The Upper House served Sunday and Monday as the venue for the Kodomo Kokkai (Kids’ Diet), which brought together 150 schoolchildren from across the nation to discuss various issues and demonstrate a sense of community.
Held for the first time in 12 years, the special youth education event concluded Monday with the participants issuing a declaration stating they won’t forget the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and vowing to make use of the lessons learned from the calamity.
The 11- and 12-year-olds, from Hokkaido to Okinawa, formed six committees to discuss issues ranging from their ties with families and friends and the country and communities, to people around the world.
“We will not forget the earthquake, and will strive for happiness in our daily lives and support each other through family and friends,” said the declaration approved Monday.
It was the third such gathering of kids at the Upper House. The first meeting was held in 1997 on the 50th anniversary of the chamber, when 252 pupils discussed various issues. The second conference was held in 2000, when the same number talked about the environment, education and social welfare.
“Your generation has future agendas” that need to be addressed, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told Monday’s gathering, emphasizing the nation’s rapidly graying society.
He also thanked the students, who, unlike many Diet members, concentrated on what he said.
“It was the first time people listened to me quietly since I became prime minister,” he joked.
The Upper House vote on Noda’s key bills, particularly those to double the sales tax and reform the social security system, has been delayed. The opposition camp is accusing the ruling Democratic Party of Japan of deliberately delaying the voting schedule in the chamber.
Once the bills are passed, the opposition may slap Noda with no-confidence or censure motions in the Diet, forcing the prime minister deeper into a corner and setting the stage for the dissolution of the Lower House and a snap poll.