Provinces of Japan

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Provinces of Japan

Before the modern system of prefectures was introduced in Japan , Japan was divided into provinces ( kuni , dt. "Countries").


As administrative units of the imperial court

The provinces were established in ancient times as both administrative units and geographical regions. Each province was further divided into gun (formerly kōri ).

The provinces were divided into Kinai (in the capital) and 7 or - with Hokkaidō , a modern addition - 8 ("routes, ways", less literally "large landscapes, imperial circles"; see Chinese Dao ). This division was called Gokishichidō . In this context, did not yet correspond to early modern modern traffic routes ( Kaidō ) such as the Tōkaidō from Tōkyō to Kyōto or Kōbe .

The highest provincial officials including the governor were called Kokushi , older also kuni no tsukasa , and the capitals Kokufu .

As a geographical division of the country

US map of Japan from 1855 with provincial divisions based on Siebold's material and Perry's expedition
Japanese map from 1880 with provincial division, including the Meiji-era provinces in Ezo / Hokkaidō; for the prefectures ( , fu and , ken ) only the administrative offices are marked.

In the late Muromachi period , their function as administrative units was gradually completely replaced by the lands of the Sengoku - daimyō . Under the rule of Toyotomi Hideyoshi , the provinces were finally replaced by the fiefs of the daimyo. The fiefs of the Edo period are subsequently referred to as Han . The provinces remained as a geographical region designation and the population often specified a certain place with the combination of province and Han.

In the Boshin War and during the Meiji Restoration , the shogunate territories and a few rebel (or shogunate loyalists) Han were replaced by Fu (urban prefectures) and Ken (rural prefectures) from 1868 and the remaining Han initially legitimized as administrative units, but all replaced by Ken in 1871 . As part of the address system, the provinces were not abolished, but played an even more important role. In 1871 there were 304 prefectures and 68 provinces (excluding Hokkaidō and Ryūkyū Province ). The many prefectures initially corresponded to their feudal predecessors with their complicated borders and numerous en- and exclaves, so their borders mostly did not correspond to those of the provinces. Exceptions were some large Han / prefectures, especially those of the powerful "outer" Tozama daimyo , who also ruled entire provinces under the Tokugawa. Subsequently, the prefectures were merged in several waves, divided and their borders shifted. By the end of the 1880s, this essentially formed today's 47 prefectures, the borders of which are in many places congruent with those of the provinces. Only after this consolidation of the prefectures could they largely replace the provinces as a geographical frame of reference.

To date, the provinces have not been abolished by law, but they are considered obsolete. However, their names are still often used as part of geographical names, company names, and trademarks. At the beginning of the 21st century , the governor of Nagano Prefecture proposed that his prefecture be renamed Shinshū (a name derived from Shinano Province ).



Tōkaidō ( 東海 道 , dt. "Eastern Sea Route")

Tōsandō ( 東山 道 , German "Eastern Mountain Route")

Hokurikudō ( 北 陸 道 , Eng. "Northern Land Route")

San'indō ( 山 陰道 , German "mountain ridge route")

San'yōdō ( 山陽 道 , German "Mountain Front Route")

Nankaidō ( 南海 道 , German "Southern Lake Route")

Saikaidō ( 西海 道 , Eng . "Western Sea Route")

Hokkaidō ( 北海道 , German "Northern Sea Route")

Web links

Detailed maps of the provinces at different times can be found on: