National / Politics

Full clips of Akie Abe’s Moritomo speeches posted to Akieleaks website

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

What appear to be full-length video clips from a pair of speeches given by Akie Abe, the wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at a scandal-tainted kindergarten in Osaka have been anonymously posted online, bringing renewed focus to the once-close relationship between the first lady and the school’s ultranationalist operator.

The alleged links to the school operator, Moritomo Gakuen, have drawn strong criticism from opposition lawmakers.

The three video clips, dated Sept. 5, 2015, and apparently uploaded on Monday, can be viewed on a website called Akieleaks.

In one clip, Akie praises the education the children were receiving at the Tsukamoto Kindergarten, saying she was greatly impressed with their good manners.

“My husband, too, thinks the education policy here is wonderful,” she is heard saying in one speech, without elaborating.

Tsukamoto Kindergarten says it educates children so that they will be proud of their country. But it has also been harshly criticized for its ultranationalist education based on prewar values. Last year, the kindergarten reportedly distributed to parents a discriminatory statement that described Koreans and Chinese as having “wicked ideas.”

Elsewhere, Akie notes that Moritomo Gakuen wanted to name a new elementary school it had been planning to build “Abe Shinzo Memorial Elementary School.” But the prime minister declined the offer because he could be subject to public criticism, and students could have faced bullying from students of other schools because of the name, she said.

“If it gets that name, it should be done only after I quit as prime minister,” Akie quoted her husband as saying.

She also said she believes a prime minister should be allowed to visit the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, despite criticism from “neighboring countries.”

Yasukuni Shrine, which served as a spiritual pillar of Japan’s wartime militarism, honors millions of people who died while dedicating their lives to the state, mostly soldiers killed during wars. The shrine also enshrines Class-A war criminals from World War II, prompting China and South Korea to oppose public visits there by Japanese politicians.

On March 23, Moritomo Gakuen President Yasunori Kagoike told the Diet in sworn testimony that he received a ¥1 million donation from Akie in the prime minister’s name on Sept. 5, 2015 to help fund the elementary school, the same day she reportedly delivered the two speeches at the kindergarten.

Also at the heart of the current scandal is a massive discount the school operator received on the purchase of a plot of land in Osaka Prefecture from the Finance Ministry for a planned elementary school.

The purchase aroused suspicion that either Akie, who was the honorary principal of the school, or other ruling-party lawmakers may have used their influence to pressure the ministry to offer the discount.

Both Prime Minister Abe and his wife strongly deny they exerted any influence over the deal.

A portion of one speech was first reported by TV Tokyo, which aired its own video clip on Feb. 21. Monday’s posting online is the first time full versions of the speeches have been made public.