Ryosei province (令制国)

Ryosei-koku designates Japanese province that was established under the ritsuryo codes. Ryousei province had been the basic unit of geographical division in Japan since Nara period to the beginning of Meiji period. Ryosei province is also called Ritsuryo province. Ezo province was not a formal area division under the ryosei system but a common area name, and Ryukyu province was not originally under the influence of Yamato Imperial Court. Therefore, these provinces are not included in the Ryosei province here in this article. Ezo province was defined as wide area local administrative division in the name of Hokkaido (Ryosei), and Ryukyu province was included in Kagoshima Prefecture as a Ryosei province in 1871 (for reference; world unagridged encyclopedia).

The administrative organ in a Ryosei province was called Kokuga or Kokucho, and the city area centering around Kokuga and the location of Kokuga was called Kokufu.
Kokufu was also called Fuchu

In the age when the term " Ryosei province " was used as the basic unit for administrative and geographical division, it used to be called only as 'province' officially and customarily.
Later in the 20th century, they called it as 'old province' or 'old province name.'
Among the ritsuryo, the system defined by ryo is ryo system (ryosei), so the province under the ryo system is called ryosei province. The term " Ryosei province" is the historical academic term that started to be used at the end of 20th century and early examples for use of the term " Ryosei province " appeared in the middle of 1980s. However, according to the "Japanese history unabridged dictionary (Showa era), the 4th volume" published by Yoshikawa kobunkan in February 1984, ryosei province is explained in the article of 'province' in which the term 'Ryosei province' is not used.

Establishment of Ryosei Province
In Japanese ancient times, before the era of Ryosei province establishment, there was the stage in which the province ruled by kuninomiyatsuko or powerful regional clans and the agata (territory) ruled by agatanushi or local influential persons were compatible. On the contrary, a Ryosei province was the area ruled by kokushi or provincial governor who was dispatched from central government.

There is no established explanation when ryousei provinces were established, but in "Nihonshoki" (the Chronicles of Japan), there is an article in which at the times of the Taika Reform in 645, they sent provincial governors to eastern provinces, and it is known that on the narrow strips of wood unearthed at Asuka, the words 'Ise Province', 'Omi Province' and so on were written. Therefore, it is considered that the Ryosei province was established in the 670s, the beginning of the Reign of Emperor Tenmu. It can be said that ritsuryo provinces were surely established after the completion of the Taiho Code in 701. Therefore, the time for ritsuryo province establishment was in 645 in earlier case, and in 701 in later case. It was highly possible that the time for ryosei province establishment was due to the result of the gradual change of the system during this period.

Provinces that were separated with the Rosei province establishment;
Keno Province (Kouzuke Province, Shimotsuke Province)
Fusa Province (Kazusa Province, Shimofusa Province, Awa Province)
Koshi Province (Echizen Province, Kaga Province, Noto Province, Ecchu Province, Echigo Province, Sado Province, Dewa Province)
Tanba Province (that separated Tajima and Tango Provinces)
Ise Province (that separated Shima Province)
Kawachi Province (that separated Izumi Province)
Kibi Province (Bizen Province, Mimasaka Province, Bicchu Province, Bingo Province)
Tsukushi Province (Chikuzen Province, Chikugo Province)
Hi Province (Hizen Province, Higo Province)
Toyo Province (Buzen Province, Bungo Province)
Kumaso (? Satsuma and Osumi Provinces were separated after Hyuga Province was established)

Under the Ritsuryo Codes
In 713, the early Nara period, Emperor Genmyo ordered the compilation of regional gazetteers or topography called 'Fudoki' for each ryosei province. Presently, parts of Izumo Province Fudoki, Hitachi Province Fudoki, Harima Province Fudoki, Hizen Province Fudoki and Bungo Province Fudoki are existent.

In May of the same year, the Imperial Court ordered to put yoi-ji (good character) to each kori (county) and sato (village) in provinces near capital and in seven prefectures. As of present, provincial names all over Japan are unified in 2 characters.

In 738, the Imperial Court ordered to submit charts of province and county throughout the country. During the period from the end of 736 to the beginning of 740, the Imperial Court revised the go-ri sei (township-neighbourhood system) to go-sei.

In 740s, the period when Emperor Shoumu acceded to the throne, an epidemic was prevalent and social anxiety was spreading in Heijokyo Capital. To clear up the uneasiness, also with the opinion of the empress Komyo, in 741, the Emperor issued the imperial proclamation to establish provincial temples and provincial nunneries in ryosei provinces.

In the Engi formality issued around 800, the number of counties in each Ryosei province was written.

Middle and Early-modern Period
In Kamakura period, even after the Ritsuryo system virtually collapsed, Kokuga (administrative organ) was still placed in each province and controlled it. In the period of the Northern and Southern Dynasties, when disturbances of war spread throughout the country, shugo daimyo (military governors) increased their power and started to govern Kokuga. Along with it, in the Muromachi period, the territory (fief) system of shugo made progress.

In the Sengoku period, provinces as administrative organs since Ritsuryo period disappeared. The post of provincial governor became perfectly the nominal, and warlords came to want that post in order to insist the legitimacy of controlling their territories. In Azuchi-Momoyama period and Edo period, the control of local areas was divided by daimyos of various sizes, feudal lords equivalent to daimyos and direct control of Edo shogunate. Except for the cases in which particular organization was placed on the district where territories were segmentalized, there were no administrative organs based on the province (However, as dynasty appointed provincial governors, there were Ryosei provinces as nominal administrative division). But Ryosei province was used for indication of address including family register, thus it was indispensable geographical division.

After the Meiji Period
The big difference in Meiji period from the time until Edo period, was the abolition of provincial governors with which Ryosei province system finished its function of administrative geographical division namely and actually. The Meiji government separated 4 provinces from Mutsu Province, divided Dewa Province into 2 provinces, newly established 11 provinces in Hokkaido and established Ryukyu Province to set up 85 provinces in total, but it did not found administrative organs in every province. The abolition of feudal domains and establishment of prefectures in 1871 aimed at the abolition of feudal domains, and provinces continued to be used together with prefectures after that. The range of ryosei province in Hokkaido was revised until 1885; this shows ryosei province had been institutionally used at least until this year. However, after that, in Taiwan and in Korea in the age under the rule of Japan, new ryosei province was not established. Although not abolished by law, the Ryosei system rapidly became obsolete, especially with being excluded from place-name writing, and on the contrary, prefecture system was rapidly established. At the present time, old province names are used in cases such as distinguishing similar place-names (ex. Settsu Motoyama and Nagato Motoyama), avoiding the use of prefecture name (ex. Shinshu against Nagano prefecture), and expressing local specialty or noted product (ex. Sanuki noodle, Tajima cattle, Satsuma ware). Further, regarding the national law and Hokkaido ordinance, in the 'establishment rule for branch offices of the legal affairs bureau and the local legal affairs bureau', some rules provide the expression of ryosei province in the stipulation which showed presiding areas of subprefecture, the legal affairs bureau and its lower organizations.

Number of Ryosei Province

The rules for Ryosei province were greatly amended before the Nara period and in the Meiji period, but they were not changed in the long term between Heian period and Edo period. The number of Ryosei provinces was usually 68, but in many cases, it was said to be 66. (in this case, Tsushima and Iki provinces were excluded as islands) For example, the Yamana clan that had 11 provinces as shugo's territory was called " One Sixth Esquire ", because it possessed one sixth of the provinces of whole country. In some case of enumerating all province names such as 'the list of Ichinomiya shrine throughout the nation', two provinces forcedly reduced to 66 due to the incompliance with the acutual number of the province by integrating, for example, Bizen, Bicchu and Bingo into Kibi province(but Mimasaka province which was separated from Bizen province, was not integrated).
In some case, they used the expression of 'over 60 provinces.'

[Original Japanese]