As I understand 都市 [toshi] means [city].
And therefore it could be any city, which is not town.

In Russia town means over 12K population.
100-250K pouplation = big town.
250-500K pupulation = small city.
500K-1M population = city.
> 1M population = large city = megapolis.

There is Japanese word 大都市 [daitoshi] which means large city.

But for some reason there is term 六大都市 = 6 daitoshi and they are Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Kobe and Yokohama.

Is there are any exact rules when city has right to be called 大都市 and when it is just 都市?
For example, how many 大都市 in Japan? Only 6 or more? What about Sapporo, is it daitoshi or just toshi?

  • Do you use those Russian words as strictly when talking about non-Russian cities? Are the numbers actually part of the dictionary definitions?
    – Leebo
    Jun 19, 2019 at 0:11
  • The Japanese wikipedia is pretty vague on the definition of 大都市, with size, influence and other factors taken into account. 六大都市 seems to be the six larges cities in Japan in 1922...
    – vlumi
    Jun 19, 2019 at 0:12
  • @Leebo These parts are not part of dictionary, but this scale is used, for example, for marketing purposes, when companies are planing their expansion. Or as user Naruto said [the criterion is subjective and relative].
    – Tchibi-kun
    Jun 19, 2019 at 11:14

2 Answers 2


大都市 is just a plain word "large city" that doesn't have a strict definition in Japanese. And the problem here is that 大 in 都市 and 六大都市 are different in meaning.

By saying N大[noun] with a number N, you mean "the N major [noun]s", where the 大 roughly means "important" in this formula. They are not necessarily "large" in measure or whatever.

世界三大料理 The Three Grand Cuisines of the world
テニス四大大会 the four majors (Grand Slam) of tennis
五大湖 The Great Lakes of North America (there are five)
六大栄養素 the six major nutrients

Japanese (and East Asian languages) is generally fond of enumerating "the N best things of the kind" with this expression. The number that comes before is written in kanji more often than not.

Related: Is there a way to say the two best?

  • A huge thank you for this tip on numbers! I have some mental troubles in getting the clue how Japanese use numbers in different situation and your tip helped me to get deeper understanding of that. Now I can build stuff like 日本の三緑都市 means [3 the most greenery cities of Japan] (greenery as ecological, they have trees, plants and no toxic industrial waste). Or I can build 日本の三緑大都市 means [3 the most greenery megapolises of Japan].
    – Tchibi-kun
    Jun 19, 2019 at 10:27
  • 1
    @Tchibi-kun For that meaning I think we just use エコ (eco). It might sound too grandiose if you used 三大, so I'd go with something like 日本のエコ大都市三選. Jun 19, 2019 at 16:41

Today, 大都市 typically refers to large cities with at least 1M population, but the criterion is subjective and relative. There is no strict definition defined by a concrete number. When the term 六大都市 was determined by the government in 1922, Nagoya and Yokohama had only 0.4M people. 札幌 had only 0.1M people in 1922 but has 1.9M now. I believe most people don't hesitate to call 札幌 a 大都市 now, but this is subjective.

  • Thank you so much for 1M. In Russia we have a word litteraly [city-millionaire] which means a city with >1M like [millionaire] means a person who has more that 1M of money. PS. I see you omitted 市 in 札幌. And I have a question: whis is is correct 札幌市は大都市です or w/o 札幌は大都市です or both are ok?
    – Tchibi-kun
    Jun 19, 2019 at 10:19
  • 1
    @Tchibi-kun (a very late comment...) Incidentally we have an equivalent word that literally translates to "million(aire) city" which is 百万都市. Oct 5, 2019 at 6:03
  • @broccoli Great word!! It sounds very funny in English language: 100 man town. :-) A town for 100 people. ))) Or a town for 100 man without woman.
    – Tchibi-kun
    Oct 5, 2019 at 9:28
  • @Tchibi-kun If the city were a village of 100 people... Oct 7, 2019 at 1:29

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