From Academic Kids
The term prefecture (from the Latin Praefectura) indicates the office, seat, territorial circonscription of a Prefect; consequentally, like that word, is its applied in English in relation to actual Prefects, whose title is just that (or the forms it takes in other, especially Romance, languages), in the broadest sense in the Roman tradition, but also by analogy, more or less conventionally, to render offices deemed equivalent in other languages cultural traditions.
For the Roman and subsequent types of praefectura, see Praefectus. It has been used most prominently to denote a somewhat self-governing body or area since the tetrarchy, when emperor Diocletian divided the Roman Empire into 4 districts (each divided into dioceses, grouping under a Vicarius a number of Roman provinces, listed under that article), initially each under a (senior or junior) emperor, each seconded by a pretorian prefect; soon imperial was reunited, to be split for good i two empires, west (at Rome) and east (at Constantinople), but each maintained two pretorian prefectures as an administrativelevel above the also surviving dioceses (a few of which git split).
As canon law is strongly inspired by Roman law, it is nt surprizing that the Catholic church has several offices under a prefect (while that term ocurs also in otherwise styled offices, such as the head of a congregation or department of the Roman curia)
Main article: préfecture
Greek equivalent of prefecture
Modern Greece, under its 1975 Constitution, is divided into 51 nomoi (Greek: νομοί) which form the units of local government. These are most commonly translated into English as prefectures. Each nomos is headed by a prefect (nomarch), who was until recently a ministerial appointee but is nowadays elected by direct popular vote. Municipal elections in Greece are held every four years and voting for the election of nomarchs and mayors is carried out concurrently but with separate ballots.
Chinese equivalents of prefecture
When used in the context of Chinese history, especially China before the Tang Dynasty, the word "prefecture" is used to translate xian (县/縣). This unit of administration is translated as "county" when used in a contemporary context.
See County of China for more information on the xian of China.
In the context of Chinese history during or after the Tang Dynasty, the word "prefecture" is used to translate zhou (州), another ancient unit of administration in China.
See Zhou (political division) for more information on the zhou of China.
The modern Chinese sense
In modern-day People's Republic of China, the prefecture (地区; pinyin: dìqū) is an administrative division found in the second level of the administrative hierarchy. In addition to prefectures, this level also includes autonomous prefectures, leagues, and prefecture-level cities. The prefecture level comes under the province level, and in turn oversees the county level.
See Prefecture of China for more information on modern prefectures in China.
Japanese sense of prefecture
In the Japanese system, the word prefecture is used for translating references to an administrative district, ken (県), which is about the area of a county in the United States but, on average, about half the population of a state.
The local self-governing system of Japan consists of 2 classes: prefectures as the large area local governing units and municipalities the basic local governing units. In the Eastern sense, the administrative segregation of a unified nation is usually trifold: the nation, large area local governing units, and basic local governing units. Japan fits this pattern.
Japan is divided into 47 prefectures and each prefecture is further divided into municipalities. These prefectures and municipalities have no overlapping districts or uncovered areas. In short, all the residents in Japan are sure to belong to one prefecture and one municipality.
These prefectures and municipalities are not merely set up as the nation's administrative section, but also as corporate bodies independent from the country that possesses their own basic governing areas and local residents as their constituents. They hold administrative power within the districts in question. In Nagasaki and Hokkaido, subprefectures are used as special administrative units, due to peculiarities of governmental evolution and the difficulty in centrally governing certain large or remote areas.
The current prefectural system in Japan was settled in the Meiji era after the new government abolished feudal clans or Han. This is called the "Abolition of the Han system". See Meiji era in History of Japan for historical background of this event.