Municipalities of Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 has three levels of government: national
Government of Japan
The government of Japan is a constitutional monarchy where the power of the Emperor is very limited. As a ceremonial figurehead, he is defined by the 1947 constitution as "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people". Power is held chiefly by the Prime Minister of Japan and other elected...

, prefectural
Prefectures of Japan
The prefectures of Japan are the country's 47 subnational jurisdictions: one "metropolis" , Tokyo; one "circuit" , Hokkaidō; two urban prefectures , Osaka and Kyoto; and 43 other prefectures . In Japanese, they are commonly referred to as...

, and municipal. The nation is divided into 47 prefectures. Each prefecture consists of numerous municipalities. There are four types of municipalities in Japan: cities
Cities of Japan
||A is a local administrative unit in Japan. Cities are ranked on the same level as and , with the difference that they are not a component of...

, towns
Towns of Japan
A town is a local administrative unit in Japan. It is a local public body along with prefecture , city , and village...

, villages
Villages of Japan
A is a local administrative unit in Japan.It is a local public body along with , , and . Geographically, a village's extent is contained within a prefecture....

 and special wards (the ku of Tokyo
, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...

). In Japanese
Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

, this system is known as , where each kanji
Kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters hanzi that are used in the modern Japanese writing system along with hiragana , katakana , Indo Arabic numerals, and the occasional use of the Latin alphabet...

 in the word represents one of the four types of municipalities..

The status of a municipality, if it is a village, town or city, is decided by the prefectural government. Generally, a village or town can be promoted to a city when its population increases above fifty thousand, and a city can (but need not) be demoted to a town or village when its population decreases below fifty thousand. The least-populated city, Utashinai, Hokkaidō
Utashinai, Hokkaido
is a city located in Sorachi Subprefecture, Hokkaidō, Japan. It is Japan's smallest city by population. It was formerly a prosperous coal mining city, but has declined greatly since the closing of the coal mines...

, has a population of merely four thousand, while a town in the same prefecture, Otofuke, Hokkaidō
Otofuke, Hokkaido
is a town located in Katō District, Tokachi, Hokkaidō, Japan.As of 2008, the town has an estimated population of 44,402 and a density of 89.97 persons per km². The total area is 466.09 km².-External links:...

, has nearly forty thousand residents.

Some cities also have further administrative subdivisions, also known as wards. But, unlike the special wards of Tokyo, these wards are not municipalities.

The following are major cities:
  • Fukuoka
    Fukuoka, Fukuoka
    is the capital city of Fukuoka Prefecture and is situated on the northern shore of the island of Kyushu in Japan.Voted number 14 in a 2010 poll of the World's Most Livable Cities, Fukuoka is praised for its green spaces in a metropolitan setting. It is the most populous city in Kyushu, followed by...

    , the most populous city in the Kyūshū
    is the third largest island of Japan and most southwesterly of its four main islands. Its alternate ancient names include , , and . The historical regional name is referred to Kyushu and its surrounding islands....

  • Hiroshima
    is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture, and the largest city in the Chūgoku region of western Honshu, the largest island of Japan. It became best known as the first city in history to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon when the United States Army Air Forces dropped an atomic bomb on it at 8:15 A.M...

    , the busy manufacturing city in the Chūgoku region
    Chugoku region
    The , also known as the , is the westernmost region of Honshū, the largest island of Japan. It consists of the prefectures of Hiroshima, Okayama, Shimane, Tottori and Yamaguchi. It has a population of about 7.8 million.- History :...

     of Honshū
    is the largest island of Japan. The nation's main island, it is south of Hokkaido across the Tsugaru Strait, north of Shikoku across the Inland Sea, and northeast of Kyushu across the Kanmon Strait...

  • Kobe
    , pronounced , is the fifth-largest city in Japan and is the capital city of Hyōgo Prefecture on the southern side of the main island of Honshū, approximately west of Osaka...

    , a major port on the Inland Sea, located in the center of Honshū near Osaka
  • Kitakyūshū, a city of just over one million inhabitants in Kyūshū
  • Kyoto
    is a city in the central part of the island of Honshū, Japan. It has a population close to 1.5 million. Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, it is now the capital of Kyoto Prefecture, as well as a major part of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto metropolitan area.-History:...

    , former capital, historic center and thriving modern city
  • Nagasaki, a port on the island of Kyūshū
  • Nagoya
    Nagoya, Aichi
    is the third-largest incorporated city and the fourth most populous urban area in Japan.Located on the Pacific coast in the Chūbu region on central Honshu, it is the capital of Aichi Prefecture and is one of Japan's major ports along with those of Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, Yokohama, Chiba, and Moji...

    , center of a major automobile-manufacturing region on the eastern seaboard of Honshū
  • Osaka
    is a city in the Kansai region of Japan's main island of Honshu, a designated city under the Local Autonomy Law, the capital city of Osaka Prefecture and also the biggest part of Keihanshin area, which is represented by three major cities of Japan, Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe...

    , a vast manufacturing city on the Inland Sea coast of Honshū
  • Sapporo
    Sapporo, Hokkaido
    is the fourth-largest city in Japan by population, and the largest city on the island of Hokkaido. It is the capital of Hokkaidō Prefecture, located in Ishikari Subprefecture, and an ordinance-designated city of Japan....

    , the largest city in Hokkaidō
  • Sendai
    Sendai, Miyagi
    is the capital city of Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, and the largest city in the Tōhoku Region. In 2005, the city had a population of one million, and was one of Japan's 19 designated cities...

    , the principal center of northeast Honshū (also known as the Tōhoku region
    Tohoku region
    The is a geographical area of Japan. The region occupies the northeastern portion of Honshu, the largest island of Japan. The region consists of six prefectures : Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi and Yamagata....

  • Yokohama
    is the capital city of Kanagawa Prefecture and the second largest city in Japan by population after Tokyo and most populous municipality of Japan. It lies on Tokyo Bay, south of Tokyo, in the Kantō region of the main island of Honshu...

    , a port city just south of Tokyo

The capital, Tokyo, no longer has city status. Tokyo Prefecture now encompasses 23 special wards, each a city unto itself, as well as many other cities, towns and even villages on the Japanese mainland and outlying islands. Each of the 23 special wards of Tokyo
, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...

 is legally equivalent to a city, though sometimes the 23 special wards as a whole are regarded as one city. For information on the former city of Tokyo, see Tokyo City
Tokyo City
was a municipality in Japan and part of Tokyo-Fu which existed from May 1, 1889 until its merger with its prefecture on July 1, 1943. The historical boundaries of Tokyo City are now occupied by independent special wards...

; for information about present-day Tokyo Prefecture, see Tokyo
, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...


Except for these wards of Tokyo, all large cities are of cities designated by government ordinance
City designated by government ordinance (Japan)
A , also known as a or , is a Japanese city that has a population greater than 500,000 and has been designated as such by an order of the cabinet of Japan under Article 252, Section 19 of the Local Autonomy Law.-Overview:...


See List of cities in Japan for a complete list of cities.

See also: Core city
Core city
A is a class of Japanese city created by the first clause of Article 252, Section 22 of the Local Autonomy Law of Japan. Core cities are delegated many functions normally carried out by prefectural governments, but not as many as designated cities...


The same kanji which designates a town (町) is also sometimes used for addresses of sections of an urban area. In rare cases, a municipal village might even contain a section with the same type of designation. Although the kanji is the same, neither of these individual sections are municipalities unto themselves. Sometimes, the section name is a remnant from gappei, a system where several adjacent communities merge to form a larger municipality, where the old town names are kept for a section of the new city, even though the resulting new city may have a completely different name.

Subprefectures of Japan
Certain prefectures of Japan are now, or once were, divided into subprefectures. The subprefecture is the jurisdiction surrounding a of the prefectural government. Normally, the area of a subprefecture consists of a few to a dozen cities, towns, and/or villages. Subprefectures are formed to...

are branch offices of the prefectures and not municipalities by themselves.

Districts of Japan
The was most recently used as an administrative unit in Japan between 1878 and 1921 and is roughly equivalent to the county of the United States, ranking at the level below prefecture and above city, town or village. As of 2008, cities belong directly to prefectures and are independent from...

are not current municipalities but names of groups of towns and villages.

Provinces of Japan
Before the modern prefecture system was established, the land of Japan was divided into tens of kuni , usually known in English as provinces. Each province was divided into gun ....

are not current municipalities but (almost obsolete) names of geographical regions similar to prefectures.

See also

  • Local Autonomy Law
    Local Autonomy Law
    The Local Autonomy Law of Japan was passed as Law No. 67 on April 17, 1947, an Act of Devolution that established most of Japan's contemporary local government structures, including prefectures, municipalities and other entities....

  • 23 special wards
  • Japanese addressing system
    Japanese addressing system
    The Japanese addressing system is used to identify a specific location in Japan. In Japanese, addresses are written using the opposite convention from Western addresses, starting with the biggest geographical entities down to the more specific ones....

  • Merger and dissolution of municipalities of Japan
    Merger and dissolution of municipalities of Japan
    Municipal mergers and dissolutions carried out in Japan can take place within one municipality or between multiple municipalities and are required to be based upon consensus.- Merger policy:...

  • List of mergers and dissolutions of municipalities in Japan

External links

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