Learning Japan Prefectures

Since I started reading the news in Japanese, I am telling myself that I must learn Japan prefectures. I have finally taken the first step by doing my own map with furigana and English.

Why learn Japan prefectures and region?

I suppose that Japanese learners who studied Japanese at school or university have gone through Geography classes and have a good overview of the country’s layout. The problem with self-learning is that nobody forces you to learn what you don’t like. And me, I don’t like Geography, so I have never taken the trouble to learn Japan’s regions, prefectures and main cities, though of course, I do know some of them.

But then, I was very limited when it comes to reading the news. Every time I saw a prefecture name in an article, I had to copy-paste it in Google to find its pronunciation and see where it was. With all the unknown words I have to struggle with in any political article, it just added an unnecessary difficulty. Worse, I sometimes wasn’t able to recognise a prefecture’s name as such, particularly in titles where the kanji 県 is often omitted.

In novels too, I hadn’t a clue when a prefecture was mentioned. Contrary to reading the news (where I have my browser opened so that googling something does not take much time) I would not interrupt my reading a novel to look up a prefecture name in Google, I could not even copy-paste it. So I would just ignore the information. I knew that a prefecture was mentioned, but I could not tell which one or where it was.

And of course, the same goes for films, culinary specialities, festivals, famous places, people and so on. In fact, knowing a country’s geography is important…

japan prefectures - kanji only

My goal

I want to be able to:

  • know approximately where a prefecture is on a map. At least, I would like to be able to associate a prefecture to a region
  • read without frowning and sighing any prefecture names in kanji when I see one.

How I will proceed

I have decided to not use Anki and try a more natural learning system.

To remember where a prefecture is and associate images with it:

First, what I will systematically do is look up a prefecture on my map whenever I hear or read about one. I think that this is the best way to remembering, the problem is that it will take ages before I learn the 47 prefectures. But then, why not? I am not in a hurry.

What I will also do is to write down somewhere any information relative to one prefecture. The idea is not to look for information relative to a prefecture on Google but to collect information that I am coming across during my other activities. For example, if I read a magazine with an interesting article about a festival or any other particularity linked to a region, I could write it down. When I read the news, I will associate events to prefectures. For example, 愛媛県・えひめけん is strongly associated with the Kake Gakuen scandal in my head because I see the prefecture’s name in almost every article I read on the subject.

japan prefectures - kanji and furigana

To be able to read the kanji of the prefectures:

While doing the maps, I realised that reading prefectures’ name is not as daunting as it looks like. A lot of pronunciation can be deduced like 秋田・あきた, 愛知・あいち or 徳島・とくしま.

To remember the pronunciation of the kanji, I will use the maps that I have printed. I made my own maps using other maps I found on the Internet and crossing information to have both English and kanji on the same map.

I will use the map “kanji only” to try to read the prefectures out loud and check with the English or furigana map. I also made a “map only” version in case I am able one day to place every prefecture on the map.

japan prefectures - kanji and English

PDF link to the maps, please feel free to use them!


I am glad that I have taken some time, at last, to start studying the prefectures. I think that I can learn relatively quickly how to read the names when I only have the kanji, and this will be an immense improvement. It will take me a lot more time to be able to place all the prefectures on the map and start associating them with images of their own, but maybe this could become a new 2018 goal.

9 thoughts on “Learning Japan Prefectures

  1. 頑張って! If you want to see progress you could do a little self-test now, count how many you get right, then do the same in six months or a year and see how much you’ve improved. I’m cheering you on – good luck!

  2. As for me I don’t have interest doing that. Like you said it’s mentioned all the time and for me particularly in talk variety shows. I never add it to anki for the same reasons I don’t add names. I just remember whatever I rmemeber from all the mentions on talk variety shows. I make no conscious effort especially since I don’t live there. I’m sure it’s a lot easier to remeber if you live in there since you can ride trains and travel to places. Is your Korean geography knowledge strong since you live there ??

    1. Sure, it’s easier to remember places I have been to. I think that I would have hated learning prefectures at school but somehow, I like doing it now, by myself. Thank you very much for the link to バカリズム’s video! I have ordered his book 😃 It looks great and has very positive reviews! I am sure it will help me a lot.

  3. I know you said you don’t want to use Anki, buuuuut….

    It just so happens that there’s a really great Anki deck made specifically for this.

    It includes a dynamic map that will highlight the prefecture in question (colour-coded by region), has fields for kanji, kana, as well as romaji, and even includes the official prefecture flags, in case you want to be able to recognise those! (They do look very, very cool.)

    I’ll put the link to it here, if you’re interested: https://ankiweb.net/shared/info/2080271721

    1. Wow, thank you so much for the link! I love the dynamic map, I have no clue how it is done, but it’s fantastic. People are amazing! I will use the map to test myself, maybe I will learn the flags too. 😊

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