Aso Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.6 (November 13, 2008) ================================================================
"Getting out and about to take stock of realities"
On Saturday of last week, I visited the shopping district in Kameari, in Tokyo.
I am sure that for some people the name Kameari, even if they have never actually been there, will call to mind the manga "Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Koen Mae Hashutsujo" ("This is the Police Box in Front of Kameari Park, Katsushika Ward.")
The Kameari shopkeepers are unfazed by a shopping mall that recently opened nearby; instead, they are using their ingenuity to vitalize the shopping district by capitalizing on the popularity of the main character of the manga, Ryo-san. Indeed, their attitudes were extremely positive and their enthusiasm unbridled.
Three bronze statues of Ryo-san have been erected in three different locations in the shopping district. The statues are just the right height for children to be able to shake hands with them without having to look up to meet their gaze. The effect of all this is that people wishing to take souvenir snapshots will gravitate toward the shopping district.
That is the whole point. If people enter the shopping district in a steady stream, then their purse strings are likely to become a bit looser. At any rate, it will rejuvenate the district -- it strikes me as a very good idea.
"We would still have a tough time even if we competed with megastores over prices," said one young person, who had taken over his parents' store. "We want to create a flow of people coming in so that we can coexist with the megastores." I was encouraged by the wisdom of his words, in which I sensed a measure of strength.
The shopping district is the center of the local community; a vigorous shopping district will breathe life into the community. I am convinced that the Government must actively support ideas that encourage people to visit shopping districts, which will give the districts a new lease on life.
The following day I visited Nakaminato in Ibaraki Prefecture. A member of the local fishery cooperative gave me his frank opinion of the Government's measures for fuel oil, pointing out that though a system is in place, the red tape is so complicated that it does not end up being user-friendly.
Only by getting out and discovering for myself what is happening can I get an accurate picture of the realities of the world. To conduct proper politics, one needs to draw on more information than that which comes to you indirectly via politicians in Nagata-cho and bureaucrats in Kasumigaseki. That is what I believe.
I will continue to energetically get out and about to see what is happening and to breathe the same air as everyone else. I will place my trust in the sentiment I gauge when I am out and about, which will guide me in the task of politics.
This evening I am leaving for Washington, DC, in the United States.
The upcoming financial summit has but a single agenda item: how to address a once-in-a-century financial crisis. The leaders of 20 countries, including both developed nations and emerging ones such as India and China, will discuss policies to deal with the crisis.
Japan has the experience of having overcome a major financial crisis. This experience having given me a firm grounding, and taking into account the views of other Asian countries, I intend to demonstrate strong leadership.
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