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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

March 27, 2015 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


  • Reversion of the West Futenma Housing Area of Camp Foster in Okinawa
  • Prime Minister’s visit to the United States
  • Tourism


REPORTER: I have a further question. The reversion of the West Futenma Housing Area of Camp Foster will be realized in the near future. Could you once again tell us about the significance of the reversion for the alleviation of the burden on Okinawa and also its promotion and development, as well as how the Government expects that the reversion will lead to understanding among the people of Okinawa concerning the relocation of Futenma Air Station to Henoko?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: It has been decided that the West Futenma Housing Area in one of the United States bases will be returned to Japan by the end of this month. I would add that the first time any concrete indication about the reversion of U.S. bases in Okinawa was made was on the occasion of the summit meeting between Prime Minister Abe and President Obama during the Prime Minister’s first visit to the United States. It was decided that the West Futenma Housing Area would be the first site to be returned. In overall terms the Prime Minister and President Obama agreed that approximately 70 % of the U.S. facilities located in the central and southern areas of the main island of Okinawa, where populations are concentrated, would be returned. They are equivalent to approximately the size of 220 Tokyo Domes. As part of that, the West Futenma Housing Area, which covers an area equivalent to 11 Tokyo Domes, will be returned. With regard to the redevelopment of the land, plans are already being advanced, with the understanding of the local mayor and residents, to develop an international medical research hub. These plans have the full support of the Government. We hope that the return of the other U.S. facilities will also contribute to the economic development of Okinawa. Indeed, the Government has also already voiced its support for the proposal to build a Universal Studios Japan theme park in Okinawa, as a means of developing and promoting the prefecture. The Government will continue to expend all efforts in vitalizing the Okinawan economy and devising promotional measures.

REPORTER: I have a question concerning the Prime Minister’s visit to the United States from the end of April to early May. According to the announced schedule, the Prime Minister is due to visit San Francisco. Are there plans for the Prime Minister to meet Mayor Edwin Lee of San Francisco?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Only the overall schedule has been confirmed and what the Prime Minister will do each day while in the United States has yet to be decided.

REPORTER: I hear that in San Francisco plans are being made, predominantly by the ethnic Chinese community, to erect a statue commemorating the comfort women. Mayor Edwin Lee of San Francisco, himself of Chinese descent, is said to be extremely supportive of the plan. However, the comfort women issue is one that relates to the national interest of Japan and the honor of the Japanese people, and I understand that this has caused many problems, particularly in California, which is home to many ethnic Japanese people. What are your views on this matter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government’s stance on the comfort women issue is clear and has been explained on numerous occasions with regard to the Republic of Korea. In the case of the United States, local embassies and consulates continue to firmly explain Japan’s stance on this issue.


REPORTER: According to an announcement by the Japan Tourism Agency, the number of persons using domestic hotel and other accommodation in 2014 stood at approximately 470 million persons, the highest figure ever. Against the backdrop of significant increases in overseas tourists, looking at the figures by region it can be seen that the rate of increase for the Tohoku region is falling behind that of other regions. Can you give us your thoughts on this matter, including what the Government is planning to do to respond to the situation?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, I have received a report that in 2014 the cumulative total for persons spending nights in hotels or other accommodation stood at approximately 472.32 million persons, and within that figure the cumulative total of overseas tourists spending nights in accommodation increased year-on-year by 33.8 percent. I believe that the Government’s policies to create a tourism-oriented country and to increase the number of overseas tourists to Japan are now beginning to pay off, including such measures as the relaxation of visa procedures, the broad enhancement of the tax-free system and the acceleration of immigration procedures. From now on and in the interests of revitalizing local economies, I believe that we should utilize the myriad tourism resources in all regions of Japan to encourage overseas visitors to travel around the entire nation. Although tourism has recovered to a certain extent overall, in the Tohoku region growth is still sluggish and therefore measures to attract tourists will play an important role in reconstruction and recovery efforts. In particular, I hope that the people of Tohoku, who are engaged in reconstruction activities in their communities, can share these activities with the world through tourism.


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