Changing Local Government System in Japan: “Unfinished” Decentralization Reform and Local Revitalization

Changing Local Government System in Japan: “Unfinished” Decentralization Reform and Local Revitalization

Satoru Ohsugi (Tokyo Metropolitan University, Japan)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0317-0.ch016


As Japanese society has already entered on the phase of historically first rapid and big decline of population and unprecedented aging society. Japanese governments, both central and local, started to propose varieties of policies for local revitalization along with local governmental reform and reorganization. This chapter aims firstly to explain the historical background and structure of local government system in Japan, next to examine the varieties of recent reforms putting impact on local government system, such as decentralization reform, structural reform and so on, and then to consider how to tackle with many challenging problems in the age of aging, shrinking population society.
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The Historical Background Of The Japanese Local Government System

Three major periods of reform have been identified in the history of the modern local government system in Japan. Early in the Meiji era, Japan, the first constitutional state in Asia, had rapidly formed the basic structure of the modern local system, along with building up the modern state in order to stabilize domestic affairs and to build an equal relationship with the allied western powers, realizing the reform of the unequal treaties. These series of reforms are collectively referred to as “the First Reform.” “The Second Reform” was the Post-War Reform led by occupation forces to realize democratization and decentralization after World War II. “The Third Reform” has consisted of decentralization reform accompanied by other political and administrative reforms since the end of the 1990s.

The first part of this chapter describes briefly the historical background of the Japanese local government system, including the first two “Reforms” and related matters.

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