SAGA -- A mayor in the southwestern Japan prefecture of Saga has apologized over what he has described as an "inappropriate" comment about children with developmental disabilities.
During a "GM21 Meeting" between the prefectural governor of Saga and mayors of 20 municipalities within the prefecture on Jan. 26, Kanzaki Mayor Shigeyuki Matsumoto, 70, remarked, "If the cause can be ascertained, children who don't end up that way (with developmental disabilities) may be able to spend their whole lives happily as abled people."
When approached by the Mainichi Shimbun, Matsumoto admitted that his remark was "an expression that evoked the misunderstanding that all children with developmental disabilities will be unhappy for a lifetime."
"It was an inappropriate remark. I apologize," Matsumoto said. At the same time, he added, "As a mayor, I think that it's unfortunate to have developmental disabilities. I think that everyone must feel this way."
At the meeting, Matsumoto also commented, "If the causes of developmental disorders are acquired after birth, it's the responsibility of adults to remove them."
Saga Mayor Toshiyuki Hideshima, 78, meanwhile, stated, "I'm worried over what we can do about the reality of there being an increase in children who can't fill the role of supporting the elderly amid an aging population with a declining birthrate." He told reporters, "I have absolutely no intention of discriminating against or despising anyone. I just meant that I want to decrease the number of people in a tough situation, even if in the slightest."
A 48-year-old woman from the city of Saga, who has a son with a developmental disability, said, "The remarks suggest that children with developmental disabilities are causing a nuisance for society, and it's extremely upsetting. Instead of talking about lessening the number of children with developmental disabilities, we should have discussions on how to build a society where those with disabilities as well as those without them don't have to have a hard time."
(Japanese original by Mio Ikeda and Hibiki Yamaguchi, Saga Bureau)