TOKYO (majirox news) — Minister for the Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) Yoshio Hachiro is under fire for making a joke about contamination just hours after apologizing Sept. 9 for disparaging an area around the radiation-spewing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant by calling it “a town of death.”
Pressure is mounting on Hachiro from within his own ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and among opposition forces led by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
Hachiro’s repeated gaffes have dealt a major blow to the newly installed Cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, which pledged to make the nuclear crisis its top priority, which follows in the footsteps of Ryu Matsumoto. He was forced to resign in July only days after being appointed to lead the government’s disaster recovery efforts after he made a series of verbal blunders and insults. Hachiro has only been in office for a week.
Hachiro’s initial gaffe came after a Thursday visit to areas evacuated after the March 11 outbreak of the nuclear crisis. He later told reporters that the evacuation zone was “like a town of death.”
The METI minister apologized Friday, saying, “I sincerely regret the remark that was misleading. I take it back and deeply apologize.”
DPJ officials also urged Hachiro’s remarks be taken with a grain of salt.
“He was probably only trying to encourage the recovery,” a DPJ spokesman said. “Judge him by the way he works.”
Yet, shortly afterward, Hachiro told reporters he had “radiation stuck to me.”
Opposition politicians have been strongly critical of Hachiro, saying his remarks were insensitive toward the tens of thousands of people evacuated from their homes with no idea whether they will ever be able to return.