2018 Volume 73 Issue 1 Pages 21-33
In Japan during the 2000s, the national government encouraged municipal mergers. This policy was called "major mergers during the Heisei era" (MMH), and one of its purposes was to improve the administrative capacities of municipal governments. Before MMH, however, to supplement municipal administrative capabilities, the national government established wider-area municipal spheres (WAMSs) or koiki-shichoson-ken, each of which comprised one central city municipality (some exceptional WAMSs had two or three centers) and several rural municipalities. It can therefore be said that MMH changed the means of empowering municipalities from WAMSs to mergers.
This paper examines regional differences among the degrees of areal correspondence between WAMSs and the merged municipalities by employing two original indices of WAMSs: the ratio of decrease in the number of municipalities (RDM) and the number of smaller municipalities that joined a central municipality (RSC). The RDM represents the number of municipalities that decreased in each WAMS during the period of MMH, and the RSC indicates the number of non-central municipalities decided to merge with their central municipality.
Based on these two indices, this paper classifies WAMSs into the three following categories and shows their locations:
1. WAMSs that correspond well with the merged municipalities (which have a high RDM and a high RSC) tend to be on the periphery of prefectures.
2. WAMSs in which there were few municipal mergers (and therefore have a low RDM) tend to be in Hokkaido, Tohoku, or nearby metropolitan areas.
3. WAMSs in which a central city municipality was excluded from municipal mergers (which have a high RDM and a low RSC) tend to be in Hokuriku, Southern Shikoku, or within a radius of 100 kilometers of Tokyo or Osaka.