A long time ago, I remember challenging a friend to name the capital of all the prefectures of Japan, which turned out to be easier than I had thought. I'd ask the prefecture and they'd have to respond with the capital. Although my friend failed the challenge, what I didn't realize was that the majority of Japanese prefectures have the same name as their prefectural capitals. This is very much unlike American states.
More recently, I asked myself: What's the story behind the prefectural capital usually being same as the prefecture name? And what were the reasons a city would be picked as a capital? What is the story behind the founding of the prefectures?
For the second question, I assumed the main reasons would be something like the following:
I spent the last few months searching the web for an answer to those three questions, mostly using Japanese language sources. I didn't read any books cover to cover, though that might have helped. This post is a summary of the information I dug up. I tried my best to use "official" sources, but sometimes the reasons are mostly speculation. I will use the Western calendar as the system is just way easier to understand. The ordering of the prefectures will be by the Japanese governmental order which is approximately North to South. The date I chose is when the prefecture got most of its modern form. I will generally ignore offshore islands. Small changes could have occurred after the given date.
The population source I generally use is the first 共武政表 survey from 1875 (vol 1, 2). This survey was done by the army and is available in digitized form. Wikipedia also has a nice summary of other data sources from that era.
But first, some general background information about the creation of Japanese prefectures. This is probably not needed if you're well versed in Japanese history, though it would have helped me before starting this research.
The current prefectures of Japan came about around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Many of them correspond almost entirely to one or more old 令制国 (Provinces) set up in the Nara era (710-794), which remained unchained throughout until the Meiji Restoration (1868). However, throughout the Tokugawa Shogunate, the actual subdivisions in use was the 藩 (han/domain). Domains were controlled by a feudal overlords or 大名 (daimyo). All daimyos were nominally under the suzerainty of the Tokugawa Shogun, who also had a number of places under direct control such as Tokyo (Edo) and Osaka. Domains were replaced with prefectures with the 廃藩置県 (abolish domains and establish prefectures) movement in 1871.
The military capabilities of each of these daimyos was approximated via 石高 (kokudaka). One 石高 was supposed to be enough to feed one person for one year and non-rice items were converted into rice units for the purposes of the calcuation. The largest assessed value for one of the daimyos was 加賀藩, based in modern day Kanazawa, at over 1 million. Furthemore, because the assessed values were not updated frequently, many domains had effective 石高 that was much higher than the nominal amount (長州, modern day 山口, had an assessed 369k vs 978k effective)
Lastly, a small bit about the Meiji restoration itself. The restoration is often said to be brought about by the 4 southwestern provinces of 薩長土肥 (薩摩 modern day Kagoshima, 長州 modern day 山口, 土佐 modern day Kouchi, and 肥前 modern day Saga). Of these 4, 薩長土 were the original anti-shogun instigators and 肥前 was added later. The anti-shogun forces fought in civil war called the 戊辰戦争 (Boshin war). The most opposition came from Northern Japan, who formed the so called Northern Alliance. As the eventual victors in the power struggle, the southwestern provinces also took over the majority of the governmental positions after the Restoration.
One thing they did with that governmental power was to create the prefectures of Japan. This is the so called 賞罰的県名説 (Theory that Prefectural Names are a Reward/Punishment). There are a few variations of the theory, but they effectively claim that the names of the prefectures were picked as a reward/punishment for the events of the Restoration/Boshin War. In particular, it splits the domains/prefectures into 忠勤藩 (loyal domains), 曖昧藩/日和見藩 (unclear domains/opportunistic domains), and 朝敵藩 (domains that were the enemies of the court aka enemies of the Meiji Revolution). One claim of this theory is that non-loyal domains were supposedly not allowed to use their prefectural capital city name as the prefectural name. Furthermore, the capitals of many non-loyal domains were not allowed to be prefectural capitals. This theory has a number of issues and is certainly an oversimplification. For example, many of prefectural names were returned to the prefectural capital names like 富山 and there were many cases were the capitals of non-loyal domains were allowed to be prefectural capitals for many years like 若松県, which lasted 7 years. Despite these flaws, the theory has some merit so we'll mention this theory in some discussions, especially when the information is limited.
The Hokkaido Development Commission (開拓使庁) was established in 1869 in Tokyo. The buildings moved to 函館 in 1870 and then to 札幌 in 1871. In 1882, the Hokkaido Development Commission was absolished and the island was split into 根室県, 札幌県, and 函館県, which were combined in 1886 to form Hokkaido.
札幌 only had a population of 1785. Even though Hakodate (pop 28825) was much bigger and the central focus of development on Hokkaido up until then, the reason for the move from Hakodate to Sapporo may have been that Hakodate was too far to the south of the island.Sapporo was chosen as the spot in central Hokkaido for development for reasons such as the following:
It originally containeda part of southwestern 北海道 from 館県, but that was divested and became part of 函館県 in 1872. It gave 二戸 to Iwate in 1876 to get its modern day form.
The picking of 青森 as the capital is odd because 青森 (pop 10780) was a much smaller city than 弘前 (pop 33052). Furthermore, Hirosaki Domain had even been rewarded 10k石高 for their efforts in the Boshin war so it was unlikely to be a punishment against enemies of the court. According to the Hirosaki City History, Hirosaki was considered a loyal domain as the prefectural name was originally Hirosaki.
The reason for the change was likely due to the proposal of 野田 豁通. The stated reason was that Hirosaki was not centrally located after the merger of so many prefectures. Additionally, the use of Hirosaki's castle town would make it hard to break old feudalistic traditions. Meanwhile, Aomori was 「陸羽第一ノ大港ニテ海運得便、陸奥渡島両国ヲ管轄スルニ最上ノ要地」(The best port in Rikuu[modern day Touhoku] and thus convenient for sea transport. It is the best place to command Mutsu [Aomori Prefecture] and Oshima [Southern Hokkaido]). Another unstated reason was perhaps to avoid the large number of samurai in Hirosaki. The people of Hirosaki did not aggressively oppose the move of governmental buildings to Aomori, probably because they saw it as prudent to not oppose the new Meiji government. There had been an incident in 1871 that ended in the imprisonment of 山田登, which may have also dissuaded opposition.
盛岡藩 was a major member of the Northern Alliance and because of that the ruling 南部 clan was demoted to lordship of 白石 (Modern southern Miyagi) in 1869. But after agreeing to pay700k両 as punishment, 南部 was able to return to 盛岡. That however came with a reduction of 石高 from 200k to 130k. Due to this excessive debt, the domain came close to economic collapse. To avoid that, the Nanbu clan abolished its own domain and gave it to the Meiji government in 1870, before the rest of the country in 1871. The new prefectural name in 1871 came from the district (岩手郡) that Morioka was in. According to an announcement by the 太政官,
At least outwardly, the name change was supposedly a request from Morioka Domain. However, the truth is uncertain.
盛岡 was the largest city by far in the area with a population of 25457. It was also the historical capital of the large 盛岡藩 so it was natural to pick as the capital. Morioka is also centrally located in the prefecture.
仙台藩 was one of the leaders of the Northern Alliance and suffered a major reduction in 石高 from 620k to 280k. It took the name 宮城 from the district (宮城郡) where 仙台 was located. Just like with Iwate there are no real records indicating why the name was changed.
仙台 was largest city in the region by far with a population of 51998. It was also the historical capital of the huge 仙台藩 so it was natural to pick as the capital. Sendai is also centrally located in the prefecture.
Although Kubota was part of the Northern Alliance, they joined the Meiji side very early on 久保田藩 in the Boshin War. Since all their neighbors were enemies, they got invaded and suffered during the war. Before the abolishment of domains, the Kubota lords sent a request to change their name to Akita:
That request was accepted. With that the domain became Akita Domain and name of the castle town of Kubota was changed to Akita.
秋田 was the largest city in the region by far with a population of 33142. It was also the historical capital of the large 久保田藩 so it was natural to pick as the capital.
The entire area had been members of the Northern Alliance and had fought against the Meiji government forces. In particular, 庄内藩 (based in 鶴岡) may have triggered the Boshin War due to ordering the burning the Satsuma domain buildings (薩摩藩邸焼き討ち事件) as reprisal for Satsuma samurai causing havoc in Tokyo and burning Shounai buildings. After the defeat of the Tokugawa forces at the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, domains in Northern Japan were ordered to take care of 会津 and 庄内. The Nothern domains generally refused as they thought the treatment of Aizu and Shounai was unfair and formed the Nothern Alliance. 米沢藩 (aka 置賜) was one of the two leaders of the Northern Alliance along with 仙台. Thus, 庄内 and 米沢 were seen as particularly anti-Meiji and were punished accordingly in 石高 after the war (庄内: 170k → 120k [it's said that the punishment was lightened because of a300k両 payment from the Honma clan of Sakata], 米沢: 180k → 140k). Yamagata's lord on the other hand had been in Kyoto at the start of the war and were not allowed to return to their domain. In the interim, their retainer had joined the Northern Alliance. Because the lords had not joined the alliance directly, Yamagata did not suffer a loss in 石高.
The choice of Yamagata as capital was quite odd. It was only 3rd in population in 羽前国 at 17683. It was only half the size of 米沢 (pop 34911). 鶴岡 (pop 24092) was also quite a bit larger. The following is speculation, but some reasons it may have been chosen are:
The enitre area had fought against the Meiji forces in the Boshin War in the Nothern Alliance. 会津藩 was particularly hated by the 長州 forces. This was because the lord of Aizu had heavily suppressed 長州 activities as Military Commissioner of Kyoto (京都守護職); Aizu had also been a major force in the Battle of Toba-Fushimi. As described in the section on 山形, the ordering of other Northern domains to take care of Aizu led to the formation of the Northern Alliance. Aizu fought bitterly against the Meiji forces. After their surrender, their lord was forced from 会津藩 and its 230k石高 to a 30k石高 domain in Northern Aomori (斗南藩). Some 17k Aizu Samurai joined their lord in this exile. Many died.
Fukushima, inconveniently located on the northern edge of the prefecture, is an interesting choice for capital. Nowadays, it's the only prefecture where the capital is the 3rd largest city in the prefecture. But, maybe in the Meiji era, it was a much more notable city... Alas even in the early Meiji period, Fukushima (pop 6013) was nowhere close to being the largest city in the combined 岩代国 and 磐城国. 若松, the largest city in the prefecture, had over 3 times the population at 20588. To be fair, Wakamatsu is also inconveniently located and was capital of 会津藩. It may have been rejected as being related to 会津藩, but it was a prefectural capital for many years beforehand so that explanation is not entirely convincing.
A convenient location for Fukushima prefecture's capital would have to be in the central 1/3 of the prefecture (中通り). Some other cities of similar size to Fukushima at the time in the central area were 白河 (pop 7391) in the far south and 二本松 (5467), the most centrally located. One reason Shirakawa may have not been chosen was because its lord 阿部正外 had opened Kobe to foreigners. This was heavily opposed by 大久保利通 (Okubo Toshimichi), a major Satsuma statesmen (credit to this great blog for the links). Nihonmatsu may have been excluded because it had fought hard against the Meiji forces, refusing to surrender the castle in order to not betray the Northern Alliance. Meanwhile Fukushima had surrendered without fighting.
The reason for Fukushima as the capital are in the end unclear and without much basis. Some stated reasons in 「福島県史」are: To make it inconvenient to the people of Aizu, to remove the remnants of the anti-Meiji domains, Kooriyama was not big and had never historically been a capital, and Fukushima was a market town [note: as opposed to a samurai town] and close to Sendai's government functions.
The ideal choice of a prefectural capital would be in central Fukushima like modern day 郡山. However, at that time, Kooriyama was a small town in the middle of a dry plain. With the development of the Asaka Canal (安積疏水) in the early Meiji period, the area started to become prosperous. That canal involved 850k people, including many former samurai without work, and cost 1/3 of the yearly civil engineering budget of Japan. It has been been recognized by Japan Heritage (English version). Since then, there have been a number of movements to move the capital to Kooriyama. The earliest was in 1885, but there are still efforts in modern times.
水戸 was the head of the Mito Domain, which was one of the three domains ruled by Tokugawa family members (Gosanke/御三家). Historically, they were one of the few families allowed to provide a Shogun if needed. During the late Tokugawa era, Mito was famous for 水戸学 (Mito School of Thought). The Mito School of Thought was very influential in the 尊皇攘夷 (Respect the Emperor and Expell the Barbarians) movement that motivated many in the Satsuma and Choushuu domains to start the Meiji Revolution. Mito samurai had also rebelled against the Tokugawa government in the 天狗党の乱 (Tengutou Rebellion).
In 1871, Mito Prefecture was combined with a number of smaller prefectures in 常陸国 to form Ibaraki Prefecture. Ibaraki took its name from the district (茨城) where Mito was located. According to research by Mito City Middle Schoolers, this name change might have been because Mito had not contributed enough to the Meiji government. Movements to change the name back continued until 1877. In 1875 the rest of parts Hitachi Province and parts of 下総国 were merged in from Niihari Prefecture and Chiba Prefecture. The old path of the 利根 river formed the border, but the route of the river has changed so the border no longer follows the river.
水戸 (pop 19177) was the largest city in the prefecture. It was also the historical capital of the large 水戸藩 so it was natural to pick as the capital. The second largest city was 土浦 (pop 7788). Mito is also centrally located in the prefecture.
Modern day Tochigi is nearly equivalent to the 下野国 (Shimotsuke Province). However, the first Tochigi Prefecture formed in 1871 only contained the western part of Shimotsuke Province. It also contained a sizeable part of Kouzuke Provice that now is part of Gunma. When it merged with Utsunomiya Prefecture in 1873, Tochigi became the prefectural capital. In terms of the sizes of the cities, this was an odd decision as Utsunomiya (pop 15061) was much larger than Tochigi (pop 3968). This was even though much of Utsunomiya had burned down in the Boshin War.
According to research done by a student at Utsunomiya University, because Utsunomiya Prefecture only had the equivalent of a prefectural vice-governor (権参事) appointed, it was being prepared for merger even when it was first founded. According to that same research, 鍋島貞幹, the first governor of Tochigi Prefecture, had been operating under the idea of 一国一県 (One Province = One Prefecture) from even before the formation of the first Tochigi Prefecture and had used the Shimotsuke Province symbols previously. However, starting in 1882, a movement to move the capital to Utsunomiya began. The movement failed in 1882, but with the appointment of the civil engineering project loving 三島通庸 as governor in 1883, the movement gained momentum. They succeeded in 1884.
The main argument was that Tochigi was too far south in the prefecture now that the Kouzuke Province areas had been moved to Gunma. Utsunomiya, being centrally located in the prefecture, would be easily accessible. It was also more connected to Nothern Japan and to Tokyo via land routes. The Touhoku Main Line railroad also would go through Utsunomiya but not Tochigi. The Utsunomiya faction had dedicated supporters in 5 of Tochigi Prefecture's 9 districts while Tochigi City only had 2 districts as supporters. The biggest argument against moving was the cost of moving and the sunk cost of having newly built prefectural buildings in Tochigi. However, one major counterpoint and factor in the success of the movement was that Utsunomiya citizens were willing to pay for the move themselves:
県庁移転ノ費用ハ悉皆有志人民ニ於テ負担スベシ (The cost of moving the prefectural capital will be borne by volunteering citizens.)
The zeal of the Utsunomiya citizens for the move was tangible in the willingness to pay. Oddly enough the name of the prefecture was not changed. someone forgot to inform some local officials though as they proclaimed it Utsunomiya Prefecture. It was corrected not 6 days later.
Wikipedia has a great article on the move of the capital.
Modern day Gunma is nearly equivalent to the 上野国 (Kouzuke Province). There was aproposal by 青山貞 originally to call Gunma, 上野県 (Kouzuke Prefecture), but that was not taken up. It was also actually called 高崎圏 (Takasaki Prefecture) for around 1 week before a proclamation changed the name to Gunma Prefecture stating「高崎県ノ儀云々ノ情実モ有之候」(As for Takasaki Prefecture, there are many circumstances...) as the reason. The name 群馬 came from the district that conveniently both Takasaki and Maebashi are in.
The capital was picked as Takasaki originally for somewhat unclear reasons. Maebashi was bigger population wise (15063 vs 11285), bigger 石高-wise historically, and the castle had been recently reconstructed via donations from residents in 1867. This source speculates that it was because Takasaki had better transportation links as a station on the Nakasendo road. Takasaki is still better connected as it is on a Shinkansen route.
The merger with Iruma Prefecture into Kumagaya Prefecture occurred because because the two prefectures shared the same governor (河瀬秀治). When Gunma was reformed in 1876, the capital was again in Takasaki. There were some issues with the Takasaki prefectural offices such as there was no space due to the Army taking up the area around the castle and the general lack of space for public officials to live. Maebashi offered some facilities for free usage. The petition by the governor was accepted in late 1876. In December 1876, the so called Maebashi 25 (前橋二十五人衆) donated a total of26.5k両 for construction. An additional 4000両 was donated for a school building and other public buildings. The donors were primarily in the silk industry, which was thriving in Maebashi. According to the governor in 1877, the move to Maebashi was supposed to be temporary while the government was dealing with tax reform, but the prefectural capital was officially moved to Maebashi in 1881. Over 1000 Takasaki residents who went to Maebashi to protest. It went as far as a lawsuit, but in 1883, the Tokyo appeals court decided against Takasaki.
The original prefectural capital when the first version of Saitama was formed in 1871 was at 岩槻. It was moved "temporarily" to 浦和 after about 1 month. It would stay in Urawa indefinitely. As Urawa was a station on the Nakasendo, it would be easier to get to Tokyo. According to 松本博之, the real reason for the move was written in the Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shimbun (東京日日新聞, nowadays the Mainichi Shimbun) by a former Iwatsuki Mayor in 1935. The reason was because former samurai very skilled in martial arts in Iwatsuki were not hired by the government. As a result, the former samurai would brandish their weapons and harass the government offices.
Nowadays both Iwatsuki and Urawa are part of Saitama city, but it was an odd choice to put the capital there after the merger of the former Iruma Prefecture. At the time the main cities that formed the modern Saitama City were small (大宮: pop 1978, 浦和: pop 1602, 与野: pop 1280, 岩槻: pop 3921). In contrast, 川越 (pop 9276) the capital of Iruma Prefecture was much more developed and 熊谷 (pop 4053), the capital of Kumagaya prefecture was also bigger. Furthermore, by being on the southeastern edge of the prefecture, the modern Saitama City area was very inconvenient for the people of the Kumagaya area. Kawagoe was formerly ruled by the Matsudaia (a subfamily of Tokugawa) may have been a consideration and Kumagaya was also inconveniently on the northern edge. Regardless, the fact that the capital remained in Urawa instead being moved to a more central location shows that proximity to Tokyo was more important than convenience to the people of the prefecture.
The name Saitama comes from the district that Iwatsuki belonged to. It was not changed to 足立 even though Urawa was part of that district. That might be because of the "temporary" nature of the move.
In 1873, Kisarazu Prefecture and Inba Prefecture both had 柴原和 as governor. They were merged and the town of Chiba, directly on the north/south border, was chosen as prefectural capital.
Chiba was a small place at that point with population 3110. For comparison, 船橋 (pop 8117), 佐倉 (pop 6681), and 木更津 (pop 4395) were all bigger. There were many other similar or larger sized places. The choices of the Meiji era have a huge impact as Chiba City is huge with nearly 1 million in population nowadays. The other cities are much smaller.
With the dissolution of Niihari Prefecture, the large city of 銚子 (pop 19857) became part of Chiba. One wonders that if Niihari had been merged at the beginning, the capital would have been chosen somewhere in the middle of all three prefectures. According to this blog post, that would have been near Sakura. However, the merger to form Chiba was likely because of the shared prefectural governor so this counterfactual probably would never have happened.
Tokyo was the largest city in Japan with population 830917, but originally only was did not contain even all 23 modern wards. The Tama area had been split into 4 parts (north, south, east, west) in 1878. Tokyo got the East Tama area (modern day Nakano/Suginami) and Kanagawa got the other 3 (the so-called 三多摩).
Many of the things that people of the 三多摩 areas wanted to do around the Tama River were opposed to the interests of Tokyo and so in order to secure its water supplies Tokyo wanted to gain control of these areas. One example of opposing interests was that the people of 三多摩 wanted to use the Tama river to quickly transport goods to Tokyo. However, this came with thedownside of reducing water for farm usage and decreasing the quality of the water supply of Tokyo. In 1886, a request was rejected to move from Kanagawa to Tokyo the North and West Tama areas that were involved in the water quality issue. In 1886, most likely later in the year, a cholera outbreak in Tokyo that resulted in 1363 dead was reported to be caused by people of the upper Tama area washing dirty things. Although the report was untrue, it brought more visiblity to the issue and started other efforts to ensure clean water in Tokyo. Another example of opposing interests was with the West Tama area. There was heavy amounts of logging, which was determined to be a reason for the decrease in the water volume in the Tama river.
In 1892, a new request for Tokyo to gain control of the Tama area was made, this time including the South Tama area that was not directly related to the water supply issue. This was because the Kanagawa prefectural governor 内海忠勝 did not want to deal with the 自由民権運動 (Freedom and Civil Rights Movement) that was strong in the South Tama area andso added it in the new proposal. One major change compared to the previous proposal was the 1889 opening of the Kobu Line (甲武線), the modern Chuo Main Line (中央本線), connecting Kofu, Yamanashi with Tokyo. It made it so that goods could be quickly transported to Tokyo and in fact many people in the Tama areas went through Tokyo to get to the prefectural capital in Yokohama. It reduced the opposition from the people who had wanted to use water transport to Tokyo. The proposal to move the Tama areas was eventually accepted in 1893. There was heavy opposition in the West Tama area, which now faced restrictions on logging.
Kanagawa covers all of 相模国 (Sagami Province) and part of 武蔵国 (Musashi Province). The start begins with the opening of Japan with the Perry Expedition and the ensuing Harris Treaty (日米修好通商条約) in 1858. One of the provisions of the treaties was the opening of the port of "Kanagawa." Yokohama (at the mouth of the 大岡 River, the center of which is near the 高札場) at that time was a undeveloped beach area around4km away from the Kanagawa station (at the mouth of the 帷子 River, near modern day Yamashita Park) on the Tokaido road. However, it was chosen instead of Kanagawa station to be the port opened to foreigners. One reason was:
America was not pleased with this development as they hadcompromised already by agreeing to Kanagawa station; they had originally wanted Edo (Tokyo) or Shinagawa as one of the open ports. The Tokugawa Shogunate made the claim that Yokohama was part of Kanagawa. The Shogunate spent lots of effort to build Yokohama and also at the same time, they banned entertainment like prostitutes in Kanagawa to entice foreigners to go to Yokohama. This made Yokohama flourish and Kanagawa station slowly decline. Kanagawa station is now part of Yokohama.
By the early Meiji period, Yokohama (pop 63064) was one of the largest cities in Japan. Kanagawa the namesake of the prefecture was much smaller (pop 8890). Kanagawa initially asked for control of the Tama area as by the Harris Treaty foreigners were allowed to go (外国人遊歩規定 included up to 六郷川 — part of the Tama river) to parts of Tama area. They were given up voluntarily in 1893 to form the current shape of Kanagawa. For more information, see the Tokyo section.
The merger of Ashigara Prefecture brought in the rest of Sagami Province, including the large city of Odawara (pop 12639). Odawara had been historically important before the Tokugawa era as the home of the later Hojo clan. The prefectural capital was not changed with this merger. The reason may have been that Yokohama was much larger and related to the treaties.
Niigata covers the entirety of the 越後国 as well as 佐渡国. Niigata (pop 32043) city was originally under the control of 長岡藩. However, in 1836 and in 1840, the Tokugawa Shogunate exposed illegal smuggling of Chinese goods in Niigata city. To prevent the illegal smugging, the Shogunate took direct control over the port in 1843. Niigata was eventually opened to foreigners in the Harris Treaty (日米修好通商条約) as it was the largest port city on the Sea of Japan coast and under the direct control of the Shogunate.
Niigata city is a bit north in the prefecture. A more convenient position may have been 長岡 (pop 15882), a major castle town. However, Nagaoka Domain had fought fiercely against the Shogunate forces in the Boshin War fending off a force of ~20k Meiji solders for months with ~5000 soldiers at 北越戦争 (Battle of Hokuetsu). Because of the heavy military expenditure in the Boshin War and the huge reduction in 石高 from 75k to 24k, the domain had heavy debts. Many people in the domain struggled for basic necessities like food. Even so, the leadership worked to found a new school. There was a famous incident 「米百俵」 (One Hundred Bags of Rice) where a neighboring domain gave 100 bags of rice to help feed the local population, but the leadership refused to distribute any. In a dramatized retelling, they claimed:
However, the reality may have been that the Nagaoka Domain leadership wanted toprove to the Meiji government that they were committed to the ideals of the new government. The 100 bags of rice would only be a small part of the money needed to open a new school anyway. Indeed, the domain government didn't get any support from the Meiji government and overextended itself financially. Only a few months after the opening of the new school, in 1870, the domain governor gave up his governorship. That made Nagaoka Domain part of Kashiwazaki Prefecture. This was before the rest of the country had abolished domains.
The fact that it had fought so fiercely against the Meiji government in the Boshin war and the fact that it lost of governmental functions before the abolishing of domains likely prevented Nagaoka from becoming a prefectural capital. It definitely has a better location in terms of transportation links. 高田 (pop 25163) was far in the south in modern day 上越. Takada had directly fought against the forces of Nagaoka in the Boshin War and was historically the location of the Echigo Province government offices. However, it was still part of Kashiwazaki Prefecture and wasn't a capital so evidently it wasn't even in consideration. Other large cities included 柏崎 (pop 7746), and 新発田 (pop 8919).
Toyama Prefecture covers the entirety of the old 越中国 (Etchuu Province). During the Tokugawa Era, it was controlled by a subsidiary domain of the 1 million 石高 加賀藩 (the largest in Japan after the Shogun) based in modern day Ishikawa Prefecture's 金沢. Toyama city (pop 44682) was one of the biggest cities in Japan and the biggest city in 越中 by far. 高岡 (pop 23724) was another large city.
Niikawa (Toyama) Prefecture and the northern part of modern Fukui Prefecture (嶺北) was merged into Ishikawa in 1876 to form the so called 大石川県 (Big Ishikawa Prefecture). According to 福井県史 (History of Fukui Prefecture), the main reasons were to reduce the expenditures by prefectures by consolidating and strengthen central control by reducing the reliance on former samurai in old domains. However, Ishikawa prefecture was already a very difficult prefecture to govern with numerous samurai. Merging in Toyama and Fukui only made it more challenging.
There were some interesting reasons why Toyama was broken up. First, there was the movement by the people of Toyama. As part of Ishikawa, they found that their interests were frequently opposed:
The conflicts over the budget came to aclimax during the era of governmental fiscal contraction (松方デフレ - Matsukata Deflation) following the Satsuma rebellion. Governmental support for flood control stopped and the conflicts with the rest of Ishikawa prefecture came to a head; the prefectural assembly (県会) was even dissolved.
Another potential factor in the splitting up of Ishikawa Prefecture was toweaken the power of Ishikawa Prefecture. In particular, the head of the Home Ministry (内務卿), 大久保利通, was murdered by disgruntled samura from Ishikawa in the Kiozaka Incident (紀尾井坂の変). That marked Ishikawa as a difficult to govern prefecture. A new tax on medicine in 1882 may have been to generate revenue for the splitting of the prefecture. The alignment of both citizen and central government interests was very fortuitous.
This blog has a great series on the breakup of Ishikawa Prefecture.
Ishikawa Prefecture covers 加賀国 and 能登国. Kanazawa (pop 109685) was the 5th largest city in Japan (after Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya) and the biggest city in Kaga and Noto Provinces by far. It was home base of the 1 million 石高 加賀藩 (the largest in Japan after the Shogun).
Although Kaga Domain controlled Kaga, Noto, and part of Etchuu Provinces, Kanazawa prefecture only contained Kaga Province. In 1872, the governor petitioned to move the capital to 美川, farther to the south. The petition also advocated to change the name to Mikawa Prefecture. The statedreasons were:
The petition was accepted by the central government, but the name was changed to Ishikawa. One possible reason for the name change is that Kaga Domain was a unclear domain (曖昧藩) and the central government found it a convenient opportunity to change the name without upsetting the samurai of Kanazawa too much. Apparently, there werereports that after the announcement of the move, there were plans to attack the governor. However, Kanazawa Prefecture had already existed so this reasoning is somewhat suspect. Another possible reason for the name change is that inside the central government there was a rivalry between people from Satsuma and Choushuu. Since the governor was from Satsuma and a Choushuu person was in control of the Ministry of Finance, it's possible the government official didn't want to let a Satsuma petition go through unchanged.
After about a year, the capital was moved back to Kanazawa. Some majorconsiderations were:
This proposal was accepted. The later merger/splitting of the northern part of Fukui and all of Toyama are discussed in their respective sections.
This blog has a great series on the breakup of Ishikawa Prefecture.
Fukui covers 越前国 and 若狭国. According to 福井県史 (History of Fukui Prefecture), the given reason for petitioning the central government to change its name to Asuwa Prefecture in 1872 was an image change. The apparent reason for the merger with Tsuruga was to reduce the influence of the former Fukui Domain.
The main reasons for merging Toyama and Fukui into Ishikawa were to reduce the expenditures by prefectures by consolidating and strengthen central control by reducing the reliance on former samurai in old domains. However, Ishikawa prefecture was already a very difficult prefecture to govern with numerous samurai. Merging in Toyama and Fukui only made it more challenging.
Northern Fukui claimed they were very different from the people of Noto, Kaga, and Etchuu. One specific reason was that these differences might cause:
One the other hand, the people of southern Fukui (嶺南), mostly corresponding to Wakasa Province, did not have issues being in Shiga Prefecture. Shiga Prefecture's governor made sure to respect the existing systems in 嶺南. Money was spent to repair roads between Reinan and Shiga and expenses were paid for a new school in Obama.
The reason the southern part of Fukui was split up from Shiga was likely because otherwise Fukui would have been too small (Combined Wakasa + Tsuruga District ~ 110k population vs Echizen sans Tsuruga ~ 420k). After the merger, the southern parts continued to have movements to return to Shiga for quite some time.
Fukui (pop 39784) was the largest city by far in the combined Echizen and Wakasa Provinces. The next largest were Obama (pop 19271) and Tsuruga (pop 11476).
This blog has a great series on the breakup of Ishikawa Prefecture.
During the Tokugawa period, modern Yamanashi Prefecture was under the direct control of the Shogunate. The name 甲府 means the government center (府) of 甲斐国. Kofu (pop 15626) was the largest city in Kai Province by far. Being the capital of area under the Tokugawa Shogunate and centrally located, it was logical to continue in that role.
The name Yamanashi comes from the district where Kofu is located in. The reasons for the name change are unclear, but it might be because it was former Tokugawa lands.
Nagano covers most of the old 信濃国. Nagano city (pop 6917) was quite a bit smaller than 松本 (pop 14275). Furthermore, Nagano city is very far in the north compared to the centrally located Matsumoto, which had also been the capital of Chikuma Prefecture.
One reason for the choice of Nagano as the capital was likely the fact that the Chikuma Prefectural government offices in Matsumoto Castle were burned down in 1876. How caught on fire is still unclear, but this was conveniently right before the merger and it was treated as arsony.At the time, there was a rumor that the samurai of 上田, Nagano Prefecture, had learned about the incoming merger with Chikuma. Supposedly, the samurai thought that if the government offices at Matsumoto were unusable Ueda would become the prefectural capital as logically a central location like Matsumoto or Ueda would make sense. Thus, they saw it as beneficial to Ueda to commit arson. 3 suspects were eventually detained, but they were let go. The result was that because Matsumoto's governmental offices were unusable, Nagano's offices were considered good enough even if it was too far to the north.
Another potential consideration for Nagano was that 長野 was a temple town while Matsumoto was a castle town and thus had many more samurai. Avoiding samurai was at least a reason in places like Saitama.
Because of the inconvenient location of Nagano city, there have beennumerous movements to split up Nagano Prefecture from the inhabitants of the former Chikuma Prefecture. In the Meiji era, they manged to even get approval from the Chamber of Elders (元老院), but the Ministry of Home Affairs (内務省) denied the request.
When Gifu Prefecture was first founded, the capital was at 笠松. However, it was too small to handle the entirety of Mino Province. At that point, Gifu city was proposed:
At the time, the nearby 加納 (now part of Gifu city) was similarly convenient for transportation links, but it was not as developed commercially. Gifu city (pop 10800) was around the same size as 大垣 (pop 10158), but Oogaki was less centrally located for the Mino province areas. On the other hand Oogaki was home to a major castle town for a major Domain (100k 石高).
According to this report by a university student, one reason might have been bad blood between the first prefectural governor and an elder of Oogaki Domain (小原鉄心). Another potential reason is that Oogaki had fought Meiji forces at the Battle of Toba-Fushimi. However, thanks to the efforts of the aforementioned Ohara Tesshin, Oogaki Domain managed to quickly change and become a supporter. Oogaki Domain had major contributions in the Boshin war and after the war, they were awarded30k 石高 (tied for top gained outside of Satsuma, Choushuu, and Tosa). So the theory that they were hated by the Meiji government is somewhat flaky.
The areas in Hida Province from Chikuma Prefecture were likely added because going to Gifu was easier than going to Matsumoto, which involved crossing the Northern Alps (飛驒山脈) and would be near impossible in the winter. Going to Gifu could be more 13081), the capital of Hida, was larger than both Gifu city and Oogaki at the time, but definitely would have been way too remote from the Mino Province areas.easily done via boat. Takayama (pop
Shizuoka Prefecture covers 駿河国, 伊豆国, and 遠江国. The capital, Shizuoka City, was historically known as 府中 [Center of Government (of Suruga Province)] or 駿府 [駿河国府中, Suruga Province Government Offices]. It was historically a center of Tokugawa power — Tokugawa Ieyasu himself had retired there to govern from the shadows for many years. Following the Boshin War, the last Tokugawa Shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu eventually retired to Sunpu and many Tokugawa retainers followed him. Because the pronunciation of 府中 and 不忠 (disloyal) was the same, a new name was proposed in 1869. The name, Shizuoka, came from a nearby school on Mount Shizuhata. The Kanji was changed to 静.
Shizuoka city (pop 37724) was by far the largest city in the combined Suruga, Tootoumi, and Izu. Other large cities included 浜松 (pop 11303) and 沼津 (pop 10684). Shizuoka city was also conveniently in the central location and a city of historical importance so it was certainly natural it would be the capital.
In 1878, the Izu Islands were given to Tokyo.
Aichi Prefecture covers 尾張国 and 三河国. Owari Province was home to one of the major houses of the Tokugawa family (Gosanke). Following the Meiji restoration, it was first called Nagoya Prefecture. In 1872, apparently of it's own volition, it asked to change its name to Aichi Prefecture (from the district Nagoya is in). The stated reasons are that using the old name of Owari/Nagoya Domain would be confusing and indicate hesitance of the will to abolish domains. That may be something similar to what happened in Shizuoka.
It may have been a punishment from the new Meiji government as well. Though, the fact that it was allowed be named Nagoya for some time indicates perhaps not.
Nagoya (pop 109982) was 4th largest city in Japan. No other city in the combined Mikawa/Owari Provinces came close so it was natural for it become the capital.
In 1871, modern day Mie was divided into Anotsu in the north and Watarai in the south. The capital of Anotsu (meaning Tsu City in Ano District) was originally in modern day 津, which was home to the very large Tsu Domain. In 1872, the capital was moved to Yokkaichi as Yokkaichi was:
However, the real reason may have been that Tsu was full of former samurai who had no employment. Their discontent was directed towards the new government officials, who were from different parts of Japan.
Because of the move, the name was changed to Mie, which is the district that Yokkaichi belonged to. After over just a year, in 1873 the capital was moved back to Tsu. The main reasons for this change were:
Unlike on the move to Yokkaichi, the return Tsu was not marked by a new prefectural name. Some took offense to this in 1875:
Although the 内務省 (Ministry of Home Affairs) expressed agreement with this idea, it was left unhandled. This was because other prefectures like Kanagawa and Hyougo were already like this and the merger with Watarai was a more pressing issue.
Tsu (pop 15939) is indeed centrally located in the prefecture and historically important, but there were many cities larger. For example, 桑名 (pop 18640. Even farther north than Yokkaichi and Kuwana Domain was a major anti-Meiji force along with Aizu), 山田 (pop 18406. Modern day Ise, perhaps too far to the less populated south), and 上野 (pop 12385. In 伊賀国 and far to the west). Yokkaichi was also big at 10670.
Shiga covers the entirety of 近江国 and surrounds Lake Biwa. Ootsu had formerly been directly controlled by the Tokugawa Shogunate. The name change of Ootsu Prefecture to Shiga prefecture was proposed by the governor of Ootsu. The stated reason was that using the name of Ootsu would be a barrier to the ignorant masses (愚民) discarding old customs and becoming enlightened. The name Shiga comes from the district that Ootsu belongs to.
Inukami Prefecture is an interesting case as it was originally named 長浜県 with capital at Nagahama. However, Nagahama (pop 5369) was a relatively small city compared to the large 彦根 (pop 24368). Hikone was even larger than Ootsu (pop 15932). Likely because of the small size of Nagahama, Nagahama's prefectural capital was moved to Hikone in 1872. At, the same time the name was changed to Inukami, from the district that Hikone belongs to. Apparently the reason, Hikone Prefecture was not chosen was because it would prevent the throwing away of old customs.
When Inukami and Shiga were combined, it was odd because Hikone was noticeably larger than Ootsu. Perhaps, it had to with the fact that Hikone was home to 井伊直弼, one of the most hated pro-Tokugawa leaders. Ii Naosuke's assassination in 1860 was a major shock to Tokugawa Japan and helped lead to the Meiji Restoration. However, this hate for the Hikone Domain may not be truthful as Hikone was one of first major domains to turn against the Tokugawa government. They earned20k 石高 at the conclusion of the Boshin War.
However, due to the presence of Lake Biwa in the center of the prefecture regardless of where the capital is placed, it would be difficult for one part of the prefecture to reach the capital. It's possible that Ootsu's proximity to Kyoto and ease of access by boat made it the best choice for capital. Regardless, the choice of Ootsu as the capital was controversial. There were many movements in the Meiji and Showa eras to move the capital to Hikone, especially the development of the railroad in Maihara/Maibara.
The prefectures in Fukui's 嶺南 are discussed in the section on Fukui.
Kyoto (pop 226134) was the 3rd largest city in Japan and former imperial capital. It was natural to be the capital of the prefecture.
Sakai Prefecture was merged into Osaka at the suggestion of the governor of Osaka. The reason was that Osaka got relatively little land taxes as many people came into the city from outside the governed area. At the time, Osaka was also thesmallest prefecture in the nation. Furthemore, there would be lower costs from fewer duplicative prefectural services.
The proposal also had a number of other suggestions such as parts of Hyougo would go to Osaka, current Nara would be split between Wakayama and Kyoto, and Hyougo would get parts of Kyoto. Only the part combining Sakai and Osaka was taken up. There continued to be some movements to reform Sakai Prefecture, but they were not successful.
Osaka (pop 271992) was the 2nd largest city in Japan. It was natural to be the capital of the prefecture. Sakai was also a very large city with population 36457.
For specifics of Nara prefecture breaking off, see the Nara section.
Hyougo Port was one of the ports opened in the Harris Treaty (日米修好通商条約). At the time, Kobe was an undeveloped village. British Envoy Harry Parkes suggested that Kobe village would be a better location for a port. Foreigners at the time believed that Kobe was part of Hyougo and the Tokugawa Government didn't bother to correct them. One reason for the choice of Hyougo/Kobe in the first place was that thefirst choice, Sakai, would result in foreigners wandering around near the tombs of the imperial family. This would potentially disturb the peace of the imperial tombs and so Hyougo/Kobe was picked. Due to the closeness to Kyoto and the issues that led up to the Meiji revolution, it was not opened until 1868.
Hyougo/Kobe developed quickly and reached a combined population of 36030 (27476 in Hyougo and 8554 in Kobe) by 1875. Eventually, the two were merged in 1879.
In 1876, Toyooka Prefecture was dissolved. At the dissolution, apparently 大久保利通 asked 桜井勉, a person who worked with him from Tajima Province about if Toyooka Prefecture should be merged with Tottori. Sakurai replied that there was a long relationship between the people of Tottori and Toyooka but recommended combining with Shikama Prefecture instead because of the mountains between Toyooka and Tottori would make going back and forth difficult. Sakurai said that combining with Hyougo would make the land area too large. Ookubo replied "try again, we should make sure the open port in Hyougo Prefecture has all it needs" (開港場である兵庫県の力を充実させるように考え直せ).
In fact, Shikama Prefecture, with capital at the large city of 姫路 (pop 24272), was also merged into Hyougo. Shikama had originally been named Himeji Prefecture, but its name was changed after just a week. This was likely because of Meiji government pressure as Himeji was a strong supporter of the Tokugawa government. Later attempts to restore Shikama Prefecture failed, but revealed that the reasons for the merger of Shikama into Hyougo were likely twofold:
The island of Awaji's merger was a more willing affair, which will be described more in the Tokushima section.
Nara was first merged into Sakai as part of the general efforts to reduce costs. After the merger into Osaka, here were major complaints after merger that the taxes collected from Nara were only being used to enrich the other parts of Osaka. There wasn't enough for Nara to do forest management, river control, education, and promoting industry. Furthermore, there were complaints that the taxes were in general too high. The government agreed that the taxes were being distributed in an unfair way but did not decrease taxes.
Nara (pop 21210) was the largest city in Yamato Province, but it is located on the northern edge. The smaller city of 郡山 (now 大和郡山) with population 14851 , which had been the capital of the large Kooriyama Domain, may have been marginally better location wise. However, Nara was an ancient capital, which may have been the difference. There are still movements where 23/40 of the Nara prefectural assembly voted to move the capital farther south, this time to 橿原.
Wakayama covers the majority of 紀伊国. Wakayama city was capital of the large 紀州藩, one of the three domains ruled by Tokugawa family members (Gosanke/御三家). The current prefecture covers the majority of the Kii Province lands that Kishuu Domain possessed. Shinguu and Tanabe were both subordinate domains to Kishuu. Interestingly enough, unlike in Aichi, the Tokugawa rulers of Wakayama did not change the name of the prefecture.
Wakayama was a very large city with population 61105. The second largest was Shinguu (pop 9127). There was no large city centrally placed, and even today the prefecture's population is very low outside of Wakayama city.
Tottori corresponds to 因幡国 and 伯耆国. The terrority is generally the same as the large Tottori Domain (320k 石高), which had been a supporter of the Meiji government, earning30k 石高 for their contributions in the Boshin War.
The reasons for the merger with Shimane are unknown. It could have been that Tottori and Shimane by themselves were too small. Tottori's Inaba (pop 160k) and Houki (190k) combined for a total of 350k population. Since both Tottori and Shimane were both part of the 山陰道, it made sense to combine them. Even now, Tottori and Shimane are the two least populated prefectures in Japan.
This merger came as a surprise to the people of Tottori
Depending on the region, the reactions differed. For example, the Oki Islands had only recently been merged into Tottori and long been under 松江藩's control (Matsue is the capital of Shimane) so they were okay with it. Houki Province shared many customs with 出雲国 and was physically closer to Matsue than Tottori. However, the people of Inaba were very upset. Tottori Domain had been a much larger domain (320k vs 180k 石高) in previous times. Furthermore, Tottori was an ardent supporter of the Meiji Restoration whereas Matsue was lukewarm at best. Worst of all Tottori Domain had saved Matsue Domain from destruction just a few years earlier. For more information see the Shimane section.
In addition, after the merger there were complaints how the distribution of tax revenue was unfair. The people of Inaba and Houki didn't get any benefits from road repair. Because the government offices moved to Matsue, the economy of Tottori slumped significantly and many were without work. Lastly, a samurai group called the 共斃社 (Society with the Willingness to Die Together [To Achieve Our Goals]) was heavily involved in Tottori restoration efforts. However, the Kyouheisha was known for violence. This was such a problem that the Shimane Governor asked the Meiji government to split off Tottori.
The Meiji government sent 山縣有朋 to check out the situation. The attendants of Yamagata Aritomo opposed the restoration of Tottori saying that since if we listen to the requests of some samurai, there will be no end to the requests. They suggested leaving Houki Province in Shimane and combining Tottori with Hyougo. However, Yamagata Aritomo rejected this saying:
Yamagata Aritomo ordered for the restoration of Tottori Prefecture. The people of 米子 and 倉吉 in Houki Province opposed this but their efforts came to naught. Theirreasons for opposing was that they were closer to Matsue and the increased taxes needed to restore the prefecture.
Tottori (pop 37796) was by far the largest city in the combined Inaba and Houki Provinces. It is located inconveniently on the western edge of the prefecture, but it is historically important as the center of Tottori Domain. Yonago (pop 10361) was another major city, but between the two there weren't and still aren't any major population centers.
This blog has a great post on the restoration of Tottori Prefecture.
Shimane covers 出雲国, 石見国, and 隠岐国. The core areas around Izumo Province belonged to the large 松江藩.
In 1868, the new Meiji government had sent an official to Matsue Domain. After determining that Matsue was not supportive of the Meiji government, the official demanded a number of onerous conditions such as giving up half of Izumo Province (aka half of Matsue Domain), the death of the top domain officials, and the taking of the domain succesor as a hostage. After some debate, the Matsue Domain official decided to suicide. However, thanks to the intervention of Tottori Domain lord, who was a strong Meiji supporter, Matsue didn't have to do any of the above. This incident was one reason why Tottori was upset about being merged into Shimane later on. For more information about Tottori's independence, see the Tottori section.
It's said that the reason the prefecture is called Shimane from the district Matsue belonged to instead of Matsue Prefecture is because they were passive in their efforts to overthrow the Shogunate.
Matsue is located very inconveniently on the eastern edge of the province. However, with population 36102 it was the largest city by far and historically important as the center of Matsue Domain. The next largest cities were 杵築 (part of modern day 出雲, pop 7674), 津和野 (pop 6920), 浜田 (pop 6351). Of these only the area around Izumo or Hamada would make more sense location wise, but they were obviously much smaller in population and in historical importance.
Okayama consists of 備前国, 備中国, and 美作国. Okayama Domain was a major domain (315k 石高) in the Tokugawa era and earned20k 石高 for their efforts in the Boshin War.
Okayama city (pop 32372) was the largest city in the combined provinces, centrally located, and historically important. It seems logical to place the prefectural capital there. Tsuyama (pop 19411) was also a large city but it was far other population centers.
Hiroshima covers 安芸国 (also known as 芸州) and 備後国. Its core is Hiroshima Domain, which at 426k 石高 was enormous. They were anti-Tokugawa Shogunate. They hadrefused to participate in both Choushuu Expeditions (ちょうしゅうせいばつ) to punish Choushuu. In 1867, Hiroshima Domain formed a pact with Satsuma and Choushuu to use force to overthrow the Tokugawa Shogunate.
The originalplan was to have each domain send ~500 troops to Osaka and attack the castle while at the same time taking control of the situation in Kyoto with the already stationed troops (~2500 total). It was originally to happen to September, but there were various delays and the optimal timing was missed. Tosa (modern Kochi) went ahead with a petition to have the Shogun give up governmental powers (大政奉還). The Shogun in fact went through with it, preempting some of the impetus for violence. Because the imperial government didn't have any ability to do government functions, the actual power remained in Tokugawa hands. Meanwhile, there was a secret order to Satsuma and Choushuu to overthrow the Shogunate (討幕の密勅). The situation of Tokugawa continuing to have actual power was not acceptable to Satsuma/Choushuu and eventually resulted in the Boshin War.
According to novelist Hodaka Kenichi, the leader of the Hiroshima forces at the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, 辻将曹, saw the battle as one of personal enmity between Satsuma and Aizu as the Shogun had already given up power. Hiroshima troops apparently fired no shots in the battle. Hodaka claims that as a result of this pacifism, Hiroshima was left out of the positions of power in the Meiji era.
Again according to Hodaka, Hizen Domain (Saga Prefecture) had done very little in overthrowing the government. However, after the restoration, the Minister of Education (文部大臣) were from Satsuma, Choushuu, and Saga. As a result, if Hiroshima's exploits were more publicized, it would make Saga look bad. Instead of 薩長土肥, it might have been 薩長土芸. Lastly, Hiroshima only had a school for teaching teachers (高等師範) and thus they propagated the teachings of their bosses at the Ministry of Education.
Many of Hiroshima's records from the Meiji era were destroyed in the atomic bombing.
Hiroshima city (pop 66906) was the largest city in Aki and Bingo Provinces by a large margin. It was home to the large Hiroshima domain so it makes sense to be capital. Fukuyama (pop 17667) was the second largest.
Yamaguchi covers 長門国 and 周防国. Throughout the Tokugawa period, it was known as 長州 or 萩藩 and was one of the primary instigators of the Meiji Restoration, being one of the 薩長土肥. They were quite a large domain at 370k 石高 and by the Meiji Restoration their actual worth in 石高 was 980k, close to 3 times their stated 石高. This was in part thanks to the efforts of 村田清風 who instituted taxes on traveling through Shimonoseki Straits (下関海峡).
Even though they were prosperous, Yamaguchi had certainly had major beef with the Tokugawa Shogunate by the end of the Edo period. There a rumor that at the beginning of every year, there was a ritual between the vassals of the 毛利 lords of Choushuu and the lord himself.
The history of this hatred goes back to the founding of the Tokugawa Shogunate during the Warring States period of Japan. In the time of the 大内 rulers of Yamaguchi, the city of Yamaguchi was known as the Western Kyoto (西の京). The Mouri clan of Aki Province (Hiroshima) was one of their retainers and eventually took power. The Mouri clan under 毛利輝元 eventually controlled over 1.12 million 石高, founded Hiroshima city, and served on the Council of Five Elders (五大老) to help 豊臣秀頼 rule Japan. However, fellow council member 徳川家康 decided to take over full power for himself. This culminated in the Battle of Sekigahara (関ヶ原の戦い) where the Western Army led by Mouri Terumoto was defeated by Tokugawa Ieyasu. As a result of this defeat, the Mouri clan's holdings were reduced from near all of Japan's 中国 region to just the Yamaguchi area (1.12 million → 370k 石高).
Worse, it is said that the Tokugawa Shogunate did not allow them to have their capital at the prosperous Yamaguchi city. Instead, they were forced to have their capital at the completelyundeveloped 萩 on the Sea of Japan coast. However, it may have been that they chose Hagi on their own volition because of the ease of sea transport, which was the most efficient form of long distance transportation back then, and defensibility. Yamaguchi city is not on the coast so transportation would have been more difficult.
In 1863, the Mouri clan moved the capital from Hagi to Yamaguchi. The stated reason was that even though Hagi was in an advantageous defensive position, if they got attacked by foreigners by sea, it would be hard to give orders to Shimonoseki or the areas bordering the Inland Sea. It is said that this was actually so that they could achieve their long standing secret wish to return to Yamaguchi. However, due to the internal conflicts and defeat in the first Choushuu expedition sent to punish them, they were forced to relocate back to Hagi. By the second Choushuu expedition, they had moved back to Yamaguchi. Even so, because Yamaguchi was not very developed, many found it inconvenient to live in Hagi.
These reasons are why even though Choushuu was victorious in the Meiji restoration, the capital city was placed in Yamaguchi (pop 8933) instead of the much more populous Hagi (pop 30092) or Shimonoseki (pop 21175). Yamaguchi is centrally located and historically important from the pre-Tokugawa period.
In 1870, the Mouri clan declared they didn't want to be stuck with old feudal customs and ordered the destruction of Hagi castle, which had served as their capital for over 200 years.
Tokushima Domain controlled Awa and Awaji Provinces. According to the Tokushima city history, after the abolishment of domains, the name change to Myoudouwas likely a punishment for Tokushima Domain being an 曖昧藩. The merger with Kagawa was because Myoudou Prefecture didn't have a governor at the time so the Kagawa governor simultaneously controlled both prefectures. For information on the split, see the Kagawa section.
The merger with Kochi was likely to save on administrative costs, though both Kochi and Tokushima had reasonable amounts of population (520k in Kochi and 590k in Tokushima). However, this merger was very inconvenient for the people of Tokushima as there was no prefectural government in Tokushima. Furthermore, Tokushima had more population compared to Kochi and thus had more memberse in the prefectural assembly.
These grievances led to a petition to the Ministry of Home Affairs (内務省) to at least create a branch prefectural office in Tokushima. However, the minister recognized that creating a branch prefectural office would effectively turning the prefecture into two separate prefectures. It would be a single prefecture in name only. Thus the decision was made instead to reform Tokushima Prefecture with Awa and Awaji.
The people of Awaji opposed the merger into Tokushima and preferred staying in Hyougo. The stated 48861) was the largest city in Awa by far and the center of the important Tokushima Domain. Next largest was 小松島 (pop 3513).reasons were that it was difficult to get to Tokushima due to the Naruto Straits and trade was primarily directed to Kobe and Osaka as opposed to Tokushima. This petition was accepted and Tokushima was reformed with only Awa Province. 徳島 (pop
This blog has a great post on Tokushima Prefecture's formation.
Kagawa Prefecture covers 讃岐国. The largest domain, Takamatsu Domain, had fought against the Meiji government at the Battle of Toba-Fushimi. For that they were branded as 朝敵 and were invaded in the Boshin War. They surrendered without fighting. This may be why the prefecture is now named Kagawa after the district that Takamatsu was in instead of being Takamatsu Prefecture.
The merger with 名東県 (Tokushima) wasbecause Myoudou Prefecture didn't have a governor at the time so the Kagawa governor simultaneously controlled both prefectures. A petition to break up the combined prefecture was submitted saying that the geography and people are not the same so it is difficult to control both (阿波・讃岐で地勢異なり，民情も一ならず管理上不都合).
In 1876, after just having been reformed, Kagawa was merged into Ehime. Presumably, this was due to trying to save on administrative costs, though both Kagawa and Ehime had reasonable amounts of population (560k in Kagawa and 770k in Ehime). According to the Kagawa Prefectural History (愛媛県史), some of the problems of the merger for the people of Kagawa were:
There were doubts from the Ministry of Home Affairs that Kagawa would be able to support itself as Kagawa is small in both size and population (Kagawa is currently the smallest prefecture by land area). Because of that, there was discussion whether or not to merge with Tokushima again. Kagawa said that if the choice was between Tokushima and Ehime, they preferred Ehime. However, Kagawa also would show evidence they were actually above average in population and rice paddy count in both Shikoku and all of Japan. Eventually, all of Sanuki Province was separated from Ehime into Kagawa Prefecture. The terrority was the same as in 1872. It's said that a lot of the credit for the restoration of Kagawa was thanks to 中野武営 who was closely connected to 大隈重信.
Takamatsu (pop 32736) was the largest city in Sanuki Province and the former capital of the largest Domain in Sanuki. Marugame (pop 13753) was much smaller. Those two cities are similarly centrally located so it made sense to put the capital at Takamatsu.
Ehime covers all of 伊予国. The name Ehime comes from an old name for Iyo Province in the 古事記. The largest domain in Ehime, Matsuyama Domain had been pro-Tokugawa Shogunate. They were attacked by Tosa Domain troops and decided to surrender without fighting. It might be for this reason the name was first changed to Ishizuchi and then Ehime. For details about the splitting off of Kagawa, see Kagawa.
松山 (pop 26424) was the largest city in Iyo Province by far and was home to the large Matsuyama Domain. The other large cities were 宇和島 (pop 15396) and 今治 (pop 12177). Matsuyama is centrally located and thus made sense as the capital.
Kochi covers all of 土佐国. Tosa Domain was a large domain in the Tokugawa period with over 200k 石高 assessed. Its real 石高 was some 490k. They were a major pro-Meiji force, being one of the 薩長土肥. Tosa samurai 坂本龍馬 is considered one of the heroes of the Meiji revolution. He brokered the alliance between the historical enemies, Satsuma and Choushuu, to overthrow the Shogunate. Sakamoto Ryouma died before the Meiji Restoration was achieved. Tosa Domain participated majorly in the Boshin War and earned40k 石高.
For more details on the merger and split of Tokushima, see the Tokushima section.
高知 (pop 29539) was the largest city in Tosa Province by far, was historically important as capital of the domain, and centrally located. It was natural for it to be the capital. No other city had over 5000 population.
Fukuoka covers all of 筑前国 and 筑後国. It also covers part of 豊前国. Fukuoka Domain was a huge domain (520k 石高) had supported the Meiji Restoration, earning10k 石高 in the Boshin War.
The people of Chikugo Province from Mizuma Prefecture in particular had some grievances with the merger as the rest of Fukuoka. They had historically been part of the large 久留米藩 (210k 石高) and 柳河藩 (110k 石高). The specific grievances were that Fukuoka did not provide money for management of the Chikugo River (筑後川). They petitioned to combine with the 日田 parts of Oita to form an independent prefecture again. However, the people of Chikugo were not united in this effort, which may be why it failed.
Fukuoka City was the largest city in the area by far at 41635 (20650 in 福岡 and 20985 in 博多). Some other large cities in include 久留米 (pop 20682) and 小倉 (pop 7459), the latter of which is nowadays part of 北九州.
Saga Prefecture covers the eastern part of 肥前国. They were a major pro-Meiji force, being one of the 薩長土肥. Despite this, it was odd the prefectural capital was chosen to be Imari (pop 3993) in 1871 instead of Saga (pop 21661), a large city. According to 「佐賀県の百年・県政百年史」 (100 years of Saga Prefecture), this was on request from Saga itself as it would be a better place to control Tsushima Islands and also so that they could get rid of old feudal customs in Saga. However, according to 「伊万里市史」(History of Imari City), the reason was that the leaders of the prefecture had learned that they were going to start reducing the privileges of samurai soon and it would be hard to get rid of old customs without moving away from Saga.
Regardless, the reception was not positive and an armed demonstration of samurai marching to Imari occurred. The capital was soon moved back to Saga as it was inconvenient and Tsuhima Island was given to Nagasaki. This was a precursor to the Saga Rebellion (佐賀の乱) in 1874. One of the main causes of the Saga rebellion was the failure of the Seikanron movement to attack Korea. Because of the rebellion, Saga was seen as a difficult to govern prefecture (難治県) and thus was targeted for merger to Nagasaki in 1876.
The movement to restore Saga started in 1882 andfocused on the following:
The restoration of Saga was premitted in 1883.
Throughout most of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Nagasaki was the only port in Japan open to Western foreigners, albeit only to people from the Netherlands. Nagasaki was directly controlled by the Shogunate and it was one of the ports that was opened to all foreigners in the Harris Treaty (日米修好通商条約) in 1858.
Nagasaki (pop 29656) was the largest city in the area and historically important as the only port to trade with the Tokugawa Shogunate. It was a thriving commercial hub and also mentioned in the Harris Treaty. Thus, Nagasaki was natural as the capital of the prefecture. Shimabara (pop 16771) was also a major city.
For more information about the splitting off of Saga, see the Saga section.
Kumamoto Prefecture covers Higo Province. It was a very large domain of 540k 石高 in the Tokugawa period. However, the southern parts of the Kumamoto Domain were split offunlike the general trend of merging of smaller prefectures. This might be related to the fact that Kumamoto Domain did not contribute much towards the Meiji Restoration.
The name was changed to Shirakawa upon the move of the prefectural capital from Kumamoto city to 二本木, which is nowadays part of Kumamoto city itself. The name came from the Shirakawa River that runs through Kumamoto city. The statedreason for the move was that having the offices in the same place as the Kumamoto Domain offices would make it hard for the people to get rid of their old customs. The real reason may have been to avoid samurai. The reason Shirakawa was picked as because Nihongi was not well known enough.
After the merger with Yatsushiro Prefecture, the prefectural offices became too small and the governorpetitioned 4 times to move the offices from Nihongi to Kumamoto. After the success of the petition, the name of the prefecture was changed back to Kumamoto. According to a professor at Kumamoto University, the reason was probably that the name "Shirakawa" didn't have enough name recognition outside of Kumamoto City. That's why there were a lot of requests to change the name.
Kumamoto (pop 44619) was the largest city in Higo Province and historically important as the capital of the major Kumamoto Domain. Yatsushiro was the second largest city at 9021
Oita Prefecture covers all of 豊後国 and part of 豊前国. During the Tokugawa Shogunate, the area was split between many smaller Domains. In 1867, the court ordered all daimyos to come to Kyoto after the Shogun give up governmental powers (大政奉還). However, all the daimyos in the Bungo Province suddenly, conveniently, and all at once"fell sick" and couldn't make it to Kyoto in time. This was likely because the whole area decided to wait and see who would be victorious.
The prefecture is named after the district (大分郡) that the capital 府内 (Inside the Government Offices of [Bungo Province]) was located in. The city of Funai was merged with many smaller nearby towns in 大分町, whereas previously it was recorded as Funai. This was the rare case of the capital city changing its name to match the prefecture name.1875 and the resultant town was called 大分町. It became officially known as 大分町 in 1878. In the population survey in 1879, it was recorded as
Funai/Oita (pop 6924) was not the largest city in the prefecture. That honor would go to 中津 (pop 11538) in Buzen Province. Nakatsu was albeit too far on the northern edge of the prefecture but the city of 臼杵 (pop 9419) is just like Funai/Oita centrally located. Funai Domain was a small Domain of 22k 石高; there were multiple other Domains larger. Perhaps the reason Funai/Oita was chosen as the capital is that it was historically important in the pre-Tokugawa period. Under the 大友 clan, Funai controlled 6 of the provinces of northern/western Kyushuu (Bungo, Higo, Chikugo, Hizen, Buzen, Chikuzen). That historical importance as the center of the Bungo Province might be why Oita was picked. It might also be the larger amount of land to develop near Oita.
Miyazaki covers 日向国. During the Tokugawa Shogunate, around half of the area was controlled by the enormous 薩摩藩 based in neighboring Kagoshima Prefecture. That part became Miyakonojou Prefecture. The rest was combined in Mimitsu Prefecture. When the two prefectures were combined, their border included the village of Miyazaki (pop 1737), which was chosen to be the capital and the prefecture was named after it.
Miyazaki city might have been picked over larger cities such as 延岡 (pop 7691) 都城 (pop 7318) because the people of the province had different cultures so picking a central location was the best choice.
After the merger with Kagoshima, the prefectural capital at Miyazaki became a government branch office. However, in 1877 the Satsuma rebellion (西南戦争) occurred. Due to being controlled by Kagoshima, Miyazaki saw quite a bit of fighting. A few years after the defeat of Kagoshima in the rebellion, the people of Miyazaki started the movement to split off from Kagoshima. One of the main reasons was the infairness in tax usage for schools and roads.
Other major reasons include Kagoshima being very far and dissatisfaction at being involved in the rebellion. One of the leaders in the movement to split off Miyazaki 川越進 gained audience with 山県有朋 and was instructed to pass the petition in the prefectural assembly. After some setbacks, Kawagoe managed to pass it by a vote of 39-2 in 1883. Miyazaki regained independence soon aftewards.
This blog has a great post on Miyazaki Prefecture's formation.
Kagoshima covers 薩摩国 and 大隅国 as well as a number of islands. They were one of the main instigators of the Meiji Restoration, being one of the 薩長土肥. Kagoshima city (pop 89374) was enormous and the center of Satsuma Domain, the second largest domain in Japan (728k 石高). Kagoshima city was naturally picked as the capital.
Many of the early luminiaries of the Meiji period came from the prefecture. However, the prefecture had a huge percentage of the population who were former samurai (192k out of a total of 809k population in Kagoshima/Satsuma Domain). This was one reason it was labeled as a difficult to govern prefecture (難治県). In fact, many of the former samurai rebelled in the Satsuma rebellion (西南戦争) in 1877. That failed rebellion might have led to the splitting off of Miyazaki Prefecture.
For more information on Miyazaki's breakaway, see the section on Miyazaki.
Okinawa under the Ryukyu Kingdom was a tributary of China starting in 1372. In 1609, 薩摩藩 sent an expedition to assert control over the island. With that, Okinawa also started to pay tribute to Satsuma/Kagoshima as well as China. This tribute as well as the trade with China via Okinawa proved to be a source of wealth for Satsuma Domain.
With the Meiji Restoration, the central government started to assert more control over Okinawa. In 1872, Okinawa was split off from Satsuma as 琉球藩 and in 1874 it was forced to break off its tributary relationship with China. In 1875, its management was no longer under the Foreign Ministry but the Home Ministry. In 1879, Japan 22542) was at the time bigger than Naha (pop 14905). Shuri was later merged into Naha in 1954.annexed it officially as Okinawa Prefecture with capital was 首里. In the 1879 population survey, Shuri (pop
While researching this information, I definitely learned a lot about the Meiji Restoration and early Meiji era Japan. I wasn't always able to find convincing answers to my original questions of
However, in many cases I did find some good answers. I think my original assumption that the following factors would be important was mostly justified:
In particular, the city size and historical "importance" seemed quite important. It was generally rare for prefectures to prioritize central location. For example, Wakayama, Nagano, and Tottori among others are all quite inconveniently located. Also, it definitely felt like the prefectures in western Japan were more considerate of various factors, but I suppose that's the benefit of being on the winning side of the Meiji Restoration.
That said, it's not like centrality of location was never considered. I think one of the more interesting things is when a small city is picked as a prefectural capital and because of that becomes prosperous such as in Chiba and Miyazaki. It shows how important being chosen as a capital is. On the other hand, Fukushima city being only the 3rd in population in its prefecture shows how unimportant being a prefectural capital can be. On the note of Fukushima, one recent news topic has been that the release of the waste water from the Fukushima nuclear plant led to an Aizu Ramen restaruant receiving spam calls. The choice of the Meiji leaders to merge Aizu into Fukushima in a way caused this ramen store owner's troubles. It goes to show how important the decisions of the Meiji Restoration are even in the modern day.
Any error corrections or comments can be made by sending me a pull request.