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Interview: 2020 Games a 'road marker' in Tokyo's future growth, says Gov. Koike

Gov. Yuriko Koike speaks to the Mainichi Shimbun during an Aug. 8, 2018 interview at the Metropolitan Tokyo Government headquarters in the capital's Shinjuku Ward. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The 2020 Summer Games will be just a "road marker" on the road to Tokyo's future growth and development, Metropolitan Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike told the Mainichi Shimbun in an Aug. 8 interview, six days after her administration's second anniversary.

"It's important how we proceed from there," she said, referring to the games.

Part of the capital's post-2020 growth strategy will be six new rail lines including another access line to Haneda Airport that the governor indicated she wanted to see under construction soon, saying, "We will move forward starting with those (lines) whose conditions fall into place first." She added, "Public transport is one of Tokyo's strengths. There are still some weak points which we will strengthen to boost the system's convenience even more."

Among the six new routes is an extension to Tokyo Metro's Yurakucho Line, which Tokyo's Koto Ward government had requested as a condition for accepting the new Toyosu wholesale market, the replacement for the famed Tsukiji market. However, Gov. Koike showed no signs that she would give the extension priority over the other new lines, stating, "I have in mind that Tokyoites and inbound (foreign visitors) should be able to move around efficiently and with peace of mind."

Asked if she intended to run for a second term in 2020, Koike suggested it was too early to say.

The governor went on to cover issues including the shortage of spaces at child care facilities, and significant problems facing the Japanese capital going forward. The following is a condensed account of the Mainichi's questions and Gov. Koike's response.

* * *

Mainichi: During the gubernatorial election, you differentiated yourself with plain-spoken pledges to eliminate the waiting list for child care centers and the problem of nursing care workers leaving the profession. After two years in office, how would you evaluate your performance?

Gov. Koike: My promises included things I wanted to do when I was a member of the National Diet. I ran for governor to try and make these things a reality in Tokyo. There are a lot of these things that have a direct impact on the lives of Tokyo residents.

Gov. Yuriko Koike speaks to the Mainichi Shimbun during an Aug. 8, 2018 interview at the Metropolitan Tokyo Government headquarters in the capital's Shinjuku Ward. (Mainichi)

The child care facility waiting list has been reduced by 3,172 compared to last year. As to keeping nursing care workers in their jobs, one thing that directly connects to that is eliminating overtime work generally. To that end, we are proceeding with measures such as shifting work times and telecommuting. Each of these initiatives appears to be independent, but they are all linked in terms of the impact on Tokyoites' overall lifestyles. I suppose I could talk in percentages, but while some items are advancing, others are still at the midway point.

M: What problems would you like to tackle in your third year as governor?

K: Of course there are the preparations for the Rugby World Cup 2019 and the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics (in 2020), but we can't allow our sense of accomplishment to allow the economy to sink suddenly after those events. 2020 is a road marker, and it's important how we proceed from there.

Unless we think about our rapidly aging society and consider Tokyo's and Japan's presence post-2020 within a very turbulent world, Tokyo will not be sustainable.

Because of this, I will for example sketch out a vision for Tokyo's waterfront area. I will also suggest ways to make the best use of Tsukiji market after the move to Toyosu has been completed, which I think will show Tokyo's way into the future. I'd like to leverage the wisdom of the private sector and connect that to creating a new city.

M: The end of your present term will come right in the middle of the Tokyo Games (July 30, 2020). Considering the overlap of Olympic and Paralympic preparations and the load of the gubernatorial election would be hard to handle, it is possible that a special law could be passed to delay the election to after the games. Have you considered this?

K: That is a decision for the national government. My interest in that is absolutely... I can't say anything about that at this time.

(Japanese original by Yoshikazu Takeuchi and Tatsuya Haga, City News Department)

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