Structure of local government
All prefectural and municipal governments in Japan are organized following the Local Autonomy Law, a statute applied nationwide in 1947.
Each jurisdiction has a chief executive, called a governor (??, chiji?) in prefectures and a mayor (?, ch??) in municipalities. Most jurisdictions also have a unicameral assembly (??, gikai?), although towns and villages may opt for direct governance by citizens in a general assembly (??, s?kai?). Both the executive and assembly are elected by popular vote every four years.
Local governments follow a modified version of the separation of powers used in the national government. An assembly may pass a vote of no confidence in the executive, in which case the executive must either dissolve the assembly within ten days or automatically lose their office. Following the next election, however, the executive remains in office unless the new assembly again passes a no confidence resolution.
The primary methods of local lawmaking are local ordinance (??, j?rei?) and local regulations (??, kisoku?). Ordinances, similar to statutes in the national system, are passed by the assembly and may impose limited criminal penalties for violations (up to 2 years in prison and/or 1 million yen in fines). Regulations, similar to cabinet orders in the national system, are passed by the executive unilaterally, are superseded by any conflicting ordinances, and may only impose a fine of up to 50,000 yen.
Local governments also generally have multiple committees such as school boards, public safety committees (responsible for overseeing the police), personnel committees, election committees and auditing committees. These may be directly elected or chosen by the assembly, executive or both.
All prefectures are required to maintain departments of general affairs, finance, welfare, health, and labor. Departments of agriculture, fisheries, forestry, commerce, and industry are optional, depending on local needs. The governor is responsible for all activities supported through local taxation or the national government.