provide the water needed to irrigate. Despite the many establishments to control floods, flooding is still a common phenomenon in the lowlands. The primary threats facing the rivers are urbanization and construction, which lead to industries dumping waste products in rivers, or building cutting the meadows. However, the rivers of Japan provide quite a fascinating landscape as they wind through the cities and drain into the lowlands.

The Longest Rivers In Japan

RankLongest Rivers in JapanLength
1Shinano (or Chikuma)228 miles
2Tone200 miles
3Ishikari167 miles
4Teshio159 miles
5Kitakami155 miles
6Abukuma149 miles
7Mogami142 miles
8Tenryu132 miles
9Agano130 miles
10Shimanto122 miles

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