Asia-Pacific

Japan's gaffe-prone politicians

Ryu Matsumoto, Japan's newly-appointed disaster reconstruction minister, has resigned after appearing to insult the victims of the March quake and tsunami. He is the latest in a long line of politicians who have made high-profile gaffes.

Taro Aso: Prime Minister 2008-2009

He was Japan's fourth prime minister in three years. He was meant to give the ruling LDP enough of a bounce to call and win an election. But a series of gaffes saw his popularity plummet.

He accused doctors of lacking common sense, criticised parents and made contradictory policy statements.

He called the elderly a "feeble" group - despite his party relying heavily on older voters to keep it in power. Why, Mr Aso asked, should he have to pay taxes for those who "just eat and drink and make no effort".

He was also famous for malapropisms, mangling his words in a way that drew comparisons with George W Bush. He once spoke of his hopes for "cumbersome meetings" with Chinese officials instead of "frequent meetings", and on another occasion appeared to call his own government policies "stinky".

Mr Aso's tourism minister, Nariaki Nakayama, had to resign after calling Japan an "ethnically homogeneous" country that did not like foreigners.

Minoru Yanagida: Justice Minister 2010

He was forced to resign after two months as justice minister because he joked about how easy his job was during a meeting with his constituents.

"Being the justice minister is easy, as I only have to remember two phrases, either of which I can use in the Diet [parliament] whenever I am stuck for an answer," he said.

When asked was the two phrases were, he said "I refrain from making comments on a specific issue", and "we're dealing with the matter based on laws and evidence".

Yoshiro Mori: Prime Minister 2000-2001

He stirred up a storm of controversy within weeks of taking office by describing Japan as a "divine country" centred on the emperor - evoking memories of Japan's war-time militarism.

Days before the 2000 election, he told wavering voters - an estimated 40% of the electorate - to stay in bed on polling day.

He joked about Aids, and offended the entire city of Osaka by calling it a "spittoon".

About the US, he said: "When there was a Y2K problem, the Japanese bought water and noodles. Americans bought pistols and guns. If a blackout happens there, gangsters and murderers will always come out. It is that kind of society."

After a few months in office, bureaucrats reportedly made him speak only from cue cards.

Shintaro Ishihara: Tokyo Governor 1999-present

He was forced to apologise after describing the 11 March earthquake and tsunami as "divine punishment".

"Japanese politics is tainted with egoism and populism. We need to use the tsunami to wipe out egoism, which has rusted onto the mentality of Japanese over a long period of time," he told reporters.

"I think [the disaster] is tembatsu [divine punishment], although I feel sorry for disaster victims."

He was sued by a group of French teachers in 2005 for suggesting that French was a "failed language" because it "cannot count numbers".

Before his time in politics he suggested that the Chinese had exaggerated Japan's brutality in World War II, and that the Rape of Nanjing never happened.