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Osaka could reject planned Nippon Kaigi school over shady land deal

Approval of a planned nationalist private elementary school could be refused (TBS News)
Approval of a planned nationalist private elementary school could be refused (TBS News)

OSAKA (TR) – The prefectural government here is increasingly unlikely to green-light what an educational body bills as “Japan’s first and only Shinto elementary school” amid mounting controversy over the underpriced selling of public land for the institution, reports TBS News (Mar. 7).

The controversy surrounds the sale of land in Osaka’s Toyonaka City at a price far below market value to educational body Moritomo Gakuen, the operator of the private elementary school Mizuho no Kuni Kinen Shogakuin. The sale price of the land has been revealed by the Ministry of Finance to have been 134 million yen, about 15 percent of the value (956 million yen) appraised by a real estate professional in May of last year.

In recent developments, the Osaka Prefectural Government believes the educational body, which is affiliated with nationalist body Nippon Kaigi, submitted a false report regarding projected construction costs of the school planned to open in spring.

One copy of the contract submitted to the Osaka government stated the total construction costs were 756 million yen, while another submitted to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism estimated costs at a total of 2.18 billion yen.

Moritomo Gakuen allegedly explained to the prefectural government that the total cost was a “maximum projection to apply for a subsidy. There was a promise that the subsidy would be returned should there be any reduction.”

When the prefectural government pressed for the submission of more documentation, the construction contracts submitted to the government and the land ministry were found to be the same in terms of format and contract date, and only differed in terms of the projected cost.

In light of the findings, there is growing possibility that approval of the school by the prefectural government could be refused instead of postponed.

Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui questioned whether major general contractors had also submitted incorrect subcontracting agreements. “Taking that into consideration, I feel like you can’t say this is on the level of being a mistake,” Matsui said.

Pre-World War II ideals

The ongoing controversy over the land purchase has put the school’s conservative backers in the spotlight. Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Conference, 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.

On Mizuho no Kuni’s website, the school is billed as “Japan’s first and only Shinto elementary school.” It has an educational philosophy directed to “honoring the propriety of what it means to be a Japanese person, and nurturing patriotism and pride.”

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.

Prefectural officials previously questioned the male principal and the deputy principal, who is his wife, of the kindergarten for saying Korean and Chinese people have “wicked ideas.”

A parent told Kyodo News they received a handwritten letter by the deputy principal saying, “I don’t discriminate. But in my mind, I hate Koreans and Chinese.”