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State minister makes gaffe by including Okinawa in 'Northern Territories Day'

State Minister for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs Tetsuma Esaki is called back as he tries to leave a room in the National Diet building where a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting was being held on Feb. 7, 2018. (Mainichi)

Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs Tetsuma Esaki mistakenly called "Northern Territories Day," which falls on Feb. 7, "the day for Okinawa and the Northern Territories," sparking criticism from the opposition.

The slip of the tongue came during a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting on Feb. 7. When opposition lawmaker Yuichi Goto from the Party of Hope called out Esaki's mistake, the minister corrected the error, explaining that he had inadvertently included Okinawa because he was the minister in charge of affairs concerning Okinawa and the Northern Territories -- the latter of which are a group of islands off Hokkaido controlled by Russia and also claimed by Japan. Goto slammed Esaki, saying, "For the minister in charge of these affairs to make such a mistake on the day for the Northern Territories is a serious problem."

Furthermore, Esaki was stopped by Goto when he tried to leave the meeting room with Foreign Minister Taro Kono, with the opposition lawmaker telling the minister, "I didn't say you were excused." Goto appeared appalled at Esaki's attitude, saying that he was "slack."

Shortly after his inauguration to his first ministerial post in August 2017, Esaki came under fire for saying that he would simply read out answers prepared by bureaucrats in Diet meetings over the issue of the Northern Territories.

"Northern Territories Day" was set by the Japanese government based on a commerce and navigation treaty signed by Japan and Russia on Feb. 7 in 1855.

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