In ancient Japan did not have an official name. In the first literary productions of the country (VIII century AD) there are many expressions with which the writers of the time designate their land. Such are, for example, Aki – tsu – shima(“dragonfly island”, from the shape they believed their homeland territory to have), Mizuho – no – kuni (“the land rich in ears of rice”), Yamato (“the region of the mountains”, name of one of the central provinces where the emperor resided), Ō – ya– shima (“the eight great islands”), etc. The current official name, Nippon or Nihon, came into use, it seems, around 670 AD. C.; the other denominations, however, continued to be used in literature for a long time. Nippon or Nihon is just the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese Jihpên (short for Jih – pên – kuo, “the country of the origin of the sun”) name by which Japan was, and still is, known to the residents of China. It was precisely the name of Jih – pen – kuo which Marco Polo heard in China for the first time and which he made known in Europe in the form Cipangu. from which numerous other variants derived, such as Zipangu, Zipangri, Chimpagu and even Inpancho and others, with which, in the atlases and portolans of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the islands of the Japanese archipelago are mainly called. From these forms derive the Italian name Japan and the corresponding Japan, Japon, etc., of the learned languages of Europe.
Delimitation and extension. – According to Rrrjewelry, the Japanese Empire consists of a long chain of islands extending like a festoon, for a length of 4700 km. approximately, in front of the eastern coasts of the Asian continent and the peninsula of Korea which detaches from it and extends towards the south. The chain forms three slightly curved arches, with the convexity facing the Pacific, each of which embraces a sea, namely the Sea of Okhotsk, the Sea of Japan and the Sea of China. The central arch includes Japan proper, which is the main part of the Empire and consists of the 4 islands of Kyūshū, Shikoku, Hondo (or Honshū) and Hokkaidō (known abroad with the ancient name of Yezo), the most large from all over the archipelago. The other two arches are each formed by a chain of small islands, Chishima, “the thousand islands”), the one south of the Ryū-kyū islands, often known in Europe with the corresponding Chinese name of Liu-ch’iu (English: Loochoo Islands). The southern part of Sakhalin Island (Japanese Karafuto), and the island of Formosa (Japanese Taiwan) still belong to the territory of the Empire.); moreover, for the Sino-Japanese treaty of May 25, 1915, as a leased territory until 1997, the southern part of the Liaotung peninsula, constituting the territory of Kwan-tung, is under the direct Japanese state administration; and since 1920, following a mandate from the League of Nations, some rocks and islets that were already part of the German colonial empire, scattered in the Pacific Ocean north of the Equator and including most of the Caroline islands, are also administered by Japan, Marshall and Marianne, with the exception of the island of Guam, formerly belonging to the United States of America.
The following mirror summarizes some data on the territory of the various constituent parts of the Japanese empire.
Historical and administrative divisions. – In ancient times the whole country was divided into kuni. When and by whom this division first took place is not clear. The stories, however, speak of frequent changes in the number and boundaries of the kuni, already made in epochs prior to the great reform of the Taikwa era (645-650). The northern frontier of the Empire was then constituted by a fortified line or trench that from Akita, where it was a fort, on the Sea of Japan, crossed Hondo in a south-easterly direction, until reaching the coasts of the Pacific at approximately 38 ° 40 ′ of lat. N. Above it stretched the territory inhabited by the Ainu, warlike at that time, called Yezo (the wild country). It was only after its conquest by the Japanese that, in the century. VIII, the north of Hondo could be annexed to the Empire.
The kuni were divided into guns or districts, and grouped into d ō or divisions, established, according to tradition, by the empress Jingō Kōgō in 203 d. C., on his return from Korea, in imitation of the administration system existing in that peninsula. The d ō were first five, then seven, finally, when in 1869 the island of Yezo was annexed to the Empire and made a d ō (Hokkaidō), their number reached eight. A separate division, called Gokinai, formed a group of five kuni (Yamashiro, Yamato, Kawachi, Izumi and Settsu) constituting the imperial domain, in which the capital was located. In 1870 the divisions of the empire were made up as follows: Gokinai with 5 kuni, Tōkaidō with 15, Tōsandō with 12, Hokurikudō with 7, San-indō with 8, San-yōdō with 8, Nankaidō with 6, Saikaidō with 13, and Hokkaidō with 11: in total 85 kuni.
The kuni almost always corresponded to a physiographically separate province; its civilization therefore often had an independent development, with its own dialect, customs and characteristics.
In 1871, with the abolition of the feudal system, the old unity was abolished and the whole country was divided into 72 ken or provinces, corresponding to one or more kuni ; however, sometimes one kuni is divided into two ken. Three of them, which included the cities of Tōkyō, Kyōto and Ōsaka, were called fu, which distinction has remained to this day. Since 1889 the ken have been reduced to 43. Yezo, being considered a colony, has a special organization (see yezo). The 3 was and the43 ken total of 10,292 comprise walls or villages and 1468 machi or small cities, as well as 103 shi or large cities, with a population exceeding 30,000 souls.
At the head of a ken or a fu is a chiji (governor) appointed by the Ministry of the Interior, who presides over the provincial assembly (kenkwai or fusankwai). In every large city (shi) there is a mayor (shich ō), as well as there is a mayor (ch ō ch ō) at the head of each small city and one (sonch ō) at the head of each village. The following table brings together some main data for each province (ken):