Prefectures of Japan

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Administrative divisions
of Japan

The prefectures of Japan are the country's 47 sub-national jurisdictions: one "metropolis" (都 to), Tokyo; one "circuit" (道 ), Hokkaidō; two urban prefectures (府 fu), Osaka and Kyoto; and 43 other prefectures (県 ken). In Japanese, they are commonly referred to as todōfuken (都道府県). Prefectures are governmental bodies larger than cities, towns, and villages. Each prefecture is led by a directly elected governor and a single-chamber parliament.

The current system was established by the Meiji government in July 1871 with the abolition of the han system and establishment of the prefecture system (廃藩置県 haihan-chiken). Although there were initially over 300 prefectures, many of them being former han territories, this number was reduced to 72 in the latter part of 1871, and 47 in 1888. The Local Autonomy Law of 1947 gave more political power to prefectures, and installed prefectural governors and parliaments.

In 2003, then- Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi proposed that the government consolidate the current prefectures into about 10 regional states. The plan called for each region to have greater autonomy than existing prefectures. This process will reduce the number of sub-prefecture administrative regions, and is expected to cut administrative costs.[1] The Japanese government is also considering a plan by which several groups of prefectures would merge, creating a sub-national administrative division system consisting of between nine and thirteen states, and giving these states more local autonomy than the current prefectures enjoy.[2] As of October 2007, no reorganization has taken place.

Under the current Local Autonomy Law, each prefecture is further subdivided into cities (市 shi) and districts (郡 gun). Each district is further subdivided into towns (町 chō or machi) and villages (村 son or mura). Hokkaidō has 14 subprefectures and those act as branch offices (支庁 shichō) of the prefecture. Some other prefectures also have branch offices, which carry out prefectural administrative functions outside the capital.

Types of prefectures

Division of Japan in 1855

To, , fu, and ken differ in name only for historical reasons. Since 1947, there is no administrative difference between the four types. Usually, prefectures are called by their name only, without the suffix, except for Hokkaidō. However, the suffix is used when it is necessary to distinguish between the prefecture and a city of the same name. For example, Hiroshima-ken is the Japanese name of the prefecture, and Hiroshima-shi is its largest city.

Fu (Osaka/Kyoto) and Ken

During the Edo period, the bakufu established bugyō-ruled zones (奉行支配地) around the nine largest cities in Japan, and 302 township-ruled zones (郡代支配地) elsewhere. When the Meiji government began to create the prefectural system in 1868, the first year of Meiji era, while the nine bugyō-ruled zones became fu, the township-ruled zones and the rest of the bugyo-ruled zones became ken: later, in 1871 the government designated Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto as fu, and relegated the other fu to the status of ken. During World War II, in 1943, Tokyo became a to, a new type of pseudo-prefecture (see below).

Before World War II, different laws applied to fu and ken, but this distinction was abolished after the war, and the two types of prefecture are now functionally the same. As a result, the English language does not usually distinguish between fu and ken, calling both simply "prefectures."


The term (circuit) was originally used to refer to regions of Japan, such as Tōkaidō and Saikaidō, consisting of several provinces. It uses the Kanji for "road" and is considered to have been settled by Emperor Temmu.

Hokkaidō, the only remaining today, was not one of the original seven (it was known as Ezo in the pre-modern era). Its current name is believed to originate from Matsuura Takeshiro, an early Japanese explorer of the island. Since Hokkaidō did not fit into the existing classifications, a new was created to cover it.

The Meiji government originally classified Hokkaidō as a "Settlement Envoyship" (開拓使 kaitakushi), and later divided the island into three prefectures (Sapporo, Hakodate, and Nemuro). These were consolidated into a single Hokkaidō prefecture in 1886. The -ken suffix was never added to its name, so the -dō suffix became understood to mean "prefecture."

When Hokkaidō was incorporated, transportation on the island was still very underdeveloped, so the prefecture was split into several "sub-prefectures" (支庁 shichō) that could fulfill administrative duties of the prefectural government and keep tight control over the developing island. These sub-prefectures still exist today, although they have much less power than they possessed before and during World War II: they now exist primarily to handle paperwork and other bureaucratic functions.

"Hokkaidō Prefecture" is, technically speaking, a redundant term, although it is occasionally used to differentiate the government from the island itself. The government of the prefecture calls itself the "Hokkaidō Government" rather than the "Hokkaidō Prefectural Government."

The largest city and prefectural capital of Hokkaidō is Sapporo, the fifth largest city in Japan. Other major cities include Hakodate.


The only to in Japan is Tokyo. Following the abolition of the han system, Tokyo-fu (an urban prefecture like Kyoto and Osaka) encompassed a number of cities, the largest of which was Tokyo City. Tokyo City was divided into 15 wards.

In 1943, Tokyo City was abolished, Tokyo-fu became Tokyo-to, and Tokyo's wards became the special wards, local authorities falling directly under the prefecture in hierarchy, each with their own elected assemblies (kugikai) and mayors (kucho). A number of suburban villages and towns of Tokyo City were changed to wards, bringing the total number of special wards to 35.

The reason for this reorganization was to consolidate the administration of the area around the capital by eliminating the extra level of authority in Tokyo. The central government wanted to have a greater degree of control over Tokyo due to Japan's deteriorating position in World War II and the possibility of emergency in the metropolis.

After the war, Japan was forced to decentralize Tokyo again, following the general terms of democratization outlined in the Potsdam Declaration. Many of Tokyo's special governmental characteristics disappeared during this time, and the wards took on an increasingly municipal status in the decades following the surrender. Administratively, today's special wards are almost indistinguishable from other municipalities.

The postwar reforms also changed the map of Tokyo significantly. In 1947, the 35 wards were reorganized into the 23 special wards, because many had died in the bombardments during the war, many survivors had left the city, and many men who had been drafted had not returned.

There are some differences in terminology between Tokyo and other prefectures: police and fire departments are called chō (庁) instead of honbu (本部), for instance. However, the only functional difference between Tokyo-to and other prefectures is that Tokyo administers wards as well as cities. Today, since the special wards have almost the same degree of independence as Japanese cities, the difference in administration between Tokyo and other prefectures is fairly minor (see 23 special wards for details).

The Japanese government still translates Tokyo-to as "Tokyo Metropolis" in almost all cases, and the government is officially called the "Tokyo Metropolitan Government." However, some people still call Tokyo-to "Tokyo Prefecture" in English.

Lists of prefectures

List in ISO Order

Map of the prefectures of Japan in ISO 3166-2:JP order and the regions of Japan.

The prefectures are also often grouped into regions. Those regions are not formally specified, they do not have elected officials, nor are they corporate bodies. However, the practice of ordering prefectures based on their geographic location is common. From north to south (numbering in ISO 3166-2:JP order), the prefectures of Japan and their commonly associated regions are:


1. Hokkaidō


2. Aomori
3. Iwate
4. Miyagi
5. Akita
6. Yamagata
7. Fukushima


8. Ibaraki
9. Tochigi
10. Gunma
11. Saitama
12. Chiba
13. Tokyo
14. Kanagawa


15. Niigata
16. Toyama
17. Ishikawa
18. Fukui
19. Yamanashi
20. Nagano
21. Gifu
22. Shizuoka
23. Aichi


24. Mie
25. Shiga
26. Kyoto
27. Osaka
28. Hyōgo
29. Nara
30. Wakayama


31. Tottori
32. Shimane
33. Okayama
34. Hiroshima
35. Yamaguchi


36. Tokushima
37. Kagawa
38. Ehime
39. Kochi

Kyūshū & Okinawa

40. Fukuoka
41. Saga
42. Nagasaki
43. Kumamoto
44. Ōita
45. Miyazaki
46. Kagoshima
47. Okinawa

Karafuto, a portion of the island of Sakhalin north of Hokkaidō (not shown on the map), was part of Japan from 1907 until World War II. The entire island is now governed by Russia, but some Japanese people claim Karafuto is still part of Japan.

List in alphabetical order

Symbol Prefecture Japanese Capital Regions and Prefectures of Japan 2.png
Island Population¹ Area² Density³ Distr. Municip. ISO
50px Aichi 愛知県 Nagoya Chūbu Honshū 7,043,235 5,153.81 1,366 15 88 JP-23
50px Akita 秋田県 Akita Tōhoku Honshū 1,189,215 11,612.11 102 8 29 JP-05
50px Aomori 青森県 Aomori Tōhoku Honshū 1,475,635 9,606.26 154 8 61 JP-02
50px Chiba 千葉県 Chiba Kantō Honshū 5,926,349 5,156.15 1,149 9 80 JP-12
50px Ehime 愛媛県 Matsuyama Shikoku Shikoku 1,493,126 5,676.44 263 7 28 JP-38
50px Fukui 福井県 Fukui Chūbu Honshū 828,960 4,188.76 198 10 29 JP-18
50px Fukuoka 福岡県 Fukuoka Kyūshū Kyūshū 5,015,666 4,971.01 1,009 17 91 JP-40
50px Fukushima 福島県 Fukushima Tōhoku Honshū 2,126,998 13,782.54 154 14 85 JP-07
50px Gifu 岐阜県 Gifu Chūbu Honshū 2,107,687 10,598.18 199 11 49 JP-21
50px Gunma 群馬県 Maebashi Kantō Honshū 2,024,820 6,363.16 318 12 61 JP-10
50px Hiroshima 広島県 Hiroshima Chūgoku Honshū 2,878,949 8,476.95 340 10 37 JP-34
50px Hokkaidō 北海道 Sapporo Hokkaidō Hokkaidō 5,682,950 83,452.47 68 66 207 JP-01
50px Hyōgo 兵庫県 Kobe Kansai Honshū 5,550,742 8,392.42 661 13 60 JP-28
50px Ibaraki 茨城県 Mito Kantō Honshū 2,985,424 6,095.62 490 13 61 JP-08
50px Ishikawa 石川県 Kanazawa Chūbu Honshū 1,180,935 4,185.32 282 7 25 JP-17
50px Iwate 岩手県 Morioka Tōhoku Honshū 1,416,198 15,278.51 93 12 46 JP-03
50px Kagawa 香川県 Takamatsu Shikoku Shikoku 1,022,843 1,861.70 549 5 17 JP-37
50px Kagoshima 鹿児島県 Kagoshima Kyūshū Kyūshū 1,786,214 9,132.42 196 11 49 JP-46
50px Kanagawa 神奈川県 Yokohama Kantō Honshū 8,489,932 2,415.42 3,515 7 35 JP-14
50px Kochi 高知県 Kochi Shikoku Shikoku 813,980 7,104.70 115 6 35 JP-39
50px Kumamoto 熊本県 Kumamoto Kyūshū Kyūshū 1,859,451 6,908.45 269 10 48 JP-43
50px Kyoto 京都府 Kyoto Kansai Honshū 2,644,331 4,612.93 573 6 28 JP-26
50px Mie 三重県 Tsu Kansai Honshū 1,857,365 5760.72 322 7 29 JP-24
50px Miyagi 宮城県 Sendai Tōhoku Honshū 2,365,204 6,861.51 325 10 36 JP-04
50px Miyazaki 宮崎県 Miyazaki Kyūshū Kyūshū 1,170,023 6,684.67 175 8 30 JP-45
50px Nagano 長野県 Nagano Chūbu Honshū 2,214,409 12,598.48 163 16 120 JP-20
50px Nagasaki 長崎県 Nagasaki Kyūshū Kyūshū 1,516,536 4,092.80 371 9 79 JP-42
50px Nara 奈良県 Nara Kansai Honshū 1,442,862 3,691.09 391 8 47 JP-29
50px Niigata 新潟県 Niigata Chūbu Honshū 2,475,724 12,582.37 197 16 111 JP-15
50px Ōita 大分県 Ōita Kyūshū Kyūshū 1,221,128 5,804.24 210 12 58 JP-44
50px Okayama 岡山県 Okayama Chūgoku Honshū 1,950,656 7,008.63 278 18 78 JP-33
Flag of Okinawa Prefecture.svg Okinawa 沖縄県 Naha Kyūshū Ryūkyū
1,318,281 2,271.30 580 5 41 JP-47
50px Osaka 大阪府 Osaka Kansai Honshū 8,804,806 1,893.18 4,652 5 44 JP-27
50px Saga 佐賀県 Saga Kyūshū Kyūshū 876,664 2,439.23 359 8 49 JP-41
50px Saitama 埼玉県 Saitama Kantō Honshū 6,938,004 3,767.09 1,827 9 90 JP-11
50px Shiga 滋賀県 Otsu Kansai Honshū 1,342,811 4,017.36 334 11 50 JP-25
50px Shimane 島根県 Matsue Chūgoku Honshū 761,499 6,707.32 114 12 59 JP-32
50px Shizuoka 静岡県 Shizuoka Chūbu Honshū 3,767,427 7,328.61 484 12 74 JP-22
50px Tochigi 栃木県 Utsunomiya Kantō Honshū 2,004,787 6,408.28 313 7 33 JP-09
50px Tokushima 徳島県 Tokushima Shikoku Shikoku 823,997 4,145.26 199 10 50 JP-36
PrefSymbol-Tokyo.png Tokyo 東京都 Shinjuku Kantō Honshū 12,059,237 2,187.08 5,514 1 39 JP-13
50px Tottori 鳥取県 Tottori Chūgoku Honshū 613,229 3,507.19 175 6 39 JP-31
50px Toyama 富山県 Toyama Chūbu Honshū 1,120,843 4,247.22 264 6 27 JP-16
50px Wakayama 和歌山県 Wakayama Kansai Honshū 1,069,839 4,725.55 226 7 50 JP-30
50px Yamagata 山形県 Yamagata Tōhoku Honshū 1,244,040 9,323.34 133 9 44 JP-06
50px Yamaguchi 山口県 Yamaguchi Chūgoku Honshū 1,528,107 6,110.76 250 11 56 JP-35
50px Yamanashi 山梨県 Kofu Chūbu Honshū 888,170 4,465.37 199 8 64 JP-19

Notes: ¹ as of 2000 — ² km² — ³ per km²


HokkaidoAomori PrefectureAkita PrefectureIwate PrefectureYamagata PrefectureMiyagi PrefectureFukushima PrefectureNiigata PrefectureTochigi PrefectureGunma PrefectureIbaraki PrefectureNagano PrefectureSaitama PrefectureChiba PrefectureTōkyō MetropolisKanagawa PrefectureToyama PrefectureIshikawa PrefectureGifu PrefectureFukui PrefectureYamanashi PrefectureShizuoka PrefectureAichi PrefectureShiga PrefectureKyoto PrefectureMie PrefectureNara PrefectureHyōgo PrefectureŌsaka PrefectureWakayama PrefectureTottori PrefectureOkayama PrefectureShimane PrefectureHiroshima PrefectureYamaguchi PrefectureKagawa PrefectureTokushima PrefectureEhime PrefectureKōchi PrefectureFukuoka PrefectureŌita PrefectureSaga PrefectureNagasaki PrefectureKumamoto PrefectureMiyazaki PrefectureKagoshima PrefectureOkinawa PrefectureTōkyō MetropolisKanagawa PrefectureŌsaka PrefectureWakayama PrefectureRegions and Prefectures of Japan 2.svg
About this image


  1. ^ Mabuchi, Masaru, "Municipal Amalgamation in Japan," World Bank, 2001.
  2. ^ "Doshusei Regional System," National Association for Research Advancement

See also

External links

Template:Asia administrative divisions