Aso raises eyebrows with nonwords and wrong words

by Jun Hongo

Prime Minister Taro Aso may want to set aside his comic books and cut down on the bar-hopping in exchange for some kanji tutoring.

Resembling some classic gaffes by U.S. President George W. Bush, Aso has recently been failing during speeches to correctly pronounce certain words, many of them commonly used in daily Japanese. The words are written in kanji in his scripts.

On Wednesday at Gakushuin University in Tokyo, speaking about the May earthquake in Sichuan, China, he mispronounced the word “mizou” (unprecedented) as “mizo-yu,” a nonword, and later read the word “hinpan” (frequent) as “hanzatsu” (complicated).

In trying to douse the brouhaha over ousted air force chief Gen. Toshio Tamogami’s justification of the war, Aso has also been restating the government’s position on Japan’s wartime responsibility.

But instead of reiterating that the government “tou-shu” (follows) the 1995 Murayama war apology statement, he continues to say the government “fu-shu” (stench).

While the hawkish prime minister is known for some unapologetic remarks on Japan’s wartime past, he was quick to acknowledge his negligence over the mispronunciations. “Those were just reading errors, just mistakes,” he told reporters Wednesday.