TOKYO, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who has been grilled in the Diet over a scandal involving his name potentially being used to solicit funds for the building of a nationalist elementary school distanced himself and his wife from the incident Friday.
Following being grilled in the Diet by opposition parties about the sale of state-owned land to Moritomo Gakuen in Osaka for far less than its appraisal value, for the building of Japan's "first Shinto elementary school" in April, Abe said he had lodged a protest with the school's operator.
Following allegations that the school sought donations for the new school to be built in the prime minister's name, with the school to be called "Prime Minister Shinzo Abe memorial elementary school", Abe said he had refused to allow his name to be used.
"It is regrettable that it used my name despite my refusal," Abe told a House of Representatives Budget Committee question session on Friday.
He also said that his wife, Akie, had resigned as honorary principal of the soon-to-be-opened controversial school, following a message praising the school in her name suddenly being removed form the school's website a day earlier.
"I accepted the offer to be the honorary principal, impressed by Mr. Kagoike's passion for education," Akie had said in her message on the school's website. Yasunori Kagoike is the president of Moritomo Gakuen and the principal of the school.
"The school will nurture children who have pride as Japanese and a hard core, based on its excellent moral education," the prime minister's wife also said in her now deleted message.
As to whether the government was complicit in Akie advocating the controversial school, the government's top spokesperson said it had no idea.
"The government is not aware of what the prime minister's wife does as an individual," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference recently.
Moritomo Gakuen, operator of the Tsukamoto kindergarten, bought the 8,770-square-meter piece of state-owned land last June in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, for 134 million yen (1.18 million U.S. dollars), which is equivalent to just 14 percent of its appraisal price.
The Tsukamoto kindergarten itself has also come under fire recently for allegedly handing out to students' parents a copy of a statement slurring both Korean and Chinese residents in Japan.
The school also posted remarks on its web page that could also have also been construed as hate speech.
The statement handed out by the kindergarten described Korean residents in Japan and Chinese people as those with "wicked ideas".
Following these allegations, officials at the school including Kagoike were questioned by Osaka prefectural officials for suspected hate speech.
The kindergarten is known for its students, aged 3-to-5 years old, singing Japan's national anthem every morning in front of the country's flag and reciting the Imperial Rescript on Education, which since 1890 demands devotion to the emperor, sacrifice for the country and promotes militaristic education.
The rescript was abolished after World War II, but reintroduced 15 years ago by Tsukamoto kindergarten, the walls of which are lined by historical pictures of the imperial family to which the students bow to as they pass in the corridor, according to local accounts.
Along with the rescript and other such "cultural" and historical instruction, according to the kindergarten's principal, Kagoike, the school's curriculum is supposed to foster patriotism and not nationalism.
Kagoike, however, heads the Osaka branch of Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Conference, a nationalist, non-political entity which supports the State Shinto religious organization.
The students are also known to visit military bases, which some observers have said is to reinforce the school's nationalistic values and jingoistic curriculum.
Opposition parties are intensifying their efforts to grill Abe over the land deal, with Democratic Party leader Renho demanding that Kagoike be summoned to the Diet to testify as an unsworn witness.
Abe has consistently denied he or his wife had any involvement in the potentially dubious land sale and told Democratic Party lawmaker Nobuyuki Fukushima that he "would quit as prime minister and as a Diet member" if they were involved.