National

Moritomo Gakuen head to resign, withdraw controversial school application

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Moritomo Gakuen President Yasunori Kagoike announced his intention to resign Friday after telling Osaka Prefecture that he was withdrawing an application to approve the opening of a new elementary school.

With the withdrawal, which the prefecture has accepted, Mizuho no Kuni will not open as scheduled on April 1.

At a Friday evening news conference, Kagoike said he was resigning to take responsibility for the fact that the new school couldn’t be completed.

“I didn’t do anything bad. But I said that the school would be built, but it was not. So, I have to take responsibility for this fact,” he said.

Kagoike added that he had no inclination to appear in front of the Diet to give unsworn testimony. He also insisted that neither Prime Minister Shinzo Abe nor his wife Akie applied any political pressure to give his school a favorable land deal.

“They didn’t do anything on my behalf,” he said.

A flurry of revelations and accusations related to Moritomo and Kagoike have emerged since Thursday, shaking national politics. These include a new video of Kagoike that has cast fresh doubts on Defense Minister Tomomi Inada’s relationship with the scandal-plagued educational operation.

Moritomo has been hit with accusations of a shady land deal and criticized for its nationalist, prewar curriculum.

In an edited YouTube video broadcast on several television stations Thursday and Friday, Kagoike is seen standing in front of a purple curtain criticizing Diet members including Inada and Abe, who have both tried to distance himself from the scandal.

“Diet members are saying they don’t know me at all,” Kagoike said in the video. “But there are those Diet members who know me quite well.”

Kagoike alleged that Inada was wrong when she told the Diet that while she had met Kagoike once, she hadn’t spoken to him in about 10 years.

“We met about two years ago. It’s strange that she’s not talking about that,” Kagoike said.

As of Friday afternoon, Inada had yet to publicly reply to the allegations.

Kagoike also attempted to justify Moritomo’s nationalist educational philosophy, which it aims to indoctrinate into its students.

“We’re working on behalf of Japan. If I don’t open this new elementary school, who will? But in response, I’m being called a bad guy or too stubborn,” he said.

The last remark appears be directed toward Abe, who used “stubborn” last month in the Diet to describe Kagoike’s repeated communications with his office and his wife.

The video comes as questions are growing about whether Kagoike, and others withconnections to the organization including Abe’s wife Akie, should be called to testify in the Diet, and whether such testimony should be sworn or unsworn.

Akie Abe made speeches at a Moritomo-run kindergarten on two occasions.Kagoike’sannouncements came one day after a meeting with prefectural officials that was suddenly cut short.

The meeting was meant to probe questions about a piece of land Moritomo bought for the elementary school at a huge discount, and three different estimates of construction costs.Aprefectural private education official said that when investigators asked for original receipts, Kagoike’s wife Junko — who serves as vice principal — entered the room and started pointing her finger at officials, accusing them of leaking documents to the media.

But Kagoike offered a different version of events.

“I brought various documents to show the investigators, but I wasn’t told to bring the originals,” he said. “I said I hadn’t heard they wanted the originals and the prefectural officials left.”