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Yamamoto gets Imperial ban for letter; Inoki faces discipline

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

In an extremely rare move, the Upper House Steering Committee said Friday the chamber will no longer allow Taro Yamamoto, the anti-nuclear lawmaker who made a public stir by handing a letter to Emperor Akihito, to participate in any event hosted by the Imperial family.

During a garden party last week, Yamamoto, a former actor known for his radical anti-nuclear rhetoric, handed a letter to the Emperor outlining what he believes are problems caused by radioactive fallout from the wrecked Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

Yamamoto was criticized for attempting to use the Emperor for political purposes, which is generally considered forbidden under the Constitution.

Yamamoto has denied his act had any political intention.

Upper House President Masaaki Yamazaki proposed Friday that Yamamoto not be allowed to participate in any event hosted by the Imperial family throughout the remainder of his six-year term, unless the chamber decides to retract the moratorium.

All participants in the steering committee session eventually agreed to Yamazaki’s proposal, said two lawmakers who attended the meeting.

The secretariat of the Upper House submits a list of its members to the Imperial Household Agency to participate in parties, ceremonies and other events hosted by the Imperial family.

Yamamoto will now be excluded from this list, according to the lawmakers.

The steering committee also said it will submit a resolution to the full Upper House to seek punishment for member Antonio Inoki for visiting North Korea without the chamber’s permission.

If the resolution is passed in a plenary session next week as expected, the chamber’s Political Ethics Committee will decide the specific punishment.

It has been 61 years since a resolution seeking punishment has been passed in the Upper House.

The ethics committee can slap four types of punitive measures on a member: admonition, demand a public apology, prohibition of attending Diet sessions for a certain period, and expulsion.

Inoki, a former pro wrestling star elected to the Upper House in July on the opposition Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) ticket, visited North Korea and met with top officials. He returned to Tokyo via Beijing on Thursday.

During his stay in the North, Inoki opened an office in Pyongyang that he says will promote sports-related cultural exchanges between the two countries.

Inoki’s transgression is that he went there after the Upper House Steering Committee declined to approve the visit.

He has faced criticism from within his own party. On Thursday, Nippon Ishin co-leader and Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto expressed concern that Pyongyang could use Inoki for its own propaganda purposes.