Japanese minister sorry for calling museum curators ‘the biggest cancer’ in preventing large-scale tourism

The minister’s comments, and the actions of other senior politicians in recent months, make the Abe administration appear ‘insensitive, apathetic to and dismissive of’ the public’s problems, an observer says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 April, 2017, 10:27pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 April, 2017, 10:41pm

Japan’s minister of regional revitalisation has apologised after calling museum curators “the biggest cancer” in preventing large-scale tourism before adding: “We need to eliminate them.”

Kozo Yamamoto’s outburst came on Sunday and he only ­publicly apologised after being reprimanded by Yoshihide Suga, the chief cabinet secretary.

Yamamoto – who admitted his remark “was not appropriate” – dismissed the suggestion that he would resign from his post.

The minister’s comments, and the actions of other senior politicians in recent months, make the administration appear “insensitive, apathetic to and dismissive of” the public’s problems, said Stephen Nagy, senior associate professor of international relations at Tokyo’s International Christian University.

“These people don’t get media training like politicians and people in the public eye in other countries but, more importantly, they are insensitive to the needs of ordinary people,” he told the South China Morning Post. “When they speak, they come across as offensive or high-minded and simply unsympathetic.

... it’s invariably the older ­generation who are insensitive and appear to be lost in a world of policy and behind-closed-door politics instead of looking after the public
Stephen Nagy, International Christian University

“There are a lot of politicians in Japan who are good speakers – like Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike – but it’s invariably the older ­generation who are insensitive and appear to be lost in a world of policy and behind-closed-door politics instead of looking after the public.”

Yamamoto made his comments less than two weeks after Masahiro Imamura, the head of the government’s recovery effort for the Tohoku region, yelled at a reporter who questioned his attitude towards people evacuated from areas around the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Pressed to provide a “responsible answer” to a question about the government’s decision to halt financial support for anyone who refuses to return to their homes in zones that have been declared safe, Imamura shouted: “How rude you are!”

Imamura was still shouting at reporters as he stormed out of the press conference. The following day, Imamura claimed he had been “emotional” and apologised. He was forced to apologise last year when his vice-minister, Shunsuke Mutai, was criticised after television footage showed him being carried on the back of a colleague across a puddle.

Mutai had forgotten to take waterproof visits on an inspection visit to the town of Iwaizumi, which had been hit by a major storm that killed more than 20 people.