URAWA, Saitama Pref. – A merger of the cities of Urawa, Omiya and Yono in Saitama Prefecture will give birth today to the city of Saitama, which will have a population of about 1.03 million.
Saitama will be the 10th-most populous city in Japan, following Hiroshima, which had roughly 1.12 million as of April 1. It is the first formation of a city with a 1 million population by amalgamation on an equal basis since the 1963 foundation of Kitakyushu in Fukuoka Prefecture.
The capital of Saitama Prefecture, currently Urawa, will become Saitama. An opening ceremony for the government office is scheduled to be held at Urawa City Hall with Gov. Yoshihiko Tsuchiya attending.
Yono Mayor Isamu Ihara will be acting mayor of the new city until its first mayoral election. The poll is to be held within 50 days of the merger.
Eight hundred thirty-three municipalities nationwide have set up committees or study groups to look into the possibility of merging with neighboring cities or towns, according to survey results released Monday by the Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry.
The figure, which is roughly 25 percent of the 3,224 cities, towns and villages nationwide, is an indication of the degree to which the idea of mergers is taking hold in Japan, ministry officials said.
No action is being taken in seven prefectures, as well as Tokyo and Hokkaido, however, indicating regional differences in how the issue is perceived, the officials added.
The survey, which was the first of its kind by the ministry, showed that 21 areas had set up merger committees with the approval of their local assemblies as stipulated under the Local Autonomy Law — the stage seen as being the most advanced in the process of merging municipalities.
Thirty-six areas set up voluntary bodies, which are not legally binding, to discuss issues regarding possible mergers.
Municipalities in another 97 areas have created study groups to study the merits of merging and to visit areas which have already begun the process.
According to the survey, Kumamoto Prefecture was the most advanced in pursuing mergers, with 87 of its 94 municipalities, or 92.6 percent, looking into the issue across 13 areas. In Nagasaki Prefecture, 62 of its 79 cities, towns and villages were pondering the merger issue in 10 areas.
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