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[Japan Trip] Mayor: Considering the Possibility of Forming a Task Force to Study Post-disaster Large Scale Urban Reconstruction

* Mayor Ko Wen-je, heading a delegation from Taipei City Government, continued their investigation trip in Miyagi Prefecture this morning (May 26), which is also the last day of their journey in Japan.

In the morning, the mayor a breakfast meeting with Kesennuma City Mayor Shigeru Sugawara. May is the flowering season of azalea in Kesennuma City. Four well-known Japanese azalea cities including Kesennuma City, Kurume City in Fukuoka Prefecture, Tarumizu City in Kagoshima Prefecture, and Kasama City in Ibaraki Prefecture have all participated in the 2018 3rd Taipei Azalea Festival. Therefore, besides inviting Taipei City Government to visit the local azalea sanctuary, Mt. Tokusenjo, Mayor Shigeru Sugawara also informed Ko that he hopes the city will continue to partake in the Taipei Azalea Festival in the future, so that both parties can learn from each other and engage in tourism marketing collaborations.

After the breakfast meeting with Kesennuma City Mayor Shigeru Sugawara, Ko headed to Ishinomaki City in Miyagi Prefecture and visited Mayor Hiroshi Kameyama accompanied by Taiwan’s ambassador to Japan Frank Hsieh, where he listened to a presentation on post-disaster recovery after the March 11 earthquake. The mayor expressed during his meeting with Mayor Hiroshi Kameyama that although he has visited Japan on numerous occasions, this is the first time he has traveled to northeastern Japan, and he is excited to be able to lead delegates of Taipei City Government to embark on an inspection tour of Japan’s Northeast region.

According to Ko, Taiwan and Japan are remarkably similar on many fronts, especially the types of natural disasters both countries are faced with: typhoons and earthquakes. Consequently, Taiwan has plenty of areas in disaster prevention policies and improvement to learn from Japan. He indicated that the Taipei City Government delegates visited Japan with an investigative and learning spirit. Since Ishinomaki City was one of the cities heavily devastated by the March 11 earthquake, members of the delegation hope to gain insight into the municipality’s experiences in disaster prevention and post-disaster reconstruction.

After Mayor Kameyama shared the city’s experience in disaster prevention and post-disaster recovery, Ko gained further understanding of the primary organization responsible for coordinating the reconstruction efforts when the demand in resources has exceeded the scope of local governments, as well as the level of synchronization between local governments and the central government in the abovementioned scenario. After listening to the Japanese mayor’s briefing, Ko Wen-je believes that since there are no term limits for mayors in Japan, the continuity of administrative policies can be extended and will not be changed simply because a new mayor is elected. Thereafter, Ko visited the Ishinomaki City Disaster Prevention Center and Hiyoriyama Park accompanied by Mayor Kameyama. Hiyoriyama Park suffered heavy damages during the March 11 earthquake.

During the press interview afterwards, Ko responded to the journalists’ request to summarize the inspection trip to Japan by commenting that many aspects of disaster prevention and post-disaster reconstruction have not been taken into consideration by the Taipei City Government in the past, therefore he has instructed the Fire Department and Department of Urban Development to form a dedicated task force in this regard. The mayor also emphasized that Taiwan and Japan are very similar in numerous areas, but Japan is often more advanced than Taiwan. This makes the country an ideal benchmark for Taiwan to learn from.