A member of the Diet – the Japanese Parliament – who has been criticized for a breach in protocol when he handed a letter to Emperor Akihito at a garden party last week said on Tuesday that he will not be stepping down despite the harsh comments many have said of his act. Taro Yamamoto, an actor-turned-politician who won an independent seat in the Upper House and is known for his anti-nuclear stance, did offer a public apology but defended his act saying that he did not intend to use the opportunity of meeting the Emperor for political purposes.
“I regret that what I did has troubled the Emperor,” Yamamoto he said at a news conference. He also added that he was not sufficiently aware of the consequences of his action. The Japanese Constitution defines the Emperor as a “symbolic” ruler of Japan and stipulates that “he shall not have powers related to government.” The breach of protocol has called into question Yamamoto’s seat in the Diet, but on Tuesday, Yamamoto told Mitsuhide Iwaki, chairman of the Upper House Standing Committee on Rules and Administration, that he intends to stay on as a lawmaker. The committee is reportedly discussing whether to discipline the politician.
The Imperial Household Agency criticized Yamamoto on Tuesday, saying that his action was indeed “inappropriate.” Shinichiro Yamamoto, vice grand steward at the agency and no relation to the lawmaker in question, said that, “It was a matter to be decided in line with common sense.” The garden party is an occasion “for thanking people from various sectors for their services,” he added. Yamamoto, known for his anti-nuclear activities, handed a letter to the Emperor last Thursday that described in detail the current working environment at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.