Sakai Prefecture (堺県)

Sakai Prefecture was a prefecture that existed during the initial years of the Meiji Restoration period. Sakai City (currently Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture) was the location of the prefectural capital. The area it covered amounts to the area of Eastern Osaka and Southern Osaka of today, but later on the entire Nara Prefecture was incorporated into Sakai. The prefectural capital office was located in the Sakai Betsuin branch temple of the Nishi Hongan-ji Temple.

What was formerly a shogunal demesne during the Edo period, Sakai and its peripheral regions were taken over by the Imperial Court from the Tokugawa clan after the demise of the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), but due to the occurrence of the Sakai Incident and so on in 1868, the pace of the creation of a new administrative body needed to be stepped up. Thus, Sakai Prefecture was established and launched as a prefecture on August 10 of the same year that covered Sakai and its peripheral regions (one theory states that 境県 as opposed to 堺県 was the official writing given in the beginning).

The first prefectural governor was Kazutoshi OGO who was selected from a group of government officials. His strong belief in Confucianism was behind his philosophy of 'Jinsei' (benevolent rule) from above, that is to say, the rule of law for the people based on compassion, and held unique policies for prefectural administration. As the embankment works to prevent flooding of the Yamato-gawa River from heavy rain could not be met by the official budget, he vigorously pushed through the plan by paying for it out of his and his senior officer's yearly salary. Furthermore, by going over the authority of the central government and through the issuance of prefectural ordinances, he actively pushed forward regional legislations to stimulate the distribution economy by issuing prefectural bills, and launched the modern educational system as a prefecture-wide model through the restoration of provincial schools ahead of the opening of elementary schools across the nation. For these actions, he went head to head with the Meiji Government and was fired from his post in October 1870.

During the years of Atsushi SAISHO, the second prefectural governor, educational legislations were pushed forward for the creation of prefectural schools for teacher training, medical schools, hospitals, girl's schools, issuance of Sakai-version text books, and so on. In addition, seen in the construction of the Sakai Light House and so on, apart from the promotion of trade and craft such as the restoration of seaports, the creation of spinning mills, brick factories, and hosting of the Sakai Exposition, Hamadera Park and Ohama Park (Sakai City) were built, helping prefectural legislations move forward.

September 7, 1869: Kawachi Prefecture, which was comprised of the former shogunal demesnes of Kawachi Province, was incorporated.

March 28, 1869: A portion (Kongobu-ji Temple on Mt. Koya) was incorporated in the newly-found Gojo Prefecture.

January 2, 1872: Due to the elimination and consolidation of prefectures after Haihan-chiken (abolition of feudal domains and establishment of prefectures), the four prefectures of Kishiwada, Hakuta, Yoshimi, and Tannan as well as a part of Gojo Prefecture were incorporated and merged in Sakai. The name of 'Sakai Prefecture' was officially recognized.

1873: Japan's first park, Hamadera Park, was opened to the public.

April 18, 1876: The entire region of Nara Prefecture was incorporated and merged in Sakai.

February 7, 1881: Sakai Prefecture was incorporated into Osaka Prefecture.

The fact that Sakai Prefecture was incorporated into Osaka Prefecture in 1881 was seen as part of the reorganization of prefectures after Haihan-chiken, yet, from the national level, the work had already been completed; therefore, it was more about the merge in the midst of the problem associated with partition of prefectures that were too big (in reality, after the merge of Sakai Prefecture, there have been no cases where the administrative divisions of Japan have been abolished, except for the reorganization of Hokkaido and the temporary abolition of the Okinawa Prefecture due to the military polices implemented by the US military after the Pacific War). For that reason, it is said that Sakai was incorporated into Osaka to bring Osaka's size up to the level where it was fit to be called a 'Prefecture,' as it was the smallest in size compared to Kyoto, Tokyo or other peripheral prefectures and as the economy of Osaka had hit the bottom due to bad debts incurred by loans made to Daimyos (feudal lords) in addition to continuous bankruptcies of money-exchange businesses from the abolition of silver grain currencies.

Subsequently, as expected, the increased size of the prefecture became an issue, and on November 4, 1887, what was once a portion of Sakai, Nara Prefecture, was once again portioned back.