Yoshihiko Noda is prime minister of Japan.
March 11 is etched in Japan’s collective consciousness. Today, on the first anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, which triggered the starkest crisis our country has faced in a generation, we pause to commemorate all of those who suffered. Our thoughts go out to all of the victims of the tragedy and to people around the world whose lives have been devastated by natural disasters.
We will not forget the loved ones, friends and colleagues lost in the disaster. Nor will we forget the outpouring of support and international expressions of solidarity that Japan received. For this, we feel deeply indebted and forever appreciative.
Japan has made remarkable progress over the past 12 months. Today we renew our commitment to learn from the great difficulties we have faced. I firmly believe that this period of difficulty must, and will, come to mark the start of a full-fledged revitalization of Japan.
The national solidarity and sense of urgency that resulted from last year’s tragedy underscore that we have the collective will to tackle our most pressing issues: reconstruction of areas affected by the earthquake; full decommissioning of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and decontamination of affected areas; and revitalization of the Japanese economy.
The many steps taken in a year included establishing a budgetary and legislative framework that laid out many of the strategic tools for reconstruction. We set up the Reconstruction Agency, which acts as a control tower for all related planning and significantly streamlines and expedites activities, including formation of reconstruction grants and special reconstruction zones. In addition, procedures for monitoring and testing food products have been strengthened, while more than 1 trillion yen in state funds have been provided for the decontamination of residential areas close to the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
The issues of greatest concern among affected individuals, and our nation as a whole, are the most fundamental: job security and a sustainable livelihood for families. Through the creation of special reconstruction zones and other initiatives under the concept of “open reconstruction,” these regions will stimulate new domestic and overseas investment, creating jobs, driving the restoration of existing industries and enhancing innovation.
The creation of 11 “FutureCities” throughout Japan, in areas including the disaster-hit municipalities of Ofunato, Rikuzentakata and Higashimatsushima, is one such example. Through budgetary, tax and regulatory measures, support will be provided to develop an industry and social infrastructure linked with compact cities and decentralized, environmentally friendly energy production that uses “smart” grids and large-scale solar and offshore wind farms. Japan is already a leader in energy efficiency, and it has a wealth of innovative technologies. We must put this expertise to use creating a model for growth and sustainability that we can share with the world.