April 2011

April 30(Saturday)

No. 18 [Visit] Fukushima Evacuation Centers, 41 Days After the Incident at the Nuclear Power Station


The following is a record of the exchanges between the Prime Minister and evacuees at each center. This footage was taken by a cameraman accompanying the Prime Minister, and naturally does not show those whom the Prime Minister was unable to speak with. There were physical and temporal limits to the Prime Minister's visit, which can be overcome only by imagining the feelings of those not shown in this footage. Actually, at one point during the visit an evacuee called out to the Prime Minister, "What, just passing by? Going home already?" As those travelling with the Prime Minister hesitated momentarily about what to do, the Prime Minister himself turned back and went to talk with the person who voiced this comment. The Prime Minister will continue speaking directly with individual members of the public.



Tamura City Gymnasium, Fukushima

<A man confronts the Prime Minister to make a loud request>

Man: I understand well that you are working hard, but you need to do more! Please work harder to bring the situation at the nuclear power station under stable control. Please!


<The Prime Minister explains the no-entry zone to a woman kneeling formally alone in her room made out of cardboard>

Prime Minister: While the Government draws up its plans, the police are working hard to stop burglars from entering the area and to keep a good watch on each neighborhood. We are currently making plans so that not too long from now, residents will be able to take turns making home visits.


Woman: I am grateful to hear it. I appreciate your thoughtfulness.


Prime Minister: No, it is I who should be thanking you.


<A couple makes an appeal to the Prime Minister. At the back, their daughter holds her baby in her arms.>

Woman: Please do something quickly. This isn't for us - we don't have very much longer to live. But the children still have their futures ahead of them. I'm sure your work is very difficult and you are working hard, but please do something to contain the situation at the nuclear power station.


Prime Minister: I can only imagine how difficult it must be to live in an evacuation center for so long. For the children as well I promise to do everything I can.


Man: Please do.


Big Palette Fukushima, Koriyama City, Fukushima

The next destination was a large facility housing about 1,500 people.


<One after another, people shout out requests and shake hands with the Prime Minister>

Man: Please do something soon about the nuclear power station.


Prime Minister: I will work hard to bring the situation under stable control.


Woman: Please, let me visit my home.


Prime Minister: We are now drawing up plans for temporary visits.


Woman: Please let us go back home soon.


<The Prime Minister speaks with a couple kneeling down formally>

Prime Minister: I know things are very difficult right now.


Woman: Thank you for your concern. I'm glad.


Prime Minister: The Government and the country will do everything we can for you.


(Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama: Please take care of yourself.)


<A woman makes a crying plea to the Prime Minister>

Woman: I want to go back home.


Man: We all want to go back home.


Prime Minister: It will take a little more time, but the Government is doing all that it can. I understand that things must be truly difficult right now.


<A series of handshakes>

There was one thing that the Prime Minister felt more strongly than anything else as each person approached to give him words of encouragement and shake his hand...


<The Prime Minister answers questions from reporters at the evacuation center>

Prime Minister: After going to the evacuation centers and listening to their stories, I asked myself whether I genuinely understood the feelings of everyone there. And I realized that we need to think about each issue more from the standpoint of the disaster victims. I strongly felt this yet again during this visit.


<The Prime Minister speaks to an elderly man who gets up from his bed in tears>

Prime Minister: No need to get up, you are fine where you are. Please take care of yourself.


Man: Thank you.


Prime Minister: It's truly tough right now, but please take care of yourself.


Young man next to the elderly man: We're counting on you.


Prime Minister: I'll do my best.


<A man whose house is 65km from the evacuation center>

Man: Mr. Prime Minister, please make Tomioka Town become as close as possible. Right now, my house is now farther away to me than the United States. If I wanted to go to the United States, I could fly there...


<The following day's press conference at the Prime Minister's Office>

Prime Minister: "I can visit the United States in a little over 10 hours, but I may not be able to visit my own house in weeks, maybe even months. I want to go back home soon. Please help me." ...The Government must do everything in its power to help those who had to leave their homes... I felt this yet again very strongly during my trip.

April 28(Thursday)

With determination to move forward and a spirit of mourning


The string of holidays known as Golden Week begins tomorrow.  For those who are planning to use this opportunity to go to the areas stricken by the earthquake disaster for volunteer activities, I strongly encourage you to head to these areas after thoroughly conducting your preparations and collecting information.


The Reconstruction Action Campaign, to be unfurled nationally today, supports the disaster-stricken areas from Japan as a whole by calling on people to refrain from excessive self-restraint and to take other actions.  The government is also among the supporters of these areas through this campaign and we will emphatically support these efforts.  In addition, the Reconstruction Design Council is scheduled to hold its third meeting the day after tomorrow.


In this way, even as recovery and reconstruction are beginning to move forward step by step, what always resurface in my mind are the victims of that day and their families.  I also think of the people who are desperately continuing their search for family members who remain unaccounted for even now.  It is certain that there are a very substantial number of people who since March 11 cannot easily reach a state of mind whereby they can begin to move forward.  I feel that very poignantly every time I visit the affected areas.


I understand that today, a great many temples all around the country rang "bells of prayers and hope" at 2:46 PM, the time at which the earthquake struck, as today is the 49th day since people fell victim to the disaster, an important memorial day for the deceased in Buddhism.  In the office, I too closed my eyes in remembrance of those victims, with a spirit of determination towards reconstruction.


From tomorrow, I will be engaged in Diet deliberations on the draft of the first supplementary budget for reconstruction.  I will devote my utmost efforts to bring about its enactment on May 2.

April 23(Saturday)

No. 17 [Visit] Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture: One Month After the Earthquake


"Take a closer look at the disaster scene", "Don't go, you'll just be in the way", "Too early", "Too late" -- A variety of opinions circulate about the Prime Minister's visit to the disaster-hit areas. This video is a straightforward presentation of the "facts" - no music or narration as usual. In the first installment, we present the scenes from Ishinomaki.




<The Prime Minister shakes hands with the people from inside his vehicle>

Woman: We are counting on you to help us.


Prime Minister: I will carry out measures resolutely.


Fisherman: I'm counting on you, Prime Minister.


<The Prime Minister is briefed by local mayors at the Ishinomaki City Office>

Mr. Kameyama, Mayor of Ishinomaki City: I believe employment protection measures are what is most needed right now.


Mr. Abe, Mayor of Higashimatsushima City: Now's the time for the Government to step in. I hope you will lend us your support, as surely there will be no recovery and reconstruction without national-level efforts to get through this disaster.


<At Radio Ishinomaki's makeshift satellite studio inside the City Office, the Prime Minister appears on live radio>

Radio DJ: After this, Prime Minister Kan will visit places around the city and observe the situation of our towns.


Prime Minister: Hello everyone in Ishinomaki. This is Naoto Kan, the Prime Minister. It is my earnest hope that you will make strides on the road to recovery. The Government will do everything in its power and stand with you as you take these steps.


<The Prime Minister visits an elevated area overlooking Ishinomaki City and speaks to residents>

Prime Minister: I can only imagine what you are going through...


<Locally-elected member of the House of Representatives explains the damage>

House of Representatives member Jun Azumi: This is the main plant of Maruha Nichiro Foods, Inc. The inside is completely damaged.


<Requests for the Prime Minister>

Woman A: I hope you will do what you have to in order to achieve an early recovery.


Woman B: (Holding onto the Prime Minister's hand) Please make sure that someday everyone can become happy.


<Back on the bus. 'Stay strong, Tohoku!' are the words on the outside of the helmet of the driver, a Self-Defense Force (SDF) member>


<En route to the next destination, the Prime Minister continues to gather information on the impact of new aftershocks, etc.>

Prime Minister: The personnel at (SDF) Matsushima Air Base were saying it had no water service. How is the situation in the prefecture?


Mr. Murai, Governor of Miyagi Prefecture: Much of the lifeline services have been disrupted. Water service has stopped, and gas service has stopped.


<Interview: The significance of the Prime Minister's visit>

Mr. Murai, Governor of Miyagi Prefecture: First, the Prime Minister's visit helps to reassure the people of this area. I also believe if the Prime Minister sees for himself the devastation that was brought about, the Government's response would be different. Thus, I am truly grateful that he came here.


<The bus makes a sudden stop>

Man: May I ask you to get off for a moment?


<The Prime Minister gets off for an unexpected stopover and walks to the rubble removal site>

Prime Minister: Thanks for your hard work!


Residents: (Stopping what they were doing) Oh! Mr. Kan!


SDF member: (Explaining the work) The SDF and police clear away the rubble like over there.


Prime Minister: I am truly proud that you members of the police and SDF are working so hard in response to disasters of this magnitude, without sparing yourselves. Hang in there. Your hard work is very much appreciated.


Police and others: Thank you.


Prime Minister: Thank YOU!


<Meeting face to face with the disaster victims at an evacuation shelter> (no image/only subtitles)

"I don't know how we will live from now on."

-- A woman in her 80s tells the Prime Minister.


<The Prime Minister visits the Ishinomaki fishing port to directly hear the wishes of those in the fishing industry>

House of Representatives member Jun Azumi: The fishing boats in Miyagi Prefecture have been severely damaged...


Prime Minister: How are you getting through it? How are you really doing?


A member of the fishing industry: Cars as well as debris are scattered across the ocean. Instead of shifting the responsibility from one place to another, I hope work gets underway quickly to remove the debris from the fishing areas and sea routes.


Prime Minister and members of the fishing industry: (In unison) Ganbaro, Ishinomaki! (Let's do our best, Ishinomaki!) Ganbaro!


To be continued...

April 15(Friday)

Launch of the Reconstruction Design Council


Yesterday, the first meeting of the Reconstruction Design Council in Response to the Great East Japan Earthquake was held.  I truly appreciated the Council members readily agreeing to participate despite the very sudden request.


Participants included a number of persons associated with the Tohoku region in addition to the governors of the disaster-affected areas.  Professor Takeshi Umehara, who is serving as Special Advisor to the Council, is often thought of as a Kyotoite, but in fact he too was born in Sendai and comes from a long line of fishermen.  Professor Umehara delivered his opening remarks in front of a virtual forest of press cameras, saying, "I feel it would be appropriate to devote the remainder of my life to the interests of the country," and "Just coming from Kyoto to Tokyo for a meeting once a week is quite trivial.  Such things are a walk in the park when you consider the people suffering in the disaster-stricken areas."  To hear such a strong expression of determination and enthusiasm from such a distinguished man I respect deeply brought a lump in my throat.  (This is also the subject of a video segment of the Japanese Government Internet TV, and I encourage you to watch it.)


While this meeting has enjoyed brisk exchanges of views from the start, I have asked the Council members to continue in the future each to express what they are thinking and what they envision without restraint or modification.  I also hope to participate in this meeting to give my ideas and pose various questions to the Council, so as to glean proposals that foster dreams and harbor hope.  Rather than "recovery" to merely return the affected areas to their former state, we will without fail "create" a Tohoku, and indeed a Japan, that is more marvelous than before.


(Website linked from this post is provided in Japanese only)

April 13(Wednesday)

As the tense situation continues, moving from excessive self-restraint to a design of reconstruction


Since the Great East Japan Earthquake struck, I have held back from sending out my thoughts through my blog. This was to avoid confusion amidst the ongoing flurry of large amounts of information, while I dedicated myself entirely to responses to the disaster.  With a tense situation continuing even now, a month since the disaster toward the future while I will continue to devote my energies to responses to the earthquake disaster and the nuclear accidents, I will resume blogging little by little.


At yesterday's press conference, I called on the public to refrain from a mood of excessive self-restraint while maintaining a spirit of thoughtful compassion towards the disaster-stricken areas. A mood of excessive self-restraint could reduce consumption and dampen the business activity of Japan as a whole. Conversely, purchasing products from disaster-stricken areas and enjoying them would help support the affected areas.


Tomorrow the Reconstruction Design Council will hold its first session. Professor Takeshi Umehara, Special Advisor to the Meeting, and I will join with the 15 committee members to launch discussions that look squarely to the future.