National / Politics

New Northern Territories minister takes heat after mispronouncing Russian-held isle


Teru Fukui, the new state minister in charge of Okinawa and Northern Territories affairs, apologized Wednesday for wrongly pronouncing the name of one of the four islands at the center of a territorial dispute with Russia.

During a Tuesday night news conference following his appointment to the ministerial post the same day, Fukui called the Russian-held island “Shakotan,” instead of the correct pronunciation of “Shikotan.”

At a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting Wednesday, Seiji Osaka of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, elected from Hokkaido, criticized Fukui.

The new minister apologized for “causing annoyance to the former residents of the islands and the people of Hokkaido.”

Fukui added that he made the mistake after he failed to look at notes provided to him.

He assumed the ministerial post after his predecessor, Tetsuma Esaki, resigned Tuesday after he was hospitalized following a stroke.

Esaki joined the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in August last year, but he soon faced opposition calls to resign after making a number of similar gaffes.