Why is Japanese “ken” translated as “prefecture”?

I don’t know why it took me ten years to look up the answer to this nagging question on Wikipedia, because the answer to that question has been waiting for me there:

“The origins of the Western term prefecture being used to describe Japanese subdivisions date from 15th century Portuguese contact with Japan, whereby the word prefeitura was used to very roughly describe Japanese fiefdoms, in Portuguese the original meaning was more analogous to municipalities than provinces. (Reciprocally today, Japanese uses the character ken –  to refer to Portuguese districts.)”

Why is Hokkaido farming different?

I always assumed (mainly from Murakami’s A Wild Sheep Chase) that it was mainly a geographical thing, until I came across this:

“As Hokkaido was colonised by Japan in the 19th century, its agriculture was much influenced by American farming methods introduced by the Japanese government from the start of the modern period. Its landscape is dotted with American-style silos, grain elevators, and farm buildings in primary colours that one does not see in Japan  to the south”

The Cambridge Companion to Modern Japanese Culture page 23

Japanese Myth of the Day

Japan is a small country

MYTH! Read the rest of this entry »