Not even Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could save Yoshitaka Sakurada this time and retain him in the post of Olympic minister.

Abe had staunchly supported Sakurada over a spate of gaffes, but the latest utterance on April 10, seen as making light of areas affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, was too much for him.

Sakurada submitted his resignation the same day.

The development is a bitter pill for Abe to swallow as it is the second resignation to rock his administration in less than a week.

Ichiro Tsukada resigned as vice land minister on April 5 after saying he upgraded a road project as a favor to Abe and Finance Minister Taro Aso, though neither of the two men had made any such request.

The two resignations are a serious blow to the Abe administration as it currently faces unified local elections and Lower House by-elections and an Upper House election in summer.

Sakurada's undoing came at a function held in Tokyo on the evening of April 10 for ruling party Lower House lawmaker Hinako Takahashi, who hails from Iwate Prefecture, one of the areas hit hard eight years ago by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

Sakurada noted that Japan will host hordes of foreign visitors in 2020 for the Tokyo Summer Olympics and Paralympics.

“I will be grateful if you cooperate with reconstruction (of areas damaged by the disasters) by throwing out the welcome mat and traditional hospitality," Sakurada said. "And what’s more important than the reconstruction is Takahashi.”

It didn't take long for the quip to reach the ears of the prime minister’s office and Liberal Democratic Party executives.

Hiroshi Moriyama, chairman of the LDP’s Diet affairs committee, made calls to executives of an intraparty faction headed by LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai, to which Sakurada belongs, and told them Sakurada would have to go.

No one disagreed. Abe, along with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and other government officials, gathered at the prime minister’s office. Sakurada arrived with a letter of resignation.

“I made a remark that hurt the feelings of people in the areas affected by the disaster. Simply retracting what I said is not sufficient.” Abe accepted the resignation on the spot and later decided to appoint former Olympic minister Shunichi Suzuki as Sakurada’s successor.

Suzuki is from a constituency in Iwate Prefecture.

Abe got rid of Sakurada in a hurry, apparently having reflected on his dithering in dealing with Tsukada’s case.

On April 1, Tsukada referred to a practice of anticipating the wishes of superiors when he spoke about a road construction project with Abe and Aso in mind.

Abe initially defended him. But criticism quickly swelled in both the ruling and opposition camps, prompting Abe to force Tsukada to resign on April 5.

Sakurada had repeatedly made controversial utterances, retracted them and apologized. Abe had staunchly defended him in the face of criticism from opposition parties.

But this time, the cross was too much for him to bear.

Opposition parties griped that Abe should have heeded their demands for Sakurada to be sacked much earlier.

“It’s an unbelievable remark,” Yukio Edano, head of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, told reporters in Tokyo.

“It had been pointed out repeatedly that Sakurada’s political nuances and knowledge of issues are problematic. In spite of that, Abe continued to defend him. So Abe is responsible. It’s a serious situation,” Edano added.

Yuichiro Tamaki, leader of the Democratic Party for the People, also said, “We want to clarify during Diet questioning Abe’s responsibility for appointing someone who had no qualities as a Cabinet minister.”