Japanese geography and prefecture names

Want to increase your knowledge about Japan? This lesson page covers the regions and prefectures that make up Japan with quizzes, trivia, and sound. 

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Table of Contents

Part I: the Four Main Islands

Japan has 6,852 islands, but the four main islands are: (from north to south)

Hokkaidou - Honshuu - Shikoku - Kyuushuu

北海道 hokkaidou

The most northern large island, and the only main island with only one prefecture. 

Kanji breakdown: 北 (north) + 海 (sea) + 道 (road)

本州 honshuu

The largest of the four main islands of Japan.

Kanji breakdown: 本 (main; origin) + 州 (state; province)

四国 shikoku

An island with four prefectures.

Kanji breakdown: 四 (four) + 国 (country)

九州 kyuushuu

The most southern group of prefectures, including Okinawa.

Kanji breakdown: 九 (nine) + 州 (state; province)

Take this quiz with various ways to test your knowledge of the four main islands

Four Main Island Quiz

Part II: The Eight Regions

Japan is further divided into eight regions: (Notice the Hokkaido, Shikoku, and Kyushu regions are named the same as the main islands listed above)

Hokkaidou - Touhoku - Kantou - Chuubu - Kansai - Chuugoku - Shikoku - Kyuushuu

These are called regions or 地方(ちほう) chihou.

北海道 hokkaidou

Consists of Hokkaido by itself.

Prefectures: Hokkaido

Kanji breakdown: 北 (north) + 海 (sea) + 道 (road)

東北 touhoku

The northern prefectures from Fukushima to Aomori (just south of Hokkaido).

Prefectures: Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Akita, Yamagata, and Fukushima

Kanji breakdown: 東 (east) + 北 (north)

関東 kantou 

The Tokyo area.

Prefectures: Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, Chiba, Tokyo, and Kanagawa

Kanji breakdown: 関 (gateway; barrier) + 東 (east)

中部 chuubu

Pretty much the center of Japan.

Prefectures: Niigata, Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui, Yamanashi, Nagano, Gifu, Shizuoka, and Aichi

Kanji breakdown: 中 (middle) + 部 (part)

関西 kansai

The Kyoto-Osaka region.

Prefectures: Mie, Shiga, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Nara, and Wakayama

Kanji breakdown: 関 (gateway; barrier) + 西 (west)

中国 chuugoku

The most southern part of Honshu.

Prefectures: Tottori, Shimane, Okayama, Hiroshima, and Yamaguchi

Kanji breakdown: 中 (middle) + 国 (country)

四国 shikoku

The four prefectures on the Shikoku island.

Prefectures: Tokushima, Kagawa, Ehime, and Kochi

Kanji breakdown: 四 (four) + 国 (country)

九州 kyuushuu

The most southern area.

Prefectures: Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita, Miyazaki, Kagoshima, and Okinawa

Kanji breakdown: 九 (nine) + 州 (state; province)

Eight Region Quiz

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Part III - The 47 Prefectures

These regions are further divided into 47 prefectures. The word "prefecture" came from the Portuguese who described the municipalities as such. Our list starts from the most northern part of Japan (Hokkaido) and ends with the most southern (Okinawa). Each page contains detailed information on each of the prefectures.

About the Prefectures:

The prefectures are not all called ken (prefecture) in Japanese. Of the 47, 43 are called “県 ken” — (prefecture). Two are called "府 fu" (Osaka and Kyoto). One is called "道 do” (Hokkai DO). One is called "都 to" (Tokyo to).

To remember it Japanese children learn the following poem:


itto, ichi dou | ni fu | yonjuu san ken
one “to,” one “do” | 2 “fu” | 43 “ken”

北海道地方(ほっかいどうちほう) Hokkaidou Chihou

Prefecture: Hokkaido

東北地方(とうほくちほう) Touhoku Chihou

Prefecture: Aomori

Prefecture: Iwate

Prefecture: Miyagi

Prefecture: Akita

Prefecture: Yamagata

Prefecture: Fukushima

関東地方(かんとうちほう) Kantou Chihou

Prefecture: Ibaraki

Prefecture: Tochigi

Prefecture: Gunma

Prefecture: Saitama

Prefecture: Chiba

Prefecture: Tokyo

Prefecture: Kanagawa

中部地方(ちゅうぶちほう)) Chuubu Chihou

This region is subdivided into:

  • 北陸地方 hokuriku chihou - Niigata, Toyama, Ishikawa, and Fukui
  • 東山地方 tousan chihou - Yamanashi and Nagano
  • 東海地方 toukai chihou - Gifu, Shizuoka, and Ehime

Prefecture: Niigata

Prefecture: Toyama

Prefecture: Ishikawa

Prefecture: Fukui

Prefecture: Yamanashi

Prefecture: Nagano

Prefecture: Gifu

Prefecture: Shizuoka

Prefecture: Aichi

関西地方(かんさいちほう) Kansai Chihou

This region is also called 近畿地方きんきちほう Kinki Chihou. 

Prefecture: Mie

Prefecture: Shiga

Prefecture: Kyoto

Prefecture: Osaka

Prefecture: Hyogo

Prefecture: Nara

Prefecture: Wakayama

中国地方(ちゅうごくちほう)) Chuugoku Chihou

Prefecture: Tottori

Prefecture: Shimane

Prefecture: Okayama

Prefecture: Hiroshima

Prefecture: Yamaguchi

四国地方(しこくちほう) Shikoku Chihou

Prefecture: Tokushima

Prefecture: Kagawa

Prefecture: Ehime

Prefecture: Kochi

九州地方(きゅうしゅうちほう) Kyuushuu Chihou

Sometimes Okinawa is given its own category as 沖縄地方(おきなわちほう) okinawa chihou.

Prefecture: Fukuoka

Prefecture: Saga

Prefecture: Nagasaki

Prefecture: Kumamoto

Prefecture: Oita

Prefecture: Miyazaki

Prefecture: Kagoshima

Prefecture: Okinawa

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