Subprefecture of Japan (支庁, shichō) are a
Japanese form of self-government which focuses on local issues below the prefectural level. It acts as part of the greater administration of the state and as part of a self-government system.
They were given a definite form in 1878 (Meiji 11).
The Meiji government established the sub-prefecture (郡, -gun) as an administrative unit.
In 1888 (Meiji 21), the sub-prefecture as a form of self-government was officially
recognized as more general than civic corporations like
prefectures of Japan are now, or once were, divided into subprefectures. The subprefecture is the jurisdiction surrounding a "branch office" of the prefectural government. Normally, the area of a subprefecture consists of a few to a dozen cities, towns, and/or villages. Subprefectures are formed to provide services of the prefectural government in geographically remote areas. They are usually not used in postal addresses.
Hokkaidō, the largest prefecture by area in Japan, was divided into fourteen subprefectures. These were formed in 1897. The subprefectures did not include major cities, such as
Hakodate, until 1922. In 2010 they were replaced by 9 General Subprefectural Bureaus and 5 Subprefectural Bureaus. See:
Subprefectures in Hokkaidō
Taiwan during Japanese rule initially had its prefectures – ken (県), later termed shū (州) and chō (庁) – subdivided into shichō. Most of the later subprefectures were named gun (郡, also "districts").
Some English texts translate "sub-prefecture" differently, using it instead for the chō of Taiwan, which were remote prefectures that were much less populated, once considered "sub-", or "lesser", prefectures, i.e.,
Hōko (the Pescadores),
Karenkō (Hualien) and
Taitō (Taitung). The offshore Hōko was home to the last two remaining subprefectures named shichō: Makō (馬公支廳) and Mōan (望安支廳).