With the end of the rainy season from Shikoku to the Kanto region, the searing summer heat is now upon us in earnest. I suppose there are quite a lot of people who have spent some nights unable to sleep well, being physically unable to get used to the heat of summer. I hope that elderly people and children in particular take careful precautions against heat stroke.
The torrential rains in northern Kyushu were terrible ones truly unlike any we have experienced before. I wish to offer my prayers for the repose of those who lost their precious lives and extend my sincere sympathies to those who have been affected by the disaster.
Last weekend I dispatched Minister of State for Disaster Management Masaharu Nakagawa to the affected area and I was briefed on the state of the damage. We will swiftly implement assistance to the affected local communities and carry out the government's duties.
I hear that a large number of university student volunteers entered affected areas that were still bearing vivid traces of the muddy flows in order to assist in cleaning mud out of people's homes. I find such cases of 'mutual assistance' to be truly encouraging.
With a year and four months now having passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake, this past Saturday I visited the city of Kamaishi and the town of Otsuchi, both located in the coastal part of Iwate Prefecture.
Even in disaster areas in which vestiges of the tsunami remain, reconstruction is steadily transitioning from the stage of "sketching out a vision" to that of "actually moving ahead on things." One aspect of this transition is the increased difficulty entailed, and I got a brief glimpse at the great efforts of persons involved with the local authorities, who were carefully moving forward in coordinating the views of the residents.
As reconstruction progresses, the issues we face will also change. The people of the local area gather in the temporary shopping promenades and shopping centers, and the vibrancy I felt there was beyond what I had imagined.
However, as the restoration of the original shops progresses hereafter, the issue of what is known as "double loans" - that is, taking out an additional loan to rebuild one's destroyed home or business even though an initial loan is still outstanding - will emerge in great force. As the timing of the increase in the consumption tax may coincide with the time at which people will leave the temporary housing facilities and try to rebuild their homes, there were also voices asking me to take steps to ensure that the rebuilding of houses would not be adversely impacted.
I have instructed the relevant ministries and agencies to draw up a package of measures that will shorten the period of time needed until a decision is reached on the provision of assistance to small and medium enterprises shouldering double loans. Moreover, in light of the concerns of the people in the disaster areas, we will concretely examine ways to give special consideration to the rebuilding of residences upon any increase in the consumption tax. We must take still greater pains to engage in these kinds of finely-tuned responses.
Since the beginning of July, I have visited disaster areas in Miyagi, Fukushima, and Iwate Prefectures. I went to the disaster areas hoping to listen to the voices of those who are now leading lives of inconvenience and lift their spirits even if only a little, and yet upon leaving these areas I was invigorated by the disaster victims, and I was the one being encouraged. By giving encouragement to one another, we give each other the courage to survive harsh 'todays' and lead our lives despite uncertain 'tomorrows.' I feel that I was once again reminded of the importance of such things.
Yesterday while appearing on a TV show, I conveyed a message from myself to children concerning the problem of bullying at school. In years past, the adults who were around children approached the problem of bullying with an uncompromising attitude. I recall that there were such adults around even when I was very young.
In order to overcome the major challenges facing Japan, I believe that more than anything else, it is important to ensure that children's minds resonate with the intrinsic human nature of people helping and supporting one other.