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The Fuhanken Sanchisei (府藩県三治制, "Fu, Han and Ken three-tiered Governance System") was the subnational government structure in early Meiji Japan. It lasted from the Boshin War, the start to the Meiji Restoration, in 1868 until the replacement of all remaining feudal domains (-han) with prefectures (-ken) in 1871. During this period, prefectures, urban prefectures (, fu) and rural prefectures (, ken), controlled by the new central government, and daimyō Domains (, han), still under their pre-restoration feudal rulers, formed the primary administrative subdivisions of the country. The exact numbers varied continually as adjustments to the feudal territorial divisions, mergers and splits started to take up pace, but very roughly there were about >250 -han and about <50 -fu/-ken in total during this time.

As the political borders changed all the time, ancient ritsuryō provinces, essentially static except for some modernizing adjustments in the North where the giant provinces of Mutsu and Dewa (both Tōsan Circuit) were split up and a new circuit (Hokkai Circuit) with 10 provinces was added on Ezo, remained the primary geographic frame of reference even in Meiji Japan until around the turn of the century – just as they had been throughout the late Middle Ages and early modern period.

When initially creating prefecture suffixes, the Seitaisho proclaimed all areas with a jōdai (castle minder), namely Osaka, Sunpu and Kyoto, the shoshidai or a bugyō were given the prefectural suffix fu, while any other area was designated ken. The first two urban prefectures (, fu) were created on June 14, 1868: Kyoto-fu and Hakodate-fu. By the end of 1868, ten fu had been established: Kyoto, Hakodate, Osaka, Nagasaki, Edo (later Tokyo), Kanagawa, Watarai, Nara, Echigo (later Niigata) and Kōfu. Due to some prefectures gaining non-urban land or being amalgamated into other territories, in 1869 three remained: Kyoto-fu, Osaka-fu and Tokyo-fu. This remained the same until 1943, when Tokyo-fu and Tokyo-shi were merged to form Tokyo-to.

Aftermath

After three major merger/reorganization waves and many smaller mergers, splits and border changes between the initially >300 prefectures (down to 75 by 1872, to <40 in the late 1870s), they took generally their present forms

It was the convention to name prefectures and han after the location of their [actual or in some cases: planned] prefectural/domain government, either by town/village or later often by ritsuryō district (e.g. Mie, Saitama, Inba, Gunma). ken created in 1871 are generally named after their precursor han.

In June 1868, an interim constitution called the Seitaisho (政体書) was proclaimed, drafted by Fukuoka Takachika and Soejima Taneomi, which established central government in Japan under the Meiji government. The act dissolved the Tokugawa era court houses, creating government controlled prefectural governors called chifuji (知府事) and chikenji (知県事). All other areas still under the power of a daimyo, han, were left as they were with no structure changes, and an independent justice system.[1]

On June 14, 1868, Hakodate-fu and Kyoto-fu were established as the first two prefectures under the new changes. At the time, the Imperial government army forces were fighting the Republic of Ezo in the On June 14, 1868, Hakodate-fu and Kyoto-fu were established as the first two prefectures under the new changes. At the time, the Imperial government army forces were fighting the Republic of Ezo in the Battle of Hakodate, and despite the proclamation, the city of Hakodate had not fallen yet. By end of June, 11 prefectures had been created, including Edo-fu.

In July and August 1869 during the abolition of the han system, the government issued hanseki hokan (版籍奉還) to the remaining Han, asking them to voluntarily return their domains, and later were ordered to by the Court, on threat of military action. The Daimyo who agreed to this were appointed as chihanji (知藩事, "domain governors"), who had to follow the laws and instructions of the central government.

Many territories that became the first prefectures were territories confiscated from domains in the Boshin War, especially domains part of the Ōuetsu Reppan Dōmei alliance.

Areas in Kanto did not initially receive a proper prefecture name and suffix, even though they had appointed officials for the areas.

When initially creating prefecture suffixes, the Seitaisho proclaimed all areas with a jōdai (castle minder), namely Osaka, Sunpu and Kyoto, the shoshidai or a bugyō were given the prefectural suffix fu, while any other area was designated ken. The first two urban prefectures (, fu) were created on June 14, 1868: Kyoto-fu and Hakodate-fu. By the end of 1868, ten fu had been established: Kyoto, Hakodate, Osaka, Nagasaki, Edo (later Tokyo), Kanagawa, Watarai, Nara, Echigo (later Niigata) and Kōfu. Due to some prefectures gaining non-urban land or being amalgamated into other territories, in 1869 three remained: Kyoto-fu, Osaka-fu and Tokyo-fu. This remained the same until 1943, when Tokyo-fu and Tokyo-shi were merged to form Tokyo-to.

Aftermath

After three major merger/reorganization waves and many smaller mergers, splits and border changes between the initially >300 prefectures (down to 75 by 1872, to <40 in the late 1870s), they took generally their present forms in the 1890s. The last

After three major merger/reorganization waves and many smaller mergers, splits and border changes between the initially >300 prefectures (down to 75 by 1872, to <40 in the late 1870s), they took generally their present forms in the 1890s. The last change involving an entire prefecture was the separation of Kagawa from Ehime in 1888, a very late large territorial change was the transfer of the Tama area from Kanagawa to Tokyo in 1893. (Comparatively smaller changes through cross-prefectural municipal mergers or transfers of single neighbourhoods, border corrections through land changes, etc. continue to the day.) After the 1871/72 mergers, prefectures are contiguous, compact territories resembling or even identical to the ritsuryō provinces in many places.

Established prefectures

Region Establishment Disestablishment Notes
Edo-fu (江戸府) June 30, 1