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What is a prefecture in Japan?

What is a prefecture in Japan

What is a prefecture in Japan?

What is a prefecture in Japan? It is often said that Prefecture is to Japan what state is to the U.S.A. This is a simplified explanation for Americans unfamiliar with prefectures or for Japanese unfamiliar with states. Although prefecture in Japan is similar to the U.S., there are fundamental differences between two.

Differences between prefecture and state


States have a common constitution with the federal government (central government) and their own state constitution.

Prefectures have a constitution in common with the national government (central government) and do not have their own prefectural constitution.


States enact their own laws.

Prefectures only have laws in common with the national government (central government). It is possible to enact ordinances to the extent that they do not conflict with the laws of the national government.


States have their own armed forces.

Prefectures do not have their own armed forces.

4 types of Prefectures in Japan

To be precise, there are four types of prefecture in Japanese. They are “To”, “Do”, “Fu” and “Ken”. (They are collectively called Todofuken.)

In English, they are all translated as prefecture.


Todofuken is the generic name for the “To”, “Do”, “Fu”, and “Ken” governments, which are the broad regional governments of Japan. Currently, there are 47 prefectures. Together with cities, towns, and villages (shichouson), they are a type of local government. A prefecture is one of the administrative divisions in Japan.

While municipalities are “basic local public entities” (Article 2, Paragraph 4 of the Local Autonomy Law), prefectures are “wide-area local public entities encompassing municipalities” (Article 2, Paragraph 5 of the same law) and are responsible for handling wide-area affairs and liaison affairs concerning municipalities.

All of Japan is divided into 1,724 municipalities (792 cities, 743 towns, and 189 villages) and 23 special wards (wards of Tokyo), and all municipalities and special wards are included in one of the 47 prefectures, a two-tier local system.


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