In brief
Hyogo-ken is a prefecture in the Kansai region of the Japanese home island of Honshu. Major cities include Himeji, Takarazuka, and Kobe, the prefectural capital. The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world, connecting Awaji Island with the mainland, is also located in Hyogo.

Hyogo was created as a prefecture in 1868, the same year Kobe began to accept world trade as a part of the opening of Japan. At the time, Hyogo was only one of four prefectures that occupied the area that modern day Hyogo encompasses. In 1876, these four, Hyogo, Shukama, Toyooka, and Myodo, were merged with Hyogo to form the prefecture we see today. Ito Hirobumi, the later drafter of the 1889 Meiji Constitution, was the first governor of the new prefecture, with offices located in Kobe. At this time, the office of prefectural governor was an appointed position. It would remain so until 1947, when the first gubernatorial elections were held under the orders of the new Japanese constitution.

Other notable events Geography/Climate
Hyogo's borders encompass 8380 square kilometers (5195 square miles), approximately 2.2% of the nation's entire landmass. The region is bordered on the north by the Sea of Japan and on the south by the Seto Inland Sea. These two bodies of water lend Hyogo fair amounts of precipitation, with the northern side receiving far more than the south. This uneven division is due to the mountain chain that spans the entire length of the prefecture, mountains that provide good skiing in the winter months.

Because of the wide range of physical features in Hyogo, from mountains to sprawling urban developments to rural farmlands, the prefecture has earned the nickname "Japan in Miniature." (2)

Prefectural Symbols
The Kanji "Hyo" from "Hyogo" appears on the prefecture's flag as white waves on a light blue background, representing the surrounding seas (Hyogo is bordered on both the north and south by ocean). It is said that the design is a symbol of the prefecture's vitality (3).

The official flower of Hyogo is the Nojigiku, a wild chrysanthemum that grows on the shores of the Setonaikai, the Seto Inland Sea. The Harima district of Hyogo is thought to be the northern natural limit of the Nojigiku's growing range. Every November, the 3 cm blooms of this chrysanthemum burst forth, covering the countryside with their yellow-on-white design. As an aside, the chrysanthemum is also the symbol of the emperor.

The camphor tree, the Kusu no ki, is Hyogo's official tree. This fast-growing evergreen is prevalent throughout the region. Its image as resistent to the influence of the elements, its vigor, vitality, and hardiness, is, like the flag, said to embody the character of the prefecture and its people. (3)

The Koh no tori, the Japanese stork, is the official bird of Hyogo. On Japan's list of specially protected animals, the numbers of this bird are appallingly low; Some accounts put their population at around 50 (3), while some theorize that only 6 exist in the entire world (2). Special breeding programs have set up in the region in an attempt to raise the numbers of this endangered species.