National / Politics

As Moritomo scandal reverberates, protesters gather for second day to call on Abe and Taro Aso to resign

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

As the news of the Finance Ministry’s document-tampering continued to send shock waves throughout the nation, a throng of irate protesters gathered near the Diet building Tuesday evening for the second day in a row, calling on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Finance Minister Taro Aso to immediately resign.

The protest followed a similar rally staged in front of Abe’s headquarters the previous night, when hundreds were seen chanting “Tell the truth!” and “Abe must quit!.” On Monday, the participants occupied a huge part of the street near the Prime Minister’s Office amid a heavy security presence.

“People who seem incapable of complying with the law are in there,” 61-year-old Shigekazu Ishihara said, pointing his finger in the direction of the Diet.

“Our nation can’t function with people like that at the top. Our democracy is in crisis,” the self-employed man said.

Earlier Monday, the Finance Ministry admitted to making dozens of deletions to 14 documents related to the shady 2016 sale of state land to nationalist school operator Moritomo Gakuen, between late February 2017 and April the same year — weeks after the heavily discounted sale was first reported.

“A person killed himself for it,” 24-year-old university student Takuma Kida asserted, referring to the reported suicide of a Finance Ministry official who handled the Moritomo documents.

“I think it’s getting harder and harder even for those usually apathetic toward politics to stay silent,” Kida said.

“The whole Moritomo scandal began with the idea of politicians using their own influence to ‘privatize’ the administrative process,” said a 40-year-old company employee who asked not to be named.

“For the whole year, they went on without giving a sufficient explanation and now it turns out the Finance Ministry falsified the official documents. … This nation is so over,” she said, voicing hope the rally will help express just how angry the public is.

A 28-year-old company employee who only wished to be identified by his last name, Yamamoto, said it was his first time participating in an anti-government rally.

“I’m just appalled by the sheer difference between what the government says it’s doing and what it’s actually doing,” he said.

“The whole world must be laughing at Japan right now.”