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Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011
The second-most powerful job
Tokyo's governor oversees an economy that dwarfs nations
Second in power only to the prime minister, Tokyo's governor manages a metropolis with a population several times that of any other prefecture and a gross domestic product larger than that of most other nations.
The metro government also has more employees than any central government ministry or agency.
The following questions and answers outline the job of the governor and the authority and privileges he or she wields.
What differentiates the Tokyo governor from other governors in the country?
Although officially no different in rank from any other prefectural head, Tokyo's governor is "the second-most powerful figure in Japan after the prime minister," says nonfiction writer Ikko Jin, in his book "Tochijino Isu Sono Kenryokuto Soshikino Kaibo" ("The Chair of the Metro Governor — An Analysis of Its Power and Organizations").
Tokyo's economic and social scale sets it apart from the other prefectures.
Tokyo's nominal GDP in fiscal 2008 amounted to ¥89.7 trillion, placing it between South Korea (the world's 11th-largest economy) and the Netherlands (12th), according to the metro government.
In 2006, more than 15 percent of the nation's private-sector employees were working in Tokyo. That year, more than 18 percent of all domestic private companies had their head offices in Tokyo and 72.2 percent of foreign companies had offices in the capital.
In 2008, over 62 percent of sales logged in the information services industry came from Tokyo, according to the metro government.
At ¥11.8 trillion, the metro government's budget for fiscal 2011 is equal to Saudi Arabia's, and was barely eclipsed by South Korea's ¥14 trillion budget and Norway's ¥12.7 trillion budget in fiscal 2010.
As of last April, 166,624 people were employed by the metro government, compared with 270,698 officials employed by all central government ministries and agencies combined as of last July.
"Only the prime minister controls as the supreme commander an organization and budget this size," Jin said.
Although police authorities refused to confirm it, Jin noted that the Tokyo governor is guarded by the same security detail as the prime minister, the Cabinet and the leaders of the political parties.
What duties does the Tokyo governor perform and what kind of legal authority does he have?
By law, the governor is in charge of submitting bills to the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, compiling and executing budgets and imposing and collecting local taxes, among other duties.
Every year, the Tokyo governor receives 200 requests for meetings from state governors and mayors from around the world, although less than half of them are accepted, according to Jin.
State guests and other foreign VIPs also pay courtesy calls on the governor, who to them has a higher profile than Japan's short-lived Cabinet ministers, Jin said.
On visits to the U.S. and other countries, the governor is treated on a par with a Diet speaker or foreign minister, Jin said.
How much money does the Tokyo governor earn?
According to the metro government, Gov. Shintaro Ishihara will receive ¥1,359,900 a month in fiscal 2010. His bonus, paid in June and December, totaled about ¥6.6 million, bringing his annual income to about ¥26 million.
At the end of each four-year term, Ishihara also received retirement benefits. He received more than ¥47.2 million at the end of the first term in 2003, followed by over ¥45.2 million at the end of his second term in 2007. He is expected to receive ¥43.5 million after his third term expires in April.
What are some of the perks he enjoys while on duty?
The governor has the option of living in an official residence in an affluent neighborhood in Shibuya Ward situated on a 2,200-sq.-meter plot of land. A building on the property houses an underground parking lot and reception, office and meeting rooms. There is also a Japanese garden on the premises.
Although Ishihara doesn't live there, the property was used by former Gov. Yukio Aoshima.
The governor is transported in a Lexus LS600hL sedan, which is leased for ¥223,440 a month, the metro government said, adding the cost is fully covered by taxpayer money.
For trips exceeding 50 km in distance, the governor travels first class on Japan Railway. He also travels first class on trips abroad, also at public expense.
Who is eligible to run for, and vote for, governor?
Candidates must be Japanese nationals who have turned 30 by election day. Those running for governor must put up ¥3 million, which will be refunded if they receive at least one-tenth of the votes. Otherwise, the money goes into the coffers of the metro government.
Voters must be Japanese nationals over the age of 20 who have been officially registered residents of Tokyo for at least three months before the start of an election campaign.