Thursday, February 03, 2005

I no longer live in Asahi...

...I live in Echizen. On February 1st, Asahi-cho (Asahi Town) officially became Echizen-cho. Which is a shame really, because I think Asahi (which means "morning sun") is a much nicer name than Echizen (which means "before the mountain pass").

The name change is part of a spate of municipal mergers (or gappei), which have been sweeping Japan across the past few years. As you probably know, Japan's economic growth rate has been fairly stagnant in recent times, and as a result many municipal governments have been merging in order to save money and pool their resources.

It's a policy that makes sense in most cases - if a city grows enough to swallow surrounding towns and villages it's only common sense that they should merge their governing bodies. However, in many other cases, the mergers border on the farcical.

Asahi is being merged with three other towns: Miyazaki-mura (mura means village), Ota-cho and Echizen-cho. On paper, it makes sense that these relatively small localities should join together. However, the merger fails to account for the fact that there's a bloody great big mountain range in between them.

Echizen is at least a half-hour drive from Asahi over narrow mountain roads, so the idea that I'm now living in "Echizen Town" seems ludicrous. In the current heavy snowfall it's even more difficult to reach. In fact, since I've been living here, I've only been there once.

Plus the name change really hasn't been thought through properly. In most gappei the merged towns choose the name which has greater historical heritage, or even create a new name. "Echizen" is the ancient name for what is now Fukui prefecture, so it seems logical to keep the name of Echizen alive.

Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea. Last year, Nanjo-cho and Imajo-cho merged to form Minami Echizen-cho (South Echizen Town), whilst Takefu-shi and Imadate-cho will merge in October this year to form Echizen-shi (Echizen City). Which means there will be three groups of towns, all next to each other, all of which will be called Echizen. In addition to this, if the new Echizen-cho reaches a certain population, it has the right to call itself a city, which means there could be two Echizen Cities right next to each other.

I want to live in Asahi again!

I've put a map of Fukui prefecture below. The four areas to the left of Sabae are the ones which have merged to become Echizen-cho. Asahi is the one nearest to Sabae, whilst Echizen is the one by the sea.


You can find out more about Fukui prefecture by going to


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, Fukui justs gets more and more like New Jersey every day. By my house in NJ, there is a Burlington Township, a Burlington City, and Northern Burlington all in a row of each other, and they are all in Burlington County...


3:11 pm  
Blogger Phoenix said...

Well, I don't know about staying Asahi (there are already numerous Asahi towns in Japan; it's like Washington in America, it's everywhere), but what REALLY bugs me is that the decision to merge these four towns into Echizen Town came BEFORE South Echizen and Echizen city. They even asked the other Echizens to please choose a different name, but they didn't, because the name Echizen has a lot of cache with it. Echizen crab (like Kobe beef) is more expensive, partly because of the quality and partly because of the name recognition.

Sigh. I'm probably going to miss the name Takefu more than Asahi (although I will miss the name Asahi as well), but I dread the Agent-Smith-esque Echizen Multiplication.

5:38 pm  
Blogger Lewis said...

I really can't see the new name catching on - people aren't suddenly going to call their town Echizen, especially if there are two other "Echizens" down the road. Long live Asahi, I say.

10:24 am  

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