The latest political scandal in Japan involves an education foundation for children in Osaka by the name of Moritomo Gakuen (gakuen meaning "educational foundation.")
Moritomo Gakuen's leader Hiroshi Moritomo, is a member of the Nippon Kaigi ("Japan Conference"), a nationalist organization founded in 1997 that basically wants to turn the clock back politically and socially to how Japan was pre-World War Two - and we're not talking Taisho democracy, but the militaristic pre-war Japan in which the Japanese Army, with the compliance of the established politicians, was able to lead Japan into a foolhardy and ultimately disastrous military endeavor, while the population was kept about as enlightened about what was going on in the realm of Japanese government and in the world at large as North Korea's population is today.
The militaristic nature of the education that Moritomo provides its pupils is clear from how they are regularly sent on class trips to military bases, to shout "Go for it, Prime Minister Abe" (Abe sori daijin, gambare!) when the prime minister's efforts to relax the strictly anti-militaristic element in article 9 of the Constitution in a law that made it through the National Diet last March, and made to write letters of encouragement to Japanese troops going abroad on U.N. peacekeeping missions having been enabled to do so by those changes to Article 9 (a politically charged subject in Japan where Article 9 had forbidden the dispatch of troops overseas). Then there are the reports of teachers at Moritomo poisoning children's minds with racist abuse against Koreans and Chinese - peoples disdained by Japan's right wing. This is all with the aim of recreating a "beautiful Japan," according to Moritomo.
This extreme right-wing foundation was recently discovered to have purchased what was a national government-owned plot of land in the Osaka region for a new school at a fraction (about 7%) of the official valution. The elementary school is due to open in April, and the original name touted for it by Moritomo was "Shinzo Abe Memorial Elementary School."
And the tight bond between Moritomo Gakuen and the leader of Japan, prime minister Shinzo Abe, and his wife, Akie Abe, forms the kernel of this scandal. The intimacy was such that Akie Abe was, until recently, honorary principal of the school. She denies that she accepted the position, pleading the very feeble excuse that it was announced by Moritomo Gakuen in front of parents without her having been told of it beforehand, so she felt obliged! She recently resigned the position when the scandal came to light.
The feebleness of this "I didn't mean it"-ness is matched by that of her husband, Prime Minister Abe, who says that it is too bad about how the school used his name to sell the idea of Moritomo to parents of prospective students, in spite of his repeatedly having requested them to stop. Really? The prime minister - a fellow member of the Nihon Kaigi, and a much more powerful one than Moritomo - has to stand by wringing his hands, dumb, while someone uses his very name for advertising purposes in spite of his having expressly forbidden it? Unlikely.
Further grist for the scandal is that the Finance Ministry claims that records of the negotiations that led to the massive discount being given to Moritomo were destroyed - a very suspicious happening in Japan, and in particular on the part of bureaucrats, where everything is meticulously recorded and retained.
It has come to light that the Liberal Democratic Party veteran administrator, Yoshitada Kohnoike, who was at one stage the Minister of State for Disaster Management, was approached by a director of Moritomo, Yasunori Kagoike, in 2014 with repeated requests for a discount on the land. Kohnoike just saw fit yesterday to hold a press conference to let everyone know that he rejected the request and the envelope proffered to him, but why did Kohnoike see fit to report an act of attempted bribery only now? Clearly a fit of panic. The press had to find out for itself, however, that on two occasions, in 2014 and 2015, Kohnoike accepted 100,000 yen both times from Moritomo for his election campaign.
The scandal is running full steam right now, and the stakes have been considerably raised by Prime Minister Abe having pledged to resign if it is found that he had a hand in giving government land to Moritomo almost for free. Matte miyo! ("Let's wait and see.")
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