In connection with the Kake Gakuen’s new veterinary school which opened recently in the national strategic special zone (NSSZ) in Imabari City, Ehime Prefecture, Tokyo Shimbun learned from a government source that a senior official of the Cabinet Office who met officials of the local government and Kake Gakuen in April 2015, before Imabari applied for a NSSZ, suggested the “NSSZ approach.” It is extremely unusual for the Cabinet Office, which has jurisdiction over NSSZs, to be the one to prod a local government to apply for NSSZ. It is now highly suspicious that the plan to open a new veterinary school had Kake Gakuen in mind from the beginning.
According to the above government source, Yutaka Fujiwara, then deputy chief of the Cabinet Office’s Regional Revitalization Promotion Office (currently a Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry deputy bureau chief) was in charge of special zone projects. During the meeting, he said: “I have heard about your request from the Kantei.” It appears that the Kantei might have lobbied for Kake Gakuen’s plan to establish a veterinary school.
When Fujiwara met with the section chiefs of the prefectural and city governments and the secretary general and other officials of Kake Gakuen at the Cabinet Office on April 2, 2015, he indicated that the national government also supported the establishment of the veterinary school.
Specifically, he suggested, “Unlike the administrative-oriented structural reform special zones, we would like to use the NSSZ approach to bring about a breakthrough.”
The Cabinet Office’s Regional Revitalization Promotion Office gave the following comments: “Our understanding is that this office has not given any advice on switching the type of special zone. We verified with the official in charge at that time and confirmed that he had no knowledge of any statement about being informed by the Kantei on [Imabari’s] request.” (Abridged)