Understanding Japan’s Geography and the Areas Around Tokyo

Most travelers know of Japan’s major cities, like Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and so on. Then, they hear about prefectures and wards, and it all gets more and more confusing – especially in Tokyo with its numerous wards and districts. Here is a breakdown to understand Japan’s regions and prefectures and Tokyo’s wards and districts:

Japan’s Regions

Japan has 8 regions which are often discussed in terms of geographical weather reports and relating to where a local comes from within the country – aka, hometown.

From north to south the 8 regions in Japan are:
1. Hokkaido: largest city, Sapporo
2. Tohoku: largest city, Sendai
3. Kanto: largest city, Tokyo
4. Chubu: largest city, Nagoya
5. Kansai: largest city, Osaka; former capital, Kyoto
6. Chugoku: largest city, Hiroshima
7. Shikoku: largest city, Matsuyama
8. Kyushu: largest city, Fukuoka


Japan’s Prefectures

Within Japan’s 8 regions are the country’s 47 prefectures that form the first level of jurisdiction and administrative division. Each prefecture has its own directly-elected governor.

When reading addresses in Japan, you will always find the prefecture listed as the major area. For instance, Tokyo is its own prefecture. If you land in Narita Airport, you are in the Chiba prefecture.


Tokyo’s Wards & Districts

Japan’s 3 levels of government include the national, prefectural, and municipal. Within the 47 prefectures of the country are thousands of municipalities which are also known as cities, town, villages, and special wards. Special wards are specific to Tokyo’s metropolis.

Tokyo has 23 wards. They are likened to the 5 boroughs of New York City. Within each ward are the districts, some of which we know of when planning our itineraries within Tokyo.

The 23 wards of Tokyo and some major districts include:
1. Chiyoda: Marunouchi, Otemachi, Yurakucho, Akihabara, Kanda
2. Chuo: Nihonbashi, Ginza, Tsukiji
3. Minato: Shinbashi, Roppongi, Toranomon, Aoyama
4. Shinjuku: Shinjuku, Totsukya
5. Shibuya: Shibuya, Ebisu, Harajuku, Yoyogi
6. Taito: Ueno, Asakusa
7. Bunkyo
8. Sumida
9. Koto
10. Shinagawa
11. Meguro
12. Ota
13. Setagaya
14. Nakano
15. Suginami
16. Toshima
17. Kita
18. Arakawa
19. Itabashi
20. Nerima
21. Adachi
22. Katsushika
23. Edogawa


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