• Politics & Government

Japan Politician Shimomura Trying to Make His Presence Felt quickly

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Hakubun Shimomura, right, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council, at a press conference at the Diet on Dec. 10

Hakubun Shimomura, chairperson of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council, is trying hard to make his presence felt, launching discussions on measures to cope with hikikomori recluses and seeking to revise the law on special measures against the novel coronavirus during next year’s ordinary Diet session.

“There’s no group in the party to discuss the issue of hikikomori recluses. I’ve set up a new project team within the council, based on my strong awareness of the issue,” Shimomura said at a press conference Wednesday. Shimomura is known for being involved in educational affairs and sees this as a related issue.

Having also touched on the law on special measures against the novel coronavirus at the press conference, Shimomura expressed his desire to submit a relevant bill to an ordinary Diet session next year.

The National Governors’ Association has proposed to the government adding punitive measures to the law, to ensure the effectiveness of requests for businesses to suspend operations. However, the government and the LDP’s coalition partner Komeito remain cautious about a drastic revision of the law, including the introduction of penalties.

Shimomura has been criticized within the LDP for his hasty moves. Hiroshi Moriyama, chairperson of the LDP Diet Affairs Committee, said: “It’s important to select bills carefully.”

The challenge for Shimomura is coordinating opinions. Shimomura was unable to agree on terms with his counterpart from Komeito, Yuzuru Takeuchi, over raising out-of-pocket medical costs for people aged 75 or over. In the end, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, also the LDP president, and Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi agreed to double the medical expenses to 20% for people with annual incomes of ¥2 million or more.

Shimomura showed a positive attitude in October toward the introduction of a system that allows married couples to use separate surnames, saying, “We can discuss the issue in line with changing times.” However, he refrained from commenting on the subject in December after conflicting opinions emerged within the party concerning a new basic plan for gender equality, which is set to be finalized by the government.

Shimomura is close to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and held key posts in the Abe administration, including education, culture, sports, science and technology minister; executive acting secretary general of the LDP; and chairperson of the party’s Election Strategy Committee. He is a member of the faction of Hiroyuki Hosoda, the largest in the LDP, and has expressed interest in running in the next LDP presidential election.

Shimomura’s recent remarks and acts seem to reflect his desire to build up his achievements. A former Cabinet member said: “He used to have the backing of the former prime minister. He’s now at a crucial stage.”