Japan’s northern islands minister rapped for not knowing island name

Kyodo

The governor of Hokkaido expressed disappointment Wednesday that the minister in charge of pushing for the return from Russia of islands off her prefecture did not know the name of one.

“It’s extremely regrettable. I want the minister (Aiko Shimajiri) to say the name of the island in her head over and over again, and remember it,” said Gov. Harumi Takahashi at a news conference.

At another news conference the previous day in Tokyo, Shimajiri, minister in charge of the Okinawa and Northern Territories issues, could not read the Chinese characters used to write “Habomai.”

She said, “Habo…, What was that?”

A nearby secretary quickly informed her of its proper name.

The islands off Hokkaido — Etorofu, Kunashiri and Shikotan as well as the Habomai islet group — were seized by the Soviet Union following Japan’s surrender on Aug. 15, 1945. They are called the Southern Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan.

Takahashi pointed out that Shimajiri, a House of Councilors member from the Liberal Democratic Party, in November visited Cape Nosappu on the easternmost tip of Hokkaido, near the Habomai islet group.

“At that time, the name of Habomai must have been firmly in her memory,” the governor said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims at moving forward negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin to resolve the decades-old territorial dispute over the four Russian-held, Japanese-claimed islands, which has prevented Tokyo and Moscow from signing a peace treaty following World War II.

Shimajiri is responsible for raising awareness over the territorial dispute.