Special wards of Tokyo
Shinjuku, one of Tokyo's special wards
Located in the green highlights
|• Special wards||619 km2 (239 sq mi)|
(October 1, 2016)
|• Special wards||9,375,104|
|• Density||15,146/km2 (39,230/sq mi)|
| Administrative divisions|
Special wards (特別区, tokubetsu-ku) are a special form of municipalities in Japan under the 1947 Local Autonomy Law. They are city-level wards: primary subdivisions of a prefecture with municipal autonomy largely comparable to other forms of municipalities.
Although the autonomy law today allows for special wards to be established in other prefectures, to date, they only exist in the Tokyo Metropolis which consists of 23 special wards and 39 other, ordinary municipalities (cities, towns and villages). Special wards of Tokyo (東京特別区, Tōkyō tokubetsu-ku) occupy the land that was Tokyo City in its 1936 borders before it was abolished under the Tōjō Cabinet in 1943 to become directly ruled by the prefectural government, then renamed to "Metropolitan". During the Occupation of Japan, municipal autonomy was restored to former Tokyo City by the establishment of special wards, each with directly elected mayor and assembly, as in any other city, town or village in Tokyo and the rest of the country. Minority, mostly leftist calls for a restoration of Tokyo City (東京市復活, Tōkyō-shi fukkatsu) were not answered. The question of whether special wards actually are municipalities with full local autonomy rights at all remained a political and legal issue for decades.The
In Japanese, they are collectively also known as "Wards area of Tokyo Metropolis" (東京都区部, Tōkyō-to kubu), "former Tokyo City" (旧東京市, kyū-Tōkyō-shi), or less formally the 23 wards (23区, nijūsan-ku) or just Tokyo (東京, Tōkyō) if the context makes obvious that this does not refer to the whole prefecture. Today, all wards refer to themselves as a city in English, but the Japanese designation of special ward (tokubetsu-ku) remains unchanged. They are a group of 23 municipalities; there is no associated single government body separate from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government which governs all 62 municipalities of Tokyo, not only the special wards.
Analogues exist in historic and contemporary Chinese and Korean administration: "Special wards" are city-independent wards, analogously, "special cities/special cities" (teukbyeol-si/tokubetsu-shi) are province-/prefecture-independent cities and were intended to be introduced under SCAP in Japan, too; but in Japan, implementation was stalled, and in 1956 special cities were replaced in the Local Autonomy Law with designated major cities which gain additional autonomy, but remain part of prefectures. In everyday English, Tokyo as a whole is also referred to as a city even though it contains 62 cities, towns, villages and special wards. The closest English equivalents for the special wards would be the London boroughs or New York City boroughs if Greater London and New York City had been abolished in the same way as Tokyo City and they were immediate part of England or New York state, and this can help to understand their structures and functions.
Although special wards are autonomous from the Tokyo metropolitan government, they also function as a single urban entity in respect to certain public services, including water supply, sewage disposal, and fire services. These services are handled by the Tokyo metropolitan government, whereas cities would normally provide these services themselves. This situation is identical between the Federal District and its 31 administrative regions in Brazil. To finance the joint public services it provides to the 23 wards, the metropolitan government levies some of the taxes that would normally be levied by city governments, and also makes transfer payments to wards that cannot finance their own local administration.
Waste disposal is handled by each ward under direction of the metropolitan government. For example, plastics were generally handled as non-burnable waste until the metropolitan government announced a plan to halt burying of plastic waste by 2010; as a result, about half of the special wards now treat plastics as burnable waste, while the other half mandate recycling of either all or some plastics.
Unlike other municipalities (including the municipalities of western Tokyo), special wards were initially not considered to be local public entities for purposes of the Constitution of Japan. This means that they had no constitutional right to pass their own legislation, or to hold direct elections for mayors and councilors. While these authorities were granted by statute during the US-led occupation and again from 1975, they could be unilaterally revoked by the National Diet; similar measures against other municipalities would require a constitutional amendment. The denial of elected mayors to the special wards was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in the 1963 decision Japan v. Kobayashi et al. (also known as Tokyo Ward Autonomy Case).
In 1998, the National Diet passed a revision of the Local Autonomy Law (effective in the year 2000) that implemented the conclusions of the Final Report on the Tokyo Ward System Reform increasing their fiscal autonomy and established the wards as basic local public entities.
The word "special" distinguishes them from the wards (区, ku) of other major Japanese cities. Before 1943, the wards of Tokyo City were no different from the wards of Osaka or Kyoto. These original wards numbered 15 in 1889. Large areas from five surrounding districts were merged into the city in 1932 and organized in 20 new wards, bringing the total to 35; the expanded city was also referred to as "Greater Tokyo" (大東京, Dai-Tōkyō). By this merger, together with smaller ones in 1920 and 1936, Tokyo City came to expand to the current city area.
On March 15, 1943, as part of wartime authoritarian tightening of controls, Tokyo's local autonomy (elected council and mayor) under the Imperial municipal code was eliminated by the Tōjō cabinet and the Tokyo city government and (Home ministry appointed) prefectural government merged into a single (appointed) prefectural government;the wards were placed under the direct control of the prefecture.
The 35 wards of the former city were integrated into 22 on March 15, 1947 just before the legal definition of special wards was given by the Local Autonomy Law, enforced on May 3 the same year. The 23rd ward, Nerima, was formed on August 1, 1947 when Itabashi was split again. The postwar reorganization under the US-led occupation authorities democratized the prefectural administrations but did not include the reinstitution of Tokyo City. Seiichirō Yasui, a former Home Ministry bureaucrat and appointed governor, won the first Tokyo gubernatorial election against Daikichirō Tagawa, a former Christian Socialist member of the Imperial Diet, former vice mayor of Tokyo city and advocate of Tokyo city's local autonomy.
Since the 1970s, the special wards of Tokyo have exercised a considerably higher degree of autonomy than the administrative wards of cities (that unlike Tokyo City retained their elected mayors and assemblies) but still less than other municipalities in Tokyo or the rest of the country, making them less independent than cities, towns or villages, but more independent than city subdivisions. Today, each special ward has its own elected mayor (区長, kuchō) and assembly (区議会, kugikai).
In 2000, the National Diet designated the special wards as local public entities (地方公共団体, chihō kōkyō dantai), giving them a legal status similar to cities.
The wards vary greatly in area (from 10 to 60 km2) and population (from less than 40,000 to 830,000), and some are expanding as artificial islands are built. Setagaya has the most people, while neighboring Ōta has the largest area.
The total population census of the 23 special wards had fallen under 8 million as the postwar economic boom moved people out to suburbs, and then rose as Japan's lengthy stagnation took its toll and property values drastically changed, making residential inner areas up to 10 times less costly than during peak values. Its population was 8,949,447 as of October 1, 2010, [ citation needed ]about two-thirds of the population of Tokyo and a quarter of the population of the Greater Tokyo Area. As of December 2012, the population passed 9 million; the 23 wards have a population density of 14,485 per square kilometre (37,501 per square mile).
The Mori Memorial Foundation put forth a proposal in 1999 to consolidate the 23 wards into six larger cities for efficiency purposes, and an agreement was reached between the metropolitan and special ward governments in 2006 to consider realignment of the wards, but there has been minimal further movement to change the current special ward system.
Special wards do not currently exist outside Tokyo; however, several Osaka area politicians, led by Governor Tōru Hashimoto, are backing an Osaka Metropolis plan under which the city of Osaka would be replaced by special wards, consolidating many government functions at the prefectural level and devolving other functions to more localized governments. Under a new 2012 law, – sometimes informally called "Osaka Metropolis plan law", but not specifically referring to Osaka – major cities and their surrounding municipalities in prefectures other than Tokyo may be replaced with special wards with similar functions if approved by the involved municipal and prefectural governments and ultimately the citizens of the dissolving municipalities in a referendum. Prerequisite is a population of at least 2 million in the dissolving municipalities; three cities (Yokohama, Nagoya and Osaka) meet this requirement on their own, seven other major city areas can set up special wards if a designated city is joined by neighboring municipalities. prefectures (道府県, -dō/-fu/-ken) where special wards are set up cannot style themselves metropolis (都, -to) as the Local Autonomy Law only allows Tokyo with that status. In Osaka, a 2015 referendum to replace the city with five special wards was defeated narrowly.However,
Unitary state, local autonomy anchored in the Constitution
|Central/Japanese national government|
| Cabinet/Prime Minister |
(naikaku/naikaku sōri-daijin, 内閣/内閣総理大臣)
indirectly elected by the Diet from the Diet
| National Diet |
bicameral, both houses directly elected
| Prefectures ("Metropolis, prefecture, prefectures and prefectures") |
47 contiguous subdivisions of the nation
local autonomy and delegated functions from national level
unicameral, directly elected
|[ Subprefectures ]|
Sub-prefectural administrative divisions of some prefectures,
contiguous in some prefectures, only partial for some areas in others
in Tokyo: 4 subprefectures for remote islands
(shichō, 支庁 and other various names)
(Subordinate branch offices of the prefectural government, delegated prefectural functions)
| Municipalities (Cities, [special] wards/"cities", towns and villages)|
(shi/[tokubetsu-]ku/chō [=machi]/son [=mura], 市区町村)
(as of 2016: 1,741) contiguous subdivisions of all 47 prefectures
in Tokyo often named in the order: -ku/-shi/-chō/-son, 区市町村
in Tokyo as of 2001: 62 municipalities (23 special wards, 26 cities, 5 towns, 8 villages)
|Municipal government (city/ward/town/village hall)|
(shi-/ku-yakusho, 市/区役所/machi-/mura-yakuba, 町/村役場)
local autonomy and delegated functions from national & prefectural level
post-occupation–2000: only shi/chō/son with municipal autonomy rights, ku with delegated authority
|Municipal (city/ward/town/village) mayor|
in Tokyo's special wards: indirectly elected 1952–1975
|Municipal (city/ward/town/village) assembly|
unicameral, directly elected
|[ Wards, sometimes unambiguously "administrative wards"]|
Contiguous sub-municipal administrative divisions of designated major cities
(Subordinate branch offices of the city government, delegated municipal functions)
(as of October 2016 [update] )
|01||Chiyoda||千代田区||59,441||5,100||11.66||Nagatachō, Kasumigaseki, Ōtemachi, Marunouchi, Akihabara, Yūrakuchō, Iidabashi, Kanda|
|02||Chūō||中央区||147,620||14,460||10.21||Nihonbashi, Kayabachō, Ginza, Tsukiji, Hatchōbori, Shinagawa, Tsukishima, Kachidoki, Tsukuda|
|03||Minato||港区||248,071||12,180||20.37||Odaiba, Shinbashi, Hamamatsuchō, Mita, Roppongi, Toranomon, Aoyama, Azabu, Akasaka|
|04||Shinjuku||新宿区||339,211||18,620||18.22||Shinjuku, Takadanobaba, Ōkubo, Kagurazaka, Ichigaya, Yotsuya, Sendagaya, Yoyogi|
|05||Bunkyō||文京区||223,389||19,790||11.29||Hongō, Yayoi, Hakusan|
|07||Sumida||墨田区||260,358||18,910||13.77||Kinshichō, Morishita, Ryōgoku|
|08||Kōtō||江東区||502,579||12,510||40.16||Kiba, Ariake, Kameido, Tōyōchō, Monzennakachō, Fukagawa, Kiyosumi, Shirakawa, Etchūjima, Sunamachi, Aomi|
|09||Shinagawa||品川区||392,492||17,180||22.84||Shinagawa, Gotanda, Ōsaki, Hatanodai, Ōimachi, Tennōzu|
|10||Meguro||目黒区||280,283||19,110||14.67||Meguro, Nakameguro, Jiyugaoka, Komaba, Aobadai|
|11||Ōta||大田区||722,608||11,910||60.66||Ōmori, Kamata, Haneda, Den-en-chōfu|
|12||Setagaya||世田谷区||910,868||15,690||58.05||Shimokitazawa, Kinuta, Karasuyama, Tamagawa|
|13||Shibuya||渋谷区||227,850||15,080||15.11||Shibuya, Ebisu, Harajuku, Daikanyama, Hiroo|
|15||Suginami||杉並区||570,483||16,750||34.06||Kōenji, Asagaya, Ogikubo|
|16||Toshima||豊島区||294,673||22,650||13.01||Ikebukuro, Komagome, Senkawa, Sugamo|
|17||Kita||北区||345,063||16,740||20.61||Akabane, Ōji, Tabata|
|18||Arakawa||荒川区||213,648||21,030||10.16||Arakawa, Machiya, Nippori, Minamisenju|
|20||Nerima||練馬区||726,748||15,120||48.08||Nerima, Ōizumi, Hikarigaoka|
|21||Adachi||足立区||674,067||12,660||53.25||Ayase, Kitasenju, Takenotsuka|
|22||Katsushika||葛飾区||447,140||12,850||34.80||Tateishi, Aoto, Kameari, Shibamata|
Many important districts are located in Tokyo's special wards:
Tokyo, officially the Tokyo Metropolis, is the de facto capital and most populous prefecture of Japan. Located at the head of Tokyo Bay, the prefecture forms part of the Kantō region on the central Pacific coast of Japan's main island of Honshu. Tokyo is the political and economic center of the country, as well as the seat of the Emperor of Japan and the national government. As of 2021, the prefecture has an estimated population of 13,960,236. The Greater Tokyo Area is the most populous metropolitan area in the world, with more than 37.393 million residents as of 2020.
Taitō is a special ward located in Tokyo Metropolis, Japan. In English, it is known as Taitō City.
Japan is divided into 47 prefectures, which rank immediately below the national government and form the country's first level of jurisdiction and administrative division. They include 43 prefectures proper two urban prefectures, one "circuit" or "territory" and one metropolis. In 1868, the Meiji Fuhanken sanchisei administration created the first prefectures to replace the urban and rural administrators in the parts of the country previously controlled directly by the shogunate and a few territories of rebels/shogunate loyalists who had not submitted to the new government such as Aizu/Wakamatsu. In 1871, all remaining feudal domains (han) were also transformed into prefectures, so that prefectures subdivided the whole country. In several waves of territorial consolidation, today's 47 prefectures were formed by the turn of the century. In many instances, these are contiguous with the ancient ritsuryō provinces of Japan.
Shinjuku is a special ward in Tokyo, Japan. It is a major commercial and administrative centre, housing the northern half of the busiest railway station in the world and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, the administration centre for the government of Tokyo. As of 2018, the ward has an estimated population of 346,235, and a population density of 18,232 people per km2. The total area is 18.23 km2. Since the end of the Second World War, Shinjuku has been a major secondary center of Tokyo (fukutoshin), rivaling to the original city center in Marunouchi and Ginza. It literally means "New Inn Ward".
Shibuya is a special ward in Tokyo, Japan. As a major commercial and finance center, it houses two of the busiest railway stations in the world, Shinjuku Station and Shibuya Station.
Bunkyō is a special ward located in Tokyo, Japan. Situated in the middle of the ward area, Bunkyō is a residential and educational center. Beginning in the Meiji period, literati like Natsume Sōseki, as well as scholars and politicians have lived there. Bunkyō is home to the Tokyo Dome, Judo's Kōdōkan, and the University of Tokyo's Hongo Campus. Bunkyō has a sister-city relationship with Kaiserslautern in the Rhineland-Palatinate of Germany.
Kōtō is a special ward located in Tokyo Metropolis, Japan. The ward refers to itself as Kōtō City in English. As of May 1, 2015, the ward has an estimated population of 488,632, and a population density of 12,170 persons per km². The total area is approximately 40.16 km².
A city designated by government ordinance, also known as a designated city or government ordinance city, is a Japanese city that has a population greater than 500,000 and has been designated as such by order of the Cabinet of Japan under Article 252, Section 19 of the Local Autonomy Law.
The Tokyo Metro is a major rapid transit system in Tokyo, Japan, operated by the Tokyo Metro Co. While it is not the only rapid transit system operating in Tokyo, it has the higher ridership among the two subway operators: in 2014, the Tokyo Metro had an average daily ridership of 6.84 million passengers, while the other system, the Toei Subway, had 2.85 million average daily rides.
Akihabara Station is a railway station in Tokyo's Chiyoda ward. It is at the center of the Akihabara shopping district specializing in electronic goods.
The Japanese addressing system is used to identify a specific location in Japan. When written in Japanese characters, addresses start with the largest geographical entity and proceed to the most specific one. When written in Latin characters, addresses follow the convention used by most Western addresses and start with the smallest geographic entity and proceed to the largest. The Japanese system is complex and idiosyncratic, the product of the natural growth of urban areas, as opposed to the systems used in cities that are laid out as grids and divided into quadrants or districts.
Japan has three levels of government: national, prefectural, and municipal. The nation is divided into 47 prefectures. Each prefecture consists of numerous municipalities, with 1,719 in total. There are four types of municipalities in Japan: cities, towns, villages and special wards. In Japanese, this system is known as shikuchōson (市区町村), where each kanji in the word represents one of the four types of municipalities. Some designated cities also have further administrative subdivisions, also known as wards. But, unlike the Special wards of Tokyo, these wards are not municipalities.
Tokyo City was a municipality in Japan and part of Tokyo-fu which existed from 1 May 1889 until its merger with its prefecture on 1 July 1943. The historical boundaries of Tokyo City are now occupied by the 23 Special Wards of Tokyo. The new merged government became what is now Tokyo, also known as the Tokyo Metropolis, or, ambiguously, Tokyo Prefecture.
Tokyo Prefecture was a Japanese government entity that existed between 1868 and 1943.
The bureaucratic administration of Japan is divided into three basic levels; national, prefectural, and municipal. Below the national government there are 47 prefectures, six of which are further subdivided into subprefectures to better service large geographical areas or remote islands. The municipalities are the lowest level of government; the twenty most-populated cities outside Tokyo Metropolis are known as designated cities and are subdivided into wards.
The politics of Tokyo City, as the capital of the Empire of Japan, took place under special regulations that limited its local autonomy compared to other municipalities in Japan. In 1943, the city's independent institutions were eliminated altogether under the authoritarian Tōjō cabinet and the administration was absorbed by the appointed government of Tokyo prefecture.
The Osaka Metropolis Plan or Osaka Metropolis was a plan to transform Osaka Prefecture from a fu, an urban prefecture, into a to, a metropolis. Under the initially envisioned plan, Osaka city, Sakai city, and other surrounding cities in Osaka prefecture, were to be dissolved and – similarly to Tokyo urban wards within Tokyo – subdivided into special wards that have a status as municipalities but leave some municipal tasks and revenues to the prefectural administration. As political resistance grew, notably the opposition to the plan in Sakai city expressed in the 2013 mayoral election, the concrete plan was reduced to, at least as a first step, abolish only Osaka city. As in Tokyo, the metropolis would have continued to include all other municipalities of the prefecture and serve as prefectural government for them.
Politics of Osaka City, as in all municipalities of Japan, takes place in the framework of local autonomy that is guaranteed by chapter 8 of the Constitution and laid out in the Local Autonomy Law. As one of Japan's 20 major cities designated by government ordinance, Osaka City has some administrative responsibilities that are handled by the prefectures in ordinary municipalities and is subdivided into wards.
Chiyoda is a special ward located in central Tokyo, Japan. It is known as Chiyoda City in English.
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