Japan’s disaster reconstruction minister said Tuesday displaced people yet to return to areas of Fukushima Prefecture deemed safe to live in are “responsible for themselves,” before snapping at the reporter whose question prompted the remark.
Masahiro Imamura made the comment at a press conference explaining the government’s efforts for the reconstruction of areas hit by the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.
Housing subsidies ran out last month for those who had left areas other than government-designated zones around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Citing a court decision last month that the central government and the plant’s operator were liable in the nuclear disaster in the first ruling of its kind since the crisis, a reporter asked what the state is doing to help the “voluntary evacuees.”
Imamura responded that the central government has delegated such matters to prefectural authorities, which are more knowledgeable about local conditions.
“It’s their own responsibility, their own choice,” he said when pressed further, pointing out that other evacuees have managed to go back to the areas.
The reporter said some of those still displaced have found themselves unable to return, and asked whether the state should take more responsibility for looking after those people.
“We are taking responsibility. Why are you saying something so rude?” Imamura shouted, slamming his podium.
Pointing a finger at the reporter, he then yelled, “Take that back! Get out of here!”
“You’re the one who’s causing problems for the evacuees,” someone called out as Imamura walked away from the podium, to which the minister responded “Shut up!” before leaving the room.
“The minister has informed me that he became emotional and was unable to remain calm for part of today’s press conference,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said during a subsequent press conference.
Suga, the government’s top spokesman, said the matter is one for Imamura himself to “handle appropriately.”
The disaster reconstruction minister apologized later Tuesday, telling reporters he had “become emotional.”
Imamura, 70, was installed in his post in a Cabinet reshuffle in August last year.