Photo/IllutrationKoichi Hagiuda, a deputy chief Cabinet secretary, speaks at a session of the Upper House Cabinet Committee on June 16. (Takeshi Iwashita)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s close aide purportedly suggested changes to conditions that narrowed the field for an education project to just one applicant, according to an e-mail found by the education ministry.

That lone applicant was the Kake Educational Institution, headed by a long-time friend of the prime minister.

The e-mail was discovered in the ministry’s reinvestigation of documents indicating the Cabinet Office applied pressure on the ministry to swiftly approve Kake’s application to open a new veterinary medicine faculty in a National Strategic Special Zone.

The results of the reinvestigation announced on June 15 confirmed the existence of documents that top government officials had previously dismissed as “bogus.”

The e-mail found in the reinvestigation was sent to the education ministry from the Cabinet Office, which is in charge of National Strategic Special Zones, and was dated Nov. 1, 2016.

It contained an attached file with handwritten changes on a document outlining conditions for the opening of a veterinary medicine faculty in a National Strategic Special Zone.

According to a comment included in the e-mail, the changes were suggested by Koichi Hagiuda, a deputy chief Cabinet secretary and a close political ally of Abe for years. That comment was purportedly made by Yutaka Fujiwara, a high-ranking Cabinet Office official who met with education ministry officials to discuss the process for allowing a new veterinary medicine faculty.

At a June 16 session of the Upper House Cabinet Committee, Hagiuda denied giving any instructions as stated in the document and said he was puzzled by the results of the education ministry’s reinvestigation.

Fujiwara also denied passing on any such instructions from Hagiuda in the e-mail.

After the changes in the document were incorporated into the official process, only the Kake Educational Institution sought approval to establish a new veterinary medicine faculty.

One of the new conditions proposed in the attachment said applications should only be accepted for a new faculty in a “wide geographical area” where there are currently no such faculties.

The Kake Educational Institution planned to open its faculty in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, one of four prefectures on Shikoku island. There are no veterinary medicine faculties in Shikoku.

The original condition allowed applications in “areas” with no such faculties.

Kyoto Sangyo University considered submitting an application because there were no veterinary medicine faculties in Kyoto Prefecture.

However, the changed condition apparently led Kyoto Sangyo University to abandon its plan because Osaka Prefecture University in the wider Kansai region was already operating a veterinary medicine faculty.

The changes suggested in the attached document were incorporated in the decision on Nov. 9, 2016, by an advisory council overseeing the National Strategic Special Zone, on conditions for a veterinary medicine faculty.

As a result, Kake Educational Institution was the only one that submitted an application for such a faculty in the strategic special zone.