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Kobe Mayor Sasayama says he will resign.

KOBE, July 31 Kyodo


Kazutoshi Sasayama, mayor of Kobe for 12 years, said Tuesday he will not seek reelection in the mayoral race in November in the western port city.

''I originally planned to quit when my second term expired (in 1997), but I could not run away from (the effects of) the Great Hanshin Earthquake,'' Sasayama, 77, told reporters.

About 6,400 people were killed in the 1995 quake in Kobe, which devastated Japan's sixth largest city.

Sasayama declined to name his preferred successor, only saying, ''I have somebody in mind.'' Deputy Mayor Tatsuo Yada, 61, is believed to be the favorite to take over as mayor.

Sasayama was hired by the city in 1946 and held such posts as head of the city planning bureau and deputy mayor before being elected mayor in 1989. He is currently serving his third four-year term.

Kobe is one of 12 cities outside Tokyo which the central government grants wider political jurisdiction than for other municipalities. Its population was 1.5 million as of July 1.

The announcement was made on the day that Hyogo Gov. Toshitami Kaihara, another local leader who worked to reconstruct the damaged region, resigned. Kobe is Hyogo's prefectural capital.

''It has been a heavy burden to me that the quake resulted in the deaths of as many as 6,400 people even though my crisis management operation was the most appropriate,'' Kaihara, 67, told his last press conference.

Vice Gov. Toshizo Ido was elected successor in Sunday's gubernatorial election.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:Aug 6, 2001
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