Nakayama resigns over gaffes

Transport minister Nariaki Nakayama stepped down Sunday after just five days on the job, amid mounting criticism of a series of controversial remarks, dealing a serious blow to the new administration of Prime Minister Taro Aso.

Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) and other opposition parties, which had called for Nakayama’s resignation or dismissal, will hold Aso responsible for the appointment during Diet debate from Wednesday.

A string of remarks by Nakayama has drawn protest from the Japan Teachers Union, the Ainu Association of Hokkaido and the governor of Chiba Prefecture, among others.

Aso accepted Nakayama’s letter of resignation in a bid to contain the fallout, with the Lower House dissolution and election expected in the coming weeks.

Aso said Sunday that Nakayama’s remarks were “extremely inappropriate” and offered an apology. He also acknowledged his responsibility for Nakayama’s appointment.

In his constituency of Miyazaki, Nakayama, who served as education minister under former Prime Minister Jun-ichiro Koizumi, told reporters that the union was a “cancer on Japanese education.”

In a speech earlier in the day, Nakayama criticized the union’s opposition to mandatory raising of the Hinomaru national flag and singing of the Kimigayo national anthem at schools, and enforcing ethics education.

“We should disband the Japan Teachers Union one way or another,” Nakayama told a meeting organized by the LDP’s Miyazaki prefectural chapter. “If we borrow the style of Koizumi, ‘Let’s destroy the Japan Teachers Union,’ I will spearhead that movement.”

Nakayama also said that Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan), which is supported by the teachers and other unions, should be disbanded.