Anaxagoras wrote: ↑Sat Aug 22, 2020 4:27 amHistorically it might have been size or population, but now I think it's just a historical artifact. They are all mostly functionally the same.
Kanagawa-ken (my home) actually has the second-largest population among prefectures after Tokyo, and Yokohama, Tokyo's little sister, is the second-largest city by population, even larger than Osaka (although less dense than Osaka).
Is 「郡」 still in use though? Or is that mostly from before the 20th century, like 「藩」? There's no "gun" in my mailing address, but there is a "ku".I think “ward” is a better translation for 区 (“ku”) than “county.” Consider 「選挙区」("senkyoku") .
For “county,” I’d use 「郡」(“gun”) (pronounced like a baby saying “goo”-n rather than Ed’s favorite thing).
"Ward" would be a pretty good translation too, but rural areas also have "ku" and "ward" sounds urban to me. As you point out, the whole country is smaller than California, so prefectures are correspondingly smaller than US states, and likewise, ku are smaller than US counties. But they are what prefectures are divided into. 区 are further divided into 町 and such.
My first homestay family in Hokkaido's address was 「～郡～町」, (i.e. ～"gun" and ～ "chou"), so I'm pretty sure they still use it. But it may be a rural or Hokkaido thing. I'll ask my girlfriend if they use 「郡」 down here in Kansai.
ETA: I haven't asked my girlfriend, but I did find this on Wiki Japan.
https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E9%83%A1 ... E%E4%BB%A3
Short version: There are still 「郡」throughout Japan (most common in Hokkaido, although Kanagawa prefecture still has some, too), but they are apparently less administratively significant than in the past. I also see that there are no cities included within the 「郡」designation, only "towns" and "villages."