Gaffes by minister put Aso in a bind

Barely 48 hours into the new administration, Prime Minister Taro Aso was facing his first crisis Friday with calls for the dismissal of transport minister Nariaki Nakayama over a stream of verbal gaffes.

When asked about what Japan should do to promote tourism, Nakayama said, “Japan is a very inward-looking nation, you could say it is a homogeneous race.”

While in itself not particularly shocking, the remark seemed to deny the existence of ethnic Chinese and Koreans in Japan, among others.

A similar comment by then Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone in 1986 led to protests from Ainu groups.

On Friday, Nakayama was forced to retract his comments.

“Since this is the first time I am working in the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, there were many things I did not understand,” Nakayama said.