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Abe calls making preschoolers cheer him at sports meet improper

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday it was inappropriate for a
kindergarten in Osaka run by the controversial school operator at the
center of a questionable government-owned land sale to make children
cheer for him during a sports event in 2015.

"I don't want things like that said at kindergartens at all. I
think it is inappropriate," Abe told a parliamentary session,
referring to an incident at Tsukamoto Kindergarten where four
preschoolers raised their right arms and shouted twice, "Go fight,
Prime Minister Abe."

Video footage showed the children also saying, "Adults should
protect the Senkaku Islands and Takeshima. Chinese and South Korean
people who treat Japan as a bad (country) should change their minds."
They also said, "The passage of security bills through the Diet was
good."

The Japanese-administered Senkakus in the East China Sea are a
source of friction with China, which claims the islands and calls
them Diaoyu. The South Korean-controlled Dokdo islets in the Sea of
Japan that are claimed by Tokyo, which calls them Takeshima, are also
a politically sensitive subject.

Education minister Hirokazu Matsuno told the same parliamentary
session that the government is "closely watching" how the Osaka
prefectural government will deal with the matter, including
determining whether making children engage in such actions
constitutes political activity, which is banned in schools under the
education law.

The Fundamental Law on Education stipulates that "schools
prescribed by law shall refrain from political education in favor of
or against any specific political party, and from other political
activities."

The kindergarten in Osaka's Yodogawa Ward, run by an educational
entity called Moritomo Gakuen, has also been criticized for
distributing to parents material disparaging Korean residents of
Japan and Chinese people.

The kindergarten also makes its pupils memorize Japan's Imperial
Rescript on Education -- an 1890 edict that was used to promote
emperor-oriented and militaristic education before and during World
War II.

Abe has been under fire in connection with Moritomo Gakuen's
purchase of a 8,770-square-meter government-owned lot in neighboring
Toyonaka for 134 million yen ($1.19 million), about 14 percent of its
appraised value, in June last year, as land for a private elementary
school scheduled to open in April.

The government has said it sold the land at such a reduced price
after subtracting the costs of removing waste materials that Moritomo
Gakuen said were found in the ground, which amounted to slightly over
800 million yen.

Abe reiterated during Monday's House of Representatives Budget
Committee session that neither he nor his wife Akie, who served as
the elementary school's honorary principal until stepping down
recently, was involved in the land deal.

Also Monday, the Toyonaka municipal government examined the
school construction site, after a subcontractor that worked on the
site said it was told to put back into a hole in the ground
waste-containing soil that had been removed from the same site,
rather than dispose of it properly. Such an action, if true, would be
a violation of the waste management law.

After the on-site examination and an interview with a local
contractor, a municipal official said the city has been briefed that
waste-containing soil has been kept at the site for nearly a year.

Moritomo Gakuen posted a message on the elementary school's
website Sunday saying that a part of the soil has been "temporarily
stored" underground, adding it plans to remove it from around Tuesday.

The subcontractor has told Kyodo News that the soil had a
pungent smell resembling ammonia and contained waste such as socks
and condiment containers. Saying that only a thin layer of earth has
been laid over the waste-containing soil, he wondered whether it
would be safe for pupils to play there. (Feb. 27)