Prime Minister NODA's BLOG

Having recently visited Miyagi as I wrote about in my previous blog entry, last weekend I visited Fukushima. This was my fourth visit to Fukushima since becoming Prime Minister.

At the fishing port of Onahama I listened to the voices of people who were working hard to revive the fishing industry, rising above the reputational damage from radiation-related rumors. I spoke with people in the residents' association who were fighting to maintain bonds among the residents in temporary housing within the city of Iwaki, far removed from their hometown of Okuma. And at the temporary housing and the health and welfare facilities in the village of Kawauchi, I listened to the children, parents, and elderly residents who had returned to the village.

The anxiety of wondering 'when will we be able to go home?' The stress of always being careful in daily living not to make any noises that would bother the neighbors. The emotional weight that parents feel towards their children in households where there has been no choice but for family members to live in separate places. The sorrowful distress at even now not being able to bury the ashes of family members who have passed away, as damaged gravesites have been unable to be restored. The Tanabata festival wishes written by children whose only afterschool sports club was the badminton club, as the number of their classmates had declined so greatly that there were not enough students for baseball or soccer-wishing "that the people of the village return home." The compelling request that the national road be repaired soon so that a student can commute to his future high school. I heard many such heartrending voices.

Whether it be decontamination, managing people's health, ensuring food safety and peace of mind, the reopening of schools and hospitals, or other matters, the responses to the issues facing Fukushima's disaster areas are still only midway to completion. Taking these voices to heart, we must carry through on those matters that the country should tackle. Tasting some freshly-landed bonito at Onahama harbor, I had the opportunity to support in a small way the people who are working to overcome the reputational damage from radiation-related rumors.

At the temporary housing facilities I visited, I was greeted with warm words from the residents who came to meet me in the rain, such as, "It must be difficult becoming Prime Minister at such a challenging time as this," and "Please take care of your health."

With no choice but to lead a hard life in temporary housing, these people must surely have a veritable mountain of things they would like to say to the national and local governments, and yet for some reason rather than focusing on themselves, they graciously showed concern for me. I was so moved that I felt a lump in my throat. The government must respond to the expectations of such "unheard voices" as well.

I also hear the voices of the large number of people expressing anti-nuclear sentiments outside the Prime Minister's Office each Friday evening. And I also hear the voices of people who are greatly worried about the possibility of rolling blackouts and drastic energy saving measures, including the elderly in elderly care homes, shop owners, and people employed at small- and medium-sized enterprises. We also have the hard fact that the restart of the Unit 3 reactor at the Oi Nuclear Power Station has enabled relaxation of the energy-saving target for the Kansai area to 10%. What we should do now is vigilantly ensure safety, taking all possible means to do so.

In addition, the issue of how to get through this summer's severe supply and demand situation through the restart of the Oi Nuclear Power Station is one that is fundamentally different from the issue of how in concrete terms we can reduce to the greatest possible extent our dependence on nuclear power over the medium to long term.

Recently, the Energy and Environment Council set forth three scenarios for Japan's energy composition in 2030. I intend to advance a national public debate regarding our medium- to long-term energy composition, earnestly taking into account the views of various people.

For two days at the beginning of next week, the Budget Committees of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors will each hold deliberations, and from today, the House of Councillors has begun its full-fledged deliberations on the bills related to the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems.

I intend to continue to put forth my best efforts to tackle the various issues confronting national policy as I listen carefully to a range of views.

Postscript: Just now I heard that the baby panda at Ueno Zoo has died. It is truly unfortunate, all the more so as he brought smiles to children's faces.

Yoshihiko Noda
Prime Minister of Japan
July 11, 2012

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