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Municipal mergers and dissolutions in Japan

Municipal mergers and dissolutions carried out in Japan 市町村合併, shichōson gappei can take place within one municipality or between multiple municipalities and are required to be based upon consensus


  • 1 Merger policy
    • 11 Record of changes
  • 2 Reasons for merging
  • 3 Socio-political context
  • 4 Past mergers
  • 5 Naming of new municipalities
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links

Merger policyedit

The government's stated goal is to reduce the total number of Japanese municipalities to 1,000 The government did not provide a distinct timetable

Japan had around 1,822 municipalities at the beginning of 2007, considerably less than the 2,190 on April 1, 2005, and a decline of 40 percent from the number in 1999 The 1,822 municipalities include 198 villages, 777 cities and 847 towns

The municipality merger promotion law was revised to ease the burden on debt-ridden local governments and to create larger municipalities so more administrative power could be transferred to the local level The law's deadline passed on March 31, 2006

Record of changesedit

  • List of mergers and dissolutions of municipalities in Japan shows mergers and dissolutions of municipalities that took place in recent years

Reasons for mergingedit

As of January 2006, many municipalities in Japan contained fewer than 200 residents Japanese municipalities require skilled workers 40% of Japan's GDP consisted of debts from local governments Japan merges local governments to expand residential area per municipal government, create different school attendance boundaries for elementary school and junior high school students, and to allow more widespread use of public facilities1

Socio-political contextedit

Most of Japan's rural municipalities largely depend on subsidies from the central government They are often criticized for spending money for wasteful public enterprises to keep jobs The central government, which is itself running budget deficits, has a policy of encouraging mergers to make the municipal system more efficient

Although the government purports to respect self-determination of the municipalities, some consider the policy to be compulsory As a result of mergers, some cities such as Daisen, Akita temporarily have very large city assembliescitation needed

Some people see it as a form of federalism; they consider that the ultimate goal is to change Japan into a union consisting of more autonomous states So far the mergers are limited to the local municipalities Mergers of prefectures are also planned in some regions of Japancitation needed

Past mergersedit

There have been three waves of merger activity between Japanese municipalities, the largest being in 2005 This recent peak is sometimes referred to as "the great Heisei mergers" 平成の大合併, heisei-no-daigappei as a way of distinguishing it from the earlier two

The first peak of mergers, known as "the great Meiji mergers" 明治の大合併, meiji-no-daigappei, happened in 1889, when the modern municipal system was established Before the mergers, existing municipalities were the direct successors of spontaneous hamlets called hanseison 藩政村, or villages under the han system The rump han system is still reflected in the postal system for rural areas as postal units called ōaza 大字 The Meiji mergers slashed total municipalities from 71,314 to 15,859

The second peak, called "the great Shōwa mergers" 昭和の大合併, shōwa-no-daigappei, took place in the mid-1950s It reduced the number of municipalities by over half, from 9,868 to 3,472

Municipal mergers in the island prefectures of Hokkaidō and Okinawa, have followed different tracksclarification needed

Naming of new municipalitiesedit

Naming a new post-merger municipality is not a negligible matter Disagreement on a name sometimes causes merger talks to break down If a city is far larger than other towns which join it, no arguments take place; the city's name simply survives However, if their sizes do not differ significantly, lengthy disputes ensue Sometimes the problem can be solved by adopting the district's name Another easy solution is a simple compounding of the names, but this method, relatively common in Europe, is unusual in Japan Instead, they are often abbreviated For example, the Ōta 大田 ward of Tokyo is a portmanteau of Ōmori 森 and Kamata 蒲, it seems that Ōkama was not chosen because of its likeness to 'okama', a derogatory word for homosexual Toyoshina, Nagano is an acronym of the four antecedent villages: Toba, Yoshino, Shinden, and Nariaicitation needed

Another common method is borrowing a well known nearby place name and adding a direction, like Nishitōkyō "West Tokyo", Kitakyūshū "North Kyūshū", Higashiosaka "East Osaka", Shikokuchūō "Central Shikoku" and recently Higashiōmi "East Ōmi" Other towns sometimes use nouns with pleasant connotations, such as peace 平和, heiwa, green 緑, midori, or future 未来, mirai

A characteristic of the Heisei mergers is a rapid increase of hiragana names The names of Japan's cities used to be written in Kanji exclusively The first instance of "hiragana municipalities" was Mutsu むつ, renamed in 1960 Their number reached 45 by April 2006 They include Tsukuba つくば, Kahoku かほく, Sanuki さぬき, Tsukubamirai つくばみらい, and Saitama さいたま, which was upgraded to a designated city in 2003 The recent merger of Minami Alps is the first example of a katakana city name


  1. ^ "Consolidation of Local Governments in Japan and Effects on Sister City Relationships," Archive Consulate General of Japan, San Francisco

External linksedit

  • Japan portal
  • Merger consultation, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications Japanese

Municipal mergers and dissolutions in Japan Information about

Municipal mergers and dissolutions in Japan

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