Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Taro Aso has called Japan a "one race" nation, an expression similar to a controversial statement in 1986 by then Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, sources close to the minister said Monday.
In a speech during a ceremony at the new Kyushu National Museum in Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture, on Saturday, the sources said Aso described Japan as having "one nation, one civilization, one language, one culture and one race. There is no other nation (that has such characteristics)."
Two decades ago, Nakasone stirred controversy by publicly calling Japan a "homogenous nation," drawing criticism particularly from the indigenous Ainu people who live mainly in Hokkaido.
Following Aso's remarks, Mitsunori Keira, head of the citizens' group Yaiyukara-no-Mori, which works to preserve Ainu culture, criticized the minister.
"The fact that top government officials have repeatedly made similar remarks shows the government has never sincerely listened to our protest," Keira said.