Comments on Damages Caused by Heavy Snow from December 31

 A Happy New Year to all of you. I wish the best to the prefectural residents as we greet a glorious New Year’s Day.  On the other hand, I would like to express my heartfelt condolences and sympathy for the victims and those affected by the damages from the latest heavy snowfall. The prefectural administration pledges to conduct every possible assistance measure for the recovery.

Pledges Regarding Prefectural Administration This Year

 I see this year as the time to lay the foundation for Tottori Prefecture’s future.  Firstly, we will promote the agriculture, forestry and fishery industries by putting the main focus on the National Rich Sea Creation Festival and making the most of Tottori Prefecture’s great environment in order to contribute to Japanese food culture.  Secondly, we will try and enhance our transportation framework as a foundation for exchanges, such as expressways or flight and ship services.  Thirdly, we will expand the subsidization for medical expenses of children to a great deal and promote human resource development, or “the Child-Rearing Kingdom Tottori Prefecture,” in particular, through such measures as the opening of certified “Kodomo-en (a preschool facility aimed at supporting child-rearing and certified by prefectural governors).”  Fourthly, we will proceed with the creation of an industrial foundation as exemplified by the new projects encompassing the biofrontier or an electric automobile plant, in order to secure employment for prefectural residents.  Fifthly, we will further promote Tottori as an international resort in order to enhance our capability in terms of tourism. The Korean TV drama Athena has started to be broadcast in South Korea, the San’in Coast Geopark has been registered into the Global Geopark Network, and Tottori Prefecture has joined the Greater Kansai Association. Our potential to attract more tourists is beginning to take shape.  There are a variety of other themes to be mentioned. In any case, I will dedicate myself completely to the creation of our future foundation.

Measures against Latest Snow-Related Damages

 The measures against the damages caused by the latest heavy snowfall must be conducted by the whole prefectural administration. I will convoke the executive meeting at two o’clock in the afternoon today in order to assess the current situation regarding the damages and discuss future measures. I also urge Tokyo to do what should be done, such as support for measures against the snow-related damages.  I conducted on-site inspections yesterday. In areas along the Route 431, known as a sightseeing spot with white sand and green pines, about 300 pine trees have tumbled down for a truly miserable state. As for the fishery sector, 264 fishing boats turned over and sank. Regarding the agricultural sector, there is a concern that more and more damages might be reported mainly in relation to orchards. In the livestock sector, a cattle shed collapsed and two cows died while trapped underneath. The damages are reported here and there. Seeing these scenes of devastation makes me acutely realize the gravity of the damages caused by the snowfall. Although the situation is extremely severe, we will do our utmost for the recovery. The traffic is steadily getting back to normal and it’s now possible to enjoy hot springs or skiing without any hindrance in Tottori. I strongly encourage tourists to come and feel the winter in the San’in region and enjoy the trip.

Renewed Contracts on Naming Rights

 We have reached an agreement with Tottori Bank and Coca-Cola West Co., Ltd, to renew the naming rights contracts for further 3 years. The contract for the naming rights of Torigin Bunka Kaikan (Torigin Culture Hall) is expected to be valued at 15 million yen, and the contract for the Coca-Cola West Sports Park at 10 million yen each. We will continue exerting efforts for our financial cultivation. I would like to thank the companies which have cooperated with us.

 “GeGeGe’s Hometown” Tottori Prefectural Residents Bond

 For the purpose of fund procurement, we decided to issue the local bonds worth about 500 million yen in total and named “GeGeGe’s Hometown Tottori Prefectural Residents Bond” after the phrase “GeGeGe’s…” which won the grand prize in the buzzwords contest last year. We are planning to use the locally produced materials for the deed, which will be suitable for the purpose of the bond, and allocate the procured funds to the measures for children such as construction of schools.

Q. Regarding the responses to the damages resulted from the said heavy snowfall, how did you feel about the national government’s initial motion and what are you going to ask the national government for in the future?

 (After the reporter’s referring to the huge traffic jam which occurred on Route 9, a road which runs through Tottori Prefecture and is managed by the national government,) It should be tolerated in some aspects, since it pertains to struggles against nature, but I think there is room for improvement. As a party who works on the spot, we have the impression that they could have collaborated with the prefectural administration in dealing with the trouble. The prefecture’s side gathered at 5 o’clock in the evening on December 31, when it began to snow heavily, and started arrangements for organization of the snow removal system. We wanted the parties of the MLIT (Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport) to prepare themselves and take action in the same time frame.  The situation got extremely tense and we immediately asked the Self-Defense Forces to dispatch their members on a disaster relief mission. But it was dark there at midnight and we had to wait until the next morning for the full-fledged recovery work by human wave tactics. With regard to the initial motion against such heavy snowfall, I will make a request to the national government that they and the MLIT should conduct deliberations and proceed with the system formation.

Q. It’s said to have been impossible for the prefecture to work proactively on the snow removal and the like in certain aspects since Tokyo has the jurisdiction over maintenance and management of national roads. What’s your take on it?

 Detailed analyses will be required, but I think that it will be better for the local side to take over the power and authority for national road management and the like from the national government to a certain degree. Under the current system and legislation, the national government is responsible for management of national roads, and prefectures are not allowed to put in their budgets or mobilize their personnel for the work. This time, we bent the rule to a certain extent and joined the response action in midstream. It would not be a bad idea to establish a system under which a certain level of collaboration is permitted.

Q. For whom and in what feeling did you decide to work on the snow removal by stepping over the national government’s jurisdiction on national roads?

 There was snow and many people were stuck there. Seeing them more and more pressured and worn out mentally and physically, I couldn’t help feeling we should do it. Under such circumstances, people in the San’in region all start to support each other in breaking through the situation, which is one of San’in’s good points, and that was the case this time. Residents in the surrounding areas began a soup run and distributed rice balls for the recovery efforts. Thanks to that, we were able to remedy the situation at a relatively early point.

Q. How large do you estimate the total amount of damage on agricultural products due to the heavy snow will be in specific terms?

 It will take time to complete the estimation. The agricultural products are all buried under the snow now, but it’s often the case that heavy snow causes such damages as breaking of pear tree branches. In consideration thereto, the picture of the damages this time will get gradually clearer as the snow removal progresses, I think.  However, being difficult to estimate the total amount of damage doesn’t mean that we will not take any countermeasures. While investigating the details of the damages, we will work on creating the framework for the recovery measures toward the prefectural assembly’s February session.

Q. In terms of tourism, the New Year holidays is a high season, but many tourists weren’t able to reach their destinations and cancelled their reservations for the inns and the like in turn. Have you got the details on the amount of losses?

 We are collecting information from relevant parties and organizations now. In the past, there have been cases where loans were offered to cover such economic losses. We will take such examples into consideration in drawing up countermeasures.

Q. If the expressway network had been completely linked in the San’in Region, the damages could have been reduced a bit more, for example. Do you plan to urge Tokyo to construct expressways at an earlier date from now on?

 In the course of snow removal efforts this time, sloping roads were a huge bottleneck. In that sense, lack of expressways might have been a negative factor. We will reinforce this point to Tokyo and let them know how severe the situation was.

Q. Did the request to the SDF for the disaster relief mission only pertain to supplying food and fuel? Or did it also ask the SDF to participate in the snow removal on the national road?

 As a result of various negotiations and discussions, we asked them to focus on providing gasoline, but they joined the removal task afterwards. We asked them to give support to the extent that they were able.

Q. All Nippon Airways’ Yonago-Nagoya flight service will be suspended from January. What measures do you plan to take for the service to be reopened?

 In order to secure the seat occupancy rate, we continued our last-minute efforts till the yearend. And we have been engaged in making appeals for the restart of the flight service. We will need to continue such activities, including some specific suggestions to attract more businesses or tourists, such as flight-related projects connecting the Central Japan International Airport Centrair and the Yonago Kitaro Airport. We will carefully deliberate the strategies together with the local promotion council for the utilization of Yonago Airport.