Cool Web Thing – Drop Down Box of Prefectures

I hate filling out web forms. Ever since I applied to grad school, my browser has memorized ten different combinations of my personal information. Even when I use the autofills, they are rarely correct. One of the most annoying parts of a given web form is selecting the country. I never know where to look for the U.S. Some forms put them at the top of the drop down box (AMERICA, FUCK YEAH!). Others file them at the bottom under U. Some even put them under A for America? (This I’m not sure of, but it wouldn’t surprise me.)

Selecting Louisiana is a little easier. It’s the only state that starts with L, so I open the drop down box, hit L, and Louisiana pops up.

I love the way they take care of this in Japan. Every Internet drop down box for prefectures looks like this:

Have you figured out why? No, they don’t do 五十音順. No, it’s not alphabetical.

It’s even more awesome: the prefectures are listed in geographical order from north to south. It starts with Hokkaido in the north, works its way through Tohoku and Kanto, continues through Kansai, and finishes with Kyushu. It’s a brilliant way to create a textual representation of the island through the prefectural names. It’s almost like one giant pictogram made up of words. I love it. (And dammit all, wouldn’t you know that now that I’ve professed its brilliance, I find an exception that lists the big cities separately on the top. Most of them are like this, trust me.)

I guess this is just as arbitrary as alphabetical order, really, but it is more visually pleasing. So learn your north-to-south position on the island. It’ll make these forms easier to fill out.

8 thoughts on “Cool Web Thing – Drop Down Box of Prefectures

  1. Finishes with Okinawa, no?

    My least favorite geographic drop-down lists EVER are the ones where they’ve taken the ABC order of the nations and translated them into Japanese in that same order. To select 日本 you have to drift down the lengthy list until you get to the general neighborhood of クウェート and ジャマイカ and look for it there. Ugh.

  2. When I first got here those boxes confused me… until I realized that the order actually had a meaning.

    Now I like it.

    Fukushima is also always near the top, so that helps my liking of it.

  3. When we first moved to Kanagawa friends told me that one of its many conveniences was that you could always find it instantly in a list of prefectures, being three characters instead of two. They were kidding… but they were right. If I ever meet someone from Wakayama you know there will be some internet-convenience highs-five up in that joint.

  4. Matt – Never noticed that! Very cool. I now envy Kanagawa- and Wakayama-dwellers. I feel the same way as Adam – Fukushima is always close to the top…which I guess makes it like the Alaska or Arizona of Japan. Wait, scratch that, I just checked and Fukushima is officially the Connecticut of Japan.

  5. Fukushima is officially the New Mexico of Japan—drenched in radiation and big parts of it placed off limits by the national government.

    I was going to say that “hey, Hokkaido is also written with three characters and it is at the very top of the list, so there’s an even better combination” but they they had to go undermine my argument with the whole 都道府県 deal. Say, what are your thoughts on dealing with ugliness like “Chiba Prefecture and the Tokyo Metropolis”? Do you allow yourself to write “Chiba and Tokyo Prefectures” like I often do?

  6. Durf – I haven’t run into Chiba and Tokyo in any of my translations yet (we’re mostly video games and business pamphlets), but that last one seems nice and efficient. Will have to remember it. I guess Tokyo is technically a prefecture.

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