December 2010

December 28(Tuesday)

No. 9[Postwar]Prime Minister in Ioto. The Task Force Team for Recovering the Remains of the War Dead

 

The Prime Minister answers the question, "Why, all of a sudden, at this juncture, did the Prime Minister go to Ioto?" The answer is a discovery of the Task Force Team led by the Prime Minister.

 

 

Narration: On Tuesday, December 14, Prime Minister Kan and a non-
partisan group of Diet members headed for Ioto, a remote Pacific
island 1,250 kilometers south of Tokyo. With all the residents
having evacuated the island during World War II, no one but a unit
of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces is living here today. As many
as 21,900 Japanese soldiers lost their lives on this small island,
which became a fierce battlefield during the war.
 

 

Prime Minister: I've been very much concerned about Ioto since my first visit to the island four years ago. That is why I organized a team, the first task force team in my Cabinet, for recovering and collecting the remains of the war dead there.

 

Narration: Mr. Shoichiro Nagasawa, a bereaved family member, has
long been trying to recover the remains on the island. About 8,700
remains had been recovered before the end of last year, but...
 

 

Mr. Nagasawa: The scale of the recovery project had reduced significantly since around 1998. The survivors and I used to go inside the dugouts in the island to recover the remains until we had excavated all of the dugouts.

 

Narration: About 13,000 remains of Japanese soldiers are reportedly
still buried somewhere in the island, awaiting their return home.
This is the largest number of unrecovered remains in a battlefield
in Japan. Having searched almost every place possible, only a few
dozen or so remains had been recovered per year in recent years,
but the recovery rate started to grow suddenly since this autumn,
with more than 300 remains already having been recovered thus far.
The number is expected to continue increasing. An instruction Prime
Minister Kan gave to the team leader upon his appointment this
summer was the trigger for the rapid change in situation.
 

 

Mr. Akutsu, Team Leader: I was instructed to go to the United States. The Prime Minister said the US National Archives must have documents on Ioto. He looked in my eyes convincingly and gave me a clear instruction to start with scientific research and collection of documents.

 

Narration: We found related documents at the National Archives in
Washington, D.C. --about 400,000 pages in total stored in some 600
boxes. Out of the mass of documents, the research group found small
letters on the map, which read "enemy cemeteries," which seem to
indicate cemeteries the US army built for Japanese soldiers.
 

 

Mr. Akutsu, Team Leader: I was really astonished. We started excavating the area in October, and within a short time period, we have already identified two sites with numerous unrecovered remains. Without the instruction of Prime Minister Kan, who was convinced of the existence of documents on cemeteries, we would never have discovered these sites.

 

Narration: Bereaved family members were immediately notified of the
discovery of the documents.
 

 

Mr. Nagasawa: The Prime Minister told me on August 10 of this year that documents on cemeteries were found. I really couldn't believe it. As a bereaved family member, I really thank the Prime Minister for starting the search in the released information, finding the documents, and bringing about results.

 

Prime Minister: 65 years is a long time to wait. I am truly sorry.

 

Mr. Nagasawa: It was worth waiting for.

 

Prime Minister: With this discovery, they can now return home.

 

Mr. Nagasawa: Yes, indeed.

 

Narration: There were two cemeteries marked as "enemy cemeteries"
on the map. After visiting the first dig site, the Prime Minister
went to the second site, at the foot of Mount Suribachi. What makes
the Prime Minister work on this issue so enthusiastically?
 

 

Mr. Akutsu, Team Leader: I just happened to hear Prime Minister Kan say that politicians' failure to act has kept some 10,000 remains of the war dead unrecovered in Ioto. It seemed that the Prime Minister strongly resented the inaction of politicians, including himself, questioning why they haven't carried out a responsibility of the government.

 

Narration: At a memorial service on the island, the Prime Minister
read aloud a letter General Tadamichi Kuribayashi wrote on the
island to his young daughter. The General led the garrison in Ioto
during fierce battles.
 

 

Prime Minister: "My dear Tako, your father wants you to grow up
quickly and be a source of support for your mother. Keep yourself
healthy, study hard, do as your mother tells you, and put your
father's heart at ease." Those who have fought to the death were
fathers who protected their families, good husbands, and sons
carrying promising futures, before they were soldiers. I pledge
here that we will examine every grain of sand and spare no effort
to bring about the recovery of the remains of even one more among
the deceased.

 

Prime Minister: I myself unearthed some remains. When I saw and actually touched them, I felt something strongly. I thought if the remains had been collected more promptly, we could have returned them home to their families earlier.

 

Narration: In respect of the war dead, the government stopped using
the term "collection of the remains" to replace it with "recovery
of the remains." The soldiers fought to the death and 65 years have
passed since then. The bereaved family members waiting for their
return are also aging.
 

 

Mr. Nagasawa: I would like to see for myself my father's remains and welcome him back home. That is the strongest desire I have as a child.

 

Mr. Nagasawa: Thank you. We are almost 80, so this should be the last duty for our parents.

 

Prime Minister: I hope that younger generations will learn more about this. I really respect your endeavors.

 

Narration: Prime Minister Kan intends to steadily advance efforts
in Ioto first and then move on to the return home of the remains
that are waiting to be recovered in other battlefields.
 

 

December 27(Monday)

Parts of the fiscal 2011 budget I am determined to pursue, such as the budget for science and engineering

 

The government succeeded in compiling its draft budget on Friday of last week.  Please look at the explanation found on the Prime Minister's Office web page for the differences between this draft budget and the budget up to now, as well as for an overall image of its contents.  Various interchanges that took place in the final phase of the work to formulate this draft, such as regarding block grants, are discussed in a video installment of "Prime Minister KAN's TV" and here I would like to discuss one of them.

 

I consider science and technology to be one of the policy areas of paramount importance.  In particular, I would like to cultivate dreams in this field among today's youth.  I hope that dreams also come to be shared by people nationwide.  In this spirit, I pushed for a dramatic increase in funding for scientific research (an increase of roughly 32%), standing firm in my convictions despite various kinds of resistance in the final stages.  Moreover, a new structure was incorporated into the draft budget by which this funding would take the form of an ongoing fund, in order to free it from being used up every fiscal year and instead allowing it to be used over multiple fiscal years.

 

I hope that in so doing young researchers come to be connected to such dreams that say, "If we work hard, we too can undertake marvelous research just as that Nobel Prize laureate did, or just like that of the Hayabusa spacecraft."

 

December 24(Friday)

No. 8 [Healthcare] A Great Leap Forward for the HTLV-1 Task Force Team

 

Although it was barely reported due to public attention turning to other political news, on December 20 a very important policy decision was made; one that established a model for addressing intractable diseases.

 

 

Narration: Former Governor of Miyagi Prefecture Shiro Asano
continues to struggle with Adult T-cell Leukemia. This cancer is
caused by Human T-Lymphotropic Virus Type 1, also known as HTLV-1,
which is estimated to be carried by more than 1 million people
across Japan. Most of the carriers never develop any diseases, but
on occasion, it develops into leukemia, as with Mr. Asano, or even
causes serious nerve damage. There is yet no effective treatment
for the virus. However, the development of a comprehensive policy
to address HTLV-1 took a great leap forward on December 20.
 

 

Prime Minister: I am extremely pleased to have worked with everyone here, and that together we were able to make definite progress today.

 

Narration: The "everyone" referred to by Prime Minister Kan
includes the sufferer of HTLV-1-related diseases who attended the
meeting.
On September 8, this patient group made a direct plea to the Prime
Minister, visiting his office. Having received the patients'
request down on his knees to do something about the virus, the
Prime Minister immediately formed a task force team to tackle this
issue, and only five days later the team's first meeting was held.
 

 

Prime Minister: I would like to thank everyone for coming together so quickly for this meeting and proceeding forward with such substantive discussion.

 

Narration: Ms. Kayoko Sugatsuki, who is a member of the patient
group petitioning the government for seven years, initially
believed that things would not change so smoothly.
 

 

Ms. Sugatsuki: Of course, there are some humane people working at the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, and they have been working with us to make a breakthrough on this issue. It's not that the Ministry is bad, but that the vertically-oriented organizational structure of the Ministry means that no matter how much you say you want something done about a certain disease, nothing is ever resolved.

 

Narration: However, as the meetings of the task force team went on,
Ms. Sugatsuki found that her impressions began to change.
 

 

Ms. Sugatsuki: There were many opportunities in each meeting for the patient-side to express its opinions. Over the course of the meetings, I began to really feel that this task force team is serious about coming up with countermeasures for the virus.

 

Narration: Mr. Asano, who was actually an official of the Ministry
of Health, Labour and Welfare before becoming Governor of Miyagi
Prefecture, expressed a similar opinion.
 

 

Mr. Asano: The thing I strongly felt this time was the power of politics. There was no worrying about the status-quo--I really felt there was strong will to find a solution to this problem.

 

Narration: The "strong will" referred to by Mr. Asano was not just
aimed at finding countermeasures for HTLV-1.
Prime Minister Kan sees this initiative as the way leading toward
a much more universal goal.
 

 

Prime Minister: I believe that we could take a first step forward to create a model task force team-based approach for finding breakthrough solutions for those who suffer from various diseases.

 

Narration: Yesterday's meeting (that was held on December 20)
marked the 99th day since the first meeting of the HTLV-1 Task
Force Team, and saw the completion of a comprehensive policy on the
virus. With more than 60% of the infected receiving the virus via
their mother's milk as infants, it has been decided that systems
for maternity checkups and health guidance will be set up across
the country.
In addition, preparations will be made to create a consultation
system for those with the virus, as well as a seamless medical-care
system for examinations and treatments. The Government will also
start efforts to greatly increase research funding. It was decided
that the national government, regional governments, medical
institutions, as well as patient organizations will strongly
promote this policy in close coordination with each other.
 

 

Ms. Sugatsuki: I truly appreciate it.

 

Mr. Asano: I was surprised; I am grateful; I was moved. I am currently fighting what is known as ATL (Adult T-cell Leukemia), and I will overcome this challenge.

 

Prime Minister: In formulating this comprehensive policy today,
I believe that this significant step forward was realized thanks to
your valuable efforts, though you all went through very difficult
times. I will close my remarks with the promise that I will firmly
implement this policy. Thank you very much.

 

December 21(Tuesday)

No. 7 [Transformation] The Isahaya Bay Lawsuit: A Political Decision- Acceptance of the Court Ruling

 

The Prime Minister answers the question, "How have you faced the issue of Isahaya Bay, until you made the decision to change the government's policy?" He discusses the issue while sharing a number of pictures from his past visits to the Bay.

 

 

Narration: A major political decision has been made by Prime
Minister Kan concerning the Isahaya Bay Reclamation Project. On
December 15, the Prime Minister announced that the government would
not appeal the ruling of the Fukuoka High Court calling for the
opening of the floodgates that divide Isahaya Bay for five years.

 

Prime Minister: I have been personally aware of the Isahaya Bay
Reclamation Project, including its problems, from a very early
stage, and have frequently visited the site.

 

Narration: Prime Minister Kan has been deeply concerned about the
Isahaya Bay issue since his days as an opposition party politician.
His questions about the fundamental necessity of the project and
concerns about visible environmental degradation, along with
particular worries about the harm the project might do to the
fisheries industry, led him to head out to sea and observe the Bay
for himself.
 

 

Prime Minister: This project cost 250 billion yen and caused sea
pollution, or rather, the changing of sea currents leading to
pollution at the local fishing grounds. In opening the gates, the
court ruling seeks to improve this situation and investigate the
various adverse effects on fisheries.

 

Narration: Before the beginning of discussion on these issues, as
a politician, one question in particular has always troubled Prime
Minister Kan.
 

 

Prime Minister: There is the fundamental question of whether or not
such a large-scale 250 billion yen project was needed in the first
place. Particularly when I was an opposition politician, I was
maintaining that this was a symbol of wasteful public work. I was
wondering why this project was necessary from the very beginning.
Regardless, and unfortunately, the project went forward and was
completed.

 

Narration: Although the massive project has been finished, and one
cannot turn back the clock, this bold decision made by the Prime
Minister to accept the court ruling and to open the floodgates is
a symbolic event of the regime change that the people of Japan
brought.
What Japan needs now is to move forward. Of particular importance
will be the response of the people farming in the reclaimed land of
the Bay.

 

Narration: The Prime Minister gave the next instruction immediately
after he made his initial decision.
 

 

Prime Minister: I instructed everyone involved to make sure that
the opening of the floodgates does not aversely affect the farmers
of the area and that seawater be guided in such a way so as not to
negatively affect farming.

 

Narration: How can vibrant fishery and agriculture coexist in this
region? Full-fledged efforts for this are entering a new stage.
 

 

December 21(Tuesday)

Ichiro Ozawa and the Political Ethics Hearing Committee issue

 

In the election for the presidency of the DPJ in September, I pledged "clean and open politics."

 

In calling for Mr. Ozawa to appear before the Political Ethics Hearing Committee, there has been some criticism that a power struggle is underway despite it being an important time, with the budget now under formulation.  However, the problem of "money politics" involving Mr. Ozawa is one that has drawn the concern and the doubts of the public for more than a year.  It is necessary for Mr. Ozawa to explain the matter at the Diet, as he himself promised to do.

 

In addition, in taking up this issue while the Diet is not in session, it can be handled without causing inconveniences to the public.  On that basis, in the upcoming ordinary Diet session I wish to devote myself to deliberations on fiscal policy for the next fiscal year and important bills, looking ahead to the future.

 

December 18(Saturday)

My second visit to Okinawa since assuming office

 

I visited Okinawa for two days, yesterday and today, for the first time in half a year.  I am writing this on the airplane as I head back to Tokyo.

 

The focal points of my inspection visit this time were the military base issue and measures to promote Okinawa's economy.  While both of these feature elements that interlink, such as the utilization of military base sites to be returned to Japan, it is imperative to address each of them as an important issue in its own right.

 

During this trip, in addition to the meeting I had with the governor, I visited the new cargo terminal building in Naha Airport and the Okinawa IT Shinryo Park, among other sites.  They are generating employment through efforts that make use of Okinawa's special geographical and historical characteristics that connect Japan with the rest of Asia.  I was able to encounter Okinawa's vitality and potential.  I came to have an even stronger conviction that it is important to go beyond the conventional approach of public works projects focused simply on the construction of community buildings and instead move forward by supporting "development appropriate for Okinawa," in which people and information come together in Okinawa.

 

I again confirmed the current state of burden sharing of military bases, including by inspecting the area from a helicopter.  The dangerous situation of the Futenma military base, which is entirely surrounded by urban areas, simply cannot be left as it is.  I felt this very strongly.

 

I do not yet feel by any means that through just my apology and explanation during this visit I was able to obtain the understanding of the Okinawan people surrounding the issue of military bases.  I consider this visit to have been one step in looking ahead, and in the future I will continue to move forward seeing with my own eyes the various efforts for carving out the future of Okinawa while continuing to hold discussions with the governor and various other persons on a wide number of fronts.

 

December 16(Thursday)

No. 6: [Livelihood] What Effect Will the 5 trillion Yen Supplementary Budget Have?

 

The Prime Minister answers the question, "What will the supplementary budget mean for us?" A surprising amount of initiatives have now been put into motion!

 

 

Speaker of the House of Representatives: On behalf of the entire
Diet, I hereby declare the supplementary budget for FY2010 adopted.

 

Narration 1: Looking at the supplementary budget passed at the end
of last month, we realize that it has already begun to have an
effect on the lives of the people. For example...
 

 

Narration 2: You often talk about the "job creation in priority
areas." In specific terms, how will the supplementary budget help
with this?
 

 

Prime Minister: The reason why we don't see an increase in the availability of long-term care services in spite of the great demand is that caregivers aren't paid enough.

 

Narration 1: The support scheme for entrepreneurs hiring people in
long-term care and other growing sectors will be enhanced using
additional 100 billion yen.
 

 

Narration 2: Many who are about to graduate school still have not
found jobs. Something must be done immediately!
 

 

Narration 1: 50.1 billion yen will be set aside for programs and
initiatives to support new graduates' job hunting.
The number of career counselors and "job supporters," providing
face-to-face consultations for new graduates will be doubled.
Venues to match job seekers and companies will be set up.
"Hello Work" offices to support new graduates will be established
in all prefectures.
Immediately effective measures will begin to be implemented one
after another.
 

 

Narration 2: Young people who graduated years before have an even
harder time in finding a job than new graduates!
 

 

Narration 1: In order to make it easier for those who have already
graduated to be hired, a trial period for employment will be
introduced, which lowers the threshold for hiring.
Employers trying out this system will be provided "Trial Employment
Subsidies."
Other subsidies as well will help to create more jobs.
 

 

Narration 2: We need support now for those living in poverty! 

 

Narration 1: Comprehensive counseling will be provided in
collaboration with NPOs etc., and temporary housing facilities will
be loaned out, in addition to other measures. Ten billion yen will
be provided for the flexible "Communal Bond Revitalization Project."
Prime Minister Kan personally commented on the name of this project.

 

Prime Minister: Unemployment, for example, means literally losing one's job, it also means the severing of human relationships, including some cases where the support of one's family is lost. I think the most important element of a "reassuring society" has to do with how communal bonds are reestablished.

 

Narration 2: Even if such stopgap measures are put into action,
those ineligible for employment insurance can't afford to undergo
reemployment training.
 

 

Narration 1: 100 billion yen will be used to extend the period of
the "Emergency Career Development Support Project," which combines
training with support for living expenses.
 

 

Narration 2: How about the development for nursery services or
measures to prevent child abuse?
 

 

Narration 1: An additional 100 billion yen will be expended for the
"Safe Child Fund" to address those issues.
 

 

Narration 2: What about the elderly? Can we create a society in
which they can continue to live in the areas where they have lived
for a long time?
 

 

Prime Minister: The key to this will be to create new "communal bonds" within this new era in which close relationships between people mean that even if a family member is not able to rush to the side of the elderly when something happens, someone else will.

 

Narration 1: 50.2 billion yen will go toward creating a basic
infrastructure for community-based services and a system in which
community members will support each other on a daily basis.
Specifically, 700 facilitates will be set up in which caregivers
will be allowed to administer medical care. Thirty model facilities
will be created to offer 24-hour-a-day patrol and visitation
services. 400 million yen will be used for these facilities.
 

 

Narration 2: What about frameworks to support women's health, or
preparations against new strains of influenza?
 

 

Narration 1: The "Maternity Checkups Support Fund" will be
strengthened. 11.2 billion yen.
In addition, 120 billion yen will be put toward free cervical
cancer vaccination, preparing against new strains of influenza, and
other projects.
 

 

Narration 2: What is actually being done to "revitalize communities"? 

 

Narration 1: A ground-breaking new subsidy has been introduced.
100 billion yen will be allocated to the "Bringing Light to
Residential Communities Subsidy." This money will be used for
policies to support regional consumers, countermeasures against
domestic violence and suicide, and measures to support self-
reliance, among other things. Additionally, 250 billion yen will be
put toward the "Attention to Detail Subsidy." This will be used for
measures to meet specific local needs for revitalization, such as
projects to move electric wiring underground and out of view around
tourism spots.
 

 

Narration 2: There has been some unusual weather lately. We need to
make sure our towns and cities are resilient against natural
disasters.
 

 

Narration 1: 140.3 billion yen will be used to promote disaster
prevention measures, to deal with guerilla monsoons and other
problems.
 

 

Narration 1: Many different fiscal expenditures bring the total of
the supplementary budget to just a little over 5 trillion yen.
Combined with regulatory reform and other policies, the budget is
expected to result in the creation of jobs for nearly 500,000
people and an increase in Japan's GDP by approximately 0.6 percent.
And this isn't the only thing the Prime Minister is working on...

 

Prime Minister: We will soon be heading into the year end and the New Year. What needs to be done from here on goes without saying, and that is the formulation of the fiscal 2011 budget. If I were to liken this to a mountain, we are now heading from the seventh station to approach the eighth, and entering a stage at which we need to decide on a series of major and important issues.

 

Narration 1: Work to formulate the fiscal 2011 budget with an aim
to have a Cabinet decision by the end of this month is now taking
place at breakneck speed!
 

 

December 14(Tuesday)

Determination to lower the corporate tax rate and the duty to return human remains

 

Last night (December 13), I made a political judgement to lower the corporate tax rate by 5% and gave instructions to the relevant ministers regarding this matter.  This was a bold decision taken in order to promote domestic investment and expand employment.  This is also by extension a policy that looks to the future insofar as it will lead to wage increases for workers.

 

The next morning - today, December 14 - I set off for the island of Ioto for the first time in four years, together with bereaved relatives, volunteers, Diet members participating without regard to political party, and others.  The issue of this island, the site in Japan at which is found the greatest number of remains of Japanese soldiers still unrecovered today, is a matter of concern in which I have been engaged through questioning in the Diet and so forth since before the DPJ came to lead the government.

 

Mr. Yukihiko Akutsu, a member of the House of Representatives and a member of the Task Force Team for the Recovery of the Remains of the War Dead in Ioto established under my instruction upon becoming Prime Minister this past summer, set off to conduct research at United States' public records offices, whereupon he ascertained the existence of a large-scale mass burial site for Japanese soldiers.

 

Today I myself participated in the recovery of remains at this mass burial site.  Over the past almost twenty years, the remains able to be recovered on this island have generally not gone beyond a few dozen a year.  However, at this newly-identified location, the remains of 300 soldiers have already been found, and recovery work is still ongoing.

 

During the war, the nation was entrusted with an existence irreplaceable to their families.  If the nation was unable to have them return home in good health, then at the very least it must return their remains to the places where their families await them.  I stated clearly at today's memorial ceremony that this is incumbent upon the nation.

 

This is not merely a tale of years past.  It is also in fact a message for peace that conveys to future generations the tragedy of war.

 

December 13(Monday)

A tour of rice farming in Yamagata; the Tokyo International Anime Fair

I used to author a column on my personal web site called Kyou no Hitokoto?"Today's Message."  Since becoming Prime Minister I have taken a break from it.  However, with only the day-to-day media coverage in which reporters catch me for questions, which tends to focus on explaining how I intend to address various matters of concern immediately at hand, it is difficult to have a forum in which I can speak to the public about medium- to long-term policy issues.  With that in mind, although daily entries would be impossible, I would like to send out from time to time my "real voice" through this column, which will be a place to present my thoughts focused specifically on such topics, looking towards the future.

Yesterday, on Sunday, I visited the town of Shonai in Yamagata Prefecture in order to observe the situation of rice farmers.  In the days when I was affiliated with the Socialist Democratic Federation, a political party comprised of only five Diet members, Representative Shogo Abe, who followed in the wake of the farmers' movement, was active in Yamagata and I went there on various occasions to help support his election campaign and so on.  During this visit I was so fortunate as to have met Mr. Abe's associates from that era as well as his son. 

Shonai stands among the foremost rice-growing locations nationwide.  I spoke with people engaged in processing rice into rice cakes and various other kinds of operations as we sat in a circle for discussion.  People running a minshuku [guest houses for tourists visiting the farming community] spoke of having five thousand guests staying annually.  What they have in common is the fact that they all have a direct connection with consumers.  I was able to enjoy a visit that was deeply interesting for the future, as it touched upon the current situation of rice farmers, enhanced efficiency through expansions of scale, and putting into practice "senary," or sixth-order, industry.

One more topic I would like to adress relates to Japan Brand.  Concerns are currently being raised over the holding of the Tokyo International Anime Fair, in connection with the healthy development of youth.  Youth development is a matter of importance.  At the same time, sending out Japanese anime to the world is also important.  I hope that the parties involved make efforts to avoid a situation in which the International Anime Fair is unable to be held in Tokyo.

December 7(Tuesday)

No. 5 [Childrearing] 'Anticipatory Project for the Elimination of Childcare Waiting Lists' Starts

 

"What has been done for child-rearing support besides the child allowance?" To answer this question, Prime Minister Kan passionately explains his plan using specific episodes, together with Ms. Atsuko Muraki, the director general of the task force team office.

 

 

Narration: At the start of the week, the Prime Minister Kan
received a basic plan of the "Anticipatory Project for the
Elimination of Childcare Waiting Lists," which is intended to
create places for children who cannot be enrolled in childcare
facilities due to overcapacity. The method and idea contained in
the plan have a strong mark of Prime Minister Kan's belief.
 

 

--- The elimination of childcare waiting lists has long been
repeated as a slogan.

 

Prime Minister: Indeed.

 

--- Will it be different this time?

 

Prime Minister: Yes. In many cases, new policy initiatives are blocked by the barriers of jurisdiction within the bureaucracy. The issue has hitherto been addressed separately by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, which is responsible for overall childrearing policies, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, which supervises kindergartens, and municipalities. This is why I resolved to create a task force team dedicated to eliminating childcare waiting lists.

 

I therefore asked Ms. Tomiko Okazaki, Minister of State for Social Affairs and Gender Equality, and Ms. Yoko Komiyama, Vice Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, to organize the team and tackle this as priority assignment. Normally, this kind of planning would take much longer, sometimes two or three years, as it requires inter-ministerial coordination. Thanks to the task force team, I could at least shorten it to few months.

 

Narration: By allowing diverse and flexible childcare services
while ensuring the quality, outside the existing regulatory
framework and securing necessary facilities and human resources for
the sector, this project is going to increase the availability by
35,000 in the next fiscal year for estimated 26,000 children on
waiting lists. It will seek to increase the capacity even further,
in anticipation of the future increase of children needing
childcare.
 

 

Why put so much effort into the elimination of childcare waiting
lists? The Prime Minister explains that it concerns not only
parents with children but also the future of the Japanese society
as a whole.
 

 

Prime Minister: This policy produces three major effects at once. First, parents hitherto unable to access childcare facilities can have their children looked after. Second, women will be able to continue working while raising children, which would offset the demographic decrease of the workforce. Third, this would curb the trend of declining birthrates, as women who hesitated to have more than one child would be encouraged to have two or three children if they were able to continue working.

 

Narration: A country in which families can raise children without
anxiety, supported by the whole society. To realize this, the Prime
Minister appointed her to be the director general of the task force
team office.

 

Muraki: One day, together with Minister Okazaki, I was summoned to the Prime Minister's Office, where the Prime Minister instructed me to implement measures to eliminate childcare waiting lists. My initial feeling was, "that is impossible".

 

Narration: The government has already been set to implement the
"New System for Children and Child-rearing," a comprehensive
measure including the elimination of childcare waiting lists, from
2013.
 

 

Muraki: The Prime Minister said, "It is a fine idea to build a complete system from 2013, but what about children waiting right now? They cannot wait so long." It is hard to argue against this obvious statement.

 

Narration: Hence the project was compiled. It contains a number of
breakthroughs. The first is deregulation.

 

Prime Minister: Although we need to ensure safety, regulations that do not fit the reality should be removed as much as possible. For example, we may remodel unused school classrooms and shops to have childcare facilities in convenient places. We may also treat non-authorized childcare facilities like authorized ones if they meet certain conditions. These kinds of positive deregulation should be advanced side by side.

 

Narration: Next is the breakaway from the principle of
"horizontally egalitarian principle".
 

 

Prime Minister: There is a prevailing assumption that it must be done uniformly across the nation, which tends to slow the process, since whenever a uniform action is called for there are always some who hesitate. Therefore, we decided to solicit municipalities willing to take on the challenge, and support them financially. As such, we will start from the municipalities that raised hands.

 

Narration: The idea is to support municipalities that applied for
the scheme similar to the special zone system, and then use them as
models for the nationwide application. First, something must be
done for the major cities where the situation is the most pressing.

 

Prime Minister: In Tokyo, I have seen childcare facilities inside office buildings created for the employees. This is very helpful for working parents, but they also say that it would be best if their children are taken care of near to where they live, since it is a pain to bring their children along all the way to the center of Tokyo. They say it is impossible to have their children get on fully-packed trains. I believe that large cities must be more friendly to childrearing.

 

Narration: Discussion at the task force team continued for more
than a month. The experience was new even to the experienced Muraki.

 

Muraki: Politicians in the team were very outspoken, going beyond their ministries' usual boundaries. They never backed down, insisting that there should be some way to make the impossible possible. That was an enormous pressure, and the ministries must have had a difficult time responding to all their requests. That said, there was a strong shared feeling across the ministries to advance a process to truly eliminate childcare waiting lists. So we decided to think over the issue again, and gradually the solution took shape. That was a fun experience.

 

Narration: As a result, the "Anticipatory Project for the
Elimination of Childcare Waiting Lists" was drafted at an eye-
opening speed.
 

 

Muraki: On the day that we submitted the paper to the Prime Minister, we also informed the municipalities that we have compiled such a plan. I am looking forward to having various discussions with interested municipalities.

 

Prime Minister: I would like to secure enough funds for this in the budget formulation process going forward, and start the project as expected of the Cabinet, "true-to-its-word".