Japanese Prefectures



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:

  1. Largest city in the prefecture at the time of founding
  2. Central location in the prefecture - For ease of transportation
  3. Historical "importance"

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 共武政表きょうぶせいひょう 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 令制国りょうせいこく (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 廃藩置県はいはんちけん (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 加賀藩かがはん, 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 (長州ちょうしゅう, 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 (さつま modern day Kagoshima, ちょうしゅう modern day 山口, とさ modern day Kouchi, and ひぜん 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 戊辰戦争ぼしんせんそう (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 賞罰的県名説しょうばつてきけんめいせつ (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 忠勤藩ちゅうきんはん (loyal domains), 曖昧藩あいまいはん/日和見藩ひよりみはん (unclear domains/opportunistic domains), and 朝敵藩ちょうてきはん (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.

Hokkaido - 北海道 (1886)

北海道 was formed from the merger of 根室県ねむろけん, 札幌県さっぽろけん, 函館県はこだてけん in 1886. The capital was Sapporo as it is centrally located and was home to the previous Hokkaido Development Commission.

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:
札幌の辺りぞ大府を置くの地なるべし…此の札幌に府を置玉はば、石狩は不日にして大坂の繁盛を得べく...津石狩は伏見に等しき地となり (Sapporo is the place where the government offices should be placed. If the government offices are placed here in Sapporo, Ishikari will soon be as prosperous as Osaka and Tsuishikari will be equal to Fushimi.)
合田ごうだ 一道いちどう in がんばれ北海道 quoting 松浦まつうら 武四郎たけしろう's records from 1857. Another source

Aomori - 青森県 (1876)

青森県 was formed from the merger of 弘前県ひろさきけん, 黒石県くろいしけん, 斗南県となみけん, 七戸県しちのへけん, 八戸県はちのへけん, and 館県たてけん on September 4th, 1871 as 弘前県 and capital at 弘前. But by September 23rd 1871, Aomori was picked as the capital and the prefecture was renamed to Aomori. One major stated reason is that Aomori is centrally located in the province.

It originally contained Map of Hokkaido from Meiji 4 (1871)a 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.

Original form of Aomori Prefecture
新編弘前市史 通史編4(近・現代1) ページ6 (New Edition of Hirosaki City History - Historical Overview 4 pg. 6)

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 野田のだ 豁通ひろみち. 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 「陸羽りくう第一ノ大港ニテ海運得便、陸奥むつ渡島おしま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 山田登やまだのぼる, which may have also dissuaded opposition.

Iwate - 岩手県 (1876)

Iwate was formed in 1870 with 盛岡藩もりおかはん as its base. Its original name was 盛岡県, but it got its name changed in 1872. It gained its modern form in 1876 after getting 二戸にのへ from Aomori, the northern parts of the disbanded 磐井県いわいけん, and some northern parts of 宮城県.

盛岡藩 was a major member of the Northern Alliance and because of that the ruling 南部なんぶ clan was demoted to lordship of 白石しらいし (Modern southern Miyagi) in 1869. But after agreeing to pay ~7 billion yen based on the 1両=1万円 estimate from BoJ700k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,

当盛岡県ノ名、元盛岡藩因襲ノ呼称ニテ...兎角藩治ノ風習脱却仕兼候間、今般新県御改立ノ折抦、旧名ヲ改メ、岩手県ト相唱申度 (The name of Morioka Prefecture is a name from the antiquated Morioka Domain... At any rate, it is difficult to break free of the old tranditions from being ruled by a domain. So, with the creation of a new prefecture, we request to change the old name and be called Iwate Prefecture)
館報としょかんいわて - No. 160 (2006), レファレンスコーナー (Library Newsletter Iwate - Issue 160 2006. Reference Corner)

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.

Miyagi - 宮城県 (1876)

Miyagi was formed in 1871 with 仙台藩せんだいはん as its base. Its original name was 仙台県, but it got its name changed in 1872. It gained its modern form in 1876 after getting the southern parts of the disbanded 磐井県いわいけん and some adjustments with 岩手県.

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.

Akita - 秋田県 (1872)

Akita was formed in 1871 with 秋田藩 as its base. 秋田藩 was originally known as 久保田藩くぼたはん, but its lords requested a name change to 秋田. A number of surrounding small prefectures (岩崎いわさき, 亀田かめだ, 本荘ほんじょう矢島やしま), にかほ area, and 鹿角かずの were merged in 1872 to give Akita it's modern form.

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:

久保田をやめて秋田に戻したいといってお願いをしているんです (Akita is the oldest name for our domain so we want to return to using a name with history behind it. We are requesting to stop using Kubota and return to using Akita.)
秋田県の秋田の由来は? - NHK (What is the origin of the Akita in Akita Prefecture)

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.

Yamagata - 山形県 (1876)

Yamagata was formed in 1876 with the merger of the original 山形県, 置賜県おきたまけん, and 鶴岡県つるおかけん.

The entire area had been members of the Northern Alliance and had fought against the Meiji government forces. In particular, 庄内藩しょうないはん (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 会津あいず and 庄内. The Nothern domains generally refused as they thought the treatment of Aizu and Shounai was unfair and formed the Nothern Alliance. 米沢藩よねざわはん (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 a ~3 billion yen based on the 1両=1万円 estimate from BoJ300k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 羽前国うぜんのくに 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:

Fukushima - 福島県 (1876)

Fukushima was formed in 1876 with the merger of the second version of 福島県, 若松県わかまつけん, and the majority of 磐前県いわさきけん.

The enitre area had fought against the Meiji forces in the Boshin War in the Nothern Alliance. 会津藩あいずはん 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 岩代国いわしろのくに and 磐城国いわきのくに. 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 白河しらかわ (pop 7391) in the far south and 二本松にほんまつ (5467), the most centrally located. One reason Shirakawa may have not been chosen was because its lord 阿部あべ正外まさと 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 郡山こおりやま. However, at that time, Kooriyama was a small town in the middle of a dry plain. With the development of the Asaka Canal (安積あさか疏水) 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.

Ibaraki - 茨城県 (1875)

茨城県 was formed in 1875 with the merger of the first version of 茨城, the parts of 新治県にいはりけん north of the (利根) Tone River, and parts of 千葉県ちばけん north of the Tone River.

水戸みと 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 常陸国ひたちのくに 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 下総国しもうさのくに 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.

Tochigi - 栃木県 (1876)

The majority of 栃木 came into being in 1873 with the merger of 栃木県 and 宇都宮県. In 1876, the parts in the west that belonged to 上野国こうずけのくに were given to Gunma.

Modern day Tochigi is nearly equivalent to the 下野国しもつけのくに (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, 鍋島なべしま貞幹ていかん, 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 三島みしま通庸みちつね 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.

Gunma - 群馬県 (1876)

The majority of 群馬 came into being in 1871 with the merger of many smaller prefectures. It merged with 入間県いるまけん to form 熊谷県くまがやけん in 1873. But, in 1876, it split off again and gained some of the western districts of Tochigi.

Modern day Gunma is nearly equivalent to the 上野国こうずけのくに (Kouzuke Province). There was a 文書館どより 第6号. pg 5proposal by 青山あおやまただす 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 文書館どより 第6号. pg 5source 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 (河瀬かわせ秀治ひではる). 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 of ~265million yen based on the 1両=1万円 estimate from BoJ26.5k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.

Saitama - 埼玉県 (1876)

Saitama was formed from the merger of the original 埼玉県 and the parts of 熊谷県くまがやけん that had belonged to 入間県いるまけん.

The original prefectural capital when the first version of Saitama was formed in 1871 was at 岩槻いわつき. It was moved "temporarily" to 浦和うらわ 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 松本まつもと博之ひろゆき, 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 (大宮おおみや: pop 1978, 浦和うらわ: pop 1602, 与野よの: pop 1280, 岩槻いわつき: pop 3921). In contrast, 川越かわごえ (pop 9276) the capital of Iruma Prefecture was much more developed and 熊谷くまがや (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 足立あだち even though Urawa was part of that district. That might be because of the "temporary" nature of the move.

Chiba - 千葉県 (1875)

Chiba was formed from the merger of 木更津県きさらづけん 印旛県いんばはん in 1873. In 1875, Chiba gained the parts of the dissolved 新治県にいはりけん south of the (利根) Tone River. In conjunction, they gave Ibaraki the districts north of the Tone River; some districts were also given to Saitama.

In 1873, Kisarazu Prefecture and Inba Prefecture both had 柴原しばはらやわら 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, 船橋ふなばし (pop 8117), 佐倉さくら (pop 6681), and 木更津きさらづ (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 銚子ちょうし (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 - 東京都 (1893)

Tokyo was renamed from Edo in 1868 and gained most of modern form in 1893 with the merger of the 三多摩さんたま area (Three Tama Areas).

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 the 東京都水道水源林の形成過程-明治期に現れたいくつかの経営計画を中心として. pg 10-11. (Formation Process of the Tokyo Metropolitan Forest for the Water Supply Conservation - Some Forest Management Plans Proposed in the Meiji Era)downside 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 東京都水道水源林の形成過程-明治期に現れたいくつかの経営計画を中心として. pg 12. (Formation Process of the Tokyo Metropolitan Forest for the Water Supply Conservation - Some Forest Management Plans Proposed in the Meiji Era)later in the year, a cholera outbreak in Tokyo that resulted in 1363 dead was reported to be 東京都水道水源林の形成過程-明治期に現れたいくつかの経営計画を中心として. pg 13. (Formation Process of the Tokyo Metropolitan Forest for the Water Supply Conservation - Some Forest Management Plans Proposed in the Meiji Era)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 東京都水道水源林の形成過程-明治期に現れたいくつかの経営計画を中心として. pg 16. (Formation Process of the Tokyo Metropolitan Forest for the Water Supply Conservation - Some Forest Management Plans Proposed in the Meiji Era)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 内海うつみ忠勝ただかつ 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 and 東京都水道水源林の形成過程-明治期に現れたいくつかの経営計画を中心として. pg 18. (Formation Process of the Tokyo Metropolitan Forest for the Water Supply Conservation - Some Forest Management Plans Proposed in the Meiji Era)so 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 東京都水道水源林の形成過程-明治期に現れたいくつかの経営計画を中心として. pg 17. (Formation Process of the Tokyo Metropolitan Forest for the Water Supply Conservation - Some Forest Management Plans Proposed in the Meiji Era)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 東京都水道水源林の形成過程-明治期に現れたいくつかの経営計画を中心として. pg 19. (Formation Process of the Tokyo Metropolitan Forest for the Water Supply Conservation - Some Forest Management Plans Proposed in the Meiji Era)heavy opposition in the West Tama area, which now faced restrictions on logging.

Kanagawa - 神奈川県 (1893)

Kanagawa was first formed as prefecture in 1868 to manage Yokohama. In 1871, it absorbed the nearby domains and gained the Tama area. In 1876 it absorbed the 相模国さがみのくに parts of 足柄県あしがらけん. In 1893, it gave up the Tama areas to Tokyo.

Kanagawa covers all of 相模国さがみのくに (Sagami Province) and part of 武蔵国むさしのくに (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 大岡おおおか River, the center of which is near the 高札場こうさつば) at that time was a undeveloped beach area around 安政の開港、平成の邂逅. pg 2. (Ansei Era Port Opening, Heisei Era Encounter)4km away from the Kanagawa station (at the mouth of the 帷子かたびら River, 安政の開港、平成の邂逅. pg 3. (Ansei Era Port Opening, Heisei Era Encounter)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:

東海道からは野毛山と海に隔てられている離れ島のような横浜の地形は、ちょうど長崎の出島のように、外国人を日本人と分離するのに都合がよい (Yokohama has geography like a remote island as it is separated from the Tokaido by Nogeyama and the Ocean. It will let us conveniently separate foreigners and Japanese people just like in Dejima Island in Nagasaki.)
井伊いい 直弼なおすけ - quoted in 安政の開港、平成の邂逅. pg 3. (Ansei Era Port Opening, Heisei Era Encounter)

America was not pleased with this development as they had 安政の開港、平成の邂逅. pg 3. (Ansei Era Port Opening, Heisei Era Encounter)compromised 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 - 新潟県 (1873)

Niigata was formed from the merger of the first 新潟県 and 柏崎県かしわざきけん in 1873. 相川県あいかわけん (Sado island) was merged in in 1876.

Niigata covers the entirety of the 越後国えちごのくに as well as 佐渡国さどのくに. Niigata (pop 32043) city was originally under the control of 長岡藩ながおかはん. 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 長岡ながおか (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 「米百俵こめひゃっぴょう」 (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:

この百俵は、今でこそただの百俵だが、後年には一万俵になるか、百万俵になるか、はかりしれないものがある (These 100 bags are only 100 bags right now. But in the future, they could become 10k bags or 1 million bags)
小林こばやし 虎三郎とらさぶろう - as dramatized in the play 「米百俵」 by 山本やまもと有三ゆうぞう.

However, the reality may have been that the Nagaoka Domain leadership wanted to 美談「米百俵」の誕生とその真実. pg 23. (The birth and truth of the tale of the 「100 bags of rice」)prove to the Meiji government that they were committed to the ideals of the new government. The 100 bags of rice would only be a 美談「米百俵」の誕生とその真実. pg 24. (The birth and truth of the tale of the 「100 bags of rice」)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. 高田たかだ (pop 25163) was far in the south in modern day 上越じょうえつ. 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 柏崎かしわざき (pop 7746), and 新発田しばた (pop 8919).

Toyama - 富山県 (1883)

Toyama was first formed in 1871 and renamed to 新川県にいかわけん later the same year. After gaining the rest of the land in 越中国えっちゅうのくに (Etchuu Province), it was merged into 石川県いしかわけん in 1876. Toyama become independent again in 1883.

Toyama Prefecture covers the entirety of the old 越中国えっちゅうのくに (Etchuu Province). During the Tokugawa Era, it was controlled by a subsidiary domain of the 1 million 石高 加賀藩かがはん (the largest in Japan after the Shogun) based in modern day Ishikawa Prefecture's 金沢かなざわ. Toyama city (pop 44682) was one of the biggest cities in Japan and the biggest city in 越中 by far. 高岡たかおか (pop 23724) was another large city.

Niikawa (Toyama) Prefecture and the northern part of modern Fukui Prefecture (嶺北れいほく) 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:

加・能人の急務とする道路の開鑿は、越中人に何の利益もなく、越中人の必要とする堤防の築造は加・能人これを無用とし (The excavation of roads that the people of Kaga and Noto [modern Ishikawa] find pressing have no benefit to the people of Etchuu. The construction of levees that the people of Etchuu need are useless to the people of Kaga and Noto.)
石川県史 第4編 (The History of Ishikawa Prefecture - Volume 4).

The conflicts over the budget came to a ふるさと富山 百三十年のあゆみ. pg 5. (Our Hometown Toyama - 130 year of history)climax 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 to ふるさと富山 百三十年のあゆみ. pg 5 コラム. (Our Hometown Toyama - 130 year of history)weaken the power of Ishikawa Prefecture. In particular, the head of the Home Ministry (内務卿), 大久保おおくぼ利通としみち, 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 - 石川県 (1883)

Ishikawa was first formed as Kanazawa Domain in 1869. It then became Kanazawa Prefecture in 1871. In 1872, the capital temporarily moved to 美川みかわ and got the name Ishikawa. In 1876, it absorbed modern Toyama and northern Fukui Prefectures. In 1881, Fukui became independent while Toyama became independent again in 1883.

Ishikawa Prefecture covers 加賀国かがのくに and 能登国のとのくに. 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 加賀藩かがはん (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 stated 石川県成立の歴史的考察. pg 7. (Historical Inquiry of Ishikawa Prefecture Founding)reasons 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 were 石川県成立の歴史的考察. pg 9. (Historical Inquiry of Ishikawa Prefecture Founding)reports 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 石川県成立の歴史的考察. pg 9. (Historical Inquiry of Ishikawa Prefecture Founding)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 major 石川県成立の歴史的考察. pg 11. (Historical Inquiry of Ishikawa Prefecture Founding)considerations 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 - 福井県 (1881)

Fukui Prefecture was first formed from the old Fukui Domain. After consolidation with a number of nearby prefectures in 1871, the modern day area was divided amongst 福井県 and 敦賀県つるがけん. Fukui was renamed to 足羽県あすわけん in 1872. In 1873, Asuwa Prefecture was merged into Tsuruga Prefecture. In 1876, the northern part of the prefecture was merged into Ishikawa and the southern part merged into Shiga prefecture. In 1881, both parts were split off again from Ishikawa and Shiga and formed the modern day Fukui Prefecture.

Fukui covers 越前国えちぜんのくに and 若狭国わかさのくに. 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:

異日或ハ動乱ノ基トナルモ亦知ルヘカラサルナリ (One day this may become a trigger for rioting.)
Proposal for Fukui Prefecture's independence as quoted in 福井県史 (History of Fukui Prefecture) .

One the other hand, the people of southern Fukui (嶺南れいなん), 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.

Yamanashi - 山梨県 (1871)

Yamanashi covers 甲斐国かいのくに. It was formed with the merger of the parts of 韮山県にらやまけん that belonged to Kai Province and 甲府県こうふけん in 1871.

During the Tokugawa period, modern Yamanashi Prefecture was under the direct control of the Shogunate. The name 甲府こうふ means the government center (府) of 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 - 長野県 (1876)

Nagano was formed in 1876 from the merger of the original Nagano Prefecture (covering the northern part of Nagano) and the non-飛騨国ひだのくに parts of 筑摩県ちくまけん (covering the southern part of Nagano).

Nagano covers most of the old 信濃国しなののくに. Nagano city (pop 6917) was quite a bit smaller than 松本まつもと (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. 明治初期、筑摩県の教育行政. 注28. (The Educational Administration of the Now Defunct “Chikuma Prefecture” of the Early Meiji Era. footnote 28)At the time, there was a rumor that the samurai of 上田うえだ, 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 been 明治初期、筑摩県の教育行政. 注28. (The Educational Administration of the Now Defunct “Chikuma Prefecture” of the Early Meiji Era. footnote 28)numerous 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 (元老院げんろういん), but the Ministry of Home Affairs (内務省ないむしょう) denied the request.

Gifu - 岐阜県 (1876)

Gifu was first formed in 1872 from the merger of all the lands in 美濃国みののくに. In 1876, the 飛騨国ひだのくに parts of 筑摩県ちくまけん were merged into Gifu.

When Gifu Prefecture was first founded, the capital was at 笠松かさまつ. However, it was too small to handle the entirety of Mino Province. At that point, Gifu city was proposed:

岐阜町は美濃で一番商業の盛んなところであり,交通運輸の便利な所であり,また今後永く県治の中心とするのにふさわしい所である (Gifu Town is the most prosperous place in Mino Province for commerce and it is a convenient location in terms of transportation links. It is a fitting place to be the eternal center of prefectural governance.)
Petition to 大蔵省おおくらしょう(Ministry of Finance) in 1872 as quoted in 近世岐阜町における都市軸形成とその後の変容. pg 8 (Formation of Urban Axis at the early Modern Age Gifu Town and Transformation Afterward)

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 大垣おおがき (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 (小原おはら鉄心てっしん). 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 awarded 維新政権の成立と大村藩. pg 69. (Establishment of the Meiji Government and Omura Domain)30k 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
From section on logging in Hida in the early Edo period - The Green Archipelago by Conrad Totman. pg 111. The standard method of logging involved river transport and the Kiso river system that went through Mino Province meant transportation links were often used.
easily done
via boat. Takayama (pop 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.

Shizuoka - 静岡県 (1876)

Shizuoka was first formed around the Shogunate controlled lands around modern day Shizuoka city. In 1876, the 伊豆国いずのくに of 足柄県あしがらけん. Later that year, 浜松県はままつけん was merged into Shizuoka.

Shizuoka Prefecture covers 駿河国するがのくに, 伊豆国いずのくに, and 遠江国とおとうみのくに. The capital, Shizuoka City, was historically known as 府中ふちゅう [Center of Government (of Suruga Province)] or 駿府すんぷ [駿河国中, 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 不忠ふちゅう (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 浜松はままつ (pop 11303) and 沼津ぬまづ (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 - 愛知県 (1872)

Aichi Prefecture began when Nagoya Prefecture was renamed to Aichi in 1872. The merger of 額田県ぬかたけん in Aichi in 1872 formed the modern prefecture.

Aichi Prefecture covers 尾張国おわりのくに and 三河国みかわのくに. 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.

Mie - 三重県 (1876)

Mie's predecessors were 安濃津県あのつけん and 度会県わたらいけん. In 1872, Anotsu's prefectural capital moved to 四日市よっかいち and its name was changed to Mie, the name of Yokkaichi's district. In 1876, Watarai Prefecture and Mie prefecture merged to form the modern Mie prefecture.

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 , which was home to the very large Tsu Domain. In 1872, the capital was moved to Yokkaichi as Yokkaichi was:

海陸湊合ノ地管内施政ノ都合輸入出或ハ郵便等事々便利 (A central point for both Sea and Land transport, the facilities are good, and convenient for import/export and mail)
From 「公文録」 (Records of Official Documents) as quoted in 県庁が津に定められた理由 (The reason the prefectural capital is in Tsu)

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:

他郡ノ称ヲ以テ県名トナスハ則名ノ正シキモノ非ス (Using the name of a different district as the prefectural name is not correct according to the rules)
「三重県改称之儀ニ付建白」 (Petition to change the name of Mie Prefecture) as quoted in 県名「三重県」の誕生 (The origin of the prefectural name "Mie")

Although the 内務省ないむしょう (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, 桑名くわな (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 伊賀国いがのくに and far to the west). Yokkaichi was also big at 10670.

Shiga - 滋賀県 (1872)

Shiga was first formed in 1872 when 大津県おおつけん was renamed to Shiga. Later that year 犬上県いぬかみけん was merged into Shiga, giving Shiga its modern day form. Between 1876 and 1881, Shiga included the southern part of modern day Fukui Prefecture.

Shiga covers the entirety of 近江国おうみのくに 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 長浜県ながはまけん with capital at Nagahama. However, Nagahama (pop 5369) was a relatively small city compared to the large 彦根ひこね (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 滋賀のアーカイブズ 2021.09 No.11. pg 5. (Shiga's Archives)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 井伊直弼いいなおすけ, 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 earned 維新政権の成立と大村藩. pg 69. (Establishment of the Meiji Government and Omura Domain)20k 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 嶺南れいなん are discussed in the section on Fukui.

Kyoto - 京都府 (1876)

Kyoto was formed from the 1876 merger of the original Kyoto Prefecture and some parts of 丹波国たんばのくに as well as the entirety of 丹後国たんごのくに that had formerly belonged to 豊岡県とよおかけん.

Kyoto (pop 226134) was the 3rd largest city in Japan and former imperial capital. It was natural to be the capital of the prefecture.

Osaka - 大阪府 (1887)

Osaka was orinally just a small area around Osaka city. In 1881, Sakai Prefecture was merged into Osaka bringing in modern day Nara Prefecture along with it. In 1887, Nara Prefecture was split off.

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 the 大阪府公文書館 - 歴史講座. pg 31. (Osaka Prefecture Public Archives - History Lecture)smallest 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.

Hyōgo - 兵庫県 (1876)

Hyougo started as just the area around Kobe port. In 1876, 飾磨県しかまけん, parts of 丹波国たんばのくに and all of 但馬国たじまのくに from 豊岡県とよおかけん, and Awaji Island from 名東県みょうどうけん were merged into Hyougo.

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 the 港湾都市の盛衰 - 神戸と堺の比較から. pg 8. (The rise and fall of port cities by comparing Kobe and Sakai)first 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 大久保おおくぼ利通としみち asked 桜井さくらいつとむ, 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 姫路ひめじ (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 - 奈良県 (1887)

Nara was first formed around just the city of Nara in 1868. In 1872, along with the abolishment of domains, all of 大和国やまとのくに was merged in. In 1876, it merged into 堺県さかいけん and became part of Osaka in 1881 as a result. In regained independence in 1887.

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 郡山こおりやま (now 大和郡山やまとこおりやま) 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 橿原かしはら.

Wakayama - 和歌山県 (1872)

Wakayama Prefecture was formed from the merger of the original Wakayama Prefecture, 新宮県しんぐうけん, 田辺県たなべけん in 1872.

Wakayama covers the majority of 紀伊国きいのくに. Wakayama city was capital of the large 紀州藩きしゅうはん, one of the three domains ruled by Tokugawa family members (Gosanke/御三家ごさんけ). 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 - 鳥取県 (1881)

Tottori was first formed in 1871 and gained the 隠岐国おきのくに (Oki Islands) from Shimane soon afterwards. In 1876, Tottori was merged into Shimane. In 1881, Tottori was reformed without the Oki Islands.

Tottori corresponds to 因幡国いなばのくに and 伯耆国ほうきのくに. The terrority is generally the same as the large Tottori Domain (320k 石高), which had been a supporter of the Meiji government, earning 維新政権の成立と大村藩. pg 69. (Establishment of the Meiji Government and Omura Domain)30k 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 山陰道さんいんどう, 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

この飛報は実に青天の霹靂であって、県民誰一人として信ずることは出来ない位であった。特に因幡人士の驚愕は言語に絶し (This urgent message was as shocking as a thunderstorm on a clear day. No one in the prefecture could believe it. In particular, the samurai of Inaba were rendered speechless)
鳥取県郷土史 - 鳥取県の再置 (Tottori Prefectural History - Tottori Prefecture's restablishment) as quoted in this blog post

Depending on the region, the reactions differed. For example, the Oki Islands had only recently been merged into Tottori and long been under 松江藩まつえはん's control (Matsue is the capital of Shimane) so they were okay with it. Houki Province shared many customs with 出雲国いずものくに 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 共斃社きょうへいしゃ (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 鳥取県ができるまで. pg 8. (Until the Establishment of Tottori Prefecture)such a problem that the Shimane Governor asked the Meiji government to split off Tottori.

The Meiji government sent 山縣やまがた有朋ありとも 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:

復活を求める有志には開化や自治の精神がある (The groups working towards revival have the spirit of self-governance and flourishing in them)
山縣有朋 as quoted in the Yomiuri

Yamagata Aritomo ordered for the restoration of Tottori Prefecture. The people of 米子よなご and 倉吉くらよし in Houki Province opposed this but their efforts came to naught. Their 鳥取県ができるまで. pg 9. (Until the Establishment of Tottori Prefecture)reasons 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 - 島根県 (1881)

Shimane was first formed in 1872 from the merger of 松江県まつえけん, 広瀬県ひろせけん, 母里県もりけん, and 隠岐国おきのくに (Oki Islands). Soon afterwards, the Oki Islands were given to Tottori. In 1876, 浜田県はまだけん was merged into Shimane; no longer after, Tottori was also merged in. In 1881, Tottori was reformed.

Shimane covers 出雲国いずものくに, 石見国いわみのくに, and 隠岐国おきのくに. The core areas around Izumo Province belonged to the large 松江藩まつえはん.

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 杵築きづき (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 - 岡山県 (1876)

Okayama Prefecture was first formed from 岡山藩おかやまはん. In 1875, it combined with 小田県おだけん. In 1876, it gave up the 備後国びんごのくに parts to Hiroshima. In turn, 北条県ほくじょうけん was merged in.

Okayama consists of 備前国びぜんのくに, 備中国びっちゅうのくに, and 美作国みまさかのくに. Okayama Domain was a major domain (315k 石高) in the Tokugawa era and earned 維新政権の成立と大村藩. pg 69. (Establishment of the Meiji Government and Omura Domain)20k 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 - 広島県 (1876)

Hiroshima was formed in 1871 from the old Hiroshima Domain. In 1876, it gained the 備後国びんごのくに parts of Okayama.

Hiroshima covers 安芸国あきのくに (also known as 芸州げいしゅう) and 備後国びんごのくに. Its core is Hiroshima Domain, which at 426k 石高 was enormous. They were anti-Tokugawa Shogunate. They had 激動の時代 幕末維新の広島と古文書. pg 5. (A tumultuous era — Hiroshima at the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the Meiji Restoration)refused 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 original 大政奉還と討幕密勅. pg 21. (Transfer of Power back to Emperor and the secret Imperial Edict overthrow the Shogunate)plan 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 大政奉還と討幕密勅. pg 24. (Transfer of Power back to Emperor and the secret Imperial Edict overthrow the Shogunate)the optimal timing was missed. Tosa (modern Kochi) went ahead with a petition to have the Shogun give up governmental powers (大政奉還たいせいほうかん). 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 (討幕の密勅とうばくのみっちょく). 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, つじ将曹しょうそう, 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 - 山口県 (1872)

Yamaguchi was formed from the merger of all the prefectures (岩国県いわくにけん長府県ちょうふけん清末県きよすえけん formed from the subsidiary domains (支藩しはん) of Yamaguchi Domain ) into Yamaguchi Prefecture. 徳山藩とくやまはん, another subsidiary domain, had merged before the abolishment of domains.

Yamaguchi covers 長門国ながとのくに and 周防国すおうのくに. Throughout the Tokugawa period, it was known as 長州ちょうしゅう or 萩藩はぎはん and was one of the primary instigators of the Meiji Restoration, being one of the 土肥さっちょうとひ. 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 村田むらた清風せいふう who instituted taxes on traveling through Shimonoseki Straits (下関海峡しものせきかいきょう).

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 毛利もうり lords of Choushuu and the lord himself.

Mouri lord: もうよかろうか? (It is time yet [to overthrow the Shogunate]?)
Vassals: まだお早う御座います (It is still too soon)
幕末史の研究. pg 263. (Investigating the History of the End of the Tokugawa Shogunate)

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 大内おおうち 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 毛利もうり輝元てるもと eventually controlled over 1.12 million 石高, founded Hiroshima city, and served on the Council of Five Elders (五大老) to help 豊臣とよとみ秀頼ひでより rule Japan. However, fellow council member 徳川とくがわ家康いえやす 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 中国ちゅうごく 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 completely 史跡萩城跡. pg 13. (Hagi Castle Ruins - Historical Landmark)undeveloped はぎ 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 - 徳島県 (1880)

Tokushima Prefecture was first formed from the old Tokushima Domain. It was soon renamed 名東県みょうどうけん. In 1873, Kagawa Prefecture was merged into Myoudou. In 1875, Kagawa was split off again. In 1876, the 阿波国あわのくに (Shikoku Island) was merged into Kochi Prefecture and the Awaji Island (淡路国あわじのくに) part was merged into Hyougo. In 1880, Awa Provinces were split off from Kochi to form Tokushima.

Tokushima Domain controlled Awa and Awaji Provinces. According to the Tokushima city history, after the abolishment of domains, the name change to Myoudou 徳島市史 第2巻 行政編・財政編. pg 55. (Tokushima City History - Volume 2 - Government and Finance Edition)was likely a punishment for Tokushima Domain being an 曖昧藩. The merger with Kagawa was 徳島市史 第2巻 行政編・財政編. pg 57. (Tokushima City History - Volume 2 - Government and Finance Edition)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.

また、阿土両国の合併を機会に、土佐側は峻嶮で悪路の土佐街道(今の国道三十二号線)の改修を計画し、その経費負担を両国均等にすることを提案した。阿波側は土佐街道の改修によって、大きい便益を受けるのは土佐側であり、阿波側にはほとんど恩恵はない。それにもかかわらず、費用の均分負担は、土佐側の横暴であると反対する (Also, with the merger of Awa and Tosa, Tosa planned to repair the dangerous and bad roads on the Tosa road [modern National Route 32]. Tosa proposed that the costs would be split evenly. From the Awa perspective, the only people benefiting from the repair of the Tosa road was Tosa. Given that, to say that the costs would be split evenly was simply oppression from Tosa. Awa opposed the proposal.)
徳島市史 第2巻 行政編・財政編. pg 58. (Tokushima City History - Volume 2 - Government and Finance Edition)

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 徳島市史 第2巻 行政編・財政編. pg 60. (Tokushima City History - Volume 2 - Government and Finance Edition)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 48861) was the largest city in Awa by far and the center of the important Tokushima Domain. Next largest was 小松島こまつしま (pop 3513).

This blog has a great post on Tokushima Prefecture's formation.

Kagawa - 香川県 (1888)

Kagawa Prefecture was formed from the merger of 高松県 and 丸亀県 in 1872. Kagawa was merged with Tokushima in 1873, but regained independence in 1875. However, it was merged into Ehime in 1876. It was finally reformed in 1888.

Kagawa Prefecture covers 讃岐国さぬきのくに. 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 名東県みょうどうけん (Tokushima) was 徳島市史 第2巻 行政編・財政編. pg 57. (Tokushima City History - Volume 2 - Government and Finance Edition)because 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 中野なかの武営たけなか who was closely connected to 大隈おおくま重信しげのぶ.

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 - 愛媛県 (1888)

Ehime was formed in 1873 from the merger of 石鉄県いしづちけん and 神山県かみやまけん. In 1876, Kagawa was merged in; Kagawa was split off again in 1888.

Ehime covers all of 伊予国いよのくに. The name Ehime comes from an old name for Iyo Province in the 古事記こじき. 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.

松山まつやま (pop 26424) was the largest city in Iyo Province by far and was home to the large Matsuyama Domain. The other large cities were 宇和島うわじま (pop 15396) and 今治いまばり (pop 12177). Matsuyama is centrally located and thus made sense as the capital.

Kōchi - 高知県 (1880)

Kochi was formed in 1871 from the old terrority of 土佐藩とさはん. It merged with Tokushima in 1876, but Tokushima split off again in 1880.

Kochi covers all of 土佐国とさのくに. 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 薩長さっちょうとひ. Tosa samurai 坂本さかもと龍馬りょうま 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 earned 維新政権の成立と大村藩. pg 69. (Establishment of the Meiji Government and Omura Domain)40k 石高.

For more details on the merger and split of Tokushima, see the Tokushima section.

高知こうち (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 - 福岡県 (1876)

Fukuoka Prefecture was formed in 1871 from Fukuoka Domain. In 1876, 小倉県こくらけん was merged in. Later in 1876, the southern parts of the former Kokura Prefecture were given to Oita Prefecture and the dissolution 三潴県みずまけん resulted in the 筑後国ちくごのくに parts being merged into Fukuoka.

Fukuoka covers all of 筑前国ちくぜんのくに and 筑後国ちくごのくに. It also covers part of 豊前国ぶぜんのくに. Fukuoka Domain was a huge domain (520k 石高) had supported the Meiji Restoration, earning 維新政権の成立と大村藩. pg 69. (Establishment of the Meiji Government and Omura Domain)10k 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 久留米藩くるめはん (210k 石高) and 柳河藩やながわはん (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 日田ひた 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 福岡ふくおか and 20985 in 博多はかた). Some other large cities in include 久留米くるめ (pop 20682) and 小倉こくら (pop 7459), the latter of which is nowadays part of 北九州きたきゅうしゅう.

Saga - 佐賀県 (1883)

Saga Prefecture was first formed from Saga Domain. In 1871, it combined with 厳原県いづはらけん (Tsushima Island) to form 伊万里県いまりけん as the capital was at Imari. In 1872, many of the smaller prefectures of Hizen were merged into Imari Prefecture, the prefectural capital was moved to Saga and the prefecture was renamed back to Saga. Tsushima Island and some other lands were given to Nagasaki. In 1876, Saga merged into 三潴県みずまけん. With the dissolution of Mizuma Prefecture, the former Saga lands went to Nagasaki. In 1883, Saga was reformed from Nagasaki.

Saga Prefecture covers the eastern part of 肥前国ひぜんのくに. They were a major pro-Meiji force, being one of the 薩長土さっちょうとひ. 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 and 佐賀市史 第三巻 - 市制施行と市勢の発展. pg 411-412. (Saga city history - Volume 3 - Establishment of Municipality and Development of the City)focused on the following:

The restoration of Saga was premitted in 1883.

Nagasaki - 長崎県 (1883)

Nagasaki Prefecture was first formed in 1869. In 1872, 島原県しまばらけん, 平戸県ひらどけん, 大村県おおむらけん, and 福江県ふくえけん were merged into Nagasaki. Later in 1872, the 対馬つしま Island was given to Nagasaki from Saga. In 1876, Saga was merged into Nagsaki. In 1883, Saga split off from Nagasaki again.

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 - 熊本県 (1873)

Kumamoto Prefecture was formed with the large Kumamoto Domain as its base. The southern part of Kumamoto Domain, nearby parts of 肥後国ひごのくに, and 天草あまくさ Islands became 八代県やつしろけん. Soon afterwards, Kumamoto Prefecture's name was changed to 白川県しらかわけん. In 1873, the two were merged keeping the name Shirakawa Prefecture. In 1876, the name was changed to Kumamoto again.

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 off 熊本県市町村合併史. pg 94. (History of the mergers of cities, towns, and villages in Kumamoto Prefecture)unlike 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 二本木にほんぎ, which is nowadays part of Kumamoto city itself. The name came from the Shirakawa River that runs through Kumamoto city. The stated 熊本市域における庁舎建築の動向と時代性. pg 3. (The construction tendencies of Government offices as related to the Kumamoto City borders and the era they were constructed in)reason 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 governor 熊本県市町村合併史. pg 97. (History of the mergers of cities, towns, and villages in Kumamoto Prefecture)petitioned 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

Ōita - 大分県 (1876)

Oita Prefecture was first formed in 1872 from the merger of 杵築県きつきけん, 日出県ひじけん, 府内県ふないけん, 臼杵県うすきけん, 日田県ひたけん, 森県もりけん, 岡県おかけん, and 佐伯県さいきけん. In 1876, it gained parts of 豊前国ぶぜんのくに from Fukuoka to form its present boundaries.

Oita Prefecture covers all of 豊後国ぶんごのくに and part of 豊前国ぶぜんのくに. 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 (大政奉還たいせいほうかん). However, all the daimyos in the Bungo Province suddenly, conveniently, and all at once 明治維新と大分県. pg 7-9. (Meiji Restoration and Oita Prefecture)"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 (大分郡おおいたぐん) that the capital 府内ふない (Inside the Government Offices of [Bungo Province]) was located in. The city of Funai was merged with many smaller nearby towns in 大分市歴史資料館ニュース vol 89. pg 2. ([Oita City History Records Archive] News. Volume 89)1875 and the resultant town was called 大分町おおいたちょう. It became officially known as 大分町おおいたちょう in 1878. In the population survey in 1879, it was recorded as 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.

Funai/Oita (pop 6924) was not the largest city in the prefecture. That honor would go to 中津なかつ (pop 11538) in Buzen Province. Nakatsu was albeit too far on the northern edge of the prefecture but the city of 臼杵うすき (pop 9419) is just like Funai/Oita centrally located. Funai Domain was a small Domain of 歴史的環境 pg 11. (Historical Environment [of Oita City])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 大友おおとも 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 - 宮崎県 (1883)

Miyazaki was first formed in 1873 from the merger of 美々津県みみつけん and the eastern part of 都城県みやこのじょうけん. In 1876, Miyazaki was merged into Kagoshima. In 1883, it was split off again.

Miyazaki covers 日向国ひむかのくに. During the Tokugawa Shogunate, around half of the area was controlled by the enormous 薩摩藩さつまはん 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 延岡のべおか (pop 7691) 都城みやこのじょう (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 (西南戦争せいなんせんそう) 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.

日向より徴収する...総額十万六千二百円...日向に支出する...八万五千円のみ。差引二万一千有余円は薩隅に投ずる (The total collected from Himuka is ~2.1 billion yen based on the 1円=2万円 estimate from MUFG106200 yen. The total given to Himuka is ~1.7 billion yen based on the 1円=2万円 estimate from MUFG85000 yen only. The difference of ~400 million yen based on the 1円=2万円 estimate from MUFG21000 yen goes to Satsuma and Oosumi.)
日向国史. pg 830-381. (Himuka Province History)

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 川越かわごえすすむ gained audience with 山県やまがた有朋ありとも 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 - 鹿児島県 (1883)

Kagoshima was formed from 薩摩藩さつまはん. In 1872, the 日向国ひむかのくに and parts of 大隅国おおすみのくに were broken off to 都城県みやこのじょうけん and the Ryukyu islands were broken off as 琉球藩りゅうきゅうはん. In 1873, Kagoshima gained the Oosumi Province parts of the former Miyakonojou Prefecture. In 1876, Miyzaki Prefecture was merged into Kagoshima. In 1883, Miyzaki was split off again from Kagoshima.

Kagoshima covers 薩摩国さつまのくに and 大隅国おおすみのくに as well as a number of islands. They were one of the main instigators of the Meiji Restoration, being one of the 長土肥さっちょうとひ. 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 (西南戦争せいなんせんそう) 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 - 沖縄県 (1879)

Okinawa was created as a domain in 1872 from Kagoshima. It was annexed by Japan in 1879.

Okinawa under the Ryukyu Kingdom was a tributary of China starting in 1372. In 1609, 薩摩藩さつまはん 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 琉球藩りゅうきゅうはん 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 annexed it officially as Okinawa Prefecture with capital was 首里しゅり. In the 1879 population survey, Shuri (pop 22542) was at the time bigger than Naha (pop 14905). Shuri was later merged into Naha in 1954.

Closing Thoughts

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:

  1. Largest city in the prefecture at the time of founding
  2. Central location in the prefecture - For ease of transportation
  3. Historical "importance"

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.