Novelist Naoki Hyakuta, an NHK governor who has drawn flak for a series of inflammatory remarks, including his public denial of the 1937 Rape of Nanking, will resign from the broadcaster’s management committee when his term expires at the end of February, sources said Saturday.
Hyakuta, 58, who has close ties with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has been a constant source of controversy since his appointment as one of NHK’s 12 governors in November 2013.
In February 2014, during a campaign speech for Toshio Tamogami, a right-wing politician running in Tokyo’s gubernatorial race, Hyakuta said the 1937 Rape of Nanking by Japanese troops in China never happened. This drew an outcry from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, where a official in charge of press operations said the U.S. government’s consensus view was that Hyakuta’s comments were “preposterous.”
The popular novelist also referred to the other candidates in the gubernatorial race as “scumbags.” They included former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, former Japan Federation of Bar Associations President Kenji Utsunomiya and former health minister Yoichi Masuzoe, who ultimately won the race.
Last September, Hyakuta called the late Takako Doi, the former head of the Social Democratic Party, a “public enemy.” Doi died the same month.
On Saturday, Hyakuta acknowledged on Twitter he had expressed his desire to resign from NHK at a gathering of the committee in early January, though a formal announcement has yet to be made.
“Those who are against me are excited by the news (reported in domestic media) that I’m quitting the management committee of NHK,” he tweeted. “They have no idea what the governors do and are authorized to do. We have no power to influence programming or intervene in personnel decisions.
“But the (anti-Hyakuta) folks have repeatedly criticized me, arguing I have manipulated NHK over the past year.”
The government will soon submit to the Diet a list of candidates to replace Hyakuta and three other governors whose terms are also due to expire at the end of February. Upon approval from both chambers of the Diet, the prime minister will appoint their successors to the NHK committee.