The Aso Cabinet gaffes start from day one: Minister retracts “ethnically homogeneous Japan” remark


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Hi Blog. As AdamW sent yesterday, the Aso Cabinet is already starting to show the shortsightedness of a “thoroughbred” cabinet (no fewer than four cabinet members are related to former Prime Ministers!)–with a standard comment about Japan’s monocultural nature being taken to task at last (in the bad old days, i.e. last year, this would probably be let slide without much comment).

Looks as though there is a good legacy happening here for a change. PM Obuchi left us with an anthem and flag which is used to beat the Left over the head and enforce patriotism. Koizumi left us with increased surveillance of NJ. Abe left us with an education system which legally requires people to be taught to love their country. But Fukuda has left us with a resolution that works in our favor for a change… Read on. Arudou Debito in Tokyo

LEAD: Nakayama apologizes over gaffes, opposition demands dismissal+
Sep 26 2008 02:30 AM US/Eastern
TOKYO, Sept. 26 (AP) – (Kyodo)—(EDS: RECASTING, ADDING INFO)New transport minister Nariaki Nakayama on Friday apologized over his controversial remarks that included calling Japan “ethnically homogenous,” in face of criticism triggered not only from opposition parties but from ruling party members.While Nakayama denied resigning over his verbal gaffes, made just a day after he assumed the post under Prime Minister Taro Aso, opposition parties called for his dismissal and said they will question Aso’s responsibility for appointing the minister. Yukio Hatoyama, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan, called the remarks extremely rude, telling reporters a mere retraction of them is not enough and that Nakayama “needs to give up his post, not the remarks.”

Similar previous remarks by lawmakers that Japan is a mono-racial society drew protests mainly from the Ainu indigenous people in Japan.

Mizuho Fukushima, leader of the Social Democratic Party, said, “Is he ignorant of a Diet resolution which all the members (of both houses of the Diet) supported?” referring to the parliamentary resolution that urged the government to recognize the Ainu as an indigenous people and to upgrade their status as they have led underprivileged lives under the past assimilation policy.

Fukushima said her party will pursue Aso’s responsibility for appointing a person who is insensitive to human rights to the Cabinet.

Nakayama offered an apology in a news conference Friday, saying, “My recognition is that the Ainu are an indigenous people with various distinctive points.”

He also apologized for another remark in media interviews about those who have engaged in years of struggle against the construction of Narita airport, calling them “more or less squeaky wheels, or I believe they are (the product) of bad postwar education.”

“I’m very sorry for causing much trouble. I retract the comment,” he told a press conference Friday, while refusing to step down to take responsibility over the remarks.

Members of the New Komeito party, the coalition partner of Aso’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, also complained about the remarks, with Diet affairs chief Yoshio Urushibara saying, “They are not something that a minister should say.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told a regular press conference that he told ministers during an informal session following the day’s official Cabinet meeting “to be careful not to make remarks that would cause misunderstanding among the public.”


9 comments on “The Aso Cabinet gaffes start from day one: Minister retracts “ethnically homogeneous Japan” remark

  • An apology is better than nothing, but I’d much prefer this apology to come in the form of some new pieces of legislation that are more in tune with reality.



    Just so you know, I’ve heard that Aso was very much opposed to the LDP report that came out earlier this year calling for increased foreign workers, although whether or not that’s because the report was endorsed by one of his arch political rivals (Nakagawa) is an open question. The appointment of Yuko Obuchi to deal with the declining birthrate says more to me than whatever Aso’s gaffe-of-the-day might be: Aso’s first priority it to appeal to young Japanese women to vote for the LDP, of course, but the LDP is also thinking that she’s a good choice to convince all of those single women in their 30s to get married (to Japanese), stay home, and have kids so Japan won’t need foreigners.


    Controversial statements

    During a meeting of the Kono Group in 2001, Aso drew criticism when he said that “those burakumin can’t become prime minister,” a statement directed at Hiromu Nonaka, a burakumin member of the Diet. Aso’s office later attempted to clarify the statements by saying that they were misunderstood.[19]

    In 2001, as economics minister, he was quoted as saying he wanted to make Japan a country where “rich Jews” would like to live.[20]

    On October 15, 2005, he praised Japan for having “one culture, one civilization, one language, and one ethnic group,” and stated that it was the only such country in the world.[21] At a lecture in Nagasaki Prefecture, Aso referred to a Japanese peace initiative on the Middle East, stating, “The Japanese were trusted because they had never been involved in exploitation there, or been involved in fights or fired machine guns. Japan is doing what the Americans can’t do. It would probably be no good to have blue eyes and blond hair. Luckily, we Japanese have yellow faces.”[20]

    Kyodo News reported that he had said on February 4, 2006 “our predecessors did a good thing” regarding compulsory education implemented during Japan’s colonization of Taiwan.[22]

    On December 21, 2005, he said China was “a neighbour with one billion people equipped with nuclear bombs and has expanded its military outlays by double digits for 17 years in a row, and it is unclear as to what this is being used for. It is beginning to be a considerable threat.”[23] On January 28, 2006, he called for the emperor to visit the controversial Yasukuni shrine. He later backtracked on the comment, but stated that he hoped such a visit would be possible in the future.[24]

    Mainichi Daily News reported that on March 9, 2006 he referred to Taiwan as a “law-abiding country”, which drew strong protest from Beijing, which considers the island a part of China.[25] His implication that Taiwan is an independent nation contradicts the agreement made between Japan and China in 1972 (the Joint Communique of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People’s Republic of China) that the Beijing rather than Taipei government be considered the sole legal government of China and that Taiwan be considered “an inalienable part of the territory of the People’s Republic of China.”

    On September 23, 2008, The AKAHATA, the daily newspaper published by Japanese Communist Party released a compiled list of these and other statements as the front page article criticizing Aso.[26]

    REFERENCES (start from

    ^ (2004-06-30) “the last chapter”, Hiromu Nonaka Discrimination and Power (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4-06-212344-0.
    ^ a b McCurry, Justin (March 23, 2007). “Blue eyes, blond hair: that’s US problem, says Japanese minister”, The Guardian. Retrieved on 2007-09-19., see
    ^ Christopher Reed, “Ghosts of Wartime Japan Haunt Koizumi’s Cabinet”, New America Media, 2005-11-03.
    ^ Kyodo, “Taiwan colonization was ‘good’: Asō”, The Japan Times Online, 2006-02-05.
    ^ “Japan alarmed by Chinese ‘threat’”, BBC, 2005-12-22.
    ^ Kyodo, “Aso rapped for emperor shrine visit remark”,, 2006-01-29.
    ^ (deadlink)
    ^ 新総裁 麻生氏 発言録, しんぶん赤旗, September 23, 2008

  • Considering a “heterogeneous” country is one composed of widely differing constituents (the U.S.), and that a “homogeneous” country is one that is “essentially alike”, it is not wrong to consider the country as relatively (not technically) homogeneous, and international media does so often. だから「単一民族といいます」。 This is an issue of perception.

    Although I’m not a fan of Mr. Nakayama, I at least found his retraction somewhat forward-thinking, but demanding his resignation because of it is going overboard.

  • the LDP is also thinking that she’s a good choice to convince all of those single women in their 30s to get married (to Japanese), stay home, and have kids so Japan won’t need foreigners.

    Huh? The vast majority of “international” marriages happen between Japanese men and foreign women.

  • its actually worse than in the quotes abouve

    he also said japanese dont like or want foreigners around..


    Saturday, Sept. 27, 2008

    Tourism minister apologizes for gaffes

    Staff writer
    New tourism minister Nariaki Nakayama wasted no time putting his foot in it. The day after stating that Japanese do not like foreigners and that the country is ethnically homogeneous, Nakayama apologized Friday and retracted his statements.

    Apologetic: Tourism minister Nariaki Nakayama apologizes Friday in Tokyo for insensitive remarks he made Thursday. KYODO PHOTO

    “I am sorry for having caused trouble to the people,” the land, infrastructure, transport and tourism minister told a news conference. “I retract my remarks that I think fell too short (of an explanation) or went too far.”

    Nakayama, who took up his post on Wednesday, added that he had no intention of resigning to take responsibility for his remarks.

    Nakayama’s gaffe comes just ahead of the Oct. 1 launch of a tourism agency charged with drawing 10 million foreign visitors to the country by 2010.

    A Lower House member from the Miyazaki No. 1 constituency, Nakayama made the comments during an interview Thursday with The Japan Times and other news organizations.

    Asked how more foreign travelers might be enticed to come to Japan in the face of opposition from some locals, Nakayama responded, “Definitely, (Japanese) do not like or desire foreigners.”

    He added that Japan is extremely inward-looking and “ethnically homogeneous.”

    However, he also said it is important for Japanese to open up the nation and their minds to welcome foreign travelers.

    Nakayama is not the first politician to land in hot water for referring to Japan as a homogeneous nation. When in 1986 then Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone described Japan as a nation with a homogeneous race, he was met with a strong backlash mainly from the Ainu, an aboriginal people from north Japan.

    In the same interview Thursday, Nakayama also blamed local residents, citing their lack of self-sacrifice, for the fitful expansion of Narita International Airport in Chiba Prefecture.
    The construction of a second runway was long delayed by clashes with local landowners and their supporters.

    The opponents of the airport expansion “do not have public spirit or willingness even to sacrifice themselves for the public,” Nakayama said.

    “Under such a selfish public tendency, the airport could not easily be expanded, which was very regrettable,” Nakayama said. “In that sense, I envy somewhere like China.”

    He retracted these comments as well.

    A political conservative, Nakayama is a champion of traditional Japanese culture.

    In 2005, he was quoted as saying he was glad that the descriptions of “comfort women” — the wartime-era sex slaves — were removed from junior high school history textbooks.

    He also headed a group that angered China last year by claiming that the 1937 Nanjing Massacre was a fabrication.

    Meanwhile, the opposition camp called the same day for Nakayama’s dismissal.

    Yukio Hatoyama, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan,called Nakayama’s remarks on homogeneity Thursday extremely rude and told reporters he “needs to give up his post, not the remarks.”

    Information from Kyodo added


  • I find it irresponsible how various media routinely refer to such comments as “gaffes”. This lets the speaker off the hook too easily. A gaffe is a mistake or misstatement. But too often, as in this case, the word is used to refer to statements reflecting a politician’s real beliefs when those beliefs are in fact offensive. To use the word, “gaffe” in this context makes it sound like the speaker could just be the victim of overreaction to a mistake. Mispronouncing “Ahmadinejad” is a gaffe; a history of statements like those of Nakayama san represents something entirely different.

  • I don’t get it. Why help the Japanese by showing whats wrong? So what if Aso makes a remark about Japan that is ethnocentric? Japan isn’t the only country in the world there are semi-free markets all over the world. If Japan can survive the way it is why get all bothered about it? The market will correct itself and eventually Japan will have to change or face extinction.

    Why sit around waiting for it to change? Haven’t enough people been doing that predicting time after time that Japan is at the crossroads?

    Seems pointless to me.

  • “Aso referred to a Japanese peace initiative on the Middle East, stating, “The Japanese were trusted because they had never been involved in exploitation there, or been involved in fights or fired machine guns.”

    Oops, he forgot about the Sekigun’s attack on Lod Airport.


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