National / Politics

New Cabinet ministers' pasts coming back to haunt Abe

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

One week after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reshuffled his Cabinet with an eye to the future, the past is coming back to haunt him: Revelations of controversial past statements and actions by his newly appointed ministers are drawing criticism abroad.

In a photo that appeared online Wednesday, new Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi is pictured with other politicians in a full-color ad in the magazine Tokyo Seikei Tsushin endorsing a 1994 book titled “Hitler’s Election Strategy.” Takaichi had only the year before been elected to the Diet as an independent.

A spokesman for Takaichi’s office confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that the photo was of her, but said she had no recollection of the book or of promoting it. The spokesman added that neither does she remember meeting the book’s author, Yoshio Ogai, then a public relations official with the Tokyo chapter of the Liberal Democratic Party.

In his book, Ogai praises Hitler for his ability to concentrate power and mold public opinion, and emphasizes there are lessons for Japan in that regard. There is no mention of the Holocaust.

The book was pulled from shelves after the Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned its promotion of anti-democratic Nazi tactics.

Last week a photo of Takaichi standing alongside Kazunari Yamada, the leader of the National Socialist Japanese Workers Party, appeared on the neo-Nazi party’s website.

A spokesman for Takaichi said she had no idea who Yamada was at the time and that she does not in any way share his views about Nazi ideology.

Takaichi is not the only Cabinet member whose past actions and statements have been noticed in recent days by the international community. LDP policy chief Tomomi Inada was also photographed with Yamada but has since sought to distance herself from him.

And late last week, it was learned Justice Minister Midori Matsushima said during a meeting of the Lower House Legal Affairs Committee in March 2005 that creating a menu without pork for Iranian prison inmates for religious reasons felt very much like a case of unfair reverse discrimination.

“Politicians close to Abe can get away with such statements and actions because, at this point, I doubt the LDP has the discipline to rein them in,” said Koichi Nakano, a political science professor at Sophia University.