Amid rising momentum over the selling of public land in Osaka far below market value to an educational body affiliated with nationalist group Nippon Kaigi, a clearer picture merges of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ties to the influential right-wing body, reports Shukan Post (Mar. 3).
Abe vowed to resign if he or his wife were proven to have been involved in the selling of the land by the Ministry of Finance to educational institution Moritomo Gakuen for its private elementary school, Mizuho no Kuni Kinen Shogakuin.
Set to open this spring, the school bills itself as the country’s “first and only Shinto elementary school,” and until recently listed its honorary principle as Akie Abe on its website.
“Akin to endangered species”
Yasunori Kagoike, board chairman of Moritomo Gakuen, said coverage of the sale was “a movement by the likes of the Asahi Shimbun and the new left-wing to crush the history and tradition of Japan!”
“People akin to endangered species are joining up with the Asahi and trying to bring down our school,” Kagoike said.
Earlier this month, the Asahi Shimbun broke the story about the finance ministry’s refusal to disclose the sales price of the nearly 9,000-square-meter parcel.
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.”
Some have pointed out that there are “allegations that Kagoike, a supporter of Abe, was specially handed the land by the government [finance ministry] for a cheap price regarding payment of state-owned land.”
Kagoike has continued to deny the allegations, but agreed to an interview with a Shukan Post reporter at a kindergarten run by his institution.
Emperor’s Throne room
Before entering the school director’s room, Kagoike led the reporter to an “Emperor’s Throne” room where a gold folding screen was surrounded by gold sliding doors.
“This is a place to welcome important visitors,” Kagoike said. “I brought you here because I thought you are someone who will interview me properly.”
Looking at a commemorative photo of the crown prince and a kindergarten, the reporter asked if the Crown Prince had visited.
“That’s, well, if you think like that,” Kagoike vaguely replied with a smile.
Probed further, the photo was actually not taken at the kindergarten, but at a time when the child was escorting the Crown Prince during his visit to Osaka.
In the director’s room, Kagoike’s wife, who acts as vice principal, also joined the interview.
“It’s been pointed out that the land for the elementary school to be bought from the government is too cheap,” the reporter said.
The finance ministry said a discount of around 800 million yen was applied due to household rubbish buried on-site that had to be removed. A contract under the sale price of 134 million yen was finalized with Moritomo Gakuen in June 2016.
The ministry added 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.”
Kagoike claimed he “didn’t know about [the discounted figure]. But you know, we’re innocent, so we did tell the ministry that the [developments concerning the sale] could be made public.”
There appeared to be nothing concrete in the explanations or refutes, the reporter reasoned, but noticed Kagoike’s tone became smoother when asked about his ties with Abe.
Initially, donations were sought when the school was named Shinzo Abe Memorial Elementary School. “There was informal consent through Akie before he became prime minister [Liberal Democratic Party president] to give the school the name of Mr. Abe,” Kagoike said. “But you see, that won’t work after becoming prime minister of the world. So the prime minister declined.”
But Akie went on to become honorary principal of the school, which has an educational philosophy directed to “honoring the propriety of what it means to be a Japanese person, and nurturing patriotism and pride.” (She has since been removed from that position.)
It was unusual for the wife of a prime minister to take up a position at a single corporation, the reporter thought.
“Akie visited this kindergarten around three or four times,” Kagoike said. “I think she was touched by the educational philosophy after seeing children [at the kindergarten] with wonderful morals of old Japan. I feel like she is a vessel befitting the title of first lady.”
A letter by Abe
The reporter asked if Abe ever visited the kindergarten.
“I had asked [Abe] for a lecture before his [second] inauguration as prime minister. But it ended up coinciding with the timing of the LDP presidential election,” Kagoike said. “I received an apologetic phone call at the time, and even received a polite letter directly written by him.”
“You’re also doing Nippon Kaigi activities,” the reporter said. “Of course, you’re a supporter of the prime minister.”
“Well of course. I thought only Mr. Abe could firmly pull the land of Japan,” Kagoike said. “I think Mr. Abe is well aware of Japan’s national character. He genuinely thinks of our country, and of the Imperial Family.”
Here, Kagoike’s wife finally spoke.
“Prime Minister Abe is able to properly distinguish between fakes and the real thing,” she said. “Our director [Kagoike] has a pure heart and clean hands.”
Kagoike continued, “People who are innocent know that the other person is innocent. People who think of the high affairs of the state gather around me, but Mr. Abe is the same. There is a part that resonates with Mr. Abe. On the other hand, wicked people gather around wicked people.”
Source: “Kachu no ‘Abe Shinzo Kinen Shogakko’ sosai ni chokugeki ‘Abe fusai to Nippon Kaigi to watashi no kankei’” Shukan Post (Mar. 3, pages 50-51)