What is the big deal about ordinance designated cities in Japan?

Most likely you have never heard of the Japanese word of Seireishiteitoshi and even less likely understand the big impact this ordinance-designated cities have on the local government budgets. Let me first explain the concept of an ordinance-designated city. According to Japanese law, since 1999 a Japanese city that has a population greater than 700,000 and has been designated as such by an order of the cabinet of Japan under Article 252, Section 19 of the Local Autonomy Law, becomes a city within the regional prefecture that has the same rights and duty as the prefecture. More details about Seireishiteitoshi can be found in Japanese at 政令指定都市 (せいれいしていとし).
On a national stage a lot of news in regard to the problems concerning the ordinance-designed cities can be mainly heard from the city of Osaka and the region of Osaka. With the increasing financial burdens compared to the recent decreased tax income of local governments of larger cities, regional government and local cities need to find a way of decreasing not absolutely necessary expenses. A good example is that so far a prefecture had set up in their region local libraries, when at the same time the local city had set up their own library. As a consequence in some areas both libraries might be very close to each other, which creates not only unnecessary costs, but as well now the question, which library stays and which has to be closed down?
You can expect in the near future similar problems to pop up with the following 19 ordinance-designated cities and the respective prefecture:

1. Yokohama (population 3,681,000)
2. Osaka (2,668,000)
3. Nagoya (2,259,000)
4. Sapporo (1,910,000)
5. Kobe (1,539,000)
6. Kyoto (1,463,000)
7. Fukuoka (1,462,000)
8. Kawasaki (1,420,000)
9. Saitama City (1,221,000)
10. Hiroshima (1,174,000)
11. Sendai (1,037,000)
12. Kitakyushu (1,037,000)
13. Chiba (981,000)
14. Sakai (839,000)
15. Niigata (812,000)
16. Hamamatsu (808,000)
17. Shizuoka (716,000)
18. Sagamihara City (714,000)
19. Okayama (705,000)

I truly hope that the double functions of the city and the prefecture can be cut in a way that works best for the local residents. Looking at the total increasing dept that Japan is facing, I believe it is high time to review unnecessary spending. I really hope that Japan does not become the Italy of Asia (suggested naming by the Asia Wallstreet Journal).

Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (シビル伊藤)

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