Tokyo Vice Gov. Naoki Inose, a noted writer, said Wednesday he will run for governor, emerging as possibly the strongest candidate to succeed his nationalist predecessor, Shintaro Ishihara.

Inose vowed at a news conference to boost Tokyo’s disaster defenses, introduce more environmentally friendly power plants and integrate two subway systems to provide better services.

“I’ve decided to assume the serious responsibility of not only protecting the safety and security of Tokyo’s residents, but also supporting Japan from Tokyo,” said Inose, 66, who has been a vice governor for five years and five months under Ishihara.

He said he will further promote quake-resistance and fireproofing renovations of old houses and strengthen expressways so they can survive a major disaster.

He pledged to replace old thermal power plants along Tokyo Bay with advanced natural gas thermal plants and increase the use of natural renewable energy to compensate for the loss of several million kilowatts stemming from the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Metropolitan Tokyo accounts for about ¥85 trillion in gross product output and has a population of about 13 million. The metropolitan government’s annul budget amounts to some ¥12 trillion. Thus, Tokyo is “Japan’s dynamo and heart,” Inose told reporters at City Hall.

“Tokyo’s stability and economic growth are essential (for Japan),” he said.

Inose noted that the metropolitan government has a large stake in the Tokyo Metro subway network and directly runs the Toei system, and vowed to unify the two carriers.

He also advocated increasing overseas flight slots at Haneda airport to 90,000 from the current 30,000 and said he will continue Tokyo’s bid to host the 2020 Olympics.

Inose has been effectively serving as governor since Ishihara abruptly resigned Oct. 31. Before his exit, Ishihara recommended that Inose succeed him, praising his capabilities as vice governor.

Inose said that if he is elected as Tokyo governor, he will continue to cooperate with Ishihara, who is now apparently seeking a Lower House seat.

One of the candidates Inose will run against in the Dec. 16 election is former Kanagawa Gov. Shigefumi Matsuzawa.

Matsuzawa, 54, who served two terms after he was elected in 2003, said he aims to drastically reform the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s administrative systems and vowed to outsource more work to the private sector.

He said he will push for an ordinance, like he achieved in Kanagawa, to curb smoking inside buildings, including a total ban in schools, hospitals and government offices.

Matsuzawa said he will promote construction of a fast rail link between Narita and Haneda airports and rebuilding the Edo Castle keep in the Imperial Household park.

Also running is Kenji Utsunomiya, 65, former president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations. Utsunomiya, who has been dealing with poverty-related cases, said he wants to reinforce support for the socially weak by increasing jobs and providing improved welfare and medical care.

Utsunomiya said Tokyo should lead the movement to abolish nuclear power.

Former science and technology policy minister Takashi Sasagawa, 77, has also announced plans to run.

Sasagawa said he will promote some of Ishihara’s goals, including the Olympics bid and strengthening disaster-prevention measures.

Sasagawa, who has held key posts in the Liberal Democratic Party, said he will not accept any salary or bonuses if elected.

He represented the Gunma No. 2 district and lost his seat in the 2009 general election.

There has also been speculation that former Miyazaki Gov. Hideo Higashikokubaru might run. He has also reportedly been asked by Nippon Ishin no Kai to run for a Lower House seat..

Others who have announced plans to run include Osamu Ogami, 71, a writer, Tokuma, 46, a musician and member of the Happiness Realization Party, and Mac Akasaka, 64, who heads Smile Party.

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