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Top Japan gov't exec left no record of sakura party guests recommended by PM Abe

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie, smile for a photo during a cherry blossom-viewing party at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in Tokyo, on April 13, 2019. (Mainichi/ Shinnosuke Kyan)

TOKYO -- The legitimacy of the Japanese government's explanation that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recommended about 1,000 people to be invited to a controversial cherry blossom-viewing party in April 2019 cannot be verified as no records of an investigation into guests to the annual event were ever kept as administrative documents, it has emerged.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga in November 2019 conducted research into the breakdown of guests invited to the April 2019 gathering, over which suspicions have been raised that Prime Minister Abe used the state-funded event for his personal gain as the guests included a number of his supporters. Suga explained during a news conference on June 1, "I did not keep records (of my research) as the number of subjects was small and it did not include detailed contents."

Suga reported in November last year, based on his own research into who recommended to invite about 15,000 guests to the sakura party, that Abe suggested some 1,000 people. He also said that a total of another 1,000 were tapped by Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, Suga himself and deputy chief Cabinet secretaries, and that some 6,000 people recommended by those associated with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Suga had given these numbers during Diet meetings and press conferences. The top government spokesperson told the June 1 news conference that he "interviewed people from the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Secretariat and a few people from the ruling parties."

The Mainichi Shimbun requested for disclosure of "a set of records of research on approximate figures for recommended guests," but the Cabinet Affairs Office of the Cabinet Secretariat replied in March that it did not hold any records as they were "either never made or the office had not acquired them." The Cabinet Office also told the Mainichi on May 28 that they did not have any related documents.

According to an administrative record held by the Cabinet Office, the number of guests invited to the 2019 sakura party totaled 15,420, of which 8,894 were recommended by parties including the prime minister and the LDP as people of merit in their respective fields. However, the breakdown of who recommended how many has remained unknown except for the rough numbers that Suga has presented.

(Japanese original by Shinichi Akiyama, Political News Department)

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