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Moritomo Gakuen director abandons school plan, to resign

Yasunori Kagoike, director of Moritomo Gakuen
Yasunori Kagoike, director of Moritomo Gakuen (Nippon News Network)

OSAKA (TR) – The director of scandal-mired educational body Moritomo Gakuen announced his intention to resign and berated opposition parties and the press on Friday over developments that forced it to abandon what it called “Japan’s first and only Shinto elementary school.”

At a press conference, director Yasunori Kagoike dodged questions over controversial findings that the school’s land was bought from the government at a price far below market value, ranting instead for some 80 minutes about opposition parties that pursued the issue at the Diet and media coverage of the sale at a press conference held at a Moritomo Gakuen-run kindergarten, reports Nikkan Sports (Mar. 10).

Kagoike criticized politicians for focusing on issues surrounding the proposed nationalist school Mizuho no Kuni Kinen Shogakuin, formerly named Shinzo Abe Memorial Elementary School, at a time when missiles were “being launched from North Korea.”

In recent weeks, Moritomo Gakuen has been embroiled in a scandal over its purchase of land in Osaka’s Toyonaka City at a price far below market value for the school, which it planned to open on the site in the spring.

Kagoike said that his resignation was to take responsibility for the school not opening.

Pre-World War II ideals

The school is affiliated with Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Conference, which aims for “a beautiful, traditional sovereignty for Japan’s future.” Meanwhile, Moritomo Gakuen is the operator of Osaka’s ultra-conservative Tsukamoto Kindergarten, whose curriculum preaches pre-World War II ideals.

Given that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is an adviser for Nippon Kaigi, there has been speculation that his administration was behind the low-ball price paid for the land. Abe, however, has denied such involvement in the Diet and vowed to resign if proven true.

Kagoike spent the first 26 minutes ignoring questions as he ranted about the circumstances of the building of the school as well as his thoughts on education in Japan.

The Ministry of Finance, which sold the public land, previously disclosed that a discount of roughly 800 million yen was applied to the sale price due to household rubbish buried on the property that had to be removed. A contract under the sale price of 134 million yen was finalized with Moritomo Gakuen in June of last year.

Kagoike explained that the body’s efforts to remove the buried rubbish were delayed by media reports and questioning at the Diet.

“Somehow, my beliefs and family matters became the center of the problem, and ended up being reported on,” Kagoike said. “A bomb went off just as the time had come [to open the school], and I was severely criticized.”

Kagokie said that “it took four years to get here, and we would’ve been bringing in things like equipment for the school by now,” adding there were “unexpected developments.”

“Chasing me like paparazzi”

Kagoike went on to sound off on the attitude of the media, saying his car was swarmed by reporters badgering him with questions about himself and the thoughts of parents during his visit to the contested land for the nationalist school.

“My car was scratched up,” Kagoike said. “[Reporters] were chasing me like paparazzi, I had to seek refuge with the police.”

Touching on questioning at the Diet, Kagoike said, “There’s Taepodong missiles being launched from North Korea, but no, rather than that, it’s about my problem.”

“My picture is being aired practically every day, as if I’m on a wanted list,” Kagoike said.

Kagoike moved on to blast the Osaka Prefectural Government by saying, “How do documents submitted to the Osaka Prefectural Government leak out like this? This is unfathomable in terms of compliance.”

When told that Kagoike claimed he “wanted to open the school” as of Thursday, yet turned around and withdrew from the application process just a day later, he replied, “No, it’s not like that!”

“It was a bitter decision I made in view of the fate of the children [who were planning to enroll at the school],” Kagoike said as his reddened. “Why didn’t you watch over it?”

“Millions of yen of debt”

Kagoike was joined by his eldest son, Kazushige, who media reported as being “disconnected” from the furor.

“Things like ‘disconnected’ are being written, but my father and my mother are also fighting. It’s a matter of grave concern,” Kazushige said.

Kazushige stayed behind after his father left to answer questions, and revealed that Kagoike was shouldering “hundreds of millions of yen of debt.”