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Home >  News >  The Prime Minister in Action >  November 2019 >  Press Conference on the Cherry Blossom Viewing Party (3) and the Release of a Hokkaido University Professor

The Prime Minister in Action

Press Conference on the Cherry Blossom Viewing Party (3) and the Release of a Hokkaido University Professor

November 15, 2019

Photograph of the Prime Minister holding the press conference

Photograph of the Prime Minister holding the press conference

  • Photograph of the Prime Minister holding the press conference
[Provisional Translation]
On November 15, 2019, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office.
Regarding the cherry blossom viewing party, the Prime Minister provided the following answers,
“First I will answer about the cherry blossom viewing party. With respect to the dinner banquet that was held the day before the cherry blossom viewing party, as there have been several reports by media outlets, I received a report from my office on the details today.
As I have already said, all costs were borne by the participants themselves, including travel costs, accommodations costs, and the cost to attend that dinner banquet. No money was paid into or out from my office or the support group of ABE Shinzo in relation to those events. I have confirmed this point again.
If I may go into the details, on that occasion, the participants paid travel costs and accommodations costs to the travel agent. As for the cost of the banquet, staff members from my office collected 5,000 yen from each guest at the reception of the dinner at the entrance of the banquet venue, and gave out receipts issued under the name of the hotel. After the reception closed, the staff members handed the entirety of the cash they had collected to the hotel. In that way, the participants paid the hotel.
Some have raised questions about the pricing of the banquet being too cheap. Some media have also pointed out the same. Concerning the cost of 5,000 yen per person, I received a report that the price itself was proposed by the hotel, taking into account the fact that most of the participants were guests at the hotel. These are more details that I would like to add, in a precise manner, to what I explained at the Diet.”
“Concerning the issues related to the invitees (of the viewing party), as I have already answered in the Diet, and as the Chief Cabinet Secretary explained before, the guest list was compiled by the Cabinet Office and Cabinet Secretariat. It has been a long-standing practice for the ruling parties and, at the Cabinet Secretariat, for the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Chief Cabinet Secretary, and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretaries, to make recommendations on whom to invite. My office made recommendations as part of that process.”
“While it has been customary for many years—as I just explained, it has been a long-standing custom for the ruling parties and others, at the Cabinet Secretariat, the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Chief Cabinet Secretary and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretaries, to make recommendations—it has been pointed out that the criteria are not clearly provided and the selection lacks transparency.
Even though it has been a long-standing practice, I myself must reflect on the point that the number of invitees has grown steadily each year. In light of that, I made the decision to review the process.”
“There have been many points raised this time. I intend to decide on how we host this party, based on these points.”
“I believe the answers I have just given cover almost everything that has been asked about this matter.”
“As that is a matter for the Diet, I believe that the Diet will decide. If the Diet seeks an explanation, it is only natural that the Government fulfil its responsibility to give one.”
“Not all the attendees stayed at the hotel. I do think that the hotel decides on the pricing, taking into account a variety of factors in a comprehensive manner each time, such as whether the group making the inquiry is using the hotel’s services every year, what the scale of the event is, and whether or not the attendees will stay at the hotel.
Needless to say, from the hotel’s perspective, it is facing competition with other hotels, while it also has relationships with many customers. I would say it decides in a manner that I described, taking into account various factors. As I said a moment ago, that includes factors such as that most of the banquet guests stayed at the hotel, it was a significant number, and these events have been held regularly, every year.”
“That is something that the Diet is always debating. The issues related to the Diet will be decided by the Diet and that is the rule. At the same time, it is also a rule that if the Diet seeks an explanation about something, the Government will fulfill its responsibility to provide said explanation.”
“What I just mentioned is my thought about this issue.”
“I believe that as the years went by, the number of new invitees increased. Reflecting on that, we cancelled the party for next year, and will review the process.”
“I don’t think that is something for me to comment on.”
“As I am the Prime Minister and I am exerting every possible effort in that role, I certainly did not work at the reception myself. That work was of course handled the entire time by my office staff.
I received a detailed briefing on how the process was recently handled. My office of course has always worked in accordance with the Public Offices Election Act and there has been no violation up until now. While I trust my staff, I sought to check the details, taking this opportunity.”
“A diverse group of people, including those who have been decorated, attend this event. Indeed, many people, including business leaders, corporate executives, or even senior journalists from the media, come to this event. In addition to them, as many ordinary citizens as possible also take part in the event. I myself do not have much opportunity to get acquainted with them. In that context, I suspect that the ruling parties are also asked to submit their recommendations.
Even among such ordinary citizens, there are many people who make significant contributions in their respective communities. Meanwhile, it is fairly difficult to choose invitees among them. In light of that, the current practice has been used until now.”
“I do not know the details of that. With respect to the security measures, I need to ask how the security check has been conducted. There might be a possibility that the security check was conducted at a separate area or those from my office who directly knew the guests conducted such checks.”
“This event has been held every year since 1952. Since that time, the consumption tax has been raised several times. Even during that period of time, this event has continued to be held.
There is also an argument regarding the appropriate number of guests. The involvement of the ruling parties or their recommendations have been maintained as the practice and, taking that into consideration, we decided to review the process.”
“No money whatsoever was paid into or out from my office. Accommodation and travel costs were paid directly to the travel agent. For the banquet held the day before the party, we handed a 5,000 yen receipt issued by the hotel to the attendees. Immediately after receiving the money from the guests, we handed the whole amount to the hotel. In this regard, I do not see any problem here.”
“Also based on the fact that there are such comments—I do believe it was also raised just now and it was the question on the criteria to choose guests—we have decided to review the process, including those criteria.”
“Being a long-standing administration is the result of doing our very best every day. Needless to say, I intend to continue to ask myself whether or not I am resting on my laurels, and continue to work with more discipline.”
“That was because I thought it would be better for me to talk about the results after receiving the details from my office, after my office spoke directly with the hotel and confirmed once again.”
“That is a question of what constitutes the activities of support groups. For instance, when members of the support group get together, we can call it an activity of the support group in a broader sense. Therefore, we need to differentiate these actual activities and those activities defined in the Political Funds Control Act. The event is of course part of the activities of the support group in a broader sense.”
“I agree that some would perceive it that way. Taking into account that point, we will recommend those who we know. It is not only about me but also about the ruling parties. That would be the same with Deputy Prime Minister, Chief Cabinet Secretary and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretaries. We intend to review the criteria from that perspective. If I could add one more point, many people make a significant contribution in their respective communities. It is a fact that the event has provided an opportunity to be acquainted with those ordinary citizens. In addition to those who have made significant achievements in their respective fields, or business executives of your companies, the practice has been established based on the idea to invite a diverse group of people, not limited to them. In this context, we must reflect on it, taking into account the fact that some issues have been raised.”
“As I have already said, this has been the practice from almost the beginning. In other words, it is a reflection of such reality. The reason why it has been implemented in such a way is because we wanted to have a more diverse group of people at this event. At the same time, we should accept the criticism that there are various points that lack clarity in response to that.”
“Any income or expenditure is recorded in the political fund report only when it occurs. It is apparent even if you look at the text of the Public Offices Election Act. According to the Political Funds Control Act, the obligation to report only arises when income or expenditure actually occurs. As I said just now, transportation costs, accommodation costs and so forth were paid directly to the travel agent. There was no income or expenditure attributable to the support group. Concerning the dinner banquet prior to the cherry blossom viewing party as well, the hotel issued those receipts, and all the money received at the reception was passed on, as is, to the hotel. That means there was no income or expenditure. This was absolutely not an infringement of the Political Funds Control Act. In addition, there is no problem even if members of my office work at the reception.”
“I am aware of that.
I did not receive reports on that. Various activities of my office have been conducted in such a manner. That is the reason why I said it was not an infringement of the Political Funds Control Act. I am aware that my office has asked the travel agent to take care of those who attend in such a manner, rather than organizing a tour.”
In addition, concerning the release of Hokkaido University Professor Nobu Iwatani, the Prime Minister said,
“Regarding the release of Hokkaido University Professor Iwatani today, the Government has called for the release of Professor Iwatani as soon as possible, at every level, ever since he was detained. I myself strongly requested that he be returned to his family at the earliest date possible.
In light of that, I am truly glad that Professor Iwatani returned safely to Japan and reunited with his family.”
Lastly, concerning the cherry blossom viewing party, the Prime Minister said,
“Recommendations were made in line with long-standing practice. Against this backdrop, the current situation has arisen. The current situation is due to the accumulation of such a past practice. Therefore, we intend to conduct a review this time, including these points.”

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