*This is a translation of an article published on the website of Tokyo Press Club.
Toward selection of the National Strategic Special Zones scheduled in March, hearings of candidate municipalities for the final selection have been held since last week. Although the hearings are not opened in public, stakeout activities at the door of meeting place would provide us of many hints of surprising alliance or “unique tag-team” formed at this final stage.
One exceptional case was that a famous “fighting farmer” Mr. Shigeaki Okamoto, CEO of Shinsengumi Co., showed up from the meeting place even though the hearings should be targeting at local governments. Moreover, Mr. Okamoto was accompanying the mayor of Yabu City, located in northern part of Hyogo Prefecture, not his hometown Aichi, and Tottori University Professor Nagaharu Mitsuta.
(February 17 18:25 at the door of Nagata-cho Joint Bldg.)
Interview at the door of Nagata-cho Joint Nldg.
Excerpts of the interview:
Okamoto: 60% of Japan’s agriculture is in a similar situation with Yabu City (in which it is difficult to conduct large-scale agricultural management). And, Mayor Hirose of Yabu City is announcing that he will abolish regulations with regard to agriculture with his own initiative. No such courageous mayor can be found throughout the country.
Mitsuta: (Mayor Hirose) may change the history.
Okamoto: it is difficult to initiate such a proposition as there are pressures from everywhere. The officials of my hometown have deaf ears on such proposals, too. That’s why I will give my every effort to Yabu City. If it passes the selection it will make a good model case that can be applied everywhere in this country. The current state is that we cannot even make a start because of the regulations.
Okamoto: The officials of my hometown are no more than that. But the Mayor of Yabu City made a big decision. This is really it (shaking hands)! I finally met a mayor with whom I could share my view!
Okamoto: If it doesn’t pass (selection of the National Strategic Special Zones) and the government states it will only be applied in low-cost, large-scale agricultural areas, let me speak frankly, I will give up on this country!
I would like to protect Japan. I would like to develop this country. Although I have repeatedly spoken as slogan that potatoes made by nameless grandmothers will make dollars, there will be no hope or dream of this country’s agricultural policy if the idea is to be applied to imaginary, large-scale agriculture alone. It will inevitably meet with failure, fin... Let me speak once again, small-sized municipalities like Yabu City do deserve being qualified (as National Strategic Special Zones)!
Mayor Hirose: What the government is standing for is people living in the areas and legislative frameworks should be meant to let people have prosperous lives and to stimulate economic vitalization. It is all peculiar that the government designs uniform frameworks and say “you cannot do it”. All we are saying is please let us give operation of the legal framework in the best suitable way for Yabu City. And if the central government says no to such a proposition, we cannot stop worrying about future of the country’s agriculture. What will happen to local areas and the whole country? I feel depressed when I think of such possibilities.
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