Lessons in history and bureaucracy lurk within Japan’s geographical layer cake BY COLIN P.A. JONES
Lessons in history and bureaucracy lurk within Japan’s geographical layer cake
BY COLIN P.A. JONES
SPECIAL TO THE JAPAN TIMES
MAR 21, 2016
Here’s a test of your Japan knowledge: What’s the nation’s capital city?
Trick question. The correct answer is: It doesn’t have a capital city. You see, Tokyo is not technically a city, but a prefecture encompassing 26 市(shi, cities), 23 区 (ku,wards), five 町 (chō or machi, towns) and eight 村 (son or mura, villages), as well as islands up to 1,000 km away from the global metropolis that does in fact serve as the nation’s 首都 (shuto, capital).
Including Tokyo, Japan has 47 “prefectures,” an English term that disguises some complexity. Japanese uses four separate terms — which can be found bundled together in the compound noun 都道府県 (todōfuken) — to express the same concept, though the difference between them is mainly historical.