Local Government in Japan
Japan has a unitary system of government in which local jurisdictions largely depend on national government financially. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications 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.
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 theirprefecture, 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.
Japan is divided into forty-seven administrative divisions, the prefectures: one metropolitan district (Tokyo), two urban prefectures (Kyoto and Osaka), forty-three rural prefectures, and one “district”, Hokkaidō. Large cities are subdivided into wards, and further split into towns, or precincts, or subprefecture and counties.
Cities are self-governing units administered independently of the larger jurisdictions within which they are located. In order to attain city status, a jurisdiction must have at least 30,000 inhabitants, 60 percent of whom are engaged in urban occupations. There are 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 are the smallest self-governing entities in rural areas. They often consist of a number of rural hamlets containing several thousand people connected to one another through the formally imposed framework of village administration. Villages have mayors and councils elected to four-year terms.
Structure of local government
All prefectural and municipal governments in Japan are organized following the Local Autonomy Law, a statute applied nationwide in 1947.
Each jurisdiction has a chief executive, called a governor in prefectures and a mayor in municipalities. Most jurisdictions also have a unicameral assembly, although towns and villages may opt for direct governance by citizens in a general assembly. Both the executive and assembly are elected by popular vote every four years.
Local governments follow a modified version of the separation of powers used in the national government. An assembly may pass a vote of no confidence in the executive, in which case the executive must either dissolve the assembly within ten days or automatically lose their office. Following the next election, however, the executive remains in office unless the new assembly again passes a no confidence resolution.
The primary methods of local lawmaking are local ordinance and local regulations. Ordinances, similar to statutes in the national system, are passed by the assembly and may impose limited criminal penalties for violations (up to 2 years in prison and/or 1 million yen in fines). Regulations, similar to cabinet orders in the national system, are passed by the executive unilaterally, are superseded by any conflicting ordinances, and may only impose a fine of up to 50,000 yen.
Local governments also generally have multiple committees such as school boards, public safety committees (responsible for overseeing the police), personnel committees, election committees and auditing committees. These may be directly elected or chosen by the assembly, executive or both.
All prefectures are required to maintain departments of general affairs, finance, welfare, health, and labor. Departments of agriculture, fisheries, forestry, commerce, and industry are optional, depending on local needs. The governor is responsible for all activities supported through local taxation or the national government.
Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_of_Japan