Tokyo bureaucrats trial working from Tokushima Prefecture

Kyodo, Staff Report

Senior officials of the Consumer Affairs Agency are carrying out a trial in which they are working remotely from a facility in Tokushima Prefecture.

The test, which began Monday in Kamiyama, Tokushima Prefecture, is part of Tokyo’s efforts to decentralize some of its functions, spreading them and their influence further afield.

The trial involves some of the ministry’s most senior bureaucrats but is limited in scope: It continues only through Thursday.

Consumer Affairs Agency chief Kumiko Bando and other officials are testing data connections to see whether the agency itself might move to the town, which is more than 500 kilometers southwest of Tokyo.

The officials are working from three rooms in a former clothing factory that has been remodeled to house satellite offices for businesses in Kamiyama.

The government is looking at relocating both the agency and the National Consumer Affairs Center to Tokushima Prefecture.

Bando’s schedule on Monday morning included a video conference with Tokushima Gov. Kamon Iizumi, who joined from his office in the city of Tokushima, about 20 km away.

Iizumi told Bando he wants the officials from Tokyo to experience a new way of working with the help of the prefecture’s fiber-optic networks, which deliver fast broadband Internet connections.

Tokushima is ranked third nationwide in terms of penetration of fiber-optic networks, which exceed 200,000 km in the prefecture.

In response, Bando said the agency will test what the prefecture’s data links can provide. She was subsequently scheduled to have a virtual meeting with agency officials in Tokyo.

The trial is an attempt by the government get more officials to operate remotely, which in turn may change the working pattern of ministries and agencies.

The government is set to compile a relocation policy by the end of this month to help revitalize communities outside Tokyo.

In September, Shigeru Ishiba, minister in charge of regional revitalization, said 42 of the 47 prefectures had submitted proposals to host 69 central government bodies and independent administrative agencies. In December, the government narrowed down the list to 34 government bodies, including the Small and Medium Enterprise Agency, the Patent Agency, the Meteorological Agency and the Japan Tourism Agency.

Under Tokyo’s initiative, the Cultural Affairs Agency could also be relocated to Kyoto Prefecture, which has long lobbied for it.

In proposing the relocation, local officials noted that about half of the country’s designated national treasures are based in the Kansai, as well as about 40 percent of its important cultural properties.