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Japan gov't announces halt to controversial sakura-viewing party following criticism

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie (center), pose for photos with guests at this year's cherry blossom-viewing party at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward on April 13, 2019. (Mainichi/Shinnosuke Kyan)

TOKYO -- Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference on Nov. 13 that a controversial cherry blossom-viewing party hosted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will not be held next spring.

The decision came as the event, held annually at Tokyo's Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, has come under fire for its lack of transparency in the selection of guests and the fact that many of Abe's supporters from his home constituency have been invited to the party.

Suga told reporters that the government will consider making the process of selecting the guests transparent for the public.

He also revealed that the Cabinet Secretariat had asked the prime minister's office and ruling parties to recommend guests to invite to the spring gathering as a "long-established customary practice." For the nominations from the prime minister's office, Suga said the Cabinet Secretariat had sought recommended persons from the prime minister and deputy prime minister as well as chief Cabinet secretary and deputy chief Cabinet secretaries and then coordinated the lists of the nominated figures, effectively admitting that there was a "quota" for guests.


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