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Urban Studies Research
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 692764, 14 pages
Research Article

Japan's Evolving Nested Municipal Hierarchy: The Race for Local Power in the 2000s

Department of Sociology, East Carolina University, 405A Brewster, MS 567, Greenville, NC 27858, USA

Received 8 October 2010; Accepted 10 December 2010

Academic Editor: Ben Derudder

Copyright © 2011 A. J. Jacobs. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In agreement with Nested City theory, this paper illustrates how Japan's municipal hierarchy has evolved and remained embedded within that nation's particular historical-political-economic context. It chronicles how municipalities have attained status based upon the role they have played in the country's political, economic, and military history, and, more recently, their population size. It then shows how during the post-war period, the tiers within this urban stratification system were expanded and institutionalized by national laws governing municipalities. Drawing upon more than 100 interviews with local government officials in nine prefectures, it then reveals how a shift in national policy toward decentralization in the late-1990s sparked a race for higher municipal status in Japan's national hierarchy, during the 2000s, and thereby, local power.