A senior aide of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was dismissed on Saturday after making homophobic comments.

Masayoshi Arai, a secretary of the prime minister’s office, on Friday, said he “doesn’t even want to look at” married same-sex couples.

He added that he “wouldn’t even like it if they lived next door,” according to public broadcaster NHK.

The same day, Arai retracted his comments and apologized, saying his remarks were inappropriate, even if they were his personal opinion.

Kishida rebuked Arai’s comments and called them “outrageous and completely incompatible with administration’s policies.”

Senior aid of Japanese PM Masayoshi Arai walks next to PM Fumio Kishida at the PM's official residence.
Masayoshi Arai, a secretary of the prime minister’s office was dismissed over homophobic commentsImage: Kyodo/AP/picture alliance

Scandal ahead of G7 summit

On Saturday, Kishida told reporters that Japan is currently “aiming for an inclusive society…that recognizes diversity.”

Arai’s comments are an embarrassment for Kishida, who is preparing to host world leaders from the Group of Seven (G7) nations in May.

Japan is the only G7 nation that does not recognize same-sex unions.

The Japanese constitution articulates that “marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes” and “with equal rights of husband and wife.”

Japanese push for legalizing same-sex marriage

Currently, same-sex couples in Japan cannot inherit each other’s assets and are denied parental rights.

This week, Kishida told the parliament that same-sex marriages would “affect the society,” and that lawmakers need to be “extremely careful in considering the matter.”

Japan upholds ban on same-sex marriage

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The movement toward legalizing same-sex marriage has been growing in Japan, and Aria’s comments sparked protests.

In a survey conducted by NHK in July 2021, two months before Kishida became prime minister, 57% of 1,508 respondents supported the legal recognition of same-sex unions.

In November, a Tokyo court upheld the ban on same-sex marriage. However, it also pointed out that the lack of legislation on same-sex marriage violated their human rights.

Kishida faces plummeting approval ratings

Arai’s dismissal marks another blow to the Kishida government, which has faced plummeting approval ratings since last year.

According to recent polls, public support has halved to around 30% after a series of resignations of senior officials.

In the last three months, four ministers resigned over allegations of financial irregularities or links to the controversial unification church.

In 2022, a justice minister stepped down after joking about capital punishment and internal affairs. 

The same year, a communications vice minister resigned over comments about LGBTQ people and Japan’s indigenous Ainu community.

Yoshiro Mori, Minister Seiko Hashimoto and minister Koichi Hagyuda cross hands at the 2020 Olympic games.
Yoshiro Mori, head of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee resigned after making sexist comments.Image: Yomiuri Shimbun/AP/picture alliance

In 2021, the head of the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee, Yoshiro Mori, resigned after saying women talked too much.

ns/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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