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.

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