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Reconstruction minister axed via The Japan Times

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Imamura, a 70-year-old veteran Lower House member of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, came under sharp criticism early this month for stating that people in Fukushima who had voluntarily evacuated from their homes around Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant following the three reactor meltdowns at the plant should bear “self-responsibility for their decision” to stay away. He made the remark in response to questions in a news conference about the cutoff of public housing aid for those evacuees at the end of March and the government’s responsibility for their plight.

On Tuesday — with the repercussions from his earlier remark still in the air — Imamura said at an evening party of his LDP faction that it was “rather good” that the 2011 tsunami-quake disaster hit the Tohoku region and “not somewhere near the Tokyo area,” because it would have caused an “enormous amount of (financial) damage” to the country.

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A more serious question is whether Imamura’s words — coming from the minister in charge of reconstruction from the 2011 disasters — represented the Abe administration’s position toward the job of rebuilding the areas devastated by the tsunami and nuclear crisis. Right after returning to the government’s helm, Abe told the Diet in 2013 that “there will be no revival of Japan without the reconstruction of Fukushima and Tohoku.” In his address for the six-year anniversary of the 2011 disasters last month, Abe said the reconstruction is making steady progress and is “entering a new stage” with the lifting of evacuation orders to major parts of the former no-go zones around the Tepco plant. However, the presence of more than 120,000 people displaced from their homes, including nearly 80,000 Fukushima residents, signals that the reconstruction of people’s lives shattered by the disaster clearly remains a work in progress.

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