Sumio Mabuchi, the new minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, said he is concerned political tensions between Japan and China will seriously damage the tourism industry, which is starting to see trip cancellations, including one involving about 10,000 employees of a Chinese company.
Nevertheless, Mabuchi said his ministry is determined to attract as many tourists as possible to Japan.
“I am very worried about the impact getting bigger,” the new minister said Tuesday in an interview with news organizations. “We will do what we should do for tourism to reach our goal.”
Representing the Nara No. 1 district, Mabuchi has been senior vice transport minister in the administrations of Yukio Hatoyama and Naoto Kan since winning his third term in the Lower House in 2009. In that time, he pushed strongly to abolish expressway tolls and cut the aviation fuel tax, and helped manage the bankruptcy and rehabilitation of Japan Airlines, a responsibility he now inherits.
Mabuchi graduated with an engineering degree from Yokohama National University and went on to work at Mitsui Construction. After entering politics he made a name for himself with his aggressive questioning during the building safety scandal triggered by architect Hidetsugu Aneha in 2006.
Mabuchi said the aviation fuel tax will likely be a priority issue during his term. He said his ministry has been asking the Finance Ministry to drastically cut the levy next fiscal year.
Mabuchi said the key points for debate will be the expressway network and new road construction, and how to allocate fiscal resources. This is going to be a particularly urgent issue as the expiration of the ¥1,000 toll cap for holiday expressway travel approaches in March.
Mabuchi said he intends to have constructive talks with his deputies on implementing his policies, including Wakio Mitsui, a Lower House lawmaker now serving as a senior vice transport minister.
“It is extremely important for (Mitsui) to come into the administration and grasp the real situation as a person responsible for implementing policies,” Mabuchi said. “I want to create a good team.”