Local government in Japan

Authored by: Jun Saito , Kyohei Yamada

Routledge Handbook of Japanese Politics

Print publication date:  February  2011
Online publication date:  February  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415551373
eBook ISBN: 9780203829875
Adobe ISBN: 9781136818387


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Local governments in Japan are in charge of a wide range of policy matters, ranging quite literally from the cradle to the grave. While the status and the functions of local governments in Japan are stipulated in the postwar constitution (article 92–95), these constitutional clauses are so terse that their actual role-expectations have fallen under the discretion of the central government. Although the spirit of the postwar reform was to dismantle the prewar fascist political organizations that had penetrated deep into the grassroots level of the society, the postwar electoral campaigns also relied heavily on the preexisting social hierarchies (Matsushita 1961). In addition, although the postwar reform was intended to give local governments autonomous decision-making authority, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) effectively revised the laws that regulated local governments and manipulated the budgetary allocation to help the party stay in power. As a corollary of the central government’s broad discretionary control, the LDP stayed in power for more than five decades by fully taking advantage of the “divide and conquer” strategy over local government (e.g. Scheiner 2006; Saito 2010).

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