The minister for disaster reconstruction, Masahiro Imamura, stepped down Wednesday over a gaffe that has enraged Tohoku residents.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe rushed to limit political damage by immediately appointing a Fukushima lawmaker to replace him.

"Yesterday Minister Imamura made extremely inappropriate remarks in a speech that badly hurt the feelings of people in the disaster-hit areas," Abe told reporters after receiving the letter of resignation at the Prime Minister's Office.