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Cities designated by government ordinance of Japan

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Title: Cities designated by government ordinance of Japan  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Core cities of Japan, Osaka, Fukuoka, Nagoya, Hiroshima
Collection: Cities in Japan, Japanese Law, Subdivisions of Japan
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Cities designated by government ordinance of Japan

Map of cities designated by government ordinance

A city designated by government ordinance (政令指定都市 seirei shitei toshi), also known as a designated city (指定都市 shitei toshi) or government ordinance city (政令市 seirei shi), is a Japanese city that has a population greater than 500,000 and has been designated as such by an order of the cabinet of Japan under Article 252, Section 19 of the Local Autonomy Law.


  • Overview 1
  • List of designated cities 2
  • Designated city requirements 3
  • Cities that meet the requirements but have not yet been nominated 4
  • History 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Designated cities are delegated many of the functions normally performed by prefectural governments in fields such as public education, social welfare, sanitation, business licensing and urban planning. The city government is generally delegated the various minor administrative functions in each area while the prefectural government retains authority over major decisions. For instance, pharmaceutical retailers and small clinics can be licensed by designated city governments, but pharmacies and hospitals are licensed by prefectural governments.

Designated cities are also required to subdivide themselves into wards ( ku), each of which has a ward office conducting various administrative functions for the city government, such as koseki and juminhyo resident registration and tax collection. In some cities, ward offices are responsible for business licensing, construction permits and other administrative matters. The structure and authorities of the wards are determined by municipal ordinances.

The 23 special wards of Tokyo are not part of this system, as Tokyo is a prefecture and its wards are effectively independent cities. Although the two largest wards of Tokyo: Setagaya and Nerima, are populous enough to become designated cities, they are not considered to be "cities" within the meaning of the Local Autonomy Law and therefore cannot be designated.

No cities that have been designated by government ordinance have later lost this status.

List of designated cities

Cities designated by government ordinance have been established since 1956.[1]

Name Japanese Population (2010) Date of designation Region Prefecture No. of wards Divisions
Chiba 千葉 962,130 1992-04-01 Kantō Chiba 06 List
Fukuoka 福岡 1,463,826 1972-04-01 Kyushu Fukuoka 07 List
Hamamatsu 浜松 800,912 2007-04-01 Chūbu Shizuoka 07 List
Hiroshima 広島 1,174,209 1980-04-01 Chūgoku Hiroshima 08 List
Kawasaki 川崎 1,425,678 1972-04-01 Kantō Kanagawa 07 List
Kitakyushu 北九州 977,288 1963-04-01 Kyushu Fukuoka 07 List
Kobe 神戸 1,544,873 1956-09-01 Kansai Hyōgo 09 List
Kumamoto 熊本 731,286 2012-04-01 Kyushu Kumamoto 05 List
Kyoto 京都 1,474,473 1956-09-01 Kansai Kyoto 11 List
Nagoya 名古屋 2,263,907 1956-09-01 Chūbu Aichi 16 List
Niigata 新潟 812,192 2007-04-01 Chūbu Niigata 08 List
Okayama 岡山 709,622 2009-04-01 Chūgoku Okayama 04 List
Osaka 大阪 2,666,371 1956-09-01 Kansai Osaka 24 List
Sagamihara 相模原 717,561 2010-04-01 Kantō Kanagawa 03 List
Saitama さいたま 1,222,910 2003-04-01 Kantō Saitama 10 List
Sakai 842,134 2006-04-01 Kansai Osaka 07 List
Sapporo 札幌 1,914,434 1972-04-01 Hokkaido Hokkaido 10 List
Sendai 仙台 1,045,903 1989-04-01 Tōhoku Miyagi 05 List
Shizuoka 静岡 716,328 2005-04-01 Chūbu Shizuoka 03 List
Yokohama 横浜 3,689,603 1956-09-01 Kantō Kanagawa 18 List

Designated city requirements

To become a candidate for designated city status, a city must satisfy the following condition:

  • A population greater than 500,000.

Application for designation is made by a city with the approval of both the city and prefectural assemblies.

Cities that meet the requirements but have not yet been nominated

The following cities have populations greater than 500,000 but have not yet been nominated. (Cities planning to apply for core city status are not shown. ※Core Cities; ※※Special Cities)


The first form of the designated city system was enacted under Japan's first formalized local government system in 1878 with the introduction of "wards". Under this system, wards existed in every city: most cities had only one, but the largest cities at the time — Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto — were divided into 15, 4 and 2 wards respectively.

The municipal system enacted in 1889 replaced ward assemblies with city assemblies, but retained ward assemblies in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto: in these cities, the city had no assembly of its own but was rather governed by the prefectural assembly. In 1898, these cities were allowed to form city assemblies. This ward system was adopted by three more cities prior to World War II: Nagoya (1908), Yokohama (1927) and Kobe (1931). Under a 1911 statute, wards were granted corporate personality and treated as local entities.

Following the war, the 1947 Local Autonomy Law grandfathered in the five subdivided cities (Tokyo having become a prefecture in 1943) as special cities (特別市 tokubetsu shi). This system was replaced by the designated city system when the Local Autonomy Law was amended in 1956.

During the ensuing Japanese economic growth period, the government required designated cities to be forecast to reach a population of 1 million within the near future, but this requirement was dropped in 2005 in order to accommodate several geographically large cities formed by mergers under the Koizumi government.

See also

Administrative divisions
of Japan


  1. ^ Jacobs, A.J. "Japan's Evolving Nested Municipal Hierarchy: The Race for Local Power in the 2000s," Urban Studies Research, Vol. 2011 (2011); doi:10.1155/2011/692764; retrieved 2012-3-23.

External links

  • "Japan's Evolving Nested Municipal Hierarchy: The Race for Local Power in the 2000s," by A.J. Jacobs at Urban Studies Research, Vol. 2011 (2011); doi:10.1155/2011/692764
  • "Large City System of Japan"; graphic shows designated cities compared with other Japanese city types at p. 1 [PDF 7 of 40]
  • "Growth in Second Tier Cities - Urban Policy Lessons from Japan" briefing by CLAIR London on classes of Japanese cities (PDF)
  • Text of the Local Government Law (Japanese)
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