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Guide to Japan Genealogy ancestry, family history and genealogy parish registers, transcripts, census records, birth records, marriage records, and death records.


Getting started with Japanese research

The four top sources for Japanese genealogical research are: koseki (household registers), kakochō (Buddhist death registers), Shumonchō (Examination of Religion Register), and kafu (compiled family sources).[1]


Hokkaidō RegionTōhoku RegionKantō RegionChūbu RegionKansai RegionChūgoku RegionShikoku RegionKyūshū RegionKyūshū RegionHokkaidō RegionTōhoku RegionKantō RegionChūbu RegionKansai RegionChūgoku RegionShikoku RegionKyūshū RegionJapan.prefectures.png

Japan is divided into a number of areas called Prefectures. These are analogous to states or provinces in other countries. They were created after the Meiji Restoration (1868) by consolidating feudal domains.[2] Some include a city by the same name within their boundaries.


Chūbu · Chūgoku · Hokkaidō · Kansai · Kantō · Kyūshū · Shikoku · Tōhoku


Aichi · Akita · Aomori · Chiba · Ehime · Fukui · Fukuoka · Fukushima · Gifu · Gunma · Hiroshima · Hokkaidō · Hyōgo · Ibaraki · Ishikawa · Iwate · Kagawa · Kagoshima · Kanagawa · Kōchi · Kumamoto · Kyōto · Mie · Miyagi · Miyazaki · Nagano · Nagasaki · Nara · Niigata · Ōita · Okayama · Okinawa · Ōsaka · Saga · Saitama · Shiga · Shimane · Shizuoka · Tochigi · Tokushima · Tōkyō · Tottori · Toyama · Wakayama · Yamagata · Yamaguchi · Yamanashi

Cities, Towns, and Villages

Within each prefecture is a number of cities, towns and villages, The larger cities are very populous, while many towns and villages are quite small and often can border each other in a way that they are at times considered part of a larger city. Most though have some space between them.

Research Tools


See these web sites also:

The Japanese Genealogy Blog http://www.AdvantageGenealogy.com/blog

Tips for Obtaining a Copy of Your Japanese Family Registry (courtesy: JapanGenWeb)

A wiki article describing an online collection is found at:

Japan, Clan Genealogies (FamilySearch Historical Records)

Featured Content

If you have Japanese ancestors who emigrated out of Japan, this guide may help you, particularly if they emigrated to the United States or Canada. Even if they emigrated to other countries, the strategies and the kinds of records you use are the same throughout the world. So you could adapt them to your situation.
  1. 1 Obtain the household register (koseki) of your family.The koseki fills the role of census, birth, death and marriage certificates found in other countries. Registering all family members on the koseki began in the 1870's and is required by law. Even after emigrating to another country, families often sent information of marriages and births back to their city hall to be recorded on their family's koseki. In 1878, legal status was given to the broader sense of household. The household is made up of all  the individuals within the family who were legally under the head of the household (koshu) who was charged with the upkeep of all the family members. After 1947, this was changed and only the nuclear family (the husband, wife and children) was then recorded on the koseki.
    Here's what information you can find on the koseki: Name and birthdates of the husband or head of the household, the wife, the children, parents and grandparents of the head of household (if living in the household) and the those of his wife. In some koseki, the children, grandchildren, brothers, and sisters of the head of household are listed, with their birthdates and places. (Note about birthdates on older records - the practice once was to record all births as of New Years Day, January 1st. In most casesthis will mean a difference of only a few weeks or months from the the actual date recorded. Whenever a birthdate is shown as January 1st and there is doubt that might not be the actual birthdate, place the word "About" before the date on your record.  Marriage dates and place of the head of household and each of his children. (A note about marriages dates, the koseki is usually very accurate in regards to dates - except in the case of marriage dates. The marriage date shown is the date it which it was recorded, which can be days, weeks  and in some cases, years between the recorded date and the actual marriage date.) Also found on the koseki are the death dates and place of household members. Heir adoptions and as well as divorces are often recorded as well.Use the koseki to copy the new information onto a Family Group worksheet.
  2. Study the historical background of your people. Depending on who your ancestors were, where they came from, and what happened to them, you may use different kinds of records.
  3. Use other records that pertain to the situation of your ancestor to fill out more family group worksheets.
  4. Use a genealogical computer software, such as Personal Ancestral File (PAF 5), to enter your family information. You can use the English CD and choose Japanese as your language option. (PAF 5 is available in Japanese, English, Portuguese, Spanish, and other languages.)
  5. Other sources of family genealogy can sometimes be found written on the family tombstones (ohaka).
  6. Genealogy of the family before the start of koseki record keeping can sometimes be found by contacting the Buddist Temple near the family's hometown (honseki).


Did you know?

That you can decipher "old" kanji, by using the IME pad on the Language Bar on your computer? Draw the kanji - in stroke order, then move your curser over the corresponding kanji on the right. It will reveal the different options of how to read/speak the kanji.

Christian Church records (Kirisuto Kyokai Kiroku) of baptisms, marriages, and deaths were kept by church clergy. They include the parish registers of Roman-Catholic and various protestant churches. They cover the time period of 1873 to the present.

Did you know many Japanese emigrated to Peru? The Family History Library has microfilmed records of these emigrants.


  1. John W. Orton, Basil P. Yang, Ted A. Telford, and Kenji Suzuki, "Panel: East Asian Family Sources: The Genealogical Society of Utah," World Conference on Records: Preserving Our Heritage, August 12-15, 1980, Vol. 11: Asian and African Family and Local History. FHL US/CAN Book 929.1 W893 1980 v. 11 Shumonchō are also known as ninbetuchō and goningumichō. Compiled family sources are also known as keizu.
  2. Wikipedia Contributors, "Meiji Restoration," Wikipedia, accessed 15 June 2011.


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  • This page was last modified on 5 November 2015, at 16:23.
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