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Interview: New Japan land minister resolved on disaster management

  • September 15, 2019
  • , Jiji Press , 11:30 a.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, Sept. 15 (Jiji Press)–Japan’s new Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Kazuyoshi Akaba has stressed his resolve to beef up the country’s disaster preparedness, following a recent spate of serious natural events, such as earthquakes and typhoons.
   

He also underlined the importance of the central and local governments working hand in hand closely to enhance the effectiveness of related measures.
   

“Once a disaster occurs, minimizing damage is the most crucial task of politics,” Akaba, who assumed the ministerial post in a cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday, said in an interview with Jiji Press and other media organizations. “We have to work on disaster prevention and reduction, from the standpoint of protecting the lives of people.”
   

He noted that the government has secured special budgets for disaster-related emergency measures for the three years through fiscal 2020, which starts in April next year.
   

“The state, and prefectural and municipal governments should proceed with anti-disaster measures efficiently by setting priorities and making full preparations,” Akaba pointed out, calling on the administrative authorities to avoid acting separately.
   

On the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, Akaba expressed his determination to ensure smooth transportation of and secure accommodations for people concerned, such as officials related to the games and spectators including foreigners.
   

Stressing his focus on the Paralympic Games, Akaba said, “I want to do what I can, after thoroughly conducting a necessary review again from the perspective of people with disabilities.”
   

He also highlighted the need to expand multilingual services, saying, “I hope foreigners visiting Japan for the Tokyo Games will think that ‘it’s a good country and I want to come here again.'”
   

Elsewhere in the interview, Akaba expressed his hope for a reconciliation between the central Japan prefecture of Shizuoka and Central Japan Railway Co. <9022>, or JR Tokai, over the planned Chuo Shinkansen ultrahigh-speed magnetic levitation train services linking Shinagawa Station in Tokyo and Nagoya Station in Nagoya, the capital of Aichi Prefecture, west of Shizuoka.
   

The Shizuoka government is concerned that the construction of the new line could lead to drop in water flows in the Oi River in the prefecture.
   

Akaba said: “I want JR Tokai and Shizuoka Prefecture to handle the situation in a way that satisfies both of them. The central government hopes to prepare an environment in which related people can proceed with discussions smoothly and swiftly.”
   

Noting that it is “revolutionary” that the fastest train on the maglev line will connect Tokyo and Nagoya in only 40 minutes, Akaba said he wants the two sides to redouble efforts for resolving their conflict.
   

JR Tokai plans to launch the operations of the Tokyo-Nagoya maglev line in 2027. The line is slated to be extended to Osaka, western Japan, later.
   

On Hokkaido Railway Co., or JR Hokkaido, which has been running losses, Akaba said that the central government in July last year decided to provide 40 billion yen of aid in total to the company in fiscal 2019 and fiscal 2020 while ordering the railway operator serving the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido to improve its operations.
   

The government has yet to decide whether to continue its assistance to JR Hokkaido in and after fiscal 2021.
   

Akaba said the government will deal with the situation appropriately by calling on the company to take sufficient measures to sort out its problems. “We must work hard,” he said, noting, “Hokkaido is full of tourist attractions.”

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