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The Nanpo Shoto ("Three Groups of Islands") is a chain of islands running 750 miles (860 km) south from Honshu towards the Mariana Islands. As the Japanese name indicates, the chain has three main groups of islands. Northernmost is the Izut Shoto, which included the island of Hachijo Jima. Further south is the Ogasawara Shoto or Bonin Islands. This island group included the anchorage at Chichi-jima. At the southern end of the chain is the Kazan Retto or Volcano Islands, of which the most important was Iwo Jima.
The Japanese claim to have discovered the islands in 1593, while the British claimed the islands in 1827. No real effort was made to develop them, though a small colony of Europeans and Americans
was established at Chichi-jima. Japanese began moving to the islands in
some numbers in 1853 and Japan claimed the islands in 1861, annexing
them in 1891 as part of Tokyo Prefecture. By the mid-1930s the island were off-limits to foreigners and a small naval base was established at Chichi-jima.
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