Foot-in-mouth disease: Japan’s politicians and their gaffes

Disaster reconstruction minister Masahiro Imamura

Disaster reconstruction minister Masahiro Imamura

Apparently members of the Liberal Democratic Party have always been controversial over the past six decades.

Japan’s minister in charge of rebuilding the tsunami-hit northeast resigned Wednesday after causing offence by saying it was “good” the 2011 disaster happened there and not in Tokyo.

It was just the latest example of the foot-in-mouth disease which has long afflicted members of the Liberal Democratic Party that has governed the country for most of the past six decades.

Following are some of the most infamous examples:

In 1986, then-prime minister Yasuhiro Nakasone came under fire for saying “the intelligence level in the United States is compromised because of the black population”.

In reaction to angry protests, he made the situation worse by insisting that Japan, in contrast, was a “mono-ethnic country”. That angered minority groups such as the indigenous Ainu.

In 1995, Takami Eto resigned as head of the Management and Coordination Agency after saying that Japan “did some good things” when it ruled the Korean peninsula as a colony from 1910-1945, such as building roads, railways and schools.

He quit after his remarks threatened to cause the cancellation of a Japan-South Korea summit.

In 2003, former prime minister Yoshiro Mori, one of Japan’s most gaffe-prone politicians, drew fire for suggesting childless women should be denied welfare payments in old age.

“Women who have not had a single child get old after their wonderful free life and then ask for public money (in welfare). That doesn’t make sense at all.”

Also in 2003, then-senior ruling party lawmaker Seiichi Ota was forced to apologise for saying that students arrested over gang rapes were “fine, as they are in good spirits” as he lamented Japan’s low birthrate.

In 2007, then-health minister Hakuo Yanagisawa infamously referred to women as “child-bearing machines”.

And in 2013, blue-blood politician Taro Aso, a former prime minister who serves as finance minister, said that Japan’s elderly should be allowed to “hurry up and die” instead of being kept alive and costing the government money for end-of-life medical care.

© Agence France-Presse

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