Government offices and many companies were open Monday for the last time of the year, with many hoping for a better year ahead after a turbulent past 12 months, including a number of scandals that rocked the country.
Fewer people than usual headed to ministries and agencies in Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki district in the morning because many central government workers opted to take their year-end holidays.
With the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry hit by a data breach in the Japan Pension Service that led to personal data for 1 million people being leaked, as well as a bribery scandal involving one of its officials, a bureaucrat in his 20s said the ministry was “often in the spotlight in a negative sense.”
“I hope next year won’t be a year like this,” he said.
In Okinawa, some local officials are bracing for another tough year as they continue square off with the central government over the plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within the prefecture.
“This year began and ended with the Henoko (issue),” one official said, referring to the name of the coastal area in Nago where the central government wants to build the replacement facility. The base currently sits in a crowded residential district in the city of Ginowan.
“We want the central government to give up (the plan) next year, but prospects are unclear,” the official said.
A member of the SEALDs university student group that played a key role in protests against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s security legislation said it will continue to confront the government even though the laws were enacted by the Diet in September.
“None of our members stopped moving even after the laws were enacted,” said Yasumasa Chiba, a 24-year-old graduate student and member of Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy-s.
At a condominium complex in Yokohama where defective piling work and data falsification were found earlier this year, more residents were seen moving out as the year drew to a close.
A 43-year-old caregiver who lives in the complex said residents will have to decide next year whether to have all four buildings in the complex rebuilt, including the one that is tilting due to the defective work.
“I cannot mark the new year with peace of mind,” he said. The data falsification scandal involving an Asahi Kasei Corp. subsidiary set off safety concerns over piling work at other buildings nationwide.
Toyo Tire & Rubber Co., which was also roiled by a data falsification scandal, renewed its resolve to win back public trust as its employees went to work on the final day of the year.
“We will work as one with a sense of urgency,” a person in charge of public relations said.