"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Press Conference by the Prime Minister on His Visit to Ishikawa Prefecture to Confirm the Extent of the Damage Caused by the 2024 Noto Peninsula Earthquake and Other Matters

[Date] February 24, 2024
[Source] Cabinet Public Affairs Office, Cabinet Secretariat
[Notes] Provisional translation
[Full text]

(On changes that have emerged since his visit to the affected area last month and new challenges that he has identified, as a result of his second visit today, as well as how he intends take advantage of today's visit for the recovery and reconstruction of the area, the rebuilding of the lives and livelihoods of those affected and the improvement of the evacuation environment)

Today, I visited Anamizu Town and Wajima City to inspect the evacuation centers and affected spots, among other places. I listened to those affected who have spent many days as evacuees at an evacuation center in Anamizu and emergency temporary housing in Wajima, as well as those who have served as supporters in volunteer activities and medical and welfare activities. I also observed the evacuation environment that has been increasingly improved thanks to efforts made by many such people concerned. However, bearing in mind that the situation as a whole is still severe, I also realized that the Government should be committed to providing further assistance in collaboration with prefectural and municipal governments.

As some of the proposals that I received during the visit were primarily about housing and accommodation facilities, we intend to strengthen measures to prepare accommodation facilities for those involved in volunteer activities, medical and welfare activities and recovery works to ensure that those affected will be able to return to their hometowns as soon as possible, while also accelerating the construction of fabricated houses. We also plan to initiate coordination for the construction of temporary houses as a new measure to allow those affected to return to their hometowns, which will make it possible to utilize wooden temporary houses as their permanent residence.

To prepare measures to rebuild the livelihoods of those affected, I visited Shiroyone Senmaida rice terraces, the Port of Wajima, the Asaichi area and a Wajima-nuri lacquerware workshop, and held a small group talk with those involved in local industries. I would like to renew my respect for those who are struggling to rebuild their livelihoods even under severe circumstances by taking various steps, including launching a crowd-funding campaign. With the thoughts of such people as a driving force, the Government will materialize full-scale support measures to help rebuild their livelihoods as soon as possible.

More specifically, we plan to start a program to support activities for the research of fishing grounds near the Port of Wajima in light of helping restore the surrounding environment to ensure an early resumption of fishing, while also providing support for the lives of fishermen who are unable to make a living on fishing. In other words, with the cooperation from such fishermen in conducting the program to support the research activities, we will restore the environment of the fishing grounds while supporting the livelihoods of the fishermen. This is what we plan to implement. In the agricultural sector, we will also accelerate the implementation of detailed support measures that are tailored to the status of disaster, such as repairing machinery and facilities and providing subsidies for preparing rice nurseries, in preparation for the spring planting season.

As I said at the small group talk with local people, the Government will provide support for traditional industries, such as Wajima-nuri lacquerware, through three pillars. The first pillar is a subsidy for the restoration of facilities and equipment, the second is a subsidy to support traditional craft industries, which covers everything from securing tools and raw materials, and the third pillar will aim to open a temporary workshop by the end of April, entirely at national expense. On top of that, we will steadily provide financial support.

In the Asaichi area, we will provide "escort-runner-type" recovery support by Urban Renaissance Agency (UR), while linking community development with tourism and ensuring the development of communities that are more resilient to disasters with traditional industries playing key roles. We will continue to expand support by providing packages of measures to support the lives and livelihoods of those affected, including what I have just mentioned.

Lastly, let me mention that the new subsidy program that will be created for six municipalities in the Noto region will target a wide range of affected households whose homes have been more than half destroyed and who have difficulty in borrowing and repaying loans, including young people and households raising children. Combined with the Ishikawa Prefectural Government's grant program to help pay interest on home reconstruction loans covering up to 3 million yen for each household, which is scheduled to be included in the budget to be submitted to the prefectural assembly in February, the series of measures we prepare will fully cover households raising children who need support with their homes more than half destroyed. I have instructed the Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications to consider generous measures to assist local finance regarding the burden on the Prefectural Government associated with this new subsidy program and its grant program to help pay interest on home reconstruction loans. Regarding the reserve funds to be used for a third time, we plan to make a decision as early as next week with the use of those totaling 100 billion yen in mind, including those necessary of the new subsidy program. Until the day when everyone in the affected area can smile as they did before the disaster, I would like to take the lead and do my best to rebuild the lives and livelihoods of those affected and reconstruct local communities.

(Regarding how the Government plan to support some of the affected municipalities and other regions that claim they should be "treated equitably" with the six most affected municipalities, including Wajima and Suzu, where affected elderly people will be eligible for subsidies)

Regarding the new subsidy program that you have pointed out, we will target the six municipalities in the Noto region in view of the major issues that need to be addressed, including the fact that many of the residents have been forced to leave their familiar places and evacuate due to the extremely high aging rate and the geographical constraints of the Noto peninsula. I believe that the Ishikawa Prefectural Government's planned grant program to help pay interest on home reconstruction loans covering up to 3 million yen for each household is targeting a wide range of areas within the prefecture. The Government, for its part, will consider providing generous support measures for the local finance. We believe that the combination of all those measures will cover a wide range of households in need of support whose homes have more than half destroyed.

Responding particularly to the status of damage caused by liquefaction, the Government will promptly materialize strengthened support measures on an area-wide basis, including those for roads and adjacent residential areas. Through such initiatives, we would like to strive to ensure that support will be provided to as many people as possible who are in need of support.

(On the progress of the new subsidy program that the Government aims to finalize by the end of the month, and the progress of the grant program to help pay interest on housing loans for the youth and the generations raising children who are not eligible for the subsidy program)

As I mentioned earlier, the new subsidy program will cover a wide range of affected households whose houses have been more than half destroyed, including young people and households raising children, as well as those that have difficulty in borrowing and repaying loans. Specifically, households that are exempt from residential tax, households that are taxed only on a per capita basis, households with a sudden change in household finances, households receiving child support allowance, households with a person who has left a job or closed a business and households with a certain amount of outstanding loans, as well as households deemed to have other similar circumstances, are also eligible for the new subsidy program and we will ensure that support will be provided to them through simple and prompt procedures. The subsidy program will cover up to 1 million yen for each household for household goods, including automobiles, and up to 2 million yen for home reconstruction, with actual costs considered. The Government will bear four-fifths of the necessary expenses, which will be financed by a set of reserve funds to be used for a third time.

Furthermore, I have stated that it is necessary to provide similar level of support to households that are not eligible for the new subsidy program, taking into account the current commodity prices and interest rate levels. As I mentioned earlier, combined with the Ishikawa Prefectural Government's planned grant program to help pay interest on home reconstruction loans, our measures will fully cover households with children in need of support whose houses have been more than half destroyed. In any case, we will ensure that necessary support will be delivered to those in affected households whose homes have been damaged, from the elderly to children, and that this will lead to the reconstruction of local communities. Further details are scheduled to be announced by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, which oversees the program, and the Ishikawa Prefectural Government at the beginning of next week.

(On whether the campaign to support tourism in the Hokuriku region through providing discounts for hotels and transportation can be postponed from the originally planned period of March and April; whether the Government intends to provide fiscal support for prefectures that issues coupons to give an effect on a wide range of business types; and the timing of the implementation of the support campaign for the Noto region and other related matters)

Regarding the campaign to support tourism in the Hokuriku region that you have pointed out, I understand that it was announced that discounts will be offered for overnight stays from March 16 in Toyama, Niigata and Fukui prefectures, but that Ishikawa prefecture is now considering the timing of its implementation, given the local circumstances such as the status of secondary evacuation and the provision of housing, among other things. In consideration of the impact of a possible cancellation of the campaign, the Government has already allocated a total budget of 9.4 billion yen to four prefectures, which allows each of the prefectures to use the allocated funds to make decisions flexibly according to its own circumstances. For details, please contact the respective Prefectural Government.

We are aware that some prefectures are considering their own initiatives, as you have just pointed out, and the Government is working to increase consumption by tourists at restaurants and other locations with the synergy effect of the campaign to support tourism in the Hokuriku region and the initiatives of the prefectures, hoping to create a ripple effect across a wide range of industries.

In the Noto region, which was severely affected by the disaster, we are currently making every effort to restore and reconstruct the communities, and once the region is in a situation where conditions are expected to set to accept tourists, we plan to implement more generous measures to stimulate tourism demand at an appropriate timing while taking into consideration of the wishes of the local communities.

Regarding another question about the timing of the implementation, I understand that Ishikawa Prefecture is considering when to start the campaign to support tourism in the Hokuriku region based on the status of secondary evacuations and other factors, and the Government will respond flexibly. Although I said that it will be implemented before the Golden Week holidays, this is just a guideline and will not to be strictly applied. The Government will consider a flexible response after communicating well with local communities.