Cherry blossoms prompt full-blown scandal for Abe
Japan Today -- Dec 10
It might be the most Japanese of political scandals: a furor over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's guest list at a party to mark the annual cherry blossom season.

As scandals go, it has plenty of juicy elements -- alleged yakuza guests, disappearing evidence, even gaffes by Abe, who appeared to lay blame for shredded documents on a disabled worker.

It's the latest headache for Japan's longest-serving premier, who has already weathered two cronyism scandals in recent years and has faced an almost daily drubbing by opposition lawmakers since the scandal emerged in early November.

The outcry involves a tradition that dates back to 1952 -- a publicly funded cherry blossom party intended to honor the great and the good for their achievements.

The seemingly innocuous gathering become a lightning rod for criticism after claims Abe stacked the guest list with some 850 supporters from his local constituency -- with the party costing 55 million yen in public money.

When the opposition smelled blood, additional allegations piled in: the chairman of a disgraced company was once a guest, a member of one of Japan's infamous yakuza attended in 2019.

The opposition bloc demanded the guest list for this year's event be produced, only to be told it had been shredded on the very same day the request was made.

Just a coincidence, Abe insisted to outraged opposition lawmakers: the documents were shredded during "the work hours of a part-time employee with disabilities," he added, in remarks that many saw as an attempt to blame the worker.

The scandal has seen public support for Abe's government drop six or seven points to around 50 percent or lower, but experts said Abe is likely to weather the storm.

News source: Japan Today
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