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Speech addressed to Foreign Correspondents

by  Mr. Yasuo Tanaka


Date:@August 12th, 2002

Place: The Foreign Correspondentsf Club of Japan


Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.


Thank you for kind introduction. It is great Honour for me to be here and make a speech today.


The Foreign Correspondentsf Club of Japan is very memorable place for me as I have made a speech twice previously. This is my third speech to the Club.


 I made the first speech in June  1981 when I was a Student of Hitotsubashi University. I wrote my first novel titled gNan to naku Crystal,h or gSomewhat Like Crystalh in English, which describes young Japanese in a materially affluent society. The novel became a million seller so  I was then invited to The Foreign Correspondentsf Club of Japan. That was more than twenty years ago.


Last May I had my second chance to be here as the youngest governor in Japan.

As you may know, my present title is different from my previous  title .

Today I am standing in front of you one of candidates of the Nagano Prefectural Gubernatorial election.


First of all, let me introduce myself.

I was born in Tokyo in 1956. I am 46 years old now.

As my father became a professor of psychology in Shinshu University, we moved to Nagano in 1964, that was when the Tokyo Olympics were held. We first lived in silk city, Ueda for two years, then we moved to Matsumoto city, entrance city to Kamikoch. I lived there for nine years where I  graduated from high school. My parents live in Karuizawa town now.


Located along the backbone of Japan, Nagano Prefecture is surrounded by ,what are known as, the beautiful, as well as steep, Japanese Alps.

Nagano prefecture is the fourth largest prefecture in the area after Hokkaido, Iwate and Fukushima with 2.2 million people living there.

There is no sea, but Nagano Prefecture embraces a number of water sources from which the Shinano River, Tenryu River and Kiso River run to the Pacific Ocean and The Sea of Japan.


The best word to describe the characters of Nagano people is gdiligent.h

Unemployment rate is the lowest in the 47 prefectures in Japan. The ratio of job offer to job seeker as of June, 2002 was the 11th highest in 47 prefectures, which is an improvement when compared with the data for July 2001.

General working ratio, elderly peoplefs working ratio and womenf working ratio are the highest in Japan.

Average life span is the longest for men and the fourth longest for women. Medical cost per person is the lowest. The ratio of hospitalized elderly people over 65 years old per one hundred thousand is also the lowest in Japan.


We have a famous expression to describe life of our elderly people, gPin Pin Korori.h gPin Pinh means healthy and energetic . gKororih means gdieh.

The elderly people living with their families are free from hospitalization and work in the fields until their final day then they die peacefully. The Ratio of elderly Nagano people dying at home not at hospital is the highest in Japan.

So we have an ideal ageing society in Nagano


Nagano is located inland and is an agricultural prefecture. It is the No.1 producer of vegetables such as lettuce, asparagus, celery and mushrooms. It also produces delicious apples.


The prefecture is proud of itfs industries. Approximately 30% of the prefectural GDP comes from manufacturing industries. Many IT related companies are located here. Seiko EPSON Corp. which is world famous for its printers is one such high-tech company whose headquarters are located  in Nagano.


The total length of highways is the fourth longest in Japan. In respect of IT, the ratio of householders to join CATV is the second highest in Japan.


I was elected Governor in October 2000 and was only the fourth Governer to be elected since the Second World War. Apart from the first Governor all former Vice Governors took over from their mentor Governors on their retirement.


In October 2000, I won the gubernatorial election by a difference of 110 thousand votes.  Many regarded the former Vice-Governor as the natural successor to the Governor.


 There are 120 municipalities in Nagano Prefecture, and nearly all of the mayors, all assembly members, except the communist party, supported the former Vice-Governor.  Just 3 weeks before the gubernatorial election campaign period, I announced my candidacy for the governorfs office.


Japanese national and local governments have huge debts of up to 800 trillion yen. Nagano Prefectural government is in a poor financial situation. To be exact it is the second worst prefecture after Okayama from the point of view  of bond issuing debts.


When I started working as Governor Nagano   was in a poor state. As of fiscal year 2001, it had 1.65 trillion yen debt even though its annual budget is approximately only 1 trillion yen. The budget for the previous 6 years had been in the red year on year and contingency funds had to be used to balance the books.


After the bubble economy, other prefectures reduced their public engineering works, but Nagano was different from others. Nagano hosted the 18th Winter Olympic Games in 1998 and spent twice as much as the budget on Olympic related public works This has led to the  present financial crisis.


In view of that I decided to cut public works to the 1998 level that being the last year of the so-called bubble economy.


According to the Japan Association of Representative General Contractors, over the next 10 years the working population for constructing and building industries will be halved. However, the government has not shown effective counter measures to increase jobs.


The gDeclaration of No More Damsh concept prompted many people to seriously consider environmental problems. But that Declaration has a much wider influence with more serious implications. It also aims at post-materialism.


People promoting dams insisted that giant dam projects provide benefits to   local economies and the majority of cost is covered by  national government. Is this true?


About 80% of  dam constructing costs is paid to general contractors who are based outside Nagano. Subsidies from the national government amount to  72.5% of the total cost. This compares with local constructing companies getting approximatly only 20% of costs but local people are having to pay 27.5% of the cost through tax. It is clear that we local people get less and yet pay more. Dam projects donft benefit local economies but they are instead contributing  to the  Tokyo economy.


Asakawa Dam and Shimosuwa Dam were planned to be constructed not far from downtown of Nagano city and Shimosuwa city. The majority of people in Nagano prefecture are against the two dams. Several press and TV companies conducted surveys of people  living near to those two rivers. The

results are more or less the same, two-thirds of them rejected the dams. Local residents want non-dam projects. They want the finances for river improvements and fostering forest on the upper reaches of the rivers with local small constructing companies undertaking those public works.


As far as Asakawa dam project is concerned, the constructing cost is 40 billion yen and half of the cost has already been spent, however actual dam site construction has not yet started. Actually, the half cost was spent in building a huge loop bridge that connects downtown Nagano and Bobsleigh avenue for the Olympics.


 After my inauguration to Governor, I visited Susuki River in Matsumoto city where the Obotoke Dam was planned. I had a meeting with residents, and following that I decided to cancel the dam. Strangely enough, no assembly members who are dam constructing advocates protested against it.

Why is this?   It is because before my inauguration, the ruling parties recommended the government to cancel more than 270 public projects. Obotoke dam is one of them.


The ruling parties did not investigate sites of those projects, but they simply made a list of projects to be cancelled and announced it.

The assembly members obeyed the announcement of the government and rejected the one proposed by the Governor. This is really symbolic of the fact of Japanese centralization.


When I decided to run for the governorfs office, I announced that I would suspend projects like Askawa dam which many citizens are against and feel unhappy about having a different view  from private companies and the public sector. It seems that the  public sector will not suspend  projects even though people in charge of them know future of those projects are catastrophic like the famous battleship gYamatoh in the second world war. Once a project starts, the public sector cannot think alternatives.   


Last May after I issued the gDeclaration of No More Dams,h the Assembly proposed a regulation named gNagano Prefecture Flood Control and Irrigation Dam Examining Commissionh and approved it. In accordance with that Regulation, I set up an examining commission consisting of professors, specialists, representatives of the assembly and mayors. After more than one year intensive and open deliberation, it submitted reports concerning Askawa and Shimosuwa that we should take the river improvement plan rather than the dam plan. I received the reports and said I would respect them. The assembly except the communist party  made a protest against my decision saying that I had ignored the proper processes and they could not accept my decision.


The Assembly subsequently approved the Regulation. I then  set up the Dam Commission which was made up of representatives  from each political party. The Commission concluded itfs deliberations and submitted their final agreed reports to me which I received  and said I would respect them.


If that process cannot be regarded as gdue process of law,hI would ask what is gdue process of law?h

I have been  associated with this kind of assembly members for 1 year and 8 months.


During the current assembly session, I showed an alternative flood control scheme mixture with river improvement and fostering forests. Then I set up a special force to carry out the scheme.


Concerning the Nagano gubernatorial election, some foreign media reported that gThis is a critical election to decide the future of contractual reform of Japan.h  On the other hand, the Japanese press have taken a sharply different stance about this election and have criticized my management and personality.  I suggest that they may treat me unfavorably because I have criticized the Japanese press club system by issuing a gDeclaration of Departure from the Press Club Systemh


I have not heard of any local authorities who have returned subsidies from the national government as a result of the cancellation of public engineering projects. However, the Assembly members were incorrect when they said that the Nagano prefectural government will be required to return at least 40 billion yen subsidies to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. Some Japanese media did not check these facts and reported only the comments of the Assembly members . 


The Assembly and the Japanese press have criticized me saying that I have done no more than prepare the  gDeclaration of No More Damshwhilst in office


I would like to explain what I have done during my period in office


Nagano is a mountainous area and 80 % of that area is forest. This resource can give us  huge benefits such as clear water, clean air and timber. It can protect us from natural disaster and reduce carbon dioxide in the air.  I have put emphasis on maintaining and improving forests since taking office so that the budget for forestsf improvement is now 1.5 times greater than in the fiscal year of 1999.


We need to change the industrial structure. I say this because we cannot be dependent on either  national government or public works projects in the future such as huge dams and highways.


 Because of this I started a special programme named theh Shinshu Woodcutter Courseh which is designed for  those who would wish to train  to maintain forests as Forest Engineers. This programme consists of 100 hours of lectures and is provided free of charge. Once successfully completed, people will be entitled to apply for forest maintenance work. More than 700 residents took this course and over 20% of forest maintenance work was subsequently contracted out to non-forest union companies.


The Association for constructing companies of Fkukushima prefecture started a social welfare course for construction workers of their member companies. This course entitled workers to take care of elderly people. Powerful blue collar workers  taking care of elderly people is a very strange combination.   However it is anticipated that the construction industry will shrink in the future so that workers in those industries need to retrain now to other labour intensive industries such as taking care of elderly people and maintaining forest.


I increased the budget on social welfare for people with physical disabilities, learning difficulties or psychological difficulties in 2002. To be exact the budget increased by 1.4 times more than last yearfs budget.

I also introduced smaller class sizes with 30 students per teacher in  elementary schools this year.  I also increased the number of nursery school teachers. The reason why I put more emphasis in this area of education is that I wanted to create more labour intensive business models in the field of gsocial welfare, education and the environment.h


In addition, I think we need to put more money and energy into the field of gmanufacturing,  agriculture and tourism h which are our main industries .


Our manufacturing industries started before the Second World War with the silk industry .

Manufacturing has subsequently independently developed and changed without financial support from local government to precision industries such as watches and musical boxes. Now IT related manufacturing is main stream in our area.


Nagano prefecture was once called the g Switzerland of Orient g essentially because of  the beautiful natural environment we maintain and live in and precision industries which have been developed here.  For instance most watches made in Japan are actually produced in Nagano prefecture.


As to Global Warming I believe that Nagano should follow Sweden in the 21st century.

Mr. Yasukawa, chairperson of Seiko EPSON Corp. is president of the Nagano Association of Business Leaders.  The association as well as researchers and NPO members submitted a report on proposals for dealing with theh greenhouse effecth and called it the gNagano Modelh in May of this year.


Let me introduce some proposals of that report.

2010 should complete following targets,

EMuch greater use should be made of Solar Energy. All of elementary schools, junior high schools and high schools in Nagano Should introduce 10kw solar energy system and desks & chairs made of wood.

EWooden guardrail for roads should be used more.

ENumber of drinking bending machines will be halved.

EEvery business should independently produce a plan of action designed to counteract reducing Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere by 6%, to set targets and to ensure that they are met.

In addition this report encouraged me to walk to and from work until I lost the position.

There are many business leaders considering and acting independently in Nagano.


I think Japan needs to learn from European post-materialism practices (rather than American materialism) where environment and business management are already working towards being compatible with each other. Nagano should learn the philosophy of post-materialism and we need to achieve it. In my view Nagano deserves a prefecture that has gKamikochih and gKaruizawa.h


I described myself as an gUltra Non-partisanh governor.


The last gubernatorial election was held two years ago and it was reported as gBureaucracy vs. Citizenh by the Japanese media. However I have not mentioned it. The reason is simple. Each of the bureaucrats is a citizen who loves their families and has housing loans. But they are obliged to work as part of a giant machine. They show loyalty to their bosses and to the organization that employs them. The question that arises is, gAre they really happy?h


Mayors and Assembly members who repeatedly visited the former Governor to ask for his favours might be victims of the system.


Before my inauguration, the Governorfs office was located on the third floor. In order to reach there, people had to go through many doors both physically and psychologically. It was a completely closed world. Ordinary citizens did not know what kinds of things were done there. Mayors and Assembly members were also victims of the system. However, at the same time they were allowed to enter the room and shared secrets with the Governor.


When I created a crystal Governors room people began to realize that it is not only a Governors office but also everything else was open to the public. Previously they believed that a money oriented pyramid structure would exist forever, but the crystal office destroyed that illusion and made them confused.


All the proposals and legislative initiatives including appointing Mr. Kono, victim of the Matsumoto nerve gas incident, as a member of the Prefecturefs Public Safety Commission I had put before the current Assembly had been passed  and this showed that my reform policies had been gunderstood to a certain extenth by Assembly members.


However, after approving them, the Assembly submitted a no-confidence motion against me and approved it by majority of 44 to 5.


The reason why they rejected me it is said is because gGovernor Tanaka put priority on completing individual ideals rather than protecting citizenfs lives and property, and ignored the need to build mutual understanding with mayors and the prefectural assembly. Mr.Tanaka accepted only those people who understand his philosophy, his management of the government is poor and self-righteous. As a result, the policies are not carried out smoothly and people are confused. He betrayed the citizenfs expectancy. He should take responsibilities for that. That is why we submitted a no-confidence motion.h


They insisted that my taking office made Nagano stagnant and chaotic. I would ask whether they really believe that  40 yearsf of bureaucratic government before me could be described as  gliberal and prosperous?h If they believe that they do not understand the views of the public at large.


Nagano gubernatorial election has attracted attention throughout the nation. After the election, an election for the Assembly members will be held next April. At that time the assembly members will know what the general public think since it will be reflected in the ballot results.


The 60 Assembly members receive a total of two hundred and thirty million yen annually besides their salaries to cover the cost of their examination and research. But, they are not required to submit receipts for any payments they incur. They can use taxpayerfs money freely without being monitored by the citizens. So I have repeatedly requested that the Assembly members should make public how the money is used. I had an expense account and I used it only for printing business cards and telegram fees. Of course I opened the accounts to public scrutiny.

Since taking office, I tried to make governmental information open to the people as much as possible. This resulted in the ranking of the Nagano prefectural government information openness going up from 41st to 3rd among 47 prefectures.


As necessary I paid the cost of meeting with economic scholars and specialists to discuss how best to manage the Nagano prefecture. In my view the Assembly members should be reimbursed only for actual expenses. They travel to Bangkok and Paris every year to see Tourism Industries or Advanced Management of Administrative Services at a cost to the public purse. Can you imagine what kind of activities do they do in Bangkok from morning to night?

Donft laugh. Actually I am laughing. I think this kind of waste should be abolished.  


Most of the current Assembly members are presidents or executives of constructing companies.

I think the Assembly meetings should be held at weekends so that engineers and NPO members are able to act as Assembly members. There are 30 electoral districts for the Assembly members. In 10 districts out of 30 the Assembly members were elected without any actual voting.

At the next election I hope ultra non-partisan citizens run for all of the 30 districts and I will support them. Only then will democracy in Nagano be promoted.


Politics does not mean business being conducted behind closed doors and finances being kept secret.

Japanese political critics said that I should have dissolved the Assembly rather than losing my position and running for it again. This is a much too superficial view. The Prime Minister is elected from members of the Diet by the Diet members. If the members ordered the Prime Minister to step down, he should surrender to it or dissolve the Diet. That is reasonable.


By contrast, however, a Governor is elected directly by people and Assembly members are similarly elected by the people. I have a strong will to continue carrying out my reform programme. But, the Assembly ordered me to step down. Therefore I decided to let the people of Nagano Prefecture decide whether I am suited to continue to be their Governor.


Thank you for your kind attention.


If you have any questions, I will be very pleased to answer them.



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