List of Provinces of Japan
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List of Provinces of Japan
The Provinces of Japan circa 1600, from Murdoch and Yamagata published in 1903.

Provinces of Japan (, Ry?seikoku) were first-level administrative divisions of Japan from the 600s to 1868.

Provinces were established in Japan in the late 7th century under the Ritsury? law system that formed the first central government. Each province was divided into districts (?, gun) and grouped into a geographic region or circuit known as Gokishichid?. Provincial borders often changed until the end of the Nara period (710 to 794), and remained unchanged from the Heian period (794 to 1185) until the Edo period (1603 to 1868). The provinces coexisted with the han (domain) system, the personal estates of feudal lords and warriors, and became secondary to the domains in the late Muromachi period (1336 to 1573).

The Provinces of Japan were replaced with the current prefecture system in the Fuhanken sanchisei during the Meiji Restoration from 1868 to 1871, except for Hokkaido which was divided into provinces from 1869 to 1882. To date, no official order has been issued abolishing the ancient provinces, but they are considered obsolete as administrative units. The provinces are still used in general conversation, especially in navigation and transportation, and referenced in products and geographical features of the prefectures covering their former territory.


Provinces of Japan in 701-702 during the Asuka period. The northern half of the modern T?hoku region of Honshu is unorganized.

The provinces were originally established by Ritsury? as both administrative units and geographic regions.

In the late Muromachi period, however, their function was gradually supplanted by the domains of the sengoku daimy?. Under the rule of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the provinces were supplemented as primary local administrative units. The local daimy?s fiefs were developed.[clarification needed][1]

Edo period

In the Edo period, the fiefs became known as han. Imperial provinces and shogunal domains made up complementary systems. For example, when the sh?gun ordered a daimy? to make a census or to make maps, the work was organized in terms of the boundaries of the provincial kuni.[2]

Meiji period

At the Meiji Restoration, the han were legitimized as administrative units under Fuhanken Sanchisei, but were gradually replaced by prefectures between 1868 and 1871 (urban prefectures were called fu and rural prefectures ken). Provinces as part of the system of addresses were not abolished but, on the contrary, augmented. As of 1871, the number of prefectures was 304, while the number of provinces was 68, not including Hokkaid? or the Ry?ky? Islands. The boundaries between the many prefectures were not only very complicated, but also did not match those of the provinces. Prefectures were gradually merged to reduce the number to 37 by 1881; a few were then divided to give a total of 45 by 1885. Adding Hokkaid? and Okinawa produced the current total of 47 prefectures.

Provinces are classified into Kinai (within the capital), and seven or eight d? (routes, or circuits), collectively known as the Gokishichid?. However, d? in this context should not be confused with modern traffic lines such as T?kaid? from Tokyo to Kyoto or Kobe. Also, Hokkaid? in this context should not be confused with Hokkaid? Prefecture, although these two overlap geographically.


Borders of the provinces from the Kamakura period until 1868.

To date, no official order has been issued abolishing provinces. Provinces are nonetheless today considered obsolete, although their names are still widely used in names of natural features, company names, and brands. In the early 2000s, former governor of Nagano Prefecture, Yasuo Tanaka (president of New Party Nippon), proposed the renaming of his prefecture to "Shinsh?" (, a name derived from Shinano Province) because it is still widely used, as in Shinsh? soba (?), Shinsh? miso (?) and Shinshu University.

These province names are considered to be mainly of historical interest. They are also used for the names of items, including family names, most of which were popularized in or after the Edo period. Examples include sanuki udon, iyokan, tosa ken, Chikuzenni, and awa odori. Japan Rail stations also use them in names to, aside from the historical background, distinguish themselves from similarly named stations in other prefectures.

Some of the province names are used to indicate distinct parts of the current prefectures along with their cultural and geographical characteristics. In many cases these names are also in use with directional characters, e.g. Hoku-Setsu () meaning Northern (?) Settsu () area.

The districts are still considered prefectural subdivisions, however in case of being part of a merger or division of old provinces, they may be shared among several prefectures (such as the original Adachi District of Musashi, which is now divided between Adachi Ward of Tokyo and Kita-Adachi District in Saitama). Many of these old provincial districts have been dissolved as their chief towns have merged into larger cities or towns. See individual prefecture pages for mergers and abolitions of districts.

The following list is based on the Gokishichid? (?), which includes short-lived provinces. Provinces located within Hokkaid? are listed last.

Goki (, Five Provinces in Capital Region)

Kinai (, Capital Region)

  • Yamashiro (J?sh?, Sansh?, Y?sh?) ( (, , ))
  • Yamato (Wash?) ( ())
  • Kawachi (Kash?) ( ())
  • Izumi (Sensh?) ( ()) - Created in 716 from Kawachi Province as Izumi Gen (). Although occupied by Kawachi Province in 740, in 757 the province divided again from Kawachi Province.
  • Settsu (Sessh?) ( ())

Shichido (, Seven Circuits)

T?kaid? (, East Sea Circuit)

  • Iga (Ish?) ( ()) - separated from Ise Province in 680
  • Ise (Seish?) ( ())
  • Shima (Shish?) ( ()) - separated from Ise Province at the beginning of the 8th century
  • Owari (Bish?) ( ())
  • Mikawa (Sansh?) ( ())
  • T?t?mi (Ensh?) ( ())
  • Suruga (Sunsh?) ( ())
  • Izu (Zush?) ( ()) - separated from Suruga Province in 680
  • Kai (K?sh?) ( ())
  • Sagami (S?sh?) ( ())
  • Musashi (Bush?) ( ()) - Transferred from T?sand? to T?kaid? in 771
  • Awa (B?sh?, Ansh?) ( (, )) - Divided from Kazusa Province in 718. Although re-joined to Kazusa Province in 741, separated from Kazusa Province again in 781
  • Kazusa (S?sh?) ( ()) - divided from Fusa Province () in the 7th century
  • Shim?sa (S?sh?) ( ()) - divided from Fusa Province in the 7th century
  • Hitachi (J?sh?) ( ())

T?sand? (, East Mountain Circuit)

  • ?mi (G?sh?) ( ())
  • Mino (N?sh?) ( ())
  • Hida (Hish?) ( ())
  • Shinano (Shinsh?) ( ())
  • K?zuke (J?sh?) ( ()) - divided from Keno Province () during the 4th century
  • Shimotsuke (Yash?) ( ()) - divided from Keno Province during the 4th century
  • Dewa (Ush?) ( ()) - broke Dewa District in Echigo Province and create Dewa Province in 712. On October of the same year, Mogami and Okitama Districts in Mutsu Province merged into Dewa Province.
    • Since the 1868 breakup
  • Mutsu (?sh?, Rikush?) ( (, )) - split off from Hitachi Province in the 7th century

Hokurikud? (, North Land Circuit)

  • Wakasa (Jakush?) ( ())
  • Echizen (Essh?) ( ()) - broke off from Koshi Province () during the end of the 7th century
  • Kaga (Kash?) ( ()) - divided from Echizen Province in 823
  • Noto (N?sh?) ( ()) - divided from Echizen Province in 718. Although occupied by Etchu Province in 741, divided from Etch? Province in 757
  • Etch? (Essh?) ( ()) - broke off from Koshi Province during the end of the 7th century
  • Echigo (Essh?) ( ()) - broke off from Koshi Province during the end of the 7th century
  • Sado (Sash?, Tosh?) ( (, )) - although occupied by Echigo in 743, divided from Echigo in 752

San'ind? (, Mountain's Shady Side Circuit)

  • Tanba (Tansh?) ( ())
  • Tango (Tansh?) ( ()) - divided from Tanba in 713
  • Tajima (Tansh?) ( ())
  • Inaba (Insh?) ( ())
  • H?ki (Hakush?) ( ())
  • Izumo (Unsh?) ( ())
  • Iwami (Sekish?) ( ())
  • Oki (Onsh?, Insh?) ( ())

San'y?d? (, Mountain's Sunny Side Circuit)

  • Harima (Bansh?) ( ())
  • Mimasaka (Sakush?) ( ()) - divided from Bizen Province in 713
  • Bizen (Bish?) ( ()) - broke off from Kibi () during the 2nd half of the 7th century
  • Bitch? (Bish?) ( ()) - broke off from Kibi Province during the 2nd half of the 7th century
  • Bingo (Bish?) ( ()) - broke off from Kibi Province during the 2nd half of the 7th century
  • Aki (Geish?) ( ())
  • Su? (B?sh?) ( ())
  • Nagato (Ch?sh?) ( ())

Nankaid? (, South Sea Circuit)

Equivalent to Shikoku and its surroundings, as well as a nearby area of Honshu

Saikaid? (, West Sea Circuit)

Equivalent to Kyushu and its surroundings

  • Buzen (H?sh?) ( ()) - broke off from Toyo Province () at the end of the 7th century
  • Bungo (H?sh?) ( ()) - broke off from Toyo Province at the end of the 7th century
  • Chikuzen (Chikush?) ( ()) - broke off from Tsukushi Province () until the end of the 7th century
  • Chikugo (Chikush?) ( ()) - broke off from Tsukushi Province until the end of the 7th century
  • Hizen (Hish?) ( ()) - broke off from Hi Province () until the end of the 7th century
  • Higo (Hish?) ( ()) - broke off from Hi Province until the end of the 7th century
  • Hy?ga (Nissh?, K?sh?) ( (, )) - earlier called Kumaso Province ()
  • ?sumi (G?sh?) ( ()) - divided from Hy?ga Province in 713
  • Satsuma (Sassh?) ( ()) - divided from Hy?ga Province in 702
  • Iki (Issh?) ( ()) - officially Iki no Shima ()
  • Tsushima (Taish?) ( ()) - officially Tsushima no Shima ()

Hachid? (, Eight Circuits)

Hokkaid? (, North Sea Circuit)

Equivalent to Hokkaido and its surroundings. Originally known as the Ezo Region, before being renamed and organized as 11 provinces (1869-1882).


See also


  1. ^ Mass, Jeffrey P. and William B. Hauser. (1987). The Bakufu in Japanese History, p. 150.
  2. ^ Roberts, Luke S. (2002). Mercantilism in a Japanese Domain: the merchant origins of economic nationalism in 18th-century Tosa, p. 6; excerpt, "Imperial provinces "remained on the cultural map as commonly used definers of territorial regions called kuni ... because when the shogun ordered populations registers and maps to be made, he had them organized along the borders of the provincial kuni. This has been interpreted as important evidence of the shogun's styled role as a servant of the emperor, one of the important means by which he legitimized his authority."


  • Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric and Käthe Roth. (2005). Japan encyclopedia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-01753-5; OCLC 58053128

External links

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

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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