Administrative divisions of Japan

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Administrative divisions
of Japan
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Japan is divided into 47 prefectural entities and these are further subdivided into sub-prefectural entities and/or directly into municipal entities which may further subdivide into sub-municipal wards.

Structural hierarchy[edit]

Prefectural Sub-prefectural Municipal Sub-municipal
"urban prefecture"
Subprefecture "designated city" Ward
District Town
Subprefecture District
"core city"
"special city"
Metropolis City
Special wards
Level Type Kanji Romaji No.
Prefectural Metropolis to 1
"circuit" 1
"urban prefecture" fu 2
Prefecture ken 43
  Sub-prefectural Subprefecture 支厅 shichō 158
District gun 374
Municipal "designated city" 政令指定都市 seirei shitei toshi 20
"core city" 中核市 chūkaku-shi 42
"special city" 特例市 tokurei-shi 40
City shi 688
Town chō or machi 746
Village mura or son 183
Special ward 特別区 tokubetsu-ku 23
  Sub-municipal Ward ku 175
Prefecture City [all-types]
(Special ward)
Ward District Town Village
 Aichi 38 16 7 14 2
 Akita 13 6 9 3
 Aomori 10 8 22 8
 Chiba 37 6 6 16 1
 Ehime 11 7 9
 Fukui 9 7 17
 Fukuoka 28 14 12 30 2
 Fukushima 13 13 31 15
 Gifu 21 9 19 2
 Gunma 12 7 15 8
 Hiroshima 14 8 5 9
 Hokkaidō 35 10 66 129 15[1]
 Hyōgo 29 9 8 12
 Ibaraki 32 7 10 2
 Ishikawa 11 5 8
 Iwate 14 10 15 4
 Kagawa 8 5 9
 Kagoshima 19 8 20 4
 Kanagawa 19 28 6 13 1
 Kōchi 11 6 17 6
 Kumamoto 14 5 9 23 8
 Kyōto 15 11 6 10 1
 Mie 14 7 15
 Miyagi 13 5 10 21 1
 Miyazaki 9 6 14 3
 Nagano 19 14 23 35
 Nagasaki 13 4 8
 Nara 12 7 15 12
 Niigata 20 8 9 6 4
 Ōita 14 3 3 1
 Okayama 15 4 10 10 2
 Okinawa 11 5 11 19
 Ōsaka 33 31 5 9 1
 Saga 10 6 10
 Saitama 40 10 8 22 1
 Shiga 13 3 6
 Shimane 8 5 10 1
 Shizuoka 23 10 5 12
 Tochigi 14 5 12
 Tokushima 8 8 15 1
 Tōkyō 26 (23) 1 5 8
 Tottori 4 5 14 1
 Toyama 10 2 4 1
 Wakayama 9 6 20 1
 Yamagata 13 8 19 3
 Yamaguchi 13 4 6
 Yamanashi 13 5 8 6

Prefectural divisions[edit]

Main article: Prefectures of Japan
47 prefectural entities of Japan

The top tier of administrative divisions are the 47 prefectural entities: 43 prefectures ( ken?) proper, 2 urban prefectures ( fu?, Osaka, and Kyoto), 1 "circuit" ( ?, Hokkaido), and 1 "metropolis" ( to?, Tokyo). Although different in name they are functionally the same.


Tokyo is referred to as a "metropolis" ( to?) after the dissolution of Tokyo City in 1943, Tōkyō-fu (Tokyo Prefecture) was upgraded into Tōkyō-to and the former Tokyo City's wards was upgraded into special wards.


Hokkaido is referred to as a "circuit" ( ?), this term was originally used to refer to Japanese regions consisting of several provinces. This was also a historical usage of the character in China.


Further information: Fu (country subdivision)

Osaka Prefecture and Kyoto Prefecture are referred to as a "urban prefecture" ( fu?). The Classical Chinese character from which this is derived implies a core urban zone of national importance.


"Prefecture" ( ken?) are the most common types of prefectural divisions total of 43 ken. The Classical Chinese character from which this is derived carries a rural or provincial connotation.

Sub-prefectural divisions[edit]

There are only two types of Sub-prefectural divisions: Subprefecture and District.


Subprefectures (支庁 shichō?) are a Japanese form of self-government which focuses on local issues below the prefectural level. It acts as part of the greater administration of the state and as part of a self-government system.[2]


Main article: Districts of Japan

Districts' ( gun?) are administrative units of a sort more frequently in use between 1878 and 1921 than at present and which were roughly equivalent to the counties of China or the United States.

Municipal divisions[edit]

1,742 municipal and 175 sub-municipal entities of Japan

The municipal divisions are divided into three main categories city, town, and village. However the city entities are further categorized. The Special wards of Tokyo are also consider as municipal divisions.


Cities in Japan are categorize into different four types from the highest designated city, core city, special city, and a regular city the lowest.

Designated city[edit]

A city designated by government ordinance (政令指定都市 seirei shitei toshi?), also known as a designated city (指定都市 shitei toshi?) or government ordinance city (政令市 seirei shi?), is a Japanese city that has a population greater than 500,000 and has been designated as such by an order of the cabinet of Japan under Article 252, Section 19 of the Local Autonomy Law. Designated cities are also subdivided into wards.

Core city[edit]

Main article: Core cities of Japan

A core city (中核市 Chūkakushi?) is a Japanese city that has a population greater than 300,000 and an area greater than 100 square kilometers, although special exceptions may be made by order of the cabinet for cities with populations under 300,000 but over 200,000.[3] Core city was created by the first clause of Article 252, Section 22 of the Local Autonomy Law of Japan.

Special city[edit]

A special city (特例市 Tokureishi?) of Japan is a city with a population of at least 200,000. This category was established by the Local Autonomy Law, article 252 clause 26.


Main article: Cities of Japan

A city ( shi?) is a local administrative unit in Japan with a population of at least 50,000 of which at least 60% of households must be established in a central urban area, and at least 60% of households must be employed in commerce, industry or other urban occupations. Cities are ranked on the same level as towns ( machi?) and villages ( mura?); the only difference is that they are not a component of districts ( gun?). Like other contemporary administrative units, they are defined by the Local Autonomy Law of 1947.


A town (町; chō or machi) is a local administrative unit in Japan. It is a local public body along with prefecture (ken or other equivalents), city (shi), and village (mura). Geographically, a town is contained within a prefecture.


A village ( mura?, sometimes son) is a local administrative unit in Japan. It is a local public body along with prefecture ( ken?, or other equivalents), city ( shi?), and town ( chō?, sometimes machi). Geographically, a village's extent is contained within a prefecture. It is larger than an actual settlement, being in actuality a subdivision of a rural district ( gun?), which are subdivided into towns and villages with no overlap and no uncovered area.

Special Ward[edit]

The special wards (特別区 tokubetsu-ku?) are 23 municipalities that together make up the core and the most populous part of Tokyo, Japan. Together, they occupy the land that was originally the City of Tokyo before it was abolished in 1943 to become part of the newly created Tokyo Metropolis. The special wards' structure was established under the Japanese Local Autonomy Law and is unique to Tokyo.

Sub-municipal divisions[edit]


Main article: Wards of Japan

A ward ( ku?) is a subdivision of the cities of Japan that are large enough to have been designated by government ordinance.[4]


Although the details of local administration have changed dramatically over time, the basic outline of the current two-tiered system since the abolition of the han system by the Meiji government in 1871 are similar. Before the abolition of the han system Japan was divided into province ( kuni?) then subdivided into district ( gun?) and then village (里/郷 sato?) at the bottom.


  1. ^ Not inducing the 6 villages in the Kuril Islands dispute area.
  2. ^ Imperial Japanese Commission to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. (1903). Japan in the beginning of the 20th century, p. 80.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Statistical Handbook of Japan 2008" by Statistics Bureau, Japan Chapter 17: Government System (Retrieved on July 4, 2009)

External links[edit]