Yokohama Mayor Leaps from “Blank Slate” to “Sense of Crisis” on IR Development

After two-and-a-half years of repeating that she was a “blank slate” on IR development, Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi’s new mantra appears to be that she feels “a sense of crisis” that the city’s IR bid must go forward. Reactions to this rather sudden public transformation are receiving mixed reviews.

At the opening of the Yokohama City Council session on September 3, the mayor stated, “I’ve decided upon an IR bid due to my sense of crisis about Yokohama’s future. It’s a big national project which could become a driving force for tourism and the regional economy in Yokohama.”

Mayor Hayashi submitted a revised budget to the city council including 260 million yen (about US$2.5 million) for IR-related expenses.

A survey of opinion by the Mainichi Shinbun found that none of the city council’s caucuses was prepared to immediately accept the mayor’s revised budget, and some were already announcing opposition to the IR-related budget.

Meanwhile, it is widely conjectured in the Japanese media, especially among left-leaning publications, that Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga is the real string-puller behind Mayor Hayashi’s transformation.

For example, Shigeaki Koga, a frequent critic of the Abe government, wrote in a major magazine. “Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the main pillar of the Abe government whose hometown is Yokohama, is said to be Hayashi’s political guardian. Although ‘guardian’ has a pleasant ring to it, the truth of the matter is more that Hayashi is his loyal dog. As his subordinate, Hayashi has no choice but to go along with Suga, although for her own election purposes she pretended to be neutral for a while.”

To date there has been no hard evidence linking Suga to the Yokohama mayor’s decision to make an IR bid, but it is widely believed and it affects perceptions of the issue, especially among casino opponents. (AGB Nippon)