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)



Shiga Prefectural Government is struggling to grow out of being an "exploiter."

Shiga Prefectural Government has unveiled that its 10 employees were engaged in more than 1,000-hour overtime work in FY 2016. Although the number has been reduced by half compared to the previous year which recorded 20 employees, chronic overtime work can still be seen among the Shiga officials. The Prefectural Government is making efforts to reduce it by 15% in FY 2017.

According to Personnel Division, there were 3 officials of Recycling Society Promotion Division whose overtime work exceeded 1,000 hours in FY 2016 because of an influx of workload to renew licenses regarding waste disposal. Two divisions - Child and Youth Affairs Bureau and Tourism and International Exchange Bureau - followed suit with 2 officials respectively. Financial Administration Division, the most “notorious” division in FY 2105 with 9 officials, had only 1 the following fiscal year. Hikone Family Consulting Center, which had 3 officials in FY 2015, didn’t have anyone engaged in more than 1,000-hour excessive work. 

The Prefectural Government has taken an emergency countermeasure to control overtime work since February this year, successfully reducing it in February and March by 20% compared to the previous year.

The Prefectural Government is in the process of formulating an action plan to cut overtime work per person by 15% this fiscal year, considering that the current measures already implemented are not effective enough. According to the plan, to be implemented are new measures: outsourcing administrative processes, enhancing standardization of business control, and introducing voice recognition software to take the minutes.

(May 27, 2017, Kyoto Shimbun)



Prefectural Government started this year's "Summer Eco-Style" campaign

"Summer Eco-Style," a Prefectural Government's campaign encouraging its employees to work in business casual attire, started on May 1. The prefecture's employees, wearing neither jackets nor ties, could be seen at the Prefectural Government building complex on the first day. This campaign continues to the end of October.

The campaign began in 1979, with the aim of giving the employees a healthy work environment, and of controlling temperature properly in the buildings. During the campaign, the prefectural officials are encouraged to wear light clothes while demonstrating “trust and integrity.” They are also recommended to wear clothes made of locally-produced textures such as Takashima cotton crepe and Koto hemp fabric.

A 32-year-old official wearing a shirt with half sleeves, who belongs to Global Warming Issues Division, says, "This is very comfortable. I think it's going to be very hot soon, and I want to overcome the heat with lighter clothes."

(Sankei Shimbun, May 2, 2017)



Discussion to make Lake Biwa Day a holiday was heated

The Shiga Strategic Meeting between Governor and Mayors, where Governor Mikazuki and the heads of municipalities are expected to exchange their views with each other, was held at Nagahama City Office on April 11. One of the topics discussed was the governor’s desire to make Lake Biwa Day (July 1) a holiday, provoking a heated discussion.

Eigo Tanihata, mayor of Konan City, who used to work for the Prefectural Government, opened the debate, saying “this is nothing new, popping up again and again in the past within the Prefectural Government.” The mayor showed his skepticism over the issue, pointing out that the public schools, which have difficulty in securing enough time for students to study, don’t have the luxury to follow suit. He also said, “it is impossible for Shiga-based corporations to stop their business operation on that day, while private companies in other prefectures are active.”

Yoshiaki Yamanaka, mayor of Yasu City, criticized the idea, saying “there are a lot of challenges that should be overcome, and unless problems and risks are clearly addressed, we can’t even start a discussion.” In addition, Masaaki Fukui, mayor of Takashima City, showed his cautious attitude. “There should be a logical framework which leads to the realization of the policy.”

On the other hand, Kazuhiro Miyamoto, mayor of Moriyama City, showed his favorable response, proposing that Lake Biwa Day is shifted to the first Sunday to avoid creating a new holiday. In response to this, Masahiro Nomura, mayor of Ritto City, said, “I couldn’t agree more, and we should deepen the discussion based on the premise that there are alternative ideas including not making Lake Biwa Day a holiday.”

“It is not our purpose to make Lake Biwa Day a holiday. It is just a way to raise public awareness regarding the current challenges of Lake Biwa,” says Governor Mikazuki, who commented that the prefecture would examine the opinions presented.

Lake Biwa Day was created in commemoration of the Ordinance for the Prevention of Eutrophication of Lake Biwa, which was enacted on July 1, 1980. Governor Mikazuki has shown his intention this year to explore the possibility of making the day a holiday, in accordance with the Local Government Act.

(Chunichi Shimbun, April 12, 2017)



JETRO is to open a new domestic branch office in Hikone in July

JETRO, or the Japan External Trade Organization, has unveiled that it is going to open a domestic branch office in Hikone, Shiga, in July. The Shiga Prefectural Government was officially notified of the plan on March 2.

With four staff members stationed at, the new office, which is called the JETRO Shiga Trade Information Center, will start its activities in a building where the Hikone Chamber of Commerce and Industry is located.

The new office is JETRO's 44th domestic branch office.

(The Nikkei, March 3, 2017)



Crisis Management Center to get operational in January 2016

The cornerstone-laying ceremony for the Shiga Prefecture Crisis Management Center was held on July 15. The Center, which had been constructed recently, will become operational in January 2016 after installing the equipment and the wireless-activated disaster warning system.

The Shiga Prefectural Government (SPG) has used Prefectural Assembly Committee Room as a base facility in an emergency, but it has been pointed out that making the Room operational would take time in spite of the need to handle the disaster as soon as possible. To address the issue, SPG started constructing the Center in January 2014 and completed the construction in June 2015.

The Center is a five-story building with its floor space being approximately 5,460 square kilometers. The building, where SPG’s Disaster and Crisis Management Bureau is to be located, has Operation Room where information is to be collected and analyzed, Disaster Prevention Room where SPG is to collaborate with Self-Defense Force and Fire Brigade, and a warehouse where emergency drinking water and food are to be in storage. The total construction cost is approximately 6 billion yen.

"Nobody knows when disasters such as earthquakes and storm and flood damage will occur. I will ensure everyone’s security and safety, by making good use of the Center,” Governor Mikazuki said in his speech at the ceremony. After the speech, a cornerstone box made of stainless steel was buried in the ground, containing several newspapers published on that day, commemorative coins issued this year, and a blueprint of the building.

(Sankei Shimbun, July 9, 2015)



Otsu City to bear the cost of renovating the exterior of JR Otsu Station

The City of Otsu has signed an Memorandum of Understanding with JR West on May 8 to share the cost of renovating the exterior of JR Otsu Station, starting to rehabilitate the timeworn station itself and its surrounding area.

Mayor Naomi Koshi and Kyoto Branch Director Ushio Kurahara held a joint-press conference. Koshi underscored the importance of the renovation project, saying “We will not only renovate the exterior but also improve the area. This is just the beginning.” Director Kurahara added, “We would like to make the building seem friendly to citizens rather than surprising.”

The construction project costs one hundred million yen and will be equally borne by three organizations: the city government, the national government, and JR West. The project is scheduled to be started in autumn and to be completed in March 2016. Although the design of the building has not been determined, JR West, in consultation with the City, will attract tenants to the station building which is now deserted. The City plans to rehabilitate the surrounding area by conducting land reallocation and cruise tours in Lake Biwa Canal.

According to a survey targeted at passengers as well as companies in the area in 2014, 56.6% of the respondents answered that the renovation of the exterior should be first priority, and 55.7% of the respondents answered that the station should be proper enough to be a symbol of the capital city of Shiga Prefecture.

JR Otsu Station opened in 1975 and hasn’t experienced any major renovation project since then. The average passengers per day in 2014 is 35,306, ranking as the 6th busiest station in the prefecture.

(Chunichi Shimbun, May 9, 2015)



Physical Strength and Athletic Ability Test: Shiga's middle school children exceed national average

This year's Physical Strength and Athletic Ability Test, an annual nation-wide test in which primary school children in the fifth grade and middle school children in the second year take part, demonstrates favorable results for Shiga Prefecture, due to the middle school boys and girls exceeding the national average scores.

Although Shiga's primary school children are still below the national average, progress can be found especially among the girls whose average scores this year are the highest in the recent five years, indicating that the measures taken by the Prefectural Board of Education and schools are on the right track.

The average scores of Shiga's primary school children turned out to be much lower than the national average in 2009, and the Board of Education started examining possible measures after that, leading to the programs initiated in 2011 such as a campaign  encouraging the students to exercise 30 minutes a day. Thanks to this, the number of students who like sports is increasing. "We see a positive effect in our programs," says an official in charge.

(Chunichi Shimbun, December 2, 2014)



Election: 1.12 million voters registered in Shiga

The Shiga Election Administration Commission announced that Shiga has 1.12 million registered voters as of June 25, which has increased by 13,493 since 2010 when the last gubernatorial election was held.

The number of male voters are 547,169, having increased by 6,425. On the other hand, the number of female voters are 575,341, having increased by 7,068.

By municipality, ten cities and towns are on the increase; the registered electorate in Otsu and Kusatsu have augmented by 6,129 and 5,368 respectively. Meanwhile, nine cities and towns are on the decrease; the electorate in Nagahama and Takashima have dropped by 1,475 and 1,049 respectively.

The upcoming gubernatorial election is going to be held on July 13.

(Kyoto Shimbun, June 25, 2014)



Shiga-produced beef to be exported to the Philippines

Shiga-produced beef called "Omi beef" will be exported to the Philippines from June 23. This island country in Southeast Asia will be the fourth destination for the Shiga Meat Center, a processing facility dealing with Shiga-produced beef, to export Omi beef to. "We will dig into markets as many as possible," says Governor Yukiko Kada with great enthusiasm.

According to the Shiga Prefectural Government, delegates of the Philippine Government inspected and evaluated the Center in June 2013, and based on the results, in May 2014 Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare gave the Center a license to do business with the Philippines.   

Starting with Macau as the first destination, the Center has been exporting the beef since June 2010, and Singapore and Thailand were later included in the list. The amount of beef exported to the three destinations in FY 2013 is 18 tons, which is equivalent to 304 head of cattle. "According to the local people, Omi beef, which is soft and has a high degree of marbled fat, has gained a good reputation as tasty high-quality Japanese beef," confidently says a Prefectual Goverment official.

In addition, Omi beef is exported to Hong Kong via a different processing facility located out of the prefecture. "The domestic market is shrinking due to decrease in population, and we expect a huge potential in Southeast Asian countries as their economies are expanding," says the official.

(Chunichi Shimbun, June19, 2014)


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