In 1871, immediately after the Meiji Restoration, the han (feudal domain) system was abolished. More than 140 years have passed since then, during which our society has rapidly evolved and the cross-border movement of people, goods, and information has developed significantly. As a result, regional areas are now faced with global competition. Despite this, the system of centralization that was established in line with the policy to abolish the han system has remained largely unchanged. The To-Dō-Fu-Ken (prefectural) system should be abolished and the government should take decisive action to get rid of prefectures and instead establish dōs.
1. Abolish To-Dō-Fu-Ken (Prefectures) and Create Ten Dōs and Two Special Zones in Japan!
The proposed Dō system is virtually meaningless in one sense as, under this system, the prefectures (to, dō, fu, and ken) are simply cut into pieces and repasted together again in a different way, merely reducing the number of prefectures. The three major features of the transition to the Dō system are as follows:
1) Achievement of sufficient scale: With a sufficiently sized economy and population, each dō can develop its economic policy and provide administrative services efficiently and on its own.
2) Transfer of jurisdiction and duties: Authorities will be transferred to basic municipalities to the extent possible to limit the duties of the central government to those connected with diplomacy, defense, and other critical issues in order to achieve a small but strong central government.
3) Transfer of financial resources: Each dō and each basic municipality will be given independent financial resources (tax revenues) and will conduct investment and carry out expenditures in a way that is appropriate in terms of its tax revenues.
To achieve these goals, I propose to reorganize the conventional system into a new system by abolishing prefectures and establishing dōs in their place. The new system will consist of 10 dōs and two special zones, along with around 300 basic municipalities, each of which consists of 200,000 to 400,000 people. In many proposals for Dō systems, administrative districts other than Hokkaido are often called “shū,” but in the “100 Actions,” the term we use for all these districts, other than special zones, is “dō.”
2. Establish Highly Independent Dō Governments!
The most important feature in the adoption of the Dō system is that each dō government is offered incentives to increase its competitiveness, including the enhancement of the dō economy and the streamlining of dō government and administration, with the aim of strengthening Japan as a whole through their competition. The economy of each dō, even the smallest, that of Shikoku Dō, will be of a size comparable to that of a medium-sized European or Asian country. The scale of Minami-kanto Dō and Kansai Dō will exceed the GDPs of Indonesia and the Netherlands. It will be necessary to establish highly independent dō governments, which have their own basic law, Dō governors (an administrative office) with an autonomous right to levy taxes, and Dō assemblies with autonomous legislative authority. In this way, each dō can conduct independent economic and administrative management at the level of a medium-sized country.
3. Set the Minimum Population of a Basic Municipality at 200,000 to 400,000 (50,000 for the Transitional Period), and Reorganize to Form Some 300 Basic Municipalities!
In terms of the significance of the adoption of the Dō system, nobody would object to the following points: full implementation of decentralization along with establishment of local sovereign populations. If so, the body that provides the majority of important services should be a basic municipality and its size should be adequate to enable it to wholly fulfill its expected roles. As more basic municipalities merge to achieve the optimal size, their financial and economic power will be enhanced. Furthermore, healthcare, nursing care, and administrative services can be maintained efficiently and at low costs.
For this reason, in promoting the merger of municipalities, the minimum population of a basic municipality should be set at 50,000 during the transitional period and, over the long term, at 200,000 to 400,000. If municipalities are consolidated in such a way that each basic municipality has a population of between 200,000 and 400,000, Japan will be reorganized into a country consisting of a little over 300 basic municipalities. By simple arithmetic, because there will be 10 dōs (excluding the special zones of Okinawa and Tokyo), one dō will consist of just over 30 basic municipalities. On the occasion of the adoption of the Dō system, utmost efforts should be made to promote the repeated mergers of municipalities to increase the scale of the basic municipalities.