A human rights advocate, former teacher and professional wrestler, and now the newly appointed head of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, said Wednesday he plans to promote support for sexual-minority students at schools.
“Let me be clear on this: I believe sexual-minority students at elementary and junior high schools have been left out” to the extent that people around them, including teachers, friends and family, have little understanding of the issues they face, said Hiroshi Hase, 54, at an interview following his appointment to education minister last week.
A Lower House member of the Liberal Democratic Party who started his political career as an Upper House member in 1995, Hase has focused on human rights issues, and co-launched a multiparty caucus to examine discrimination against sexual minorities in March.
In April, at the request of Hase, who served as vice education minister from 2005 to 2006, the education ministry issued a landmark notice urging schools to better accommodate LGBT — lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender — students.
“Now I am considering preparations for the next step” to move the policy forward, said Hase, who used to teach Japanese at the high school level.
A wrestler in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Hase is also expected to tap his knowledge and experience in sports-related policies to lead the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to success.
He succeeded Hakubun Shimomura, who stepped down over mishandling of the project to construct the main stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It is Hase’s first appointment as a minister, and he is the first former pro wrestler to serve in the position.
As a four-time Olympic host, Japan has the responsibility of calling for social change through sports, Hase said.
He also said he was delighted by the news last week of two Japanese Nobel Prize winners — Satoshi Omura in medicine and Takaaki Kajita in physics — but expressed concern over the future of Japanese academic research.
“I believe it’s not a one-day effort,” Hase said of the Nobel Prize wins. However, he added that younger researchers are put in a difficult situation amid shrinking funds for their projects.
“They also have difficulty finding a job, no matter how many achievements they make and how many research papers they publish,” Hase said. “I would like to give them more support to find a position to work.”