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East Japan prefectural assembly holds Sunday session to let citizens, youths observe

Observers of a plenary session at the Ibaraki Prefectural Assembly are seen in the city of Mito on Nov. 28, 2021. (Mainichi/Takashi Miyazaki)
Students of Mito Second High School are seen exchanging opinions on the issue of "young carers" with an Ibaraki Prefectural Assembly member in the city of Mito on Nov. 28, 2021. (Mainichi/Takashi Miyazaki)

MITO -- A special Nov. 28 Ibaraki Prefectural Assembly plenary session held on a Sunday discussed issues including "young carers," or children taking care of their families, in a bid to raise interest in prefectural politics and give young people a chance to witness one of its meetings.

    While "holiday assemblies" have previously been held as an extension of proceedings, this was the first held with the aim to make it easier for prefectural citizens to attend. The general question-and-answer session began at 1 p.m., and almost all of the around 300 seats for observers were occupied.

    Masashi Suzuki, a prefectural assembly member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s parliamentary group in Ibaraki Prefecture, asked questions about issues concerning young people, including about young carers and crimes involving social media.

    Ibaraki Gov. Kazuhiko Oigawa said the issue for young carers is that looking after family members "becomes a daily routine from an early age and goes unnoticed." He indicated that a fact-finding survey of junior high and senior high school students is necessary. During the current regular session, the parliamentary group plans to submit a draft ordinance that includes support measures for young carers.

    Before the plenary session, Mito Second High School students and Suzuki exchanged opinions on the issue. Students shared views based on their experiences, with one explaining, "I had a friend who would often be absent from school, from a young age, to care for their siblings." Maaya Usami, a 16-year-old second-year student, said after observing the session: "Because issues related to our age group were brought up, I felt close to politics."

    Members of the school's calligraphy club performed on the same day at a hall in the prefectural assembly building to promote the holiday session. In prayer for recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, members wrote words to music such as "be someone who takes the lead" on a large piece of paper on the floor. Loud applause came from people visiting the building to observe the assembly session.

    (Japanese original by Takashi Miyazaki, Mito Bureau)

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