FUKUSHIMA – Newly appointed reconstruction minister Wataru Takeshita visited Fukushima Prefecture on Thursday, as evacuees from the triple core meltdown in 2011 raised concerns about his selection for the post.
“Reconstruction cannot be over in five years (of funding),” said Takeshita, vowing to continue supporting the meltdown-hit prefecture’s recovery after the official government reconstruction program ends at the end of fiscal 2015.
“I will put my life on the line to get money for this,” Takeshita told reporters after meeting with Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato.
Takeshita, a member of the Lower House whose constituency is way out west in Shimane Prefecture, also noted that over 100,000 people in Fukushima are still living as evacuees more than three years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster began.
“We need to share the feelings of each one of the evacuees,” he said.
Residents in areas hit hard by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, however, have raised concerns about the prime minister’s new Cabinet members, including the reconstruction minister and the central government’s stance toward local recovery efforts.
“A lawmaker from one of the Tohoku prefectures of Fukushima, Iwate or Miyagi was not appointed, and it strikes me that we are not being taken seriously,” said Masaatsu Amano, a 76-year-old resident living in temporary housing in the city of Koriyama.
Amano, who is originally from Futaba, one of the towns co-hosting the heavily damaged Fukushima No. 1 power plant, evacuated with the other residents to escape the radiation ejected by the crippled plant.
“I wonder if the government’s attention is too focused on national security issues and the (2020) Tokyo Olympics, and if the disaster-hit areas will be left behind,” he said.
Hideo Iwama, 61, another evacuee stuck in temporary housing after losing his property in Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, said, “I wanted someone who knows the Tohoku region well to become the minister. In any case, I want the new minister to visit here.”
Masaharu Sugawara, 68, who was forced into temporary dwelling after the tsunami wiped out his house in Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, said he doesn’t know anything about the new minister.
“What was the reason behind his appointment?” he asked.
“Nothing has been reconstructed. Whoever takes the post, it won’t make any difference,” said a 62-year-old female evacuee.
The two previous reconstruction ministers hailed from the disaster-hit areas and served successive terms. They were Upper House member Tatsuo Hirano, whose electoral district is in Iwate, and Lower House member Takumi Nemoto, who represents a district in Fukushima.
Before them, Ryu Matsumoto, whose Lower House constituency was in Fukuoka, was appointed to the ministerial post under the administration led by the Democratic Party of Japan.