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Miyagi Governor Murai leads Tohoku recovery efforts, with eyes on a sustainable future

Miyagi Governor Yoshihiro Murai aims to keep focus on Tohoku recovery efforts one year after the twin disaster of March 2011, looking also to build a sustainable future for northeast Japan.

Murai, who has been Miyagi governor since 2005, proposed an “East Japan Recovery Zone” to facilitate investment and reconstruction. He is also the author of a book on recovery efforts, roughly translated as “Dedicating My Life to Recovery”.

The Nissan Global Media Center spoke with Gov. Murai Tuesday in the capital city of Sendai, the closest urban center to the quake’s epicenter. He discussed Miyagi’s comeback efforts, and what is planned, including building an Eco-friendly community.

Q1. How do you assess the current recovery of the Tohoku region and Miyagi prefecture?

Governor Murai:

I feel the restoration has just started. We will gear up and continue removing rubble left by the earthquake.
In two years, I expect it will be almost all be gone and then we will raise the ground again so we can start construction of houses and other buildings.


Q2. A little more than a year since March 11, 2011, what are the key next steps?


From the moment of the earthquake through to this year, we have concentrated on how to manage the immediate situations in front of us. That’s things such as hunger, coldness and the heat during the summer. Further ahead, I think it will be more important to think about how to secure jobs and houses for the people in devastated areas so that we can all continue to live here.

Q3. How will efforts support people in devastated areas economically?


In Miyagi prefecture 110,000 people lost their jobs because of the earthquake. While 60,000 people have since found jobs, 50,000 people still haven’t. Those people were involved in the fishing industry and in agriculture along coastal areas. Some people lost jobs because their factories were destroyed by the tsunami. Others lost jobs because their ships were damaged beyond repair. I think this is the first priority that we should tackle. In addition, I feel it’s important to attract investment from people outside of Miyagi and Tohoku so we can create more jobs here. For example, by by attracting new plants and factories.

Q4. How do you plan to rebuild infrastructure?


I have indicated that a policy plan such as for a “Smart City” or “Eco-Town” is necessary when considering how to rebuild cities. Basically, cities and towns would create their own plan, but do it based on our policy. I think we should consider plans from the perspective of eco-friendliness and energy-savings.

Q5. Do you plan to create infrastructure for eco-friendly cars?


What I learned from the earthquake is that cars were not just a way of transportation, but could supply energy for other purposes. We rented Nissan LEAFs and utilized them very effectively when we had trouble with energy supply. I am now focusing attention on cars that are not dependent on gasoline, or use sustainable energy supplies, and we will try to utilize these for our plans to rebuild cities and towns. I feel we need to change our thinking from now on, for example, to increase the number of battery chargers or utilize the energy from car batteries temporarily when there are problems with energy supply.

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