Profile of a Ward:
The Meguro Ward in Tokyo

Hari Srinivas

Tokyo, as the National Capital region, enjoys a special position in the planning process in Japan. There are 23 wards called 'tokubetsu-ku' or Special Cities, within the Tokyo Metropolitan area. This is a special metropolitan local government system based on the Local Autonomy Law enacted on May 3, 1947 - the same day Japan's constitution was enacted.

Tokyo is the only city where this system known as the 'special cities system' exists. Kawasaki, Yokohama and other large cities have wards ('ku' in Japanese), but these are simply subdivisions of the city, called administrative districts ('Gyusei-ku'). On the other hand, Tokyo's 23 wards are different in the sense that these are afforded many functions equal to those held by a city. The local governments of each of the wards have an executive branch with a City Mayor elected by the citizens, as well as a legislative branch known as the City Assembly.

However, in certain respects, the autonomy of these 23 wards is limited compared to that of other cities. For example, some functions such as garbage collection and water supply, which are usually managed by an individual city, are performed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG). Also, part of the taxes levied and collected locally (state property tax etc) are pooled by the TMG and then distributed among the 23 wards.

This special cities system was developed as a method of acknowledging the special needs of each of the 23 wards, as well as to inspire a sense of unity between local governments in the development of the national capital region.


Meguro-city (or 'Meguro-ku') was created when the former Meguro Town, Ebara-gun, Tokyo-fu and Hibusuma Town merged on October 1, 1932. Its current population is 240,000. Meguro is located in the southwestern section of Tokyo's 23 wards. It has a total area of 14.70, making it the 16th largest of the wards.

The foremost position of the executive branch of the 23 wards local government is that of the Mayor. Although the Mayoral selection process underwent changes since the Tokubetsu-ku system was adopted in 1932, residents have voted in direct elections for their Mayor since 1975. The Mayor's tem of office is four years, and there is no limit on the number of terms a single individual can serve. Japanese citizens 25 years and older are eligible to stand as a candidate for Mayor.

The Mayor is assisted in his duties by the Deputy Mayors and the Treasurer. Meguro has two Deputy Mayors and as the Mayor's assistants, their responsibilities include promoting focal municipal policy. The Treasurer is given independent authority to administer the municipal accounts and is responsible for the fair and proper conduct of account transactions.

In addition to the Mayor and his executive functions, Meguro also has administrative boards, such as the Board of Education and Board of Health. Meguro's administrative structure employs approximately 2,800 staff who work on a myriad of development projects.

The City Assembly is the legislative branch of each of Tokyo's 23 wards. Meguro's Assembly has 38 members who are elected directly by Meguro residents, with each member serving a four year term. The Assembly holds regular meetings four times each year in March, May, September and November. The budget for the following fiscal year is deliberated at the March meeting (fiscal years in Japan begin in April). Besides these regular meetings, ad-hoc gatherings are also held as necessary.

Go to Meguro-ku's website: [Click "Multilingual" for English version]

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