OSAKA (TR) – Japan sold public land in Osaka at a value far below market value to an educational body affiliated with nationalist group Nippon Kaigi, which is aiming to open the country’s “first and only Shinto elementary school,” reports the Asahi Shimbun (Feb. 9).
The sale price by the Ministry of Finance of the land, located in the town of Noda in Toyonaka City, was a small fraction of that attained for a neighboring state-owned parcel of comparable size, according to an Asahi survey.
On February 8, the Toyonaka municipal government filed a lawsuit at the Osaka District Court seeking cancellation of the finance ministry’s decision to sell the nearly 9,000-square-meter parcel, which is being used for the private elementary school Mizuho no Kuni Kinen Shogakuin.
According to its website, the school, whose name is not mentioned by the Asahi, will open this spring. As of last week, the construction of the structure of the school was nearly complete.
The sale of the state-owned land in question began in 2013. Between June and September, a financial affairs division of the ministry covering the Kinki region started accepting public bids.
In June of 2016, the parcel, measuring 8,770 square meters, was bought by incorporated educational institution Moritomo Gakuen, the operator of Osaka’s ultra-conservative Tsukamoto Kindergarten, whose curriculum preaches pre-World War II ideals.
Sale price undisclosed
The sale was made under a so-called “public free contract” that prioritizes municipalities, educational institutions such as school corporations and social welfare corporations aiming to make purchases for public benefit purposes.
For transparency purposes, details of the sale of state-owned lands are to be publicly released. For example, a state-owned parcel measuring 9,492 square meters, located to the north of the Mizuho no Kuni school, was sold to Toyonaka City at a disclosed amount of around 1.423 billion yen, and is currently maintained as a park.
When the Toyonaka City Municipal Assembly made an information disclosure request about the sale of the Mizuho no Kuni property in September 2016, the finance ministry declared details including the sale price as undisclosed. The Asahi made a public records request in December 2016, but the details were also declared undisclosed one month later.
The results of sales of state-owned land are generally to be disclosed in accordance with a notice in 1999 by the former director-general of the finance ministry, from the viewpoint of transparency and fairness.
But the finance ministry said that “there was a strong request for non-disclosure from the school officials. There is a risk that management of the school could be adversely impacted by public disclosure.”
“Beautiful, traditional sovereignty for Japan’s future”
The price paid for the land was subsequently inferred by the Asahi from the contract, which included a clause where the Japanese government would buy back the land at “134 million yen” if Moritomo Gakuen breaches the contract.
Buyback costs typically reflect the sale price in such contract clauses, according to the Real Estate Transaction Promotion Center, a public interest incorporated foundation.
Yasunori Kagoike, board chairman of Moritomo Gakuen, has admitted that the buyback amount is the same as the sale price. Kagoike is a member of Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Conference, which aims for “a beautiful, traditional sovereignty for Japan’s future.”
“There was no such [strong request],” Kagoike said. “My memory isn’t certain, but I recall that the Ministry of Finance has released the specific sales amount.”
On February 10, the finance ministry backtracked. According to the Asahi (Feb. 11), the ministry said that the land had been appraised by a real estate professional at 956 million yen in May of last year. The ministry added 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.
Nurturing patriotism, pride
On Mizuho no Kuni’s website, the school is billed as the “first and only Shinto elementary school in Japan.” It has an educational philosophy directed to “honoring the propriety of what it means to be a Japanese person, and nurturing patriotism and pride.”
The school lists its honorary principal as Akie Abe, the wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. House of Representatives member Takeo Hiranuma is included as a teacher.
Akie was asked for comment through Shinzo Abe’s office, but no response has been received, according to the Asahi.