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At least 38 prefectural gov'ts have no system to release info on discarding official docs

The Chiba Prefectural Archives, which erroneously discarded documents regarding World War II in fiscal 2015 in violation of internal rules, is pictured in this file photo taken on March 30, 2017. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- At least 38 of Japan's 47 prefectural governments have failed to establish a system to disclose to the public whether they will discard official documents after their retention periods, a survey conducted by a group of historians has shown.

"It's highly problematic that these local bodies have no system to inform local residents of what kinds of documents are discarded," said Junichi Miyama, associate professor of modern Japanese history at Chuo University who is a member of the group.

"There may be cases where local bodies have no choice but to dispose of some documents. But since official documents are the assets of all local residents, local bodies are accountable (for their decisions on whether to dispose of official documents)," Miyama said.

The group, Jichitai Archives Kenkyukai (research group on local governments' archives), sent a questionnaire to all 47 prefectural governments on their disclosure of official documents late last year. Of them, 44 prefectural governments answered the questionnaire, while Osaka, Shiga and Fukui failed to respond.

Among the respondents, 38 bodies answered "no" to a question as to whether they have a system to inform residents of the outcome of their evaluation and classification of documents, such as disclosing the titles of official documents they plan to discard on their websites. Only Hokkaido, Kanagawa, Tottori and Kumamoto replied in the affirmative.

It came to light in 2017 that the Chiba Prefectural Archives erroneously discarded a massive number of documents regarding World War II in fiscal 2015. The prefectural government has not announced how it evaluates official documents and decides whether to preserve them after their retention period.

An official of the prefectural archives told the Mainichi Shimbun it will improve the way it examines official documents to decide whether to preserve them. "We'd like to try to improve our practices such as by introducing a system under which a third-party panel will examine internal documents," the official said.

(Japanese original by Toru Watanabe, City News Department)

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