Governor Kada rejects Kyoto merging with Shiga

Image from Wikipedia.

One proposal for Doshusei prefectural mergers (9 states). Image from Wikipedia.

NHK TV news in Otsu reported an interesting bit of news on Feb. 26, 2013 about the governor of Kyoto stating that he was in favor of merging Kyoto and Shiga Prefectures. And that Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada rejected such a merger saying that she did not see how Shiga could benefit.

This is what Kyoto Governor Keiji Yamada stated in front of the Kyoto Prefectural Assembly on On Feb. 25, 2013:

“Kyoto and Shiga Prefectures share a lot within our living and working spheres, so merging is a practical option. If this happens, we could also think about moving Kyoto’s prefectural capital to Otsu.”

In Japanese: 「滋賀県とは生活区域や働く場所など共通点が非常に多いので合併というのも1つの現実的な対応ではないか。そうした場合、政治論からすれば、大津に府庁を持って行くことも考えられる」

Reacting to this, Governor Kada told reporters:

“Shiga has a history of 1,300 years. Since we are bound/unified by a natural lake, we are called ‘Lake country’ and ‘Omi Province.’ We’re older than Kyoto (grin)…Shiga is also governed by a tightly-knit government and people in Shiga love their hometown and retain a strong identity. I don’t really see any benefits right now in erasing Shiga or merging with Kyoto.”

In Japanese: 「滋賀県は湖でつながり、一体的に行政運営もなされ、県民の皆さんも地元を愛しているので、京都と一緒になるメリットは今のところ見えない」

This talk is in reference to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and other parties’ push for the Doshusei (道州制) system of consolidating Japan’s prefectures (except Hokkaido and Okinawa) into larger regional states. The Kyoto governor’s statement was made amid this national discussion so it’s not totally out of the blue.

If you live in Japan, you should learn and remember the word Doshusei. It literally means, “Hokkaido+states system.” It’s been kicked around for quite some time, but it has become more prominent in the past 10 years and you can be sure to hear it more often from now on, especially with the Liberal Democratic Party in power.

The Doshusei system is a major reform and realignment of Japan’s governmental jurisdictions. The word “prefecture” would disappear, replaced by “state.” It would be similar to when prefectures consolidated and replaced the old samurai domains called han (藩) in 1871. That was called haihan-chiken (廃藩置県). There are Doshusei proposals to consolidate Japan’s 47 prefectures into 9, 11, or 13 states. Hokkaido and Okinawa would remain as separate states, while the remaining 45 prefectures would be merged into regional states.

The image at the top gives you an idea of what the new united states of Japan might look like in the case of having nine states. Shiga Prefecture (white dot) would basically merge with Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Nara, and Wakayama Prefectures (all in light green in the middle). (There is also a proposal to include Fukui Prefecture.) It combines the Kansai and Kinki regions.

The goals and benefits of the Doshusei system supposed to be the decentralization of the national government in favor of more local autonomy. Another benefit supposed to be improved fiscal and administrative efficiency which I hope means a smaller and less costly government. I guess the six governors of six merging prefectures would be replaced by only one governor right?

Kyoto Governor Yamada’s statement favoring a merger with Shiga is premature since ultimately it’s not a matter of only Kyoto and Shiga merging, but the merger of at least six prefectures. Wouldn’t it be more efficient and less costly to merge all at once instead of only Kyoto and Shiga at first, then add Osaka, etc., later? I can only dismiss Governor Yamada’s statement as just “feelers” for a reaction from Shiga which has been “no” so far (at least from Gov. Kada). I’m sure Kyoto would love to claim Shiga as its own. Lake Biwa is their (and Osaka’s) water supply and would be the most prized possession. For us in Shiga, we could say that we live in Kyoto instead of always saying, “Next to Kyoto.”

One big sticking point for the Doshusei system would be what to name the new state and how the old prefectures would be able to retain their local names, identity, and flavor. Prefectures like Kyoto and Osaka with capital cities having the same name will be able to retain their names on the map. But not Shiga, unless they figure something out. What would people call the area once known as Shiga Prefecture? Omi? Biwako area? Eastern Kinki (if the new state will be called Kinki)?

Any prefectural merger would render the name “Shiga” obsolete unless they name the new state “Shiga” (fat chance). There are many things named “Shiga,” universities, public facilities, etc. And of course, Web sites like mine. Hence, my interest in this news.

Also, sister-state relations between Shiga and Michigan will likely encompass the entire super state. Michigan will be a sister state with Kyoto, Osaka, etc., as well. Imagine that.

But a prefectural merger and/or the implementation of the Doshusei system is inevitable. The question is when and how. Will it be a super merger of all prefectures at one time or piece meal? Will it occur all over Japan at the same time or at different times? Governor Kada has set up a research group (道州制研究チーム) to study the pros and cons of the Doshusei system. It’s basically a money matter though. If there are enough financial incentives, the prefectures will merge as the cities, towns, and villages have done in recent years.

The problem with Facebook

Facebook is the most popular Internet service I’ve ever seen. In the United States, a staggering 7 out of 10 Internet users are on Facebook. Despite the enormous popularity, I have declined to create a Facebook page for shiga-ken.com even though I’m an active FB user.

Here are my reasons:

  • Not everyone is on Facebook. In fact, many of my friends are still not on Facebook or they are just too busy for FB. People not on FB cannot see any content there. Also, you have to be at least 13 years old to register on FB. I know there are kids younger than age 13 reading my blog to study English. But everyone can see my Shiga News blog.
  • Facebook is geared for short, fleeting posts and content. Whereas my content are usually longer than a paragraph, more in-depth, and can be useful as practical information/reference for a much longer time.
  • We cannot organize or categorize Facebook posts according to theme or key words. Facebook posts can be archived only by timeline (month and year). Look at my Shiga News blog. All my posts can be archived in categories (city, town, festivals, etc.) as well as by year/month. This is not possible with Facebook.
  • Facebook posts do not have individual URLs. If there is an FB post I like, I cannot send the URL to anyone nor bookmark it for later reference.
  • We cannot conduct key word searches of FB posts. FB posts also do not show up in Google search results as blog posts do. All that content you create on FB gets lost in the shuffle as time passes.
  • The quality of the content on FB is inherently low. Lots of noise and superficial posts. It’s simply not a source of quality information. FB can never replace a high-quality Web site or blog. It’s just not conductive to accumulate and host quality content. Why post quality content when it will disappear into obscurity within days?
  • Expending a lot of time and effort to create content that someone else will profit from does not bode well with me. There should be revenue-sharing like Google Ads.
  • Who knows how long Facebook will last? Similar services like Myspace and the once enormously-popular mixi in Japan reached a peak and then went downhill. Sooner or later, people will get tired of all that noise and frivolous chatter and useless automated messages of “so-and-so is now friends with so-and-so” on FB. The novelty will wear off or something better might come along. Although I use FB, I’m not investing heavily into it. I avoid making lots of FB friends, divulging a lot of personal information including likes, and creating a lot of quality content.
  • The content I create on Facebook cannot be downloaded and saved as a backup file. I can always save my Web site and blog content as a backup database file and copy it to another site or host. Not possible with FB which is like a black hole that sucks everything in and gives nothing back except comments, likes, and ads. Someday when you quit FB or if FB implodes like Myspace, all that content you created will not be recoverable in any efficient way. Therefore, I reserve FB for only disposable content that can be written off in the end.

The main attraction of Facebook is the quick feedback and interactivity you can get from posts. Eliciting comments and likes from friends can be addictive. It’s also extremely easy to post on FB. Much easier than posting on a blog. But in the long run, a blog is better than FB because I can have complete control, ownership, and archival capability of my content. Content that anyone on the Internet can see or subscribe to. I’m not at the mercy of Facebook which can change its terms and conditions or system at any time. Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with my best friends, especially in times of emergency. That’s about it.

Update: Article about FB users in Japan losng interest:
http://www.tokyotimes.com/2013/japan-loses-interest-in-facebook/

Nionoumi, sumo wrestler from Shiga Prefecture


Went to see sumo on January 25, 2013, the 13th day of the New Year’s sumo tournament at the Kokugikan sumo arena in Tokyo. I finally saw Nionoumi (鳰の湖), Shiga’s only sekitori (a sumo wrestler in the second-highest Juryo or highest Makunouchi/Makuuchi Division). He was ranked West Juryo No. 14.

It’s been two years since Nionoumi (pronounced Nio-no-umi) first made it to the Juryo Division. He has since been going down and up in the ranks. At this month’s New Year’s tournament in Tokyo, he ended with a decent 8 wins and 7 losses. Since he was already ranked at the bottom of the Juryo Division, it looks like he will retain his rank or be slightly promoted in Juryo for the next tourney in March in Osaka.

This is good news. The difference between Juryo and the lower Makushita Division is huge. There used to always be a Shiga sumo wrestler in the top Makunouchi Division, but not anymore. At least we got one in Juryo who will hopefully get back up to Makunouchi.

Born in 1986 as Shinji Tanaka (田中 真二), Nionoumi is from Otsu and a graduate of Ojiyama Junior High School. He practiced judo as a child and became quite formidable, becoming one of the top 16 junior high school finalists in a national judo tournament. After graduating from junior high school, he entered Kitanoumi Stable run by former Yokozuna Kitanoumi (one of the greatest yokozuna ever) and current chairman of the Japan Sumo Association. Nionoumi made his sumo debut in March 2002. At 175 cm and 148 kg, he’s kind of small for a sumo wrestler and looks somewhat stocky.

His ring name “Nionoumi” means, “Lake of Little Grebes.” This is Lake Biwa’s nickname which stems from the lake’s numerous water fowl including the Little Grebe which is Shiga’s official bird. I think it’s a great ring name. It also retains part of his stablemaster’s ring name of Kitanoumi (Lake of the North 北の湖) which refers to scenic Lake Toya in Hokkaido where Kitanoumi grew up and has his Yokozuna Kitanoumi Memorial Hall museum.

Nionoumi (right) is pushed out by Oiwato on Jan. 25, 2013, the tournament’s 13th day. Video of this bout: http://youtu.be/VPxD8mbxgDk

Nionoumi was first promoted to Juryo in Jan. 2011. But his Juryo debut ended disastrously with 5 wins and 10 losses and he was demoted back to Makushita. After two tourneys in Makushita, he climbed back up to Juryo in Sept. 2011. In Jan. 2012, he even made it to the top Makunouchi/Makuuchi Division as Maegashira No. 16. Unfortunately, his Makunouchi debut ended terribly with 5 wins and 10 losses which demoted him back to Juryo. He has since been struggling in Juryo. Let’s hope that he will keep winning in 2013.

Meanwhile, we have three other sumo wrestlers from Shiga in the lower sumo divisions. In Sandanme, there’s Koryuyama (b. 1979 甲龍山) from Koka and Naniwaryu (b. 1982 浪花竜) from Otsu. And in Jonidan, Tomonofuji (b. 1977 智ノ富士) from Ritto. Although they are already in their 30s (which is quite old for a sumo wrestler), good luck to them as well.

Links: Nionoumi Bio | Koryuyama Bio | Naniwaryu Bio | Tomonofuji Bio

Koryuyama (right) is quickly defeated by Tamanotaka (left) on Jan. 25, 2013, the tournament’s 13th day.

Naniwaryu (right) is pushed out by Nishiyama on Jan. 25, 2013, the tournament’s 13th day.

*Updates: Koryuyama retired at the end of the March 2013 tournament in Osaka. His highest rank was Sandanme 26 with 354 wins, 362 losses, and 33 absences in his career. Also, a new sumo wrestler from Otsu named Kotomiyakura (琴宮倉) appeared in his first tournament in May 2013 in Tokyo

Although Nionomumi did well up to May 2013, he did poorly in July (1-14) and got demoted to Makushita. As of Nov. 2013, he was ranked West Makushita No. 5.

Katsube Shrine Fire Festival video by kids

Video link: http://youtu.be/n-SfD9DFxOg

This is my cutest video of Shiga so far. I have three Japanese kids from Shiga who appear as my English reporters in this video of Katsube Shrine Fire Festival held on Jan. 12, 2013 in Moriyama. The youngest one is age 4.

All three kids are studying English and were eager to speak English as they witnessed the festival. Although I coached their English on the spot, it’s mostly unrehearsed and they were free to say anything in English. I want the kids (and parents) to discover/rediscover and experience their hometowns and become proud and proficient enough to tell other people about it. As you will see, it’s a lot more interesting (and cute) to have ordinary local folks introduce their towns rather than foreigners (including myself) or professional reporters.

Until now, I’ve never had any narrators or reporters in my video clips of Japan. I don’t ever appear or narrate my videos either since I don’t want to divert any attention to me. The kids enjoyed it and want to do it again along with a bunch of their friends (and other parents). If you know of any kids who are studying English and willing to appear in my videos, let me know. This is a totally voluntary and non-profit project.

More photos of Katsube Shrine Fire Festival: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=190

Google Map for Katsube Shrine

Governor Kada’s new political party fizzles out

This has become an “I told you so” story. People who were opposed to Kada joining hands with Ichiro Ozawa must be repeating this a lot.

Most of us can recognize that Governor Kada had good intentions for Shiga from the start, and that she was only victimized by a expert political manipulator and an overwhelming political machine. Her opponents view her as neglecting her gubernatorial duties and seeking national attention.

On Jan. 4, 2013, the first work day, Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada announced that she was resigning from her Tomorrow Party of Japan (Mirai no To) political party that she and Ichiro Ozawa formed a little over a month ago.

Ozawa has enhanced his reputation as a political party “destroyer.” This goes to show that politicians mainly care about themselves and the huge government subsidies (over 800 million yen to Ozawa’s party) given to political parties rather than the people and the country. They spend much time and thought on how to get ahead politically, how to increase their numbers, and then if they have time, they might think about us.

Tomorrow Party of Japan’s Diet numbers shrank from 61 seats to only 9. When the party was formed, Ozawa told Gov. Kada that they would secure 100 seats. He lied, and Kada now reflects that she shouldn’t have believed him. One thing for sure, Ozawa’s political influence is on the decline even though he got re-elected.

Basically, the Ozawa camp were unable to manipulate Kada as the party head. They thought she could be their puppet. But when they found that she had her righteous ideals and could not be molded, they cut her off. They say that they split the party between Ozawa and Kada or that Ozawa left the party. Not really so. Ozawa ousted Governor Kada, took over the party (offices and infrastructure), changed the name, took almost all the Diet seat winners (thereby receiving a huge subsidy for political parties having at least 5 members) and left Kada with only the party’s old name and one Diet seat.

Related news articles:
Nippon Mirai breaks up as Ozawa, allies veer off
Ozawa, Diet cohorts keep party, subsidy, leave Shiga Gov. Kada with Nippon Mirai name only
Kada rues falling for Ozawa’s 100-seat victory overture

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