Understanding Japanese Politics from a Local Perspective
International Political Science Review, Vol. 30, No. 5, pp. 565-573, November 2009
Posted: 30 Sep 2011
Date Written: November 1, 2009
Japanese politics is by no means a new subject to research for political scientists. Over many decades, scholars have written numerous books and journal articles in English on Japanese politics. Some are specifically aimed at understanding political and policy processes in Japan, while others use Japan as a case study, often in comparison with other countries, to develop and refine broadly applicable theories. This voluminous literature in English has greatly improved our understanding of many issues and problems with respect to contemporary Japanese politics. There still remains, however, a dimension to contemporary Japanese politics not fully investigated in the existing literature published in English; that is, a wave of important political changes taking place at local levels in Japan. In this article, by reviewing three recent books written in Japanese by Japanese scholars (Imai, Machidori and Soga, and Taniguchi), I intend to shed light on underinvestigated important political issues at the subnational level. They include the roles of prefectural political actors in the policy-making process, the political origins of drastic municipal mergers over the last decade, and the responses at the subnational level to new incentive structures that originated in the reform to the electoral system for Lower House elections.
Keywords: Japan, Local Politics, Subnational Politics, Municipal Mergers, Electoral Reform
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