Prime Minister Fumio Yuko Kishida lives with his eldest son at the prime minister’s official residence, leaving his home constituency in Hiroshima to his wife Yuko. He has been planning the cabinet reshuffle and party executive appointments over several cold cans of beer, sake, and whiskey, while sipping on a convenience store bento box lunch. The difficulty in selecting the new cabinet members was doubled when they had to face the restriction of the former Unification Church.
The second Kishida cabinet was supposed to be a fresh and sincere cabinet that would listen carefully to the voices of the people.
From the day the cabinet was formed, eight members of the cabinet, including Health Minister Katsunobu Kato, Economic and Security Minister Sanae Takaichi, General Affairs Minister Minoru Terada, Environment Minister Akihiro Nishimura, Regional Development Minister Naoki Okada, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, Economic Revitalization Minister Taishiro Yamaguchi, and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hitohiko Isozaki, who had already reported his involvement with the church, were found to have ties with the former Unification Church. The relationship with the former Unification Church was discovered one after another.
The minister said, “Instead of severing ties with the Unification Church, the number of such ties is increasing. I am stunned and can’t say a word. The LDP secretary general, Toshimitsu Mogi, is largely responsible for the LDP’s decision not to investigate the matter. The line between the two is so vaguely drawn that it may be difficult to gain the public’s understanding.”
As expected, support for the cabinet fell across the board due to the emphasis on the relationship with the former Unification Church. Not only ministers, but also vice-ministers and parliamentary secretaries were involved, and the trending word in Nagata-cho was quickly derided as “Kishida’s Unification Church Cabinet.”
It was a mistake not to have done proper research, but it was too late. Suzuki Eight, a journalist who has covered the former Unification Church for many years, posted a photo on Twitter of Prime Minister Kishida and Mitsunaga Kazuya, who is said to have served as head minister of Mihara Church in the denomination’s Hiroshima Diocese and as director of the Higashi Hiroshima Diocese’s Evangelism Education Department.
The photo does not appear to be a commemorative photograph of the politician gathered around him at a party or the like. The photo was taken at an outdoor plaza, like a riverbed. It is possible that Prime Minister Kishida attended the Unification Church’s gathering. It is even said within the party that about 10% of the LDP’s party members and friends may be members of the former Unification Church. The LDP may have been eroded to the marrow by the Unification Church.
A veteran LDP delegate who has served as a cabinet member said, “The LDP may have been immersed in the Unification Church from the very marrow up. The former Unification Church influenced the LDP presidential election,” he continued.
In the September 2012 LDP presidential election, which marked the beginning of Abe’s long-term administration, the total number of votes cast by Diet members and prefectures was 498, with a majority of 250 votes. The first round of voting by Diet members and party members was as follows: Shigeru Ishiba: 199 votes (34 Diet members, 16 party members 5) and Shinzo Abe: 141 (54 Diet members and 87 party members). The final vote was held by the Diet members only. The final vote was held between Shinzo Abe (108 votes) and Shigeru Ishiba (89 votes), with Mr. Abe winning the election.
Now it is said within the LDP, “At that time, members related to the Unification Church may have concentrated their votes on Mr. Abe, causing the vote to be reversed. Since it was a secret ballot, the truth is hard to ascertain at this point. However, it is true that such stories are circulating, and the LDP has become shrouded in an eerie atmosphere that is somehow mysterious,” said a veteran delegate.
It is hard to believe that the Unification Church was involved in the LDP presidential election, but the press conference held on the same day as the LDP cabinet appointments was deeply meaningful.
He said, “We instruct our corporations and others to be actively involved in politics and to actively participate in elections. Our basic stance is to confront communism. From that perspective, we have more contact with the Liberal Democratic Party members.”
Is it just me, or does the aforementioned testimony of a former cabinet member sound awfully realistic?
After the 2012 presidential election, the LDP launched a campaign to expand the number of party members from 700,000 to 800,000. Three years later, in September 2033, the LDP held a presidential election. Three years later, in September 2003, Shinzo Abe was reelected unopposed in the presidential election, and he went on to lead the party for a long period of time.
The LDP’s relationship with the former Unification Church may have reached a point where it can no longer be excused, and the public is watching closely to see how the name change from “World Christian Association for the Unification of Spirits” to “Family Association for World Peace and Unification” was approved, something that had not been approved for 18 years. The public is watching closely to see how the name change was approved. The name change issue is being discussed in relation to the involvement of Hirofumi Shimomura, but he is not the only one who may have been involved.
Around 2008, there was a plan called the ‘Japan-Korea Tunnel,’ which would have connected Japan and South Korea via an undersea tunnel. This plan is now frozen, but at the time a Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker was enthusiastically promoting it. This legislator later obtained the post of assistant to Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Hirofumi Shimomura. Soon after, in 2015, the name change of the former Unification Church was approved. This person was always emphasizing the risk that the Ministry of Education might lose if an administrative court case (from the former Unification Church) was brought against it.
Prime Minister Kishida’s plan to restart with a reshuffle of the cabinet has gone far off course. The public is demanding a convincing explanation of the relationship between the former Unification Association and politics.
Interview and text by： Shutaro Iwashiro Photo by： Kyodo News