- For subsequent types of praefectura, see Prefect.
(from the Latin Praefectura
) indicates the office, seat, territorial circumscription of a Prefect
. The term prefecture
is also used to refer to offices analogous to prefectures.
It has been used most prominently to denote a somewhat self-governing body or area since the tetrarchy
, when emperor Diocletian
divided the Roman Empire
into four districts (each divided into dioceses
, grouping under a Vicarius
a number of Roman provinces
, listed under that article), although he maintained two pretorian prefectures as an administrative level above the also surviving dioceses (a few of which were split).
As Canon law
is strongly inspired by Roman law, it is not surprising that the Catholic Church has several offices under a prefect. That term occurs also in otherwise styled offices, such as the head of a congregation or department of the Roman Curia
. Various ecclesiastical areas, too small for a diocese
, are termed prefects.
, a préfecture
is the capital
city of a département
. As there are 100 départements in France, there are 100 préfectures
in France. A préfecture de région
is the capital city of a
Brazilian equivalent of prefecture
, the prefecture (prefeitura
) is the City Hall
, home to the Executive
of a city and to the mayor
Greek equivalent of prefecture
, under its 1975 Constitution, is divided into 51 nomoi
(νομοί) which form the units of local government. These are most commonly translated into English
Each nomos is headed by a prefect (nomarch), who was until recently a ministerial appointee but is nowadays elected by direct popular vote. Municipal elections in Greece are held every four years and voting for the election of nomarchs and mayors is carried out concurrently but with separate ballots.
Chinese equivalents of prefecture
The ancient sense
When used in the context of Chinese history
, especially China before the Tang Dynasty
, the word "prefecture" is used to translate xian
(县/縣). This unit of administration is translated as "county" when used in a contemporary context.''Zhou
In the context of Chinese history during or after the Tang Dynasty
, the word "prefecture" is used to translate zhou
(州), another ancient unit of administration in China.
The modern sense
In modern-day People's Republic of China
, the prefecture (地区; pinyin
: dìqū) is an administrative division found in the second level
of the administrative hierarchy. In addition to prefectures, this level also includes autonomous prefectures, leagues
, and prefecture-level cities
. The prefecture level comes under the province level
, and in turn oversees the county level
Japanese sense of prefecture
In reference to the Japanese
system of administrative subdivisions, prefecture
is used as the translation for todōfuken
(都道府県). The system of local government in Japan consists of two classes: prefectures as the large-area local governing units, and municipalities
(市町村) as the basic local-level governing units. In Asian practice, the administrative segregation of a country
or unified nation-state
is usually trifold: the state
, large-area local governing units, and basic local-level governing units; Japan follows this pattern.
Japan is divided into 47 prefectures, and each is further divided into municipalities. These prefectures and municipalities neither overlap geographically nor leave any area uncovered; all residents of Japan are therefore residents of one municipality and one prefecture. The prefecture plays a sufficiently large role in personal identity that Japanese introducing themselves often mention their prefecture of origin as well as (or instead of) their municipality.
The prefectures and municipalities function as more than just the country’s administrative units: they are incorporated bodies—independent from the national government—that possess their own basic spheres of responsibility and local residents as their constituents, holding administrative authority within their respective geographical boundaries. In Hokkaidō and several other prefectures, subprefectures are used as special administrative units, due to peculiarities of governmental evolution and the difficulty in centrally governing certain geographically large or remote areas.
All but four prefectures are followed with the suffix -ken (県), as in Kanagawa-ken, which is rendered in English as Kanagawa Prefecture. The large-area governing units of Ōsaka and Kyōto are both referred to as -fu (府) (Ōsaka-fu and Kyōto-fu, respectively), but this term is also translated as prefecture. There are two government units that are not technically referred to as prefectures. Tokyo’s prefecture-level government and its area is followed by -to (都, literally, capital), and whose government calls itself the "Tōkyō Metropolitan Government" in English. Finally, Hokkaidō’s -dō (道) is a suffix for an ancient region name, even though it was so named in 1869. Hokkaidō’s government calls itself the "Hokkaidō Government" in English.
Below the level of prefecture are -shi (市) cities, -chō or machi (both 町) town, and -son or mura (both 村) village. Additionally, cities may be subdivided into -ku (区) wards.
Japan’s current prefectural system was established in the Meiji era after the new Meiji government abolished fiefs run by feudal clans known as han. This change is called the abolition of the han system; see Meiji Restoration in the History of Japan article, and the Meiji era article for more historical details of this event.
Mongolian prefectures (Aimags
) were adopted under the Manchu Empire
. Today these are usually translated as "provinces".
Traditionally the prefecture as being the City Hall
and the prefect as being the equivalent of a mayor and commissioner until recently; now the prefectures and prefect are analogous with the figure of Town Clerk