TOKYO -- Agriculture minister Ken Saito announced on April 13 that a document has been found quoting a then secretary to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe telling Kake Educational Institution officials in 2015 that its plan to establish a veterinary school in Ehime Prefecture was "a matter concerning the prime minister."
Saito told a news conference that the document has been found inside the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry.
Tadao Yanase, who was an executive secretary to the prime minister in 2015, has said he has no memory of being at an April 2, 2015 meeting with Kake officials and Ehime Prefectural Government and Imabari Municipal Government officials described in the document. The government is currently trying to confirm the details of the document.
According to sources close to the government, the contents of the document concerned are almost identical to those of a document which media outlets have been covering since April 10.
Following those news reports, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga instructed ministries and agencies concerned via Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kazuhiro Sugita on April 10 to check if documents concerning Kake's plan to open a veterinary school in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, have been preserved. In response, the agriculture ministry, the Cabinet Office, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, and the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry searched for the document.
According to the Ehime Prefectural Government, a prefectural official met with Yanase at the prime minister's office on April 2, 2015, and was told that Kake's veterinary school plan was "a matter concerning the prime minister."
The prefectural official compiled the document as a memo on the meeting, but the document is not on file with the prefectural government.
Ehime Gov. Tokihiro Nakamura told a news conference on April 10 that "the possibility cannot be ruled out that prefectural government officials left the document" at the agriculture ministry or other central government offices they visited.
If the document was indeed compiled by the prefectural government, it would mean that documents that the prefectural government had submitted to central government ministries and agencies to ask for support for its veterinary school plan contained the name of Yanase and a phrase, "a matter concerning the prime minister."
The newly discovered document also states that when the prime minister had a meal with Kake institution head and close friend Kotaro Kake, they talked about education minister Hakubun Shimomura's statement that Kake Educational Institution's failure to respond to questions about challenges it faces was "outrageous."
The document also states that officials from the Ehime Prefectural Government and Kake received advice for the establishment of the vet school during the meeting with Yanase.
Yanase, who now serves as vice minister for international affairs at the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, released a comment on April 10 stating, "As far as I remember, I have never met with officials of the Ehime Prefectural or Imabari Municipal governments."
At a House of Representatives Budget Committee session the following day, Prime Minister Abe once again denied his involvement in the Kake institution's establishment of the veterinary school and declined to comment on the case.