Hiroe Makiyama’s Policy

☆ To improve and stabilize environment for child bearing and upbringing.
- Distribution of Child Support for each child until junior high school graduation.
- Tuition exemption until high school graduation to reduce educational expenses.
- Increase percentage of GDP allotted to education by 1.5 times that of the present.
- To eliminate out-of-pocket cost for child bearing and ensure insurance coverage for  fertility treatment. 
- Strengthen pediatric care. Total healthcare coverage until elementary school graduation.
- Zero-waiting list for childcare center. To improve childcare centers by reflecting users’ needs.
- Fully develop childcare centers for sick children to support working mothers.


☆ Correction of disparities and creation of a fair society.
- Correction of disparities in lifestyles, employment and medical treatments.
- Correction of tax system from “Collecting from those who are easy to collect” to “Collecting from those who can afford”.
- Eliminating unjustifiable disparities between part-time workers and full-time workers.


☆ Protect the world’s environment and contribute to peace.
- Promoting and developing carbon dioxide excretion technology. Promoting natural energy source.
- Raising food self-sufficiency ratio. Simultaneously securing food safety.


☆ Making Kanagawa a lively place!
- Actualize the implementation of “The Kanagawa Outlet Plan” to stimulate the Kanagawa economy.
- Strengthen port functions for Yokohama and Kawasaki to stimulate the Kanagawa economy.
- Continue working on issues such as noise problems which relate to military bases stationed in Kanagawa.

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☆Recent Diet Statements

Health, Labour and Welfare Committee (presentation on 27 October 2011 )

 

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<27 December presentation to the Budget Parliamentary Committee by Makiyama Hiroe>

 

Committee Chairman Ishii Hajime: On the agenda is an investigation of the execution of the budget, and we will also focus on the Noda Cabinet’s essential posture towards political ethics. First up is Makiyama Hiroe.

 

Democratic Party of Japan, House of Councilors, Makiyama Hiroe:

 

The high yen on the back of the bad economy and severe fiscal situation the government is in, has made it even more difficult for Japan to deal with the earthquake and other natural disasters. In 2007 I was elected to the House of Councilors and have since devoted myself to the causes of employment stability, enhancing the competitiveness of our harbors, ports, and airports, reform of the taxation of contributions, and supporting child-raising in Japan. In many different fields we have a tight budget from within which to work. Also, on top of the needed reconstruction assistance, medical, nursing/caregiving, education, forestry, farming, and fishing industries all suffered from a lack of sufficient human resources even before the recent disastrous events. These are the areas that we need to address even while we attempt to solve the difficult fiscal situation the government is in. Every member of the Diet needs to demonstrate to the public that the use of tax money is justified and appropriate and value for money. In 2007 we made the declaration of all political contributions of 1 yen or more mandatory by passing a new law. This has brought greater transparency to political funding and reinforced the importance of being transparent in the mind of politicians.

 

1) In regards to ‘money and politics,’ I would like to ask the Prime Minister his thoughts about making all political contribution publicly in the context of recent developments.

 

Prime Minister Noda:         

 

I was first elected in 1993 and supported the political reform ideals of the 1994 Hosokawa Cabinet.  I wanted to create a culture of political participation by individuals through individual donations and financial support for party politics. Based on this, the current DPJ looked towards banning contributions from companies and political organizations and we have attempted to put together a law that would do this. We would like to continue to push forward this reform to the political funding system. 、In regards to making public all expenditures over 1 yen, I have served on the Political Reform Council within the DPJ and we were involved in the creation of that law, however I would like to further increase the transparency of politics and money in Japan.

 

Makiyama Hiroe: Next I would like to ask about the lodging for public officials.

 

2) In Saitama prefecture the Asaka complex for public officials has had its funds frozen for five years. Is this going to continue for the foreseeable future? Also, yesterday details about the plan to build housing for public officials – I wonder if someone could elaborate on the particulars of that plan?

 

Minister of State Azumi Jun

Already in this committee in regards to the Asaka lodging complex we received a great amount of criticism. This is why instead of freezing the funds we have decided to suspend the program. Furthermore, in receiving the instructions from the Prime Minister we are going to look at the way public official lodging is handled and look to radically overhaul the system. Vice-Minister Fujita is in the process of working with the Finance Ministry to discuss with the other ministries about how to do this.
 We have increased the reductions of all lodging from 15% to 25% with a view to abolishing the system. This has long been a beneficial privilege since the end of World War II, however it is time that we put an end to at least further building of complexes for public officials.
 Nevertheless, SDF officers and coast guard employees and others with crisis response responsibilities will still be able to benefit from this, however while at the same time the deteriorating condition we need to consider raising the rent to pay for maintenance and eventually these complexes should be self-managed and not reliant on government funding.
 In regards to the 2400 buildings in total like this, we have a paper that details the schemes that will be abolished and the conditions for doing so and if we implement this in the specified way we feel we can get the understanding of those who will be affected by these changes.

 

Makiyama Hiroe I would like to ask a question in regards to the budget screening process and I participated in the second round of screening. I worked as hard as I could on the process however I found the amount of detail intimidating and hard to comprehend. Also as previously said by Ren Ho, there is the problem of “Zombie” programs, where once a program has been cut during the screening process, it rises again in another form and under another name elsewhere in the bureaucracy.  Having experienced this myself, I would like to ask how the next round’s concept will differ from previous times.

Minister of State Ren Ho We are looking at thoroughly going through each and every administrative project in order to get rid of inefficiency and waste and to ensure tax money is being used appropriately and continue to do in a public way. Each ministry is also internalizing this approach and we hope to be following up with them in due course.
On the other hand, I took on the role of the Minister in charge of administrative reform in order to push forward the budget screening process although this was about more than each individual project, but to look at the wide ranger policy objectives and in regards to what the various systems are designed to achieve, and related countermeasures. We intend to push this aspect of the process forward in next year’s budget. In the meantime we are working with the different government organizations and proposals for systemic reform and we would like to coordinate these next year into a integrated government approach to administrative reform and we would like to ask for everyone’s understanding while this process is being undertaken.

 

Makiyama Hiroe: I am sure, as just stated by the Minister, the reception of proposals and consideration by each agency and ministry will progress accordingly, but I want to make sure that there is appropriate follow up in the administrative reform committee to ensure the process is transparent.

 

Next, in regards to harmful misinformation around the Fukushima nuclear incident caused by the East Japan Earthquake, and the related substantial reduction of economic activity, we have noticed a considerable reduction in the numbers of tourist numbers to Japan, as well as the purchase of Japanese food products and consumer goods. I want to draw attention to ways to reinvigorate these particular sectors.

 

In this regard, as Japan’s international economic competitiveness in relative terms decreases it becomes all the more important to increase Japan’s soft power based on the expression of cultural distinctiveness. I believe the ‘Cool Japan’ strategy to promote cultural interaction and awareness should involve a clear and concrete plan being set out to promote Japan’s distinctive intellectual, fashion, artistic and cultural contents, as well as regional products and tourism.

 

International interactions and exchanges contribute to Japan’s security and to global culture as well, and therefore Japan’s appeal to the outside world, and the internationalization of Japanese society, are very important considerations.

 

The West, as well as China and Korea all have a proactive cultural strategy and are promoting it overseas. Governments supporting language schools overseas to promote the home culture is also not an uncommon occurrence. Japan’s interaction with the international community cannot be said to be on this kind of scale and the budget and focus of the government on the cultural strategy is considerably weaker in Japan than in other countries. Japan’s image as a nation with a distinct culture is ultimately connected to strengthening the image of it as a nation of culture as well as an economically prosperous one, and Japan should endeavor to improve its international competitiveness and economic growth by promoting its cultural products overseas.

 

These years of continuous economic stagnation, and the disasters of this year and the need for Japan to recover, have made it hard to think about these kinds of strategies. But it is precisely because of the urgency of these events that we need to invest public funds in recovery so we can meet the challenges around Japan’s image and its connection to the global society and economy. Perhaps in the short-term the investment in a “contents” strategy based on “Cool Japan” may not seem to pay off, however, precisely because we are in the current situation we are we need to not become too inward focused. We need to prepare in the long-term to reaffirm not only Japan’s economic importance but its cultural presence on the global stage, including its soft power – I sincerely believe this will also ultimately add to Japan’s security and economic performance.

 

I want to discuss each topic in order.

 

First I want to talk about tourism. Foreigners who come to Japan have reduced greatly due to recent events as the below panel shows.

 

1st Panel (Movements in the number of foreigner tourists in Japan)

 

If you look at this panel you can probably imagine that a lot of the decrease in number of foreign tourists is due to the high yen price. However, if we look at March in particular we see that there was a massive decrease of 50.3% (353,000) in foreign tourist numbers compared to the previous year. In April, we only had 62.5% (296,000) of the previous year’s visitors. That said by October we see the numbers recovering to only being about 15.3% down on the previous year.

 

In order to increase the speed of recovery, and to reclaim the lost economic activity from the disaster, we need to make our tourist spots considerably more attractive. I want to talk about ways we can turn Japan into an attractive international location for making films and television, and thereby help the nation in other areas as well by promoting its image overseas.

 

In recent years tourism to Korea, Korean food, and Korean pop culture idols has seen a large increase of interest in Japan, due in large part to the success of the popular television drama “Winter Sonata.” I believe Japan has many charming and distinctive sights to put on display much like Winter Sonata did for Korea. Japan could certainly become an attractive film location for the benefit of the whole nation. Please look at the next panel:

 

If you look at this it is quite clear when comparing 2003, when Winter Sonata came out, and 2010, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of Japanese going to Korea, from 1.8 million to 3.2 million per year. If we look at a Japanese example, of an admittedly smaller scale, a successful Chinese production called “If you are the one,” (in Japanese neratta koi no otoshikata) which was filmed in Hokkaido, saw tourism to that area increase from 100,000 to 300,000 in the space of 2 to 3 years – an increase of 3 times.

 

In the early twentieth century there was a common saying in the US and Hollywood that “trade follows the film.” Hollywood was not a complete accident and the US government provided assistance recognizing that US culture and lifestyle was attractive, and this could be promoted through film, which in turn would have a positive impact on the US’ trade and related industries.

 

Please look at the next panel.

 

In Japan, when there is an international collaboration, you can receive up to 20% subsidy on the costs of production. However this is limited to 2 million US dollars. Recently there have been five productions which have qualified for this subsidy. In addition there is the “screen tourism project,” which focuses on movies televised outside of Japan, and provides assistance or subsidies – each production can receive up to 50,000 US dollars subsidy on expenses.

 

In Korea, they have an international collaboration program where films can receive a 50% deduction of their expenses up to a total of 160,000 US dollars.

 

In addition, support on the film location site is available for the government if a film is made in the Pusan area. Specifically, the government provides dedicated lodging and transportation, access to local CG facilities which are in abundance in Pusan. As well as providing assistance with identifying appropriate locations for filming, and coordinating with fire and police services, the government facilitates the processes around the use of roads etc for film purposes. Due to this Pusan has greatly benefitted from the enhancement of its image through having many productions being filmed in the area – it is also estimated to have brought an additional $40 million into the local economy.

 

France and Canada use a tax deduction system to support these industries. In France 20% of the wages and equipment costs included in the overall expenses can be deducted from the corporate tax rate, up to about $5 millon US. Again in France, Versaille Palace is made available for film production in order to promote France even though Versailles is an important cultural property.

In Canada if hiring local workers a tax credit of 16% of labor costs is available. Here there is no maximum amount. New Zealand has a 15% cash back system on production costs which has enabled big-budget titles to be filmed in New Zealand.

In regards to the NZ system for example, unlike getting tax credits after income has been earned, this kind of cash back offer on upfront costs being made available is prior to income being earned is a very significant incentive for film companies. Managing financial risk is of great importance for companies making big budget full featured films. It is not written on this panel but in the NZ case the conditions of assistance provided by the government enabled the government to dictate some of the elements of the film that would be beneficial to the nation. For example if stages, the lead actors, and other elements enhanced the telling of NZ’s cultural history, displayed its natural features, or New Zealand actors were used, then the films would get points for each beneficial element. A production would need 20 points to be eligible for the cash back subsidy, thereby allowing the New Zealand government to exercise a soft influence over production values.

 
Therefore production companies, using the world as its stage, engage in forum shopping for films and drama, and if we want them to be filmed in Japan then I believe we need to address the incentives provided and overall strategy, which greatly lags behind other nations.

 

4) Within this context, Sapporo City in Hokkaido, taking advantage of the boom effect of previously mentioned movie, "If you are the one," has been identified as a “contents zone.”  Like the example of South Korea earlier they have set up a one stop referral facility to deal with the use of roads and other regulatory issues that may arise from filming.

 

Estimates have it that Sapporo in 2015 will benefit 144 million US dollars due to such a location based filming strategy in terms of economic effects. It will attract further film production and along with those who view the content, it is forecasted that 1.15 million foreign visitors in Sapporo will come in 2015.

5) I would like to ask Minister in Charge of Regional Rejuvenation Kawabata if there are any other plans to create special “contents zones?”

 

Minister of State Kawabata
 Movie promotion and tourist activities having significant economic impact is something of great interest that should be looked into more, however we are currently looking at a number of applications for special zone status and various ideas from different regions including the kinds of contents zones such as Sapporo enjoys. In terms of the process, from October to November the proposals are evaluated and scored, and then at the current time we are finishing the hearings on these proposals. Soon after these hearings, where the Hokkaido proposal has made it to so far, we will make a decision on the basis of the available information from the reports and hearing which is where we are heading to next.

 

Makiyama Hiroe:As my constituency is Kanagawa Prefecture, there are many red brick warehouse, for example in Yokohama, and many old buildings remain in the harbor. We have indeed been shooting dramas there. As well as Sapporo I hope for the greater utilization of the diverse local cultural resources and attractions around the country, including Okinawa.

 

Please look at the next panel on the Economic impact of movie production

 

This shows the economic impact of movie production – the impact was higher in NZ but still in both NZ and Japan’s case they were significant. By attracting film production local employment will rise as will the use and purchase of goods, as well as the use of accommodation and transportation. Various other economic effects can be expected. This is why extending economic and financial assistance to foreign companies is advantageous.

 

In New Zealand after the release of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, there was a 40 percent increase in tourist numbers and according to a questionnaire at least 10% of all tourists' visit to New Zealand were in some way influenced by the Lord of the Rings,

 

Japan needs to provide locations and facilities for shooting and editing in one place to compete as a film location destination and we need to make it as streamlined as possible.  In the case of New Zealand I have already discussed the "The Last Samurai" also shot in New Zealand, but now next month another film about Japan that could easily have been shot in Japan, "Emperor," which will be a big Hollywood feature, will also be shot in New Zealand. These are clear lost business opportunities. I would like to ask Minister of MEXT Nakagawa Masaharu if there are any additional efforts in this regard being undertaken.

 

Minister of State Nakagawa 

I think you have provided us with some very interesting information and insights.
 While the film production industry in Japan is generally self-supporting with some government assistance, unfortunately we don’t have quite the same level of strategy, for example in setting up one stop shops or offering the kinds of incentives you have outlined, in approaching the promotion of this industry. However I think it is perhaps the time to start talking about this and I want to further look into this from now on.

 

Makiyama Hiroe:Currently, the damage to tourism from Japan’s triple disaster due to damaging misinformation about Japan’s safety has greatly reduced the shipment of goods made in Japan.  Of course there have been other attempts to deal with the economic fallout but we need to expand our focus. The market size of Japan's contents industry is currently about 12 trillion yen, accounting for 2.2% of GDP in Japan.

 

6) I would like to ask PM Noda about whether there is any determined effort to set up a unified contents strategy for Japan.

 

Prime Minister Noda

Japan’s contents generally have a good reputation overseas. I am also aware of the need for Japan to pursue a new and more proactive approach to economic growth. Last June we devised a new economic growth strategy of which a strategy to turn Japan into a powerful players in the global contents industry was one part, so there are some concrete plans to do this. At this year’s October Tokyo film festival about 120,000 people viewed films including myself. I felt very enthused by this and it reaffirmed my belief in the need to propel a contents strategy for Japan. Mentioned earlier was the specific example of Tazawako… as well as the Sapporo example – based on these insights I would like to take the idea forward.
 

 

Makiyama Hiroe: Previously I was the legal representative for a film company in Japan and I have to say that it was difficult to coordinate a contents strategy because the responsibilities for different aspects of the contents were and are scattered between the ministries and the set up is not particularly rational.

 

According to my information Korea in 2009, in order to support the efficient development and promotion of cultural industries,   combined into a single agency six institutions which now come under "Content Agency of Korea (KOCCA).” This agency engages in the formulation of policies pertaining to the promotion of the content industry, supports various aspects of the content policy and is collectively responsible for the promotion of overseas business operations and human resources support.

 

While I understand that given the current fiscal environment it might be hard to justify a new government agency, but as the earlier panels show there are considerable short-term and long-term benefits to be had from a rational and aggressive unified and integrated contents agency.

 

7) Just to ask one more time about the issue of attracting tourists, Minister of Transport Matsubara, while recognizing that the Visit Japan program has been in operation since 2003, after the earthquake is there anything more specific, that, you are going to do to help Japan recover from the reduction in tourist numbers?

 

Minister of State Matsubara

In order to see a quick recovery of the numbers of foreigners coming to Japan the Tourism agency has been proactive in spreading messages to potential foreign consumers including through foreign reporters and tourist companies. In addition to this from October we have the Visit Japan promotion which is very proactive. In regards to foreign visitors in Japan, we are indeed saying a gradual reduction in the month by month comparative decreases, given that March and April figures were quite significantly down. We are working very hard through the third supplementary budget to attract back Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese, Hong Kongese and American visitors and have various promotions, as well as measures in place to reduce the number of international conferences being cancelled.  I think we all need to work together in order to promote Japan as an attractive place to vacation again.

As we are working towards full-scale recovery for Japan, we must be willing to do various things and not just focus on a singular course of action. While it may not be obvious to us Japanese, one thing that is particularly unique are Japanese onsens and the culture surrounding them. We should be promoting the various benefits of our natural hot springs to the world, especially those in the Tohoku region. Please look at this panel.

 

Here I have provided some details about the different purported properties of the onsens from the three prefectures affected by the disasters and my own prefecture, Kanagawa prefecture. Vice-Minister for the Environment Yokomitsu Katsuhiko, do you have any information about the properties of the onsens? Is information about their distinctive properties being actively promoted overseas?

Yokomitsu Katsuhiko:
Japan has since ancient times been a country and culture that loved onsens. Many types of Open-air baths are situated in naturally beautiful areas. In times of war generals believed that soaking in the waters would help rejuvenation and not only humans but animals have also enjoyed them, such as deer who are known to treat wounds this way. The medical properties of onsens is a new and thriving field in Japan.  Of course nowadays foreigners are also starting to have an appreciation for Japanese onsens. There are many claimed benefits in regards to entering onsens such as the effect on the skin, muscles, nerves and generally good for the body…

 

Someone remarks loudly

Ishii Hajime Chairman: Please be silent

 

Yokomitsu: it has these kinds of effects. It is claimed that the the aforementioned benefits seem to work in an integrated way and effects can be seen. The ministry of the environment is currently promoting information about the various effects of onsens after looking into the medical knowledge and also using traditional knowledge about the claimed effects. However the cultural and environmental attractions of onsens are also being promoted along with the health effects overseas.

Makiyama Hiroe: According to my information it seems that onsens are the third most reported reason for people visiting Japan. I think we should endeavor to further promote the charm and attractiveness of Japan’s natural hot springs.

 

Next, in regards to using Japan’s culture as a tourism resource, one pillar could be to use foreign embassies to promote this aspect more aggressively.

 

On the one year anniversary of the disaster, I understand that there will be simultaneous ceremonies held in all of the Japanese embassies around the world. We need to use this as an opportunity to put to rest much of the harmful misinformation about Japan and its products. We should strive to have on display Japanese consumer and food products, promote Japanese tourism, and invite various trade focused companies, travel companies and various media to view what Japan has to offer. 

We also should bear in mind, as can be seen on this panel, that shopping was one of the key reasons that foreigners came to Japan up until the disaster– number two ahead of onsens, according to JNTO. Foreigner visitors in Japan, or Japanese who are temporarily returning home, if purchasing non-consumable items valued more than 10,000 yen at one time are able to get a consumption tax rebate of 5% from certain certified shops in Japan if they go through the proper procedures at the shop or at the airport.  The fact of the matter is that many foreigners and many merchants are also unaware of these possibilities and if more shops applied for this status, and more foreigners were made aware of those shops, then it could have considerable appeal to foreign tourists.

 

As can be seen in this panel food products and so forth are not included in what tourists can purchase to get a rebate. Nevertheless, they present the goods they want to buy, present their passport, then the purchaser will sign the claim form. And when they leave, if you present the required documents to the customs counter you can receive the rebate. I feel this is a good incentive to bring foreigners to Japan in order to purchase a considerable amount of Japanese goods.

 

10) I would like to ask Assistant Director Okamoto of the National Tax Agency how many places have successfully applied for and received this “duty-free shop” status. How difficult is it to get this status and what kinds of processes must a shop undergo in order to gain this status.

 

Assistant Director Okamoto of the National Tax Agency


By 2011 April throughout the whole country there was 3781 places authorized. During the previous year 930 new applications were given permission and we expect this tendency to increase.、
 Those who are interested in gaining this status apply to the authority who has jurisidiction  over that industry within the tax agency. If at the time of working out their general tax liabilities including consumption tax if there are no outstanding circumstances or additional information required, generally speaking they can receive permission to register as a duty free shop – it is in general not too difficult.  

 

Makiyama Hiroe: I certainly wish for more shops to take advantage of this opportunity in order to raise the attractiveness of tourism, especially in the most affected areas in Japan in these hard times.

 

Furthermore, as English is the most commonly used language worldwide, at the very least we should try to make it easier for foreigners by providing more road signs and guidance in English language. I would like to ask Vice-Minister Matsubara of Land Transport if there are any efforts being undertaken. to make it easier for foreigners to come and spend time in Japan.  

 

Another major problem is the damage done to Japanese food from misinformation. 9 months on there is great anxiety about whether school lunches in Fukushima are fine, or whether food in general in Japan is ok, especially among foreigners who might want to come to Japan.  In regards to how to deal with this anxiety, the government has distributed all together 74 devices to detect radioactive material. I want to ask if the government plans to distribute more devices to places that need them to alleviate the fear. I also want to ask Minister of Consumer Affairs Yamaoka if the local municipalities are using the devices in the appropriate way to do this.

 

Chairman Ishii: Who is the question directed at?


Makiyama Hiroe: The Minister in charge of Consumer Affairs


Minister in charge of Consumer Affairs Yamaoka Kenji


In each municipality some collects news from various consumers and a more thorough inspection is done. Specifically from the city we get requests to investigate food products and lunches and the basic ingredients as well as wells as home consumables- we also investigate the things that we eat. I will give a more specific explanation. For example in Fukushima preferecture, there is obviously great concern about the products affected by radiation from Fukushima dai-ichi and on the 24th of this month the residents started to take measurements of the home grown vegetables that had been growing in the meantime.

 

Makiyama Hiroe: Next I would like to enquire about the relative importance of English language education. In order to make Japan an attractive place for tourism and cultural exchange opportunities obviously English language is important. Recently for example we have talked about the TPP and the importance of multilateral coordination between ourselves and other countries. The IT revolution and globalization cannot be stopped and Japanese industry and culture needs to be able to deal with the changes that will come from these two features of the modern world. However in Japan there are still significant limitations in terms of language ability and Japan remains difficult for foreign business people and tourists to negotiate. For Japan’s future, we should do our best to think from the point of view of visitors and make at least business and tourism as easy as possible to conduct. Therefore I next want to talk about English education.

 

When our children become adults in the future, I want them to have the same level of abilities as children from other countries in the area that are currently investing in English education. As it is the language of international interaction, they need to have the same level of exposure to English as others to remain competitive globally. As a mother myself I am often worried that my children may get left behind global trends and I have been watching what other countries have been doing in regards to English education. If we do not find a good way to improve English teaching at public schools then a large gap in our society will develop between those who have the money to invest in external tuition. At the very least everyone should start their education with the same opportunities to learn this important language. I asked MEXT about the situation for English tuition in other countries.

 

Please look at this panel:

 

As you can see in Singapore, all subjects aside from Chinese, Malay, or Tamil language classes are taught in English. From kindergarten they practice role playing and pronunciation drills as well as reading and writing.

 

While it is a country with limited and vulnerable borders, and only with 5 million people, it has positioned itself as a hub for air travel, freight transport, as well as for finance and business. It has even attracted the attention of Yale University and others to establish schools in Singapore and thus has become an educational hub as well. Our next door neighbor, Korea, has also started English tuition from the 3rd grade of Elementary school. Korea in particular has created a vision where all of its high school graduates can conduct communication in English especially speaking and writing.

 

Japan from now on looks to be trying to implement English education from the fifth grade, however I am worried about whether we can truly compete with the world just by doing this.

 

For children the best time for listening skills and pronunciation to be developed with little difficulty is actually at the time they are learning their mother tongue and if they learnt at the same time it would be much easier. According to a newspaper article Singaporean former leader Lee Kuan Yew has recently said that the make or break period for becoming bilingual is right after birth.

 

Prime Minister, I would like to ask whether you also believe this to be the case.

 

Prime Minister Noda: In the period of globalization, as crucial weapons ICT and English language are certainly important and therefore education in both is very important. I am deeply aware and interested in this problem. Previously you showed a little of your excellent ability to speak English, however for myself I had to admit than we I have to speak English I become very quiet.
Sometimes when doing practice tests and so forth I was able to get quite good grades and I was actually in the higher levels in the Chiba district. I think it was a fluke however. Nevertheless I came to like English. The problem was that when I went overseas during my school years even entering and ordering in a restaurant was a difficult experience. I was spoken to by a waitress in a dress and I did not understand. I thought maybe she was saying something about her dress, but it turns out that I was not even able to understand a conversation about dressing. Even after finishing our compulsory education we Japanese still have to go to language schools, the so-called “station-front overseas exchanges.” I think is a problem. Because of all this and my own experience of English tuition, I basically agree with the principle of getting Japanese children exposed to English language earlier, including at the elementary school level.

 

Makiyama Hiroe: In order to maintain our international competitiveness and avoid getting behind other nations, we also need to concentrate on IT education as well. In Korea for example, by 2014 all elementary school children, and then in 2015 all secondary school children, will have digital text books distributed.

 

In the classroom each and every child is able to access and use a personal computer of some kind. Effectively the text book is digitalized. And students can directly access and search out information for themselves. This is how Korea is thinking about the digital classroom and its future.

 

In the UK there is a move to having smart boards or interactive whiteboards in the classrooms, especially in the 7th to 9th grade, and there will be at least two classes a week on IT skills.

 

In Portugal, from grade 1 to grade 4, based on parents’ income level, students are given the opportunity to purchase cheap netbooks for use in classrooms. In Singapore, already 30 percent of the curriculum is ICT based. In Australia there is movement to provide access to a computer for everyone in the 9th to the 12th grade range.

 

Last year the Japanese government’s IT strategy group designated 2020 as the year that every student would have access to a computer. With all due respect, with Korea implementing this in elementary school by 2014, and in much more comprehensive way with digital textbooks and a digital classroom, Japan will be far behind by that time. Essentially by the time the current group of elementary school students graduate there will be a massive gap in skills between Korean and Japan.

 

Like with the ability to interact in English, this will have a significant impact upon whether Japan remains internationally competitive. If Japan does not turn up to the internationalization start line soon, then there is a chance young Japanese will be up to six cycles behind their Korean counterparts. Japan must look at what other countries are doing in the IT and education fields as well as in the English teaching fields. Of course we have to make sure that students learn Japanese language properly, and are not accessing destructive or improper websites while having access to the internet at school, however these are dangers than can be managed.

 

Prime Minister, since we are in the middle of debating Japan’s entry into the TPP, I want Japanese children to be prepared for interacting within international society through having the appropriate English and IT skills, and I also want Japan to focus on making the country easier for businessmen and tourists that Japan needs to attract to come to our country. 

 

Chairman Ishii: Minister Nakagawa would like to have a word:

 

Nakakawa Minister of State: You received an answer from me before. Nevertheless, in regards to ICT, Japan as a population is very engaged in ICT and technology. And while it is likely that digital textbooks and resources could be useful we would need to conduct experimental trials in order to determine the effectiveness and then we can move forward.
In regards to language, and the test-based English tuition and awareness of this issue in Japan, I feel it is a problem of not being able to understand pronunciation due to insufficient exposure at a young age. There is much discussion about this but for now 5th and 6th grade is where we have decided to expose the children for the time being.

 

Makiyama Hiroe: We need to work towards rebuilding Japan’s reputation, hurt by the misinformation after 3/11. We need to deal with the globalization, a force than cannot be stopped. I hope the government will take action to implement the kinds of activities and policies that I have suggested in my discussion today.