In recent years, amalgamations of small villages have been promoted in many policies because of supposedly resolving those villages' fiscal and personnel problems. Certainly a large number of academic studies and reports have illustrated those villages' shortage of revenue, workforce and service provision. However, no more specific speculation has being taken place about what types of difficulties those villages face in practice. To highlight their problems, this paper examines the circumstances in which small villages have established joint administrations. The research was conducted in two villages : Hiyoshi and Shiga in Nagano Prefecture. The two villages are both small and located in a mountainous area. The former is in the Kiso area, consisting of many small local governments, while the latter is adjacent to Matsumoto, the second largest city in the prefecture. The findings are as follows. First, the two villages have a variety of joint administrative organizations. Moreover, most organizations are in charge of planning-related activities, such as training or planning, to share special knowledge and skills of services. This result is exceed the common understanding that joint administrations would be established only in the service sector where "economies of scale" work, such as refuse burning of the Fire Department. Second, whereas policies have proposed that central cities play a leading role in the management of joint administrative organizations, the study results indicate that in fact large central cities do not necessarily form administrative linkages with surrounding small municipalities. It is, instead, branch offices of the Nagano Prefecture which mainly support management in many of the organizations. To clarify the reason why planning-related organizations, managed by prefectural branches, are formed, I focus on the working practices in the two villages' offices. Their staff find it increasingly difficult to nurture necessary knowledge and skills for service provision in the offices, since they are required to conduct more routine tasks but cannot increase the workforce. Thus, it is likely that the joint administrations are opportunities for small local governments to cooperate with neighboring ones for service planning. At the same time, it seems reasonable for the two villages to access prefectural branch offices because there are many technical experts in those offices who can provide special and detailed knowledge on each service. Consequently, the study concludes that it is the planning-related process which small-sized villages find difficult to deal with.
Arai, S. (2001). Implication of joint administrations in small-sized villages: A case study in two villages, Nagano prefecture. Geographical Review of Japan, Series A, 74(1), 35–52. https://doi.org/10.4157/grj1984a.74.1_35