On August 1, 1935 the Japanese home territories were divided administratively into six geographical regions for the purposes of recruiting, organizing civil defense and fortifications. On December 2, 1940, the Northern Army was raised under the overall jurisdiction of the General Defense Command. Primarily a garrison and training force, on February 11, 1943, the Northern Army was renamed the Northern District Army, and came under the direct command of the Imperial General Headquarters.
Towards the end of World War II, as the situation looked increasingly desperate for Japan, the Northern Area Army became the Japanese Fifth Area Army on March 10, 1944. It was reactivated as the Northern District Army on February 1, 1945 as a headquarters and administrative command, with its forces concurrent with the Japanese 5th Area Army