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Concrete controversy: DPJ’s Mieko Tanaka travels to Yamba Dam

Shukan Shincho Apr. 29
Shukan Shincho Apr. 29

Last month’s visit by Democratic Party of Japan representative Mieko Tanaka to the Yamba Dam project site in the town of Naganohara, Gunma Prefecture lacked professionalism, squeaks Shukan Shincho (Apr. 29).

With the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma now at the forefront of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s agenda, the weekly says that the dam, whose construction was halted following the DPJ’s historic victory in last year’s lower house election, has become a secondary issue.

A native of Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture and one of “Ozawa’s girls” — referring to the group of attractive female candidates dispatched to minor constituencies under the guidance of DPJ politician Ichiro Ozawa — the 34-year-old Tanaka fell short of former Prime Minister Yoshihiro Mori in Ishikawa Constituency No. 2 in last August’s election. Yet she wound up qualifying for a house seat through the proportional representation system.

Shukan Shincho suggests that the colorful Tanaka, who acted in an erotic scene in a cult film and wrote a regular column for a sleaze rag, might not have been taking her position seriously during a visit to the area with a student intern on April 19.

“This is a personal training trip,” she says and adds that she spoke to a cafeteria manager and milk industry employee to get a local perspective on the halting of the project, which is controversial due to its importance to the local economy. “I normally visit ‘problematic places’ and I will continue to do so in the future.”

A beautiful woman with a splendid heart — or so it seems until the rest of the story is revealed, grouses the tabloid.

The manager of the cafeteria says that he explained numerous problems related to [ostensibly, the stopping of construction of] the dam but all she could muster was, “Is that right?” His request that the matter be taken to Hatoyama was not greeted with a response.

Further, Naganohara’s mayor, Kinya Takayama, who is in favor of the completion of the project, has been left feeling alienated. “I had no idea she came,” explains the mayor. “DPJ members never visit me when arrive at Yamba Dam. Nobody in the party seems to hold the view that this issue as a big problem.”

Taking another slant entirely is tabloid Friday (May 14), which through an extensive four-page spread sees the visit as hope that Tanaka will take further initiatives in reconciling the situation.

The magazine also notes that numerous complications remain for the massive project, which has seen the estimated cost of one portion of the construction balloon from 210 billion yen in 2003 to 460 billion yen at present.

Takeo Toyoda, president of milk company Toyoda Nyugyo, located in the area of the Kawarayu Onsen, tells Friday that the work has not ceased entirely. He says that Seiji Maehara, Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, clearly stated that construction of the main dam will be halted but also indicated that related work will continue. “Everything besides the main construction is proceeding at a fast pace,” says the president.

Relocation of residents occupying land in the dam’s proposed footprint has been costly. What happens next is not certain. “The area intended to form the bottom of this dam is where people lived for a long time,” Toyoda says. “That area was purchased by the government and it is now empty. I anticipate that they will divide it up and sell the portions.”

Tanaka, whose party used the “from concrete to people” motto in its campaign manifesto last year, appears concerned. “Very reluctantly they gave up their land to the government,” the representative says. “Now that they know the land will be sold to others, it’s hard to accept. The idea of reselling the land is very delicate. Right now, I wants to hold talks to discuss the issue.”

Dressed in a striped suit adorned with her chrysanthemum Diet pin on the left lapel, Tanaka is presented in multiple images by Friday: she peruses aerial photographs showing the proposed work, speaks with guests at the Yamba Dam visitor’s center and dines at the nearby Kawarayu Onsen cafeteria.

But Shukan Shincho doesn’t buy it. By all accounts the trip was a pleasure tour — her Diet badge must now be crying, weeps the weekly.

Source: “Tanaka Mieko no Yamba damu buken yusan,” Shukan Shincho (Apr. 29, page 142)