National

Japan's new land minister Kazuyoshi Akaba resolved to bolster disaster management

JIJI

New Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Kazuyoshi Akaba has stressed his resolve to beef up Japan’s disaster preparedness following a spate of serious natural events, including earthquakes and typhoons.

He also underlined that it was important for the central and local governments to work hand in hand to enhance the effectiveness of related measures.

“Once a disaster occurs, minimizing damage is the most crucial task of politics,” Akaba, who assumed his post in a Cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday, said in an interview with media organizations. “We have to work on disaster prevention and reduction, from the standpoint of protecting the lives of people.”

He noted that the government secured special budgets for disaster-related emergency measures for the three years through fiscal 2020, which starts in April.

“The state, and prefectural and municipal governments should proceed with anti-disaster measures efficiently by setting priorities and making full preparations,” Akaba pointed out, calling on the administrative authorities to avoid acting separately.

On the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, Akaba expressed his determination to ensure smooth transportation and accommodations for the people concerned, such as officials related to the games and spectators.

Stressing his focus on the Paralympic Games, Akaba said, “I want to do what I can, after thoroughly conducting a necessary review again from the perspective of people with disabilities.”

He also highlighted the need to expand multilingual services, saying, “I hope foreigners visiting Japan for the Tokyo Games will think that ‘it’s a good country and I want to come here again.'”

Akaba also expressed hope for a reconciliation between Shizuoka Prefectural Government and Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Central) over the Chuo Shinkansen ultrahigh-speed maglev train service being planned to link Shinagawa Station in Tokyo with Nagoya Station in Nagoya.

The prefectural government is concerned that construction of the new line could lead to a drop in water flows in the Oi River.

Akaba said: “I want JR Central and Shizuoka Prefecture to handle the situation in a way that satisfies both of them. The central government hopes to prepare an environment in which people involved can proceed with discussions smoothly and swiftly.”

Noting that it is “revolutionary” that the fastest train on the maglev line will connect Tokyo and Nagoya in only 40 minutes, Akaba said he wants the two sides to redouble efforts for resolving the conflict.

JR Central plans to launch the Tokyo-Nagoya maglev line in 2027. The line is slated to be extended to Osaka later.

On Hokkaido Railway Co. (JR Hokkaido), which has been running at a loss, Akaba said the central government in July last year decided to provide ¥40 billion of aid to the company in fiscal 2019 and fiscal 2020 while ordering the railway to improve its operations.

The government has yet to decide whether to continue its assistance to JR Hokkaido in and after fiscal 2021.

Akaba said the government will deal with the situation appropriately by calling on the company to take sufficient measures to sort out its problems. “We must work hard,” he said, noting, “Hokkaido is full of tourist attractions.”