Gokishichido (Five provinces and seven circuits) (五畿七道)

Gokishichido was a name for the broader-based local administrative districts under the ritsuryo system in ancient Japan. It was also called kinaishichido. Including Hokkaido, it was called gokihachido.


It copied 'do,' administrative divisions, which were originally used in China. Do' apparently came into existence in Japan before the Taika Reform while the archetype of gokishichido was organized in the time of Emperor Tenmu. At first, it consisted of five provinces in the Kinai, around the capital (Heijokyo or Heiankyo), and seven do in the other areas of Japan.

The seven do since the Ritsuryo period were generally distributed based on their geographical conditions, but no administrative agency as a do unit was set other than in Saikaido. The Saikaido was so important to diplomacy with and security against the continent that Dazaifu was located there to control provinces. Kokufu in each province of the shichido were connected with other kokufu by roads, and each road had the same name as the shichido. The shichido were divided into dairo, churo and shoro and the number of horses equipped differed from each other. Some of the shichido had the same names as the gokaido in the Edo period. They followed almost the same routes although the time and the way they came about were different.

Then, they did not make any changes for long time except some boundaries shifted a little bit, and later Hokkaido (as province) was newly set in Wajinchi and Ezochi. After that, it was called gokihachido. A record of Hokkaido could date back to the expedition by ABE no Hirafu in the time of Emperor Saimei, and the Yamato race lived there during the Kamakura period, and after the time of Donanjunitate, Hokkaido was finally located in where the Matsumae Domain and the Imperial manor had been in the Edo period. Compared to the other shichido which were set in the Ritsuryo period, this administrative division was set much later along with the Kingdom of Ryukyu (Okinawa) which became a province after the time of subordination to the Satsuma domain.


Tokaido churo

Tosando churo

Hokurikudo shoro

Sanindo shoro

Sanyodo dairo

Nankaido shoro

Saikaido shoro

Hokkaido (as province)

Present gokishichido

After the Haihan-chiken (abolition of feudal domains and establishment of prefectures) in 1871, the gokihachido and the provinces were not abolished, but they died out after 1885 and the local administrative divisions as gokishichido have not been much used. However, today's many local region names around Japan (Hokuriku region, Sanyo region, Sanin region and Hokkaido) originate from the gokishichido.

Names of transportation networks such as the Tokaido Shinkansen, the Sanyo Shinkansen, and the Hokuriku Expressway, and names of predicted earthquakes such as the Tokai Earthquake and the Nankai Earthquake have the vestiges of the gokishichido.

[Original Japanese]