Jul 6, 2018

How do you like your city office? Here's why we're doubly lucky with ours!

Hello again, expats in Japan. Do you like your local city office?

How do you like your city office?  Here's why we're doubly lucky with ours! photo

I can tell you with all sincerity that going to the city office in my old town in Tokyo prefecture was among my most dreaded chores.

Here, however, I love it. What a great place full of helpful folks. There is almost never a line, and any issue I bring usually gets resolved in 15 minutes or less.

Now, I’m sure that more than a few of you are looking at your computer screens with jealous rage at how lucky I am to have such a friendly and expeditious local bureaucracy, so I’m almost reluctant to tell you why we here are doubly lucky.

Back in the early 2000s, the Japanese government sought to eliminate waste in governance. A major source of that waste came in the form of excess cities, towns, and villages. Folks who have been here for a long time know, but Japan used to have way more municipalities than it does now--literally hundreds--and each one of them had their own elected assemblies (a requirement under the constitution). So take all those extra hundreds of politicians who were getting paid anywhere between 35,000 to 80,000 dollars a year for about 6 weeks of formal work (plus pension and other benefits), and that’s a lot of money being spent with little to no return on investment.

So the Japanese government consolidated a lot of small municipalities--mine included. My town of "Yamato-machi" joined two other small cities and many villages to form one big city (Minamiuonuma-shi). 

[Here’s where the “doubly lucky” part comes in]

When they consolidated the cities, they of course eliminated most of the political positions, but each municipality had to decide whether to downsize the number of city offices. In Minamiuonuma, the forces that be opted to keep each of the existing city offices open, with one “main” office and multiple satellite offices. That means that we are able to accomplish about 90% of our bureaucratic requirements at a location just 5 minutes from home, with only a handful of tasks needing to be done at the main city office 30 minutes away. Like I said, doubly lucky!

How about all of you other expats out there?  I’d love to hear about your city offices. Good? Bad? Somewhere in between? Feel free to use the comments section below!



Hitting the books once again as a Ph.D. student in Niigata Prefecture. Although I've lived in Japan many years, life as a student in this country is a first.

Blessed Dad. Lucky Husband. Happy Gaijin (most of the time).


  • Weellee

    on Jul 10

    I live in Urayasu City in Chiba, and I love my city office - especially now that they've moved to a new building. Most of the staff are friendly and quite helpful, and the foreign language assistance staff is so reliable. But what I love the most about our new city hall (I even wrote about it here at City-Cost) is their cafe on the 10th floor. The menu is decent, but they've got a nice view.

  • genkidesuka

    on Jul 10

    @Weellee Oh man, I wish our city office had a decent shokudo with a view!