Geographical review of Japan, Series B.
Online ISSN : 2185-1700
Print ISSN : 0289-6001
ISSN-L : 0289-6001
Rail Names as Indicators of Enduring Influence of Old Provinces in Modern Japan
Loren SIEBERT
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2000 Volume 73 Issue 1 Pages 1-26

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Abstract

Department of Geography and Planning, University of Akron, Abstract: Japan's ancient provinces were converted into modern prefectures after the Meiji Restoration of 1868. In the Kanto region, the eight former provinces of Musashi, Sagami, Awa, Kazusa, Shimosa, Hitachi, Shimotsuke, and Kozuke were reorganized into the seven prefectures of Tokyo, Saitama, Kanagawa, Chiba, Ibaraki, Tochigi, and Gunma. At the same time, railroads were being built to provide a new transportation method linking geographic areas.
To what extent and how rapidly did the new prefectures replace the old provinces in geographic perception? One measure of that acceptance is how the new prefectures influenced the names given to rail companies, lines, and stations, all of which were created after the province system was replaced.
Mapping and categorizing of rail names from 1872 to 1995 shows that province-based names significantly outnumbered prefecture-based names. This is especially true for station names, but is strongly apparent for rail company and line names as well. For line names, provincebased names have outnumbered prefecture-related names throughout the period. Only in the case of company names has the number of prefecture-related names (including those based on a capital city with the same name as the prefecture) finally exceeded the number of provincebased names. Spatially, province-based company, line, and station names are spread extensively throughout most of the Kanto region, whereas prefecture/capital-based names are found primarily in and around Tokyo itself.
These temporal and spatial patterns reveal that the provinces have lived on in geographic perception long after their official demise.

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