Local government

Japan has a unitary rather than federal system of government, in which local jurisdictions largely depend on national government financially. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (formerly Ministry of Home Affairs), although much less powerful than its prewar counterpart (the Home Ministry), intervenes significantly in local government, as do other ministries. This is done chiefly financially because many local government jobs need funding initiated by national ministries. This is dubbed as "thirty-percent autonomy" (????, san wari jichi?).

Administrative divisions of Japan

The result of this power is a high level of organizational and policy standardization among the different local jurisdictions allowing them to preserve the uniqueness of their prefecture, city, or town. Some of the more collectivist jurisdictions, such as Tokyo and Kyoto, have experimented with policies in such areas as social welfare that later were adopted by the national government.

Local authorities
Japan is divided into forty-seven administrative divisions, the prefectures: one metropolitan district (to?Tokyo), two urban prefectures (fu?Kyoto and Osaka), forty-three rural prefectures (ken), and one "district" (note district is different from gun which appears later)(d??Hokkaid?). Large cities are subdivided into wards (ku), and further split into towns, or precincts (machi or ch?), or subprefecture (shich?) and counties (gun).

Cities (shi) are self-governing units administered independently of the larger jurisdictions within which they are located. In order to attain shi status, a jurisdiction must have at least 30,000 inhabitants, 60 percent of whom are engaged in urban occupations. The terms machi and ch? designate self-governing towns outside the cities as well as precincts of urban wards. Like the cities, each has its own elected mayor and assembly. Villages (son or mura) are the smallest self-governing entities in rural areas. They often consist of a number of rural hamlets (buraku) containing several thousand people connected to one another through the formally imposed framework of village administration. Villages have mayors and councils elected to four-years terms.


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