07/05/2020

The Shiga Prefectural Government unveiled a draft report examining the effectiveness of its measures dealing with COVID-19

On June 22, the Shiga Prefectural Government unveiled a draft report examining the effectiveness of the prefecture’s measures dealing with COVID-19. According to the draft titled “Recapitulation and Future Direction,” the emergency measures implemented gradually from late April were effective in preventing the infection from spreading.

On the other hand, the draft also points out that the measures triggered the stagnation of movements of people and products, impacting socio-economic activities. Besides, regarding the second wave predictably coming shortly, the draft underscores two points: the necessity of being careful of requesting businesses to temporarily closing their facilities and shops, and the importance of limiting their categories and areas.

As for the trend development of infection in Shiga, it peaked on around April 3 on an onset-of-symptoms basis, two weeks before the declaration of the state of emergency by the national government. According to the analysis, the infection spread during the three-consecutive national holidays in late March. There seems to have had a trend of Shiga following Osaka’s and Kyoto’s; after the number of patients in the two close prefectures increased, Shiga’s patients also increased.

Furthermore, in the draft, the Shiga Prefectural Government has summarized eight categories, such as the infection prevention programs, the medical care provision system, and economic/employment revitalization programs. Each category has the current initiatives, challenges, and prospective countermeasures to deal with the second wave.

Concerning the medical care provision system, for example, it is pointed out that handling COVID-19 has inflicted a financial burden on the hospitals, affecting medical treatment for other diseases. From now on, there will be 140 beds kept for the COVID-19 patients, and they will increase gradually preceding the increase of patients.

(The Nikkei, June 22, 2020)

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06/14/2020

COVID-19: Shiga Prefecture has shifted the “Warning Stage” to the “Cautious Stage.”

The Shiga Prefectural Government announced on June 6 that the current “Warning Stage” would shift to the “Cautious Stage,” the lowest alert level, at 0:00 am on June 7. The reason was that there was no patient reported in the consecutive 14 days. While recognizing that the infection situation is stable, the prefecture is going to call for the citizens to avoid 3 Cs, namely “confined spaces,” “crowded places,” and “close contact with people.”

Although the stage shifts, there will not be any difference regarding anti-corona virus measures adopted by the Shiga Prefectural Government. By June 18, the prefecture continues to request the citizens of refraining from visiting areas such as Tokyo and Hokkaido, where there are new patients reported regularly. The prefecture also unveiled its policy on how to lessen the regulation regarding events gradually every three weeks.

In a statement on the same day, Governor Mikazuki says, “From now on, we will gradually raise the level of socio-economic activities while making our efforts to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. Let’s move forward together.”

(Chunichi Shimbun, June 7, 2020)

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05/24/2020

Governor Mikazuki made a special request to Economic Revitalization Minister Nishimura, asking for enhancing COVID-19 measures

On May 18, Governor Mikazuki Taizo had an online meeting with the Economic Revitalization Minister Nishimura Yasutoshi to discuss the enhancement of the medical care system and support for the needy as countermeasures for COVID-19. The governor submitted a request comprised of about 60 items.

The items included are the enhancement of the PCR testing system, the security of goods such as masks and rubbing alcohol, the provision of hazard pay for medical professions, the multilingualization of information for non-Japanese residents, and the support for after school daycare facilities for challenged children.

“Preparing for any situations, we will properly handle the request by having the second supplementary budget enacted,” says Minister Nishimura.

On the same day, an online meeting was held among nine prefectures of the Chubu Area, discussing a proposal regarding COVID-19. The governors have reached a consensus with the proposal requesting the national government of the following items: strengthening national financial resources to compensate private corporations for temporally closing their business, establishing penal provisions for those who decline a governor’s instruction, and so on.

As for a joint message from the Chubu Area Governors’ Council, Governor Mikazuki says, “Since the release of the state of emergency, there have been the patients whose sources of infection are unknown. We need to underscore the importance of not crossing the prefectural boundaries.”

(Asahi Shimbun, May 19, 2020)

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05/17/2020

Shiga Prefecture lifted business shutdown requests regarding COVID-19.

The Shiga Prefectural Government, having responded to the release of the state of emergency by the national government, eased business shutdown requests at 0:00 am on May 15. The prefecture, however, continues to request businesses of thorough measures such as controlling the number of customers and ensuring social distancing. Besides, citizens are encouraged to refrain from visiting bars and restaurants featuring entertainment and from crossing prefectural borders.

At a May 14 meeting of the Council on New Coronavirus Infection Control Measures, Governor Mikazuki says, “There has been no patient infected for ten consecutive days thanks to the various requests and measures. I would like to express my appreciation for the citizens who abided by the requests.” The governor also unveiled three categories to describe an infection status in Shiga set by the prefectural government, underscoring the current status as the “Warning Stage.”

Mr. Mikazuki also mentioned that the prefectural high/junior high/special support schools, now closing down, are in the preparation process of reopening on June 1. With Osaka and Kyoto still facing serious challenges, the governor pointed out the need for the citizens to brace themselves, saying “we still cannot let our guard down.”

(Kyoto Shimbun, May 15, 2020)

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05/11/2020

Shiga Prefecture to take employment creation initiatives aimed at those who lost their jobs

On May 8, the Shiga Prefectural Government held a meeting of the Task Force for Comprehensive Economic and Employment Measures, showing its policy to take the prefecture-led employment creation initiatives aimed at those who lost their jobs due to the spread of the COVID-19. The first package will be proposed in May, followed by the second one in June.

Governor Mikazuki says, “the recent self‐imposed control has made the business environment worse, causing instability of employment,” unveiling that the prefecture is formulating measures including directly employing temporal workers. The measures will also be designed for the agriculture, forestry, and fishery industries to hire seasonal workers.

Besides, the Shiga Prefectural Government, in cooperation with the Shiga Social Security Consultant Association, will help disseminate and facilitate the Employment Adjustment Subsidy, which financially supports private corporations suspending their business operations.

(Chunichi Shimbun, May 9, 2020)

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05/05/2020

Medical Testing Center for Outpatients to be newly established in four regions: Otsu, Takashima, Konan-Koga, and Higashiomi.

The Shiga Prefecture Council on New Coronavirus Infection Control Measures held a meeting on May 4 at the Shiga Prefecture Crisis Management Center. The Council, comprised of key organizations such as the Shiga Prefectural Government, the Shiga Medical Association, and the Shiga Prefecture Hospital Association, decided to establish the “Medical Testing Center for Outpatients” in four regions in the prefecture to strengthen the PCR testing system.

According to the prefectural government, the establishment of the new Centers will enable potential patients to take tests without being introduced by the existing Consultation Center for Returnees and Contacts. At least one Center will be established in the four regions respectively, namely Otsu, Takashima, Konan-Koga, and Higashiomi.

The number of beds for patients infected with COVID-19 is currently 109 and is expected to reach 140 by the end of May. The infection rate resulting from PCR tests was 8% at its peak in early April, but it dropped to 0.6% as of May 1. A Shiga official of the Department of Public Health Care and Welfare says, “Just like the national trend, viral infection cannot be confirmed largely in cities and towns.”

(Chunichi Shimbun , May 5, 2020)

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05/03/2020

The number of visitors from other prefectures has inched up since the first day of Golden Week holidays

On May 1, the Information Policy Division of the Shiga Prefectural Government, intending to prevent COVID-19 from spreading, disclosed the results of the state of the moving population, utilizing big data in analyzing positional information provided by the IT giant Yahoo. The results show the number of visitors from other prefectures has inched up since the first day of Golden Week holidays.

According to the Division, the number of visitors from other prefectures was steadily decreasing between the early and late April, by 66% of the reduction compared to the same period of the previous year. This trend, however, was reversed on April 29, the first day of Golden Week, with the number slightly being increased compared to the previous week, even if the number was reduced by approximately 60% compared to the previous year.

Analyzed by age, it has turned out that the number of teenagers increased at commercial facilities in front of JR Otsukyo Station and Kusatsu Station West Gate in comparison to the last year. This state might be because schools have been closed.

Through its relevant research, youngsters such as teenagers living in Shiga have turned out to be less motivated with precautions against COVID-19. According to a questionnaire survey targeted at Shiga’s citizens through LINE, a freeware app for instant communications, those who belonged to the category of students showed a higher ratio of “Nothing done for precautions.”

The survey results can be accessed at the official website of the Shiga Prefectural Government.

(Chunichi Shimbun, May 3, 2020)

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10/12/2019

Shigaraki Hights Railway has started operating an ad-wrapped train which is themed with a new TV drama series “Scarlet”

An ad-wrapped train which is themed with Scarlet, a new TV drama series broadcast at NHK, became operational on September 29. The story of the drama unfolds in Shigaraki, depicting the life of a female potter. The ceremony was held at Shigaraki Station of Shigaraki Hights Railway, where Erika Toda, an actress playing the protagonist, attended.

At the ceremony, Ms. Toda says, “I hope the viewers will feel pottery's attraction and profundity through the drama. I would like to keep focused on my role for half a year just like this train." She cracked a decorative paper ball together with the participants including Hiroki Iwanaga, mayor of Koka City where Shigaraki is located.

On the train’s exterior, an enlarged image of Toda spinning a pottery wheel and of a title logo is printed. On the interior, pieces of illustration of pottery colored with yellow and orange and the actress's signatures can be seen. The train is to be operated until March 28 next year.

Scarlet is the 101st NHK morning drama series, which is to start broadcasting from September 30.

(Sankei Shimbun, September 29, 2019)

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09/29/2019

Prefectural Government set up a study group on fermentation as the next key industry

The Shiga Prefectural Government (SPG) set up the Study Group on the Development of the Fermentation Industry in Shiga on September 6, intending to nurture the fermentation field as a key industry expected to lead the local economy. Shiga has so-called "fermented food culture" represented by funazushi (fermented crucian carp sushi), and it is largely believed that this food culture has helped the prefecture acquire NO.1 regarding healthy life expectancy across the nation.

The SPG is to have consecutive discussions with business leaders on the current situation regarding the fermentation industry and a possible industrial development plan, exploring the possibility of expanding business opportunities for growth.

The study group was attended by 7 experts including Professor June Shima of Faculty of Agriculture, Ryukoku University, fermented food producers, cooking specialists, chamber of commerce and industry representatives.

The first meeting was held on September 6 at “Unoya,” a public hall once used as a Japanese sake brewery, formerly owned by former Prime Minister Uno and now owned by Moriyama City Office. It was reported and confirmed that traditional fermented foods such as funazushi, Japanese sake, and soy sauce were produced in the prefecture and that there were several universities and research institutes specialized in agriculture and biotechnology as well.

“If small-scale enterprises network themselves with each other, it will revitalize the fermentation industry in the area as a whole,” says Kotaro Ikeshima, owner of HAPPY TAROU JOZOJO, which produces and sells koji (malted rice) and miso (fermented soybean paste).

"Small businesses are better at creating unique products, and this should be their strength," adds Tsuyako Kokabu, president of Kokabu Farm, which handles sweets using cheese.

“Local people think it is usual for them to consume fermented foods, but this can be appealing to people out of Shiga,” explains Takashi Aoki, secretary-general of Takashima City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which organizes study groups and shops.

Considering that the fermentation industry deals with various fields such as chemicals, medicines, and agriculture, the study group confirmed at the first meeting that the study field would cover medicines, cosmetics, bioplastics, bioethanol, and environmental cleanup.

The SPG is to organize several meetings to discuss the current situations and challenges, intending to incorporate an industrial development plan on the fermentation industry into the Shiga Industrial Development Vision, which will be revised within FY 2019.

(Sankei Shimbun, September 7, 2019)

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07/02/2017

The number of tourists who stay at Shiga's hotels has decreased

The number of tourists who stay at accommodations in Shiga, steadily increasing in the recent years and having reached its peak in 2015, has started decreasing since 2016. The first quarter of this year's figure has dropped by 12% compared to the previous year’s first quarter, showing that the decline has become apparent. Accommodations in Shiga have attracted tourists, taking advantage of the situation that their competitors in Kyoto and Osaka have been unable to handle the influx of tourists. The hotels in Kyoto and Osaka, however, have expanded their capacities, making the tourism industry in Shiga feel a sense of crisis under the current trend.

 

According to a survey by Japan Tourism Agency, the number of tourists who stayed at accommodations in Shiga in 2016 is 4.68 million, having decreased by 13% compared with the previous year’s 5.39 million. Confined to international tourists, 2016’s figure is 470 thousand while 2015’s is 480 thousand.

 

"Shiga’s hotels were selected by tourists who couldn’t find in Kyoto or Osaka, but the situation regarding the two prefectures is being improved. It is safe to assume that the Shiga’s figure has dropped because of that,” says an official of Tourism and International Exchange Bureau, unveiling its plan to conduct a series of events in October featuring the prefecture’s Japan Heritage sites.

 

(Kyoto Shimbun, June 23, 2017)

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