Armed Forces Overviews

The State of Japan / Nippon-Koku/Nihon-Koku

Other Forces

By Hans van Dam

Japan Pages Introduction

Welcome to the Japan pages of Scramble. On this landing page you will find links to the three Self-Defense Forces. Because of the size of the forces, every air arm has its own page, providing you with information on its history and serial system. Furthermore, besides the three major forces, we also have one page on pre-1954 aviation units, so government agencies with aviation assets before the conception of the three forces, and one page on the Japan Coast Guard. Of course you will find links to the Order of Battles for the Self-Defense Forces and the Coast Guard, and maybe most importantly to the Database. The first info page, providing you with information on past units, their location, insignia and equipment of the JASDF is now on-line. It is in the well known OrBat form, so for each airfield per timeframe, following mainly the changes in Hikotai history. Most historic informaton was gathered from the excellent publication 'JAPANESE AIR ARMS 1952-1984' by Akira Watanabe.

On this page we have collected some information on Japan and its difficult administrative division into Prefectures, sub-Prefectures etc. This is especially relevant for the serious Wrecks and Relics collector as the location indicator in the Japan database for preserved aircraft is following this system.

Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution
"Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes. To accomplish this aim, land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential will never be maintained".

Japan General Information
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. The characters that make up Japan's name mean "sun-origin", which is why Japan is sometimes referred to as the "Land of the Rising Sun". Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands. The four largest islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku, which together comprise about ninety-seven percent of Japan's land area. Japan has the world's tenth-largest population, with over 127 million people. Honshū's Greater Tokyo Area, which includes the de facto capital city of Tokyo and several surrounding prefectures, is the largest metropolitan area in the world, with over 30 million residents. Archaeological research indicates that people lived in Japan as early as the Upper Paleolithic period. The first written mention of Japan is in Chinese history texts from the 1st century AD. Influence from other nations followed by long periods of isolation has characterized Japan's history. From the 12th century until 1868, Japan was ruled by successive feudal military dictatorships (shogunates) in the name of the Emperor. Japan entered into a long period of isolation in the early 17th century, which was only ended in 1853 when a United States fleet pressured Japan to open to the West. Nearly two decades of internal conflict and insurrection followed before the Meiji Emperor was restored as head of state in 1868 and the Empire of Japan was proclaimed, with the Emperor as a divine symbol of the nation. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, victory in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War and World War I allowed Japan to expand its empire during a period of increasing militarism. The Second Sino-Japanese War of 1937 expanded into part of World War II in 1941, which came to an end in 1945 following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since adopting its revised constitution in 1947, Japan has maintained a unitary constitutional monarchy with an emperor and an elected legislature called the Diet.

Administrative divisions
Japan consists of forty-seven prefectures, each overseen by an elected governor, legislature and administrative bureaucracy. The nation is currently undergoing administrative reorganization by merging many of the cities, towns and villages with each other. This process will reduce the number of sub-prefecture administrative regions and is expected to cut administrative costs.

The prefectures of Japan are the country's 47 first-order subnational jurisdictions on a state or provincial level. Prefectures are governmental bodies larger than cities, towns, and villages. The former provinces of Japan were converted into prefectures in the 1870s. Under the current Local Autonomy Law, each prefecture is further subdivided into cities (市, shi) and districts (郡, gun). Each district is further subdivided into towns (町, chō/machi) and villages (村, son/mura). There are several types of prefecture:

  • One "metropolis" (都, to), Tokyo; Tokyo Metropolis was formed in 1943 from the merger of the former Tokyo Prefecture (Tōkyō-fu) and the city of Tokyo (Tōkyō-shi) and now has in its bounderies 23 special wards (tokubetsu-ku) e.g. Nerima-ku, 26 cities, e.g. Fushu-shi, one district and two island chains in the Pacific Ocean directly south which stretch more than 1,000 km away from the mainland.

  • One "circuit"/territory (道, ), Hokkaido; Hokkaido has 14 subprefectures(支庁, shichō)  which act as branch offices of the prefecture.

  • Two urban prefectures (府, fu), Osaka and Kyoto

  • 43 other prefectures (県, ken). 

The prefectures are often grouped into nine regions (Chihō). The regions of Japan are not official administrative units, but have been traditionally used as the regional division of Japan in a number of contexts. For instance, maps and geography textbooks divide Japan into the eight regions, weather reports usually give the weather by region, and many businesses and institutions use their home region as part of their name (Kinki Nippon Railway, Chūgoku Bank, Tōhoku University etc.) From north to south the prefectures of Japan and their commonly associated regions are:

Hokkaido (largest city Sapporo)

1. Hokkaido

Tōhoku (largest city Sendai)

2. Aomori
3. Iwate
4. Miyagi
5. Akita
6. Yamagata
7. Fukushima

Kantō (largest city Tokyo)

8. Ibaraki
9. Tochigi
10. Gunma
11. Saitama
12. Chiba
13. Tōkyō
14. Kanagawa

Chūbu, sometimes divided into Hokuriku, Koshin'etsu and Tokai regions. (largest city Nagoya)

15. Niigata
16. Toyama
17. Ishikawa
18. Fukui
19. Yamanashi
20. Nagano
21. Gifu
22. Shizuoka
23. Aichi

Kansai (largest city Osaka)

24. Mie
25. Shiga
26. Kyōto
27. Ōsaka
28. Hyōgo
29. Nara
30. Wakayama

Chūgoku (largest city Hiroshima)

31. Tottori
32. Shimane
33. Okayama
34. Hiroshima
35. Yamaguchi

Shikoku (largest city Matsuyama)

36. Tokushima
37. Kagawa
38. Ehime
39. Kōchi

Kyushu (largest city Fukuoka)

40. Fukuoka
41. Saga
42. Nagasaki
43. Kumamoto
44. Ōita
45. Miyazaki
46. Kagoshima


47. Okinawa