Three New Local Laws (地方三新法)

Chiho San Shinpo (Three New Local Laws) refers to three laws on the Japanese local administration system that were enacted during the Meiji period. They are also called Sanshinpo (Three New Laws). More specifically, it refers to the following three laws: Gunkuchoson henseiho (the Law for Reorganization of Counties, Wards, Towns and Villages), Fukenkai kisoku (the Rules for Prefectural Assemblies) and Chihozei kisoku (the Rules for Local Taxes).

A nationally-standardized local autonomy system was established during the Meiji period through these laws.

Three New Laws and Associated Important Laws

In 1878
Gunkuchoson henseiho (the Law for Reorganization of Counties, Wards, Towns and Villages, Dajokan Fukoku [Decree of the Grand Council of State] No. 17 of 1878)
Fukenkai kisoku (the Rules for Prefectural Assemblies, Dajokan Fukoku No. 18 of 1878)
Chihozei kisoku (the Rules for Local Taxes, Dajokan Fukoku No. 19 of 1878)
Fukenkan shokusei (Personnel System of Prefectural Officials, Dajokan tasshi [proclamation by the Grand Council of State] No. 45 of 1878)

In 1880
Kuchosonkaiho (the Law Regarding Ward, Town and Village Assemblies, Dajokan Fukoku No. 18 of 1880)

Relations among the Municipality Ranks

Fu (Prefectures, equivalent to ken in rank, established in important areas, such as Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto)

Gun (Counties,inheriting former gun [districts]; large gun were divided.)

Cho (Towns, inheriting the towns of the Edo period)
Son (Villages, inheriting the villages of the Edo period)
Ku (Wards, established in cities; some large cities are divided into several wards.)
Cho (Towns)
Son (Villages)

Ken (Prefectures, equivalent to Fu in rank)
Gun (Counties)
Cho (Towns)
Son (Villages)
Ku (Wards)
Cho (Towns)
Son (Villages)

Details of the Legislation
When the Three Local New Laws were enacted, the Seinan War had drawn to its close, but peasants' uprisings were occurring frequently and the Jiyu Minken Undo (Movement for Liberty and People's Right) was growing.

In such circumstances, it was widely pointed out that reforming the local administrative system was indispensable in order to stabilize to political situation. Because of this, the laws were proposed by Toshimichi OKUBO, who was serving as the Minister of the Interior in the Ministry of the Interior (Japan) at the time and took a great interest in developing local administration.

Specifically, they were drafted on the basis of an opinion paper titled 'reorganization of the local administration system' which Toshimichi OKUBO submitted to the Daijo-daijin (Grand minister of state) Sanetomi SANJO on March 11, 1878, and they were then adopted after the deliberations and resolutions of the second chihokan kaigi (assembly of prefectural governors) and the Genroin (the Chamber of Elders, Japan).

The draft was drawn up by the chief secretary of the Ministry of the Interior, Michiyuki MATSUDA. Kowashi INOUE, an officer of the Legal Affairs Bureau, made some modifications to it.

Outline of the System
While the central government approved the autonomy of towns and villages which had had the tradition of self-government since the Edo period, it made them carry out decisions made through kocho (heads of towns and villages). In principle, there was one kocho for each town or village, but in fact, one kocho took charge of several towns or villages. A chokai (town assembly) was set up in each town and a sonkai (village assembly) in each village. Kocho were appointed by prefectural governors, giving due respect to the opinions of these town and village assemblies.

The heads of fu were called fuchiji (prefectural governors of fu), and the heads of ken were called kenchiji (prefectural governors of ken). Fu and Ken had their own prefectural assemblies, Fukai and Kenkai. The members of prefectural assemblies were elected only by well-to-do men who were allowed to vote. Prefectural assemblies had the power to confer and agree on their budgets and tax collection.

The heads of counties were called guncho, and the heads of wards were called kucho. There were no county or ward assemblies.

Beginning of Modern Local Autonomy
The government legislated certain local autonomy after reconsidering the failure of the daiku-shoku system (a centralized district system that abolished all pre-existing towns, villages and their offices and institutions), which was designed to make all local systems extensions of the central government. However, the concession was not great, and all things considered, it was still a centralized local administration system.

In particular, because the self-government at the level of towns and villages had already existed before being fixed by the central government, approval in this case did not mean greater autonomy for municipalities. Rather, it was a part of an attempt to change from noninterference to interference and to reduce resident autonomy.

Setting up prefectural assemblies was substantial progress towards local autonomy and the parliamentary system. Even though there were various limitations, the fact that the prefectural assemblies all over the country became the bases for the Jiyu Minken Undo sects to criticize and attack the government means that the autonomy of prefectural assemblies was not a hollow gesture.