A ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) branch headed by former education minister Hakubun Shimomura used over 2.87 million yen in political funds to buy 1,900 copies of his book in May and June last year, the branch's political funding report has shown.
The book titled, "Kyoiku Toshi ga Nihon o Kaeru" ("Investment in education will change Japan"), was published by PHP Institute Inc. in May 2016. In the book, Shimomura describes the current situation surrounding Japan's education and makes education policy proposals. Each copy is priced at 1,512 yen including consumption tax.
According to the 2016 political funding report filed with the Tokyo Metropolitan Election Administration Commission, the LDP's branch in the House of Representatives' Tokyo No. 11 constituency bought 100 to 250 copies of the book each at 13 bookstores in Tokyo, Nagoya, Yokohama and other areas on May 19 and 20 and June 17 last year, totaling 1,900 copies. The branch spent 2,872,800 yen in total to buy copies of the book.
Shimomura's office admitted in an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun that the branch he heads made the purchase.
"We distributed the copies of his book we had bought to attendees at fundraising parties for the legislator and on other occasions," an official of Shimomura's office said.
Asked why the branch purchased the copies at various book stores, the official responded, "We made the purchases at bookstores designated by a person in charge at the publishing house."
A post on May 26, 2016, on Shimomura's Facebook page partly reads, "House of Representatives member Hakubun Shimomura's book, 'Investment in education will change Japan,' has hit the bestseller list at various bookstores.'" A photo showing his book on display at a bookstore is attached to the post.
Hiroshi Kamiwaki, professor at Kobe Gakuin University, who is well versed in political funds, raised questions about the LDP branch's use of political funds to buy many copies of a book authored by an individual politician.
"If he is personally receiving the royalties, it would mean he was using political funds to gain earnings, raising questions about his qualifications as a politician. If the branch had spent political funds to buy many copies of his book to raise its sales ranking at bookstores, it would be an inappropriate use of political funds," Kamiwaki said.