Finance Ministry kept price of tainted school land secret at request of Moritomo Gakuen


The Finance Ministry has admitted it initially accepted Moritomo Gakuen’s request to hide the value of its real estate deal with the nationalist school chain.

The ministry had rejected a freedom of information request from local politicians to disclose the selling price for the state-owned land in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, but last month relented and said it had been sold for ¥134 million ($1.2 million) — 86 percent lower than the appraised value of ¥956 million.

The ministry says the 86 discount reflected what the school chain would have to pay to remove waste buried at the site.

Not convinced by this, the opposition camp suspects political influence played a role in the deal.

At a House of Councilors Budget Committee meeting on Friday, the chief of the ministry’s Financial Bureau, Nobuhisa Sagawa, said that when Moritomo Gakuen made the secrecy request, it said it was worried about the potentially negative implications the buried garbage would have on its planned elementary school if it were to come to light.

Sagawa also commented on a meeting between Moritomo Gakuen head Yasunori Kagoike and the head of the Financial Bureau’s National Property Examination and Appraisal Office in mid-March last year, three months before the land was sold. The two met in the Finance Ministry in Tokyo after Moritomo Gakuen asked it to deal with buried waste that had been found at the site on March 11, Sagawa said.

Social Democratic Party lawmaker Mizuho Fukushima asked whether Kagoike had requested a discount during the talks. Sagawa denied the two discussed the topic.

At a House of Representatives committee meeting the same day, Cabinet Secretariat Councilor Eiji Habu admitted that a government official escorted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife, Akie, during her visit to Tsukamoto Kindergarten, a nationalist school run by Moritomo Gakuen in the city of Osaka, in September 2015.

Habu insisted the official was not on duty at the time, had accompanied the prime minister’s wife in a personal capacity, and spent no taxpayers’ money. The official’s name and title were not reported.

Akie was set to serve as honorary principal of Mizuho no Kuni before the land deal came to light amid hate speech allegations involving the kindergarten’s principal, who happens to be Kagoike.

Earlier in the week, Abe called his wife a “private figure,” apparently aiming to fend off the opposition camp’s inquiries about her efforts to promote the ultranationalist school chain, which still adheres to the 1890 Imperial Rescript on Education.