Subprefectures in Hokkaidō

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Administrative divisions of Japan
Prefectural level
(都道府県 todōfuken)
Subprefectural level
(支庁 shichō)

(郡 gun)

Municipal level
Designated cities
(政令指定都市 seirei-shitei-toshi)

Core cities
(中核市 chūkaku-shi)

Special cities
(特例市 tokurei-shi)

(市 shi)

Special wards (Tokyo)
(特別区 tokubetsu-ku)

(町 chō, machi)

(村 son, mura)

Sub-municipal level
(区 ku)

Hokkaidō Prefecture has 14 branch offices called 支庁 (shichō) in Japanese, which is often translated in English as subprefectures. Normally, a subprefecture consists of a few to a dozen cities, towns, and/or villages.

For historical reasons, some older people in Hokkaidō use the subprefecture name suffixed by -kannai in their address.

History of shichō in Hokkaidō

1897 Nineteen shichō were placed under Hokkaido Agency (an agency of the national government): Sapporo, Hakodate, Kameda, Matsumae, Hiyama, Suttsu, Iwanai, Otaru, Sorachi, Kamikawa, Mashike, Souya, Abashiri, Muroran, Urakawa, Kushiro, Kasai, Nemuro, and Shana.
1899 Sapporo-ku, Hakodate-ku, and Otaru-ku were established as municipalities independent of shichō. Sapporo-shichō and Otaru-shichō were continued with remaining area, but Hakodate-shichō was dissolved. Previous Kameda-shichō was renamed Hokodate-shichō.
1903 Matsumae-shichō was merged with Hakodate-shichō. Shana-shichō was merged with Nemuro-shichō.
1910 Suttsu-shichō, Iwanai-shichō, and Otaru-shichō were merged to form Shiribeshi-shichō.
1914 Asahikawa-ku was established as a municipality independent of Kamikawa-shichō. Mashike-shichō was renamed as Rumoi-shichō.
1918 Muroran-ku was established as a municipality independent of Muroran-shichō.
1920 Kushiro-ku was established as a municipality independent of Kushiro-shichō.
1922 The six ku were restated as shi (cities). Sapporo-shichō was renamed Ishikari-shichō. Hakodate-shichō was renamed Oshima-shichō. Muroran-shichō was renamed Iburi-shichō.
1932 Urakawa-shichō was renamed Hidaka-shichō. Kasai-shichō was renamed Tokachi-shichō.
1947 Hokkaido Agency was abolished and Hokkaidō Prefecture was established. Hokkaidō Prefecture took over shichō.

Today, fourteen shichō effectively cover all of Hokkaidō. Technically, the shichō cover only towns and villages, although some commissioned business is conducted for cities.

List of subprefectures

File:Subprefectures of Hokkaido.png
Map of subprefectures of Hokkaidō

Numbers are those of the map above.

No. Subprefecture Japanese Capital Largest city [1] Region Pop. [1] Area
(/km²) [1]
Municip. Distr.
11 Abashiri 網走支庁 Abashiri 22px Kitami East or North 324,719 10,690.55 30.37 19 4
7 Hidaka 日高支庁 22px Urakawa Shinhidaka Central or South 81,403 4,811.96 16.92 7 6
5 Hiyama 檜山支庁 Esashi Setana South 46,999 2,629.88 17.87 7 5
6 Iburi 胆振支庁 22px Muroran 22px Tomakomai Central or South 426,627 3,698.00 115.37 11 4
1 Ishikari 石狩支庁 Sapporo Sapporo Central 2,310,001 3,539.86 652.57 8 1
8 Kamikawa 上川支庁 22px Asahikawa 22px Asahikawa North or Central 535,456 9,852.17 54.35 22 5
13 Kushiro 釧路支庁 22px Kushiro 22px Kushiro East 261,883 5,997.38 43.67 8 5
14 Nemuro 根室支庁 22px Nemuro 22px Nemuro East 84,035 3,406.23 24.67 5 3
4 Oshima 渡島支庁 Hakodate Hakodate South 449,371 3,936.32 114.16 11 6
9 Rumoi 留萌支庁 Rumoi Rumoi North 61,488 4,019.91 15.30 9 4
3 Shiribeshi 後志支庁 Kutchan 22px Otaru Central 250,065 4,305.82 58.08 20 9
2 Sorachi 空知支庁 22px Iwamizawa 22px Iwamizawa Central or North 365,563 6,558.22 55.74 25 4
10 Sōya 宗谷支庁 22px Wakkanai 22px Wakkanai North 75,665 4,050.76 18.68 9 5
12 Tokachi 十勝支庁 22px Obihiro 22px Obihiro East 354,147 10,831.24 32.70 19 7

Japan claims the southern part of Kuril Islands (Northern Territories), currently administered by Russia, belong to Nemuro Subprefecture. However, the table above excludes these islands' data.

Possible reorganization

The prefectural government of Hokkaidō planned to reorganize the current 14 subprefectures into 9 development bureaus. Five subprefectures, namely Hidaka, Hiyama, Ishikari, Nemuro, and Rumoi were subject to be cut down. The capital municipalities of these subprefectures opposed the plan, but on June 28 2008, the prefectural council passed the ordinance of the reorganization. [2] The change was going to take effect from April 2009.

However, it is now impossible to make the reform on time. The amendment of the Public Offices Election Act was needed to accomplish the reform, but it is not yet done as of March 2009. It is not clear whether the plan will be really enforced in future. The Liberal Democratic Party is pushing the reform, while the Democratic Party is against it.

List of planned development bureaus

The general development bureaus (総合振興局 sōgō shinkō-kyoku?) are equivalent to the current subprefectures, while the development bureaus (振興局 shinkō-kyoku?) are the branch offices of them.

  • Dōō General Development Bureau (道央総合振興局), Iwamizawa, covering Ishikari and Sorachi areas. (Horokanai will belong to Dōhoku General Development Bureau.)
    • Ishikari Development Bureau (石狩振興局), Sapporo, covering Ishikari area
  • Shiribeshi General Development Bureau (後志総合振興局), Kutchan, covering Shiribeshi area
  • Nittan General Development Bureau (日胆総合振興局), Muroran, covering Iburi and Hidaka areas
    • Hidaka Development Bureau (日高振興局), Urakawa, covering Hidaka area
  • Dōnan General Development Bureau (道南総合振興局), Hakodate, covering Oshima and Hiyama areas
    • Hiyama Development Bureau (檜山振興局), Esashi, covering Hiyama area
  • Dōhoku General Development Bureau (道北総合振興局), Asahikawa, covering Kamikawa and Rumoi areas
    • Rumoi Development Bureau (留萌振興局), Rumoi, covering Rumoi area. (Horonobe will belong to Sōya General Development Bureau.)
  • Sōya General Development Bureau (宗谷総合振興局), Wakkanai, covering Sōya area
  • Okhotsk General Development Bureau (オホーツク総合振興局), Abashiri, covering Abashiri area
  • Tokachi General Development Bureau (十勝総合振興局), Obihiro, covering Tokachi area
  • Dōtō General Development Bureau (道東総合振興局), Kushiro, covering Kushiro and Nemuro areas
    • Nemuro Development Bureau (根室振興局), Nemuro, covering Nemuro area


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 As of March 2009.
  2. (Japanese) 釧路支庁が道東総合振興局に、道の支庁改革条例成立 (Kushiro Subprefecture will be Dōtō General Development Bureau, the ordinance for the subprefetural reformation is passed), by Kushiro Shinbun, June 29 2008

External links