TOKYO Feb 24 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo
Abe's wife has cut ties with an elementary school whose operator
is under fire for buying state-owned land at a rock-bottom price
in a furore rapidly developing into a political headache for
Moritomo Gakuen, an educational institution in the western
city of Osaka that also operates a kindergarten promoting
patriotism based on Japanese traditions and culture, will open
an elementary school in April that had been set to have Akie Abe
as honorary principal.
Yasunori Kagoike, who is president of Moritomo Gakuen, heads
the Osaka branch of Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Conference, a
nationalist lobby group with close ties to the prime minister
and his cabinet.
Abe, grilled about the issue in a parliamentary committee on
Friday, said his wife had tried to refuse the position of
honorary principal but accepted after it was announced in front
"Despite this, she decided that it would be detrimental for
both the students and the parents if she continued and so she
told them she would resign," he said.
On the web site of the elementary school, Akie had said: "I
was impressed by Mr. Kagoike's passion for education and have
assumed the post of honorary principal."
But the comments were removed from the website on Thursday.
"It is true that she was on the web site as honorary
principal but at her request, this was removed," Abe said.
Abe reiterated that he had declined to allow his name to be
used when Moritomo Gakuen solicited donations for what it called
the "Abe Shinzo Memorial Elementary School".
He has also denied that either he or his wife had been
involved in the school's getting approval or in its acquisition
of the state-owned land for school grounds.
Moritomo Gakuen last year bought an 8,770-square-metre plot
of government-owned land for 134 million yen ($1.2 million), or
14 percent of its appraisal price, to build a new elementary
school, according to official data.
Officials have said the difference reflected the cost for
cleanup of waste at the site.
Finance Minister Taro Aso said in parliament earlier this
week that there were no problems with the purchase.
A kindergarten run by the same institution apologised
earlier this week for online comments that domestic media
described as possible hate speech against Koreans and Chinese
(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko and Kiyoshi Takenaka; writing by
Elaine Lies; editing by Linda Sieg)