Municipal Amalgamation in Japan: Who Is Happy?

“In order to improve efficiency in local government public services, Japan’s central government has implemented a strategy of amalgamation of municipalities and created larger local government units. Since the Meiji Restoration (1868) there have been three big waves of amalgamations in Japan. The third, and most recent, wave of municipal amalgamations was at the beginning of the 21st century. Before this amalgamation, decentralization reform had been carried out in 2000, resulting in local governments obtaining many jurisdictions from central government. But under the unitary political structure of Japan, central government has maintained its strong influence over local government.

Because central government considered small local government unable to efficiently provide public services for inhabitants, it strongly insisted on the amalgamation of small municipalities. This restructuring has progressed rapidly and many have disappeared. After the amalgamation, each local government unit is larger than before, but it seems that local democracy has been weakened since the number of members in local parliament and the opportunities for local elections (vote places) have both been reduced. Moreover, inhabitants in periphery areas of large cities are now forced to travel long distances to visit their city hall.”

M. Okamoto | 2012 | Political Science,