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PostSubject: Prefectures   Wed Sep 05, 2012 11:05 am

The prefectures of Japan are the country's 47 first-order subnational jurisdictions on a state or provincial level: one "metropolis" (都 to), Tokyo; one "circuit"/territory (道 dou), Hokkaidou; two urban prefectures (府 fu), Osaka and Kyoto; and 43 other prefectures (県 ken). Prefectures are governmental bodies larger than cities, towns, and villages.

The chief executive of each prefecture is a directly elected governor (ja:知事). Ordinances and budgets are enacted by a unicameral (single chamber) assembly (議会) whose elected members serve four-year terms.

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 chou or machi) and villages (村 son or mura). For example, Hokkaidou has 14 subprefectures which act as branch offices (支庁 shichou) of the prefecture. Some other prefectures also have branch offices, which carry out prefectural administrative functions outside the capital. Tokyo, the capital is a merged city-prefecture, it has features of both cities and prefectures.


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PostSubject: Re: Prefectures   Wed Sep 05, 2012 11:13 am

Types of prefectures

In the Japanese language there are four different terms for prefectures. The prefectures are sometimes collectively referred to as to-dou-fu-ken (都道府県) in Japanese, which is a simple combination of the four terms.

Historically, during the Edo period, the Tokugawa shogunate established bugyou-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 nine bugyou-ruled zones became fu (府), while the township-ruled zones and the rest of the bugyo-ruled zones became ken (県). 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.

Despite the differences in terminology, there is little functional difference between the four types of prefecture.


43 of the 47 prefectures are referred to as ken (県). The Classical Chinese character from which this is derived carries a rural or provincial connotation, and an analogous character is used to refer to the counties of China and counties of Taiwan.

Fu (Osaka/Kyoto)

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

To (Tokyo)

Tokyo is referred to as to (都), which is often translated as "metropolis." 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.

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 (kuchou). 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 chou (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).

In Osaka, several prominent politicians led by Governor Toru Hashimoto are currently proposing an Osaka Metropolis plan, under which the city of Osaka, and possibly other neighboring cities, would be replaced by special wards similar to Tokyo's.

Dou (Hokkaido)

Hokkaido is referred to as a dou (道) or circuit. This term was originally used to refer to regions of Japan consisting of several provinces (e.g. the Tōkaidou east coast region and Saikaidou west coast region). This was also an historical usage of the character in China.

Hokkaidou, the only remaining dou today, was not one of the original seven dou (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 Hokkaidou did not fit into the existing dou classifications, a new dou was created to cover it.

The Meiji government originally classified Hokkaidou 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 Hokkaidou Department (北海道庁 Hokkaidou-chou) in 1886, at prefectural level but organized more along the lines of a territory. In 1947, the Department was dissolved, and Hokkaidou became a full-fledged prefecture. The -ken suffix was never added to its name, so the -dou suffix came to be understood to mean "prefecture."

When Hokkaidou was incorporated, transportation on the island was still very underdeveloped, so the prefecture was split into several "sub-prefectures" (支庁 shichou) 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.

"Hokkaidou 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 "Hokkaidou Government" rather than the "Hokkaidou Prefectural Government".


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PostSubject: Re: Prefectures   Wed Sep 05, 2012 11:23 am

Lists of prefectures

The prefectures are also often grouped into nine regions (Chihō). 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, the prefectures of Japan and their commonly associated regions are:

1. Hokkaidou

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. Kyōto
27. Ōsaka
28. Hyōgo
29. Nara
30. Wakayama

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

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

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

47. Okinawa


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