New guest professor: Toshiya Kitayama

Toshiya Kitayama is from Kwansei Gakuin University in Japan. His recent research project is on the relationship between central-local relations and the welfare state development.

21.04.2017 | Ingrid Marie Fossum

Toshiya Kitayama was introduced to Professor Peter Munk Christiansen through a mutual friend from their MIT days.

My name is Toshiya KITAYAMA from Kwansei Gakuin University. It is a private university located in Osaka-Kobe area. I am a graduate of Kyoto University, obtained LL.B., LL.M, and PhD from Kyoto University. I also received S.M. from the political science department of MIT.

I was introduced to Professor Peter Munk Christiansen through a mutual friend from their MIT days. I appreciate his effort to make it possible for me to stay at Aarhus University from April to mid-September, a period of my sabbatical.

I teach local government, public policy and political economy. My research has been mostly on Japan from the qualitative perspective. My work in English includes the paper on local governments and Small-and-Medium-seized Enterprises, and local initiatives in Japan.

My research project

My recent research project is on the relationship between central-local relations and the welfare state development. I published a book in Japanese in which I argued that the development of health politics in Japan cannot be understood properly without analyzing the locked-in nature of the municipal governments.  The municipal governments started to implement the Citizen Health Insurance in 1947 and all of them were required to do so in 1962, thereby realizing the universal health care. Since then, the institutions of health politics have been developed repeating the process of layering and conversion, in which local governments have been the important actors.

The present work is to argue that the Japanese local governments have been critical in many other areas of public policies. The Japanese state has been characterized as the centralized one in which the MOF (Ministry of Finance), the MITI (Ministry of International Trade and Industry) have been the dominant actors. And it has been argued that in Japan welfare has been provided through work, and/or through public works; Japan has to be distinguished from the European welfare states.

Those studies have not taken the local governments seriously. My work shows that the local governments of Japan has been important actors both as implementing agency of national policies, sources for policy innovations and important actors in the national policy making process.

Critical Junctures and positive feedback

The theoretical point that I am making is that Japan chose the way in which local governments were to be key actors in wartime (1930s) and postwar reform period (1945-52). This period was critical in a sense that the ways to provide public services were contested and positive feedback process started then, so that the functions of local governments kept increasing to the point that local governments are supposed to govern all the local matters. In other words, the postwar Japanese local governments could be characterized as those with capacity for comprehensive administration.

These local governments may not have been the ones with great autonomy but they have been integrated with the central government to solve the local and national problems as well.  It has strengths and weaknesses, which should be explored further.

In Aarhus University and Denmark

Through the research, I came up with the paper on the central-local relations of Denmark. It is written by Jens Blom‐Hansen and Anne Heeager, and is entitled “Denmark: Between Local Democracy and Implementing Agency of the Welfare State.” This perspective is very close to what has been on my mind when I was considering the case of Japan. 

In Denmark, I would like to conduct research on the way in which central-local relations have affected the welfare state and vice versa. Two things are particularly on my mind. 

One is health care. While I studied the historical development of health politics in Japan, I found that the Japanese Mistry of Interior and the Ministry of Health and Welfare in the 1930s learned from the Danish experience then. Although now the Danish health care is financed by tax and the Japanese one is by insurance, I would like to know more about the similarities and differences of two countries and the trajectories of historical development.

The other is municipal amalgamation. Japan has experienced three large-scale amalgamation waves since Meiji Restoration in 1868. Around 1890 (Meiji), 1950s (Showa), and 2000s (Heisei) has been the timing of the amalgamations. The number of city, town and village has fallen from 11,000 to 3,300, and then to 1700 now. With the first and second waves of amalgamation, the capacity of the municipal government was the central issue, particularly the one to manage the schools. 

Although the central government attempted very hard to induce the municipal governments with financial carrots and sticks, it has never forced to amalgamate them. In this sense, it seems that Danish amalgamation has been more thoroughgoing. I would like to investigate how it was possible for Danish central government to realize the amalgamation. I am also interested in the abolition of the counties, and the introduction of a new set of regions. I am interested in the co-authored paper by professor Blom-Hansen and Christiansen. 

So that is about myself. I think it is too long. I hope I could talk to you and learn in many ways. 

Toshiya Kitayama