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Masuzoe plays down Tokyo nuclear role

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

New Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe said Wednesday he will work hard to make the capital the best city in the world, while noting that it’s up to the central government whether to bring the nation’s nuclear reactors back online.

“In order to make Tokyo the best in the world . . . above all, we have to make various preparations for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, not only enhancing the infrastructure,” 65-year-old Masuzoe said during his inaugural news conference at the metropolitan government building in Shinjuku Ward.

Masuzoe, who took office Tuesday after winning Sunday’s election, reiterated that he will aim to hold “the best ever” Olympics and will go all out to make sure that the athletes and other visitors leave Japan saying the 2020 Games were the greatest they’ve ever seen.

The former Upper House member also said the metropolitan government needs to work hard on welfare, disaster preparation and public safety measures.

Touching on nuclear energy, Masuzoe said Tokyo doesn’t have much influence on the plan by Tokyo Electric Power Co. to restart reactors at its massive Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture.

“We have to understand that nuclear energy policy belongs to the national government,” Masuzoe said. “It’s up to the Abe administration to make a decision on the plan after hearing the opinions of experts” at the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

Though the metropolitan government is the fourth-largest shareholder in Tepco, holding a stake of 1.20 percent, Masuzoe said it has a limited voice on the utility, which is being supported financially by the central government.

“So, I have been saying that to decrease dependence on nuclear power, we have to create (renewable) energies by ourselves,” Masuzoe said. He has said he would like to see nuclear energy phased out in the long run.

As for his reported discriminatory remarks toward women in 1989, including that “menstruation makes women unfit for national government,” Masuzoe said he doesn’t remember making such comments, and even if he had, he no longer thinks that way.

“If such remarks exist . . . I’d like to take back all of them,” he said.

Touching on how to ease waiting lists for nursery schools, which currently have around 8,100 names, the former health minister said he will seek out the cooperation of railways.

Vacant space underneath elevated railway tracks could be used for nurseries, Masuzoe said, adding that he has already started talking to railway presidents.

In the morning, Masuzoe was greeted by the applause of some 1,000 metropolitan officials as he entered the building. He paid a visit to metropolitan assembly president Toshiaki Yoshino as well as the Liberal Democratic Party’s Tokyo chapter for the assembly, which backed Masuzoe in the campaign.

He urged city employees to work with spirit as they contribute to making Tokyo the best city in the world.