NHK TV news in Otsu reported an interesting bit of news on Feb. 26, 2013 about the governor of Kyoto stating that he was in favor of merging Kyoto and Shiga Prefectures. And that Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada rejected such a merger saying that she did not see how Shiga could benefit.
This is what Kyoto Governor Keiji Yamada stated in front of the Kyoto Prefectural Assembly on On Feb. 25, 2013:
“Kyoto and Shiga Prefectures share a lot within our living and working spheres, so merging is a practical option. If this happens, we could also think about moving Kyoto’s prefectural capital to Otsu.”
In Japanese: 「滋賀県とは生活区域や働く場所など共通点が非常に多いので合併というのも１つの現実的な対応ではないか。そうした場合、政治論からすれば、大津に府庁を持って行くことも考えられる」
Reacting to this, Governor Kada told reporters:
“Shiga has a history of 1,300 years. Since we are bound/unified by a natural lake, we are called ‘Lake country’ and ‘Omi Province.’ We’re older than Kyoto (grin)…Shiga is also governed by a tightly-knit government and people in Shiga love their hometown and retain a strong identity. I don’t really see any benefits right now in erasing Shiga or merging with Kyoto.”
In Japanese: 「滋賀県は湖でつながり、一体的に行政運営もなされ、県民の皆さんも地元を愛しているので、京都と一緒になるメリットは今のところ見えない」
This talk is in reference to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and other parties’ push for the Doshusei (道州制) system of consolidating Japan’s prefectures (except Hokkaido and Okinawa) into larger regional states. The Kyoto governor’s statement was made amid this national discussion so it’s not totally out of the blue.
If you live in Japan, you should learn and remember the word Doshusei. It literally means, “Hokkaido+states system.” It’s been kicked around for quite some time, but it has become more prominent in the past 10 years and you can be sure to hear it more often from now on, especially with the Liberal Democratic Party in power.
The Doshusei system is a major reform and realignment of Japan’s governmental jurisdictions. The word “prefecture” would disappear, replaced by “state.” It would be similar to when prefectures consolidated and replaced the old samurai domains called han (藩) in 1871. That was called haihan-chiken (廃藩置県). There are Doshusei proposals to consolidate Japan’s 47 prefectures into 9, 11, or 13 states. Hokkaido and Okinawa would remain as separate states, while the remaining 45 prefectures would be merged into regional states.
The image at the top gives you an idea of what the new united states of Japan might look like in the case of having nine states. Shiga Prefecture (white dot) would basically merge with Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Nara, and Wakayama Prefectures (all in light green in the middle). (There is also a proposal to include Fukui Prefecture.) It combines the Kansai and Kinki regions.
The goals and benefits of the Doshusei system supposed to be the decentralization of the national government in favor of more local autonomy. Another benefit supposed to be improved fiscal and administrative efficiency which I hope means a smaller and less costly government. I guess the six governors of six merging prefectures would be replaced by only one governor right?
Kyoto Governor Yamada’s statement favoring a merger with Shiga is premature since ultimately it’s not a matter of only Kyoto and Shiga merging, but the merger of at least six prefectures. Wouldn’t it be more efficient and less costly to merge all at once instead of only Kyoto and Shiga at first, then add Osaka, etc., later? I can only dismiss Governor Yamada’s statement as just “feelers” for a reaction from Shiga which has been “no” so far (at least from Gov. Kada). I’m sure Kyoto would love to claim Shiga as its own. Lake Biwa is their (and Osaka’s) water supply and would be the most prized possession. For us in Shiga, we could say that we live in Kyoto instead of always saying, “Next to Kyoto.”
One big sticking point for the Doshusei system would be what to name the new state and how the old prefectures would be able to retain their local names, identity, and flavor. Prefectures like Kyoto and Osaka with capital cities having the same name will be able to retain their names on the map. But not Shiga, unless they figure something out. What would people call the area once known as Shiga Prefecture? Omi? Biwako area? Eastern Kinki (if the new state will be called Kinki)?
Any prefectural merger would render the name “Shiga” obsolete unless they name the new state “Shiga” (fat chance). There are many things named “Shiga,” universities, public facilities, etc. And of course, Web sites like mine. Hence, my interest in this news.
Also, sister-state relations between Shiga and Michigan will likely encompass the entire super state. Michigan will be a sister state with Kyoto, Osaka, etc., as well. Imagine that.
But a prefectural merger and/or the implementation of the Doshusei system is inevitable. The question is when and how. Will it be a super merger of all prefectures at one time or piece meal? Will it occur all over Japan at the same time or at different times? Governor Kada has set up a research group (道州制研究チーム) to study the pros and cons of the Doshusei system. It’s basically a money matter though. If there are enough financial incentives, the prefectures will merge as the cities, towns, and villages have done in recent years.