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TMG and the 23 Special Wards

Tokyo is a regional government encompassing 23 special wards, 26 cities, 5 towns and 8 villages. However, reflecting the dense population, urban contiguity, and other realities of the 23 special-ward area, a unique administrative system exists between the metropolitan government and the wards, which differs from the typical relationship between prefectures and municipalities.

This system balances the need to maintain unified administration and control across the whole of the ward area and the need to have the local ward governments, which are nearer to the residents, handle everyday affairs. Specifically, in the 23 wards, the metropolitan government takes on some of the administrative responsibilities of a “city,” such as water supply and sewerage services, and firefighting in order to ensure the provision of uniform, efficient services, while the wards have the autonomy to independently handle affairs close to the lives of the residents such as welfare, education, and housing.

The special-ward system underwent a number of reforms to become what it is today. The wards were formerly positioned as special local public entities within Tokyo Metropolis, but with the aim to enhance their independence and autonomy, the system was reformed to reposition the wards as basic local public entities from the year 2000. In addition, the Metropolitan-Ward Council was established as a consultative body for communication and coordination between the metropolitan government and the wards. Through the meetings of this council, the metropolitan government and the wards continuously hold discussions on matters such as the ideal form of relations between the two entities.

TMG Financial Adjustment System for the Special Wards

Through this system, the metropolitan government makes financial adjustments between itself and the wards and for among the wards as well. In the ward area, the metropolitan government and wards share some responsibilities for handling administrative affairs, and thus in order to also share the tax revenue sources required for the costs incurred, the metropolitan government levies the municipal taxes of corporate inhabitant tax, fixed assets tax, special land ownership tax, and corporate business tax, and allocates a fixed proportion of the revenues to the ward governments. The financial adjustment among the 23 special wards is also designed to redress imbalances in an individual ward’s fiscal revenues due to uneven distribution of financial resources. When a ward’s basic fiscal need exceeds its basic fiscal revenues, the difference is made up in the form of allocations from the metropolitan government.

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