OSAKA – Defense Minister Tomomi Inada faced a barrage of criticism and questions Wednesday over her relationship with scandal-tainted Moritomo Gakuen, as a war of words erupted between her and the wife of a principal who heads the controversial school operator.
Pressure on Inada to step down continued to come from the four main opposition parties.
But some members of the ruling coalition, which has publicly backed the ally of Prime Minster Shinzo Abe and rejected calls for her to resign, are worried that her credibility within the Defense Ministry and with important overseas allies like the United States, as well as the ruling coalition’s own popularity, could suffer.
Adding to the controversy, Osaka-based Mortimomo Gakuen head Yasunori Kagoike, who traveled to Tokyo Wednesday, refused to comment to reporters upon his arrival. And his scheduled 90-minute news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan Wednesday afternoon was canceled without explanation.
In the Diet, opposition lawmakers asked the defense minister about remarks broadcast on Japanese TV on Tuesday evening in which Kagoike’s wife Junko said Inada first met her and her husband 10 years ago and again two years ago at a meeting of Liberal Democratic Party officials.
“I don’t like that person (Inada), so I didn’t talk to her. But the principal (Kagoike) spoke with her,” Junko reportedly said.
Inada said, “I read the comments that Kagoike’s wife made. Those comments are just like her. But I’ve been estranged from Kagoike for 10 years. Maybe I saw him in the meeting hall, but based on my recollection, I don’t remember having met him.”
In response, Democratic Party member Hideya Sugio said, “We can’t trust what the defense minister says. And she’s extremely unfit to serve as minister.”
Komeito officials, meanwhile, met with the LDP Wednesday morning amid concerns over Inada’s handling of questions in the Diet.
In Osaka, questions are growing about Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui’s ties to the scandal.
Matsui had originally volunteered to testify in the Diet about the prefecture’s role in the land deal at the heart of the scandal related to Moritomo Gakuen, but appeared to back down on Tuesday, saying that the central government also needed to further explain its role.
Also on Wednesday, parents of three former students at a Moritomo-run kindergarten petitioned Osaka Prefecture to investigate allegations of hate speech at the school. They claim there were numerous incidents of threats and hate speech by teachers toward students and their parents, and that discriminatory language was used in a school publication.
In a letter delivered to one student’s parents, made public last month, Junko wrote that she hated Chinese and Koreans. Parents had complained to the prefecture previously, but officials said that there was little they could do.