Photo/IllutrationThe A4-size manual titled “How to prevent making ‘inappropriate comments’ or ‘misunderstandings’” was compiled by the LDP’s election campaign section. (Masayoshi Hayashi)

In a move that sparked some internal anger, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party issued manuals to its lawmakers on how to prevent gaffes made in public, or at least how to avoid getting caught.

A number of LDP members have recently come under fire for insensitive and crude remarks. Some were forced to apologize and resign.

The party’s election campaign headquarters compiled the “manual to prevent verbal gaffes” in hopes that such comments will not hurt the party’s chances ahead of the Upper House election in July.

According to the manual, obtained by The Asahi Shimbun, LDP lawmakers must first and foremost be wary that their words could be “picked up” by the media.

It warns that their words could be taken out of context because the full comments of politicians are rarely broadcast or printed because of time and space constraints.

The manual also lists subjects and situations in which “patterns” of inappropriate comments have emerged: history recognition and political credo issues; gender or LGBT-related topics; accidents or disasters; sickness or aging; and talking in a casual, friendly tone to a receptive audience.

A note on the corner of the manual reads, “Never distribute this internal material.”

LDP staff members also received a copy of the manual, which was printed on a single sheet of A4-size paper.

Finance Minister Taro Aso, who is also deputy prime minister, has long been known for making gaffes. But he has retained his posts in the Abe administration despite continuing to offend people with his public opinions and statements.

The same cannot be said for Yoshitaka Sakurada, who, as Olympics minister, grossly misstated the cost of hosting the event, said he didn’t use a computer despite doubling as minister in charge of cybersecurity, and consistently stumbled while answering questions in the Diet.

He also seemed more concerned about Japan’s medal count in the Tokyo Olympics than the health of star swimmer Rikako Ikee after she announced that she had leukemia.

The final straw came during a fund-raising party in April for Hinako Takahashi, an LDP lawmaker born in Iwate Prefecture, one of three prefectures hard hit by the earthquake-tsunami disaster in March 2011.

“What’s more important than the reconstruction (of disaster-stricken areas) is (support for) Takahashi,” Sakurada said.

Sakurada’s comment drew outrage among communities that are still rebuilding from the disaster, which left nearly 20,000 people dead or missing.

Sakurada resigned from the Cabinet on the same day he made the comment.

The manual recommends LDP members talk in short sentences to reduce the risk that only certain parts of their speech will be “extracted.”

They should not play up to laughter or accolades from an audience, and they must always be careful when discussing topics dear to their heart with close acquaintances or when alcohol is involved, according to the manual.

Furthermore, they should watch their words when people who are “aggrieved” or “weak” in society attend the meeting or party.

The LDP is no stranger to scandals caused by gaffes.

But a veteran lawmaker said, “This is probably the first time that a manual was delivered from the party’s headquarters to prevent us from making inappropriate comments.”

Another party member suggested the party is in need of discipline: “(The manual) is necessary because the educational function of party factions is deteriorating.”

But another LDP member said: “(Delivering such a manual) is almost like they are saying, ‘We are stupid.’ I am at a loss of words.”

The seven other major political parties have not issued such a manual.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe probably wished that Ichiro Tsukada, then vice land minister, had also been at a loss for words in early April.

Tsukada was discussing a road project designed to connect Shimonoseki, Abe’s constituency in Yamaguchi Prefecture, with Fukuoka Prefecture, part of which Aso represents.

Referring to his efforts to increase the budget for the road project, Tsukada told his associates, “I did ‘sontaku.’”

Sontaku refers to the practice of accommodating the assumed wishes and intentions of another person. So his comment indicated that he was doing the untold bidding of Abe and Aso.

The original meaning of sontaku was positive, showing concern for how the other feels.

Now used as a derogatory term, sontaku was raised in the political scandals involving school operator Moritomo Gakuen and the Kake Educational Institution.

Tsukada’s comment led to his resignation.

Shoji Azuma, a professor of world languages and culture at the University of Utah who has heard Aso’s gaffes over and over again, said: “His addresses are interesting and he is highly popular. But he cannot distinguish between public phrases and private ones.”

Azuma pointed to the item in the manual about being careful when excitedly talking about a topic with friends or over drinks.

“Aso probably will not care about exercising caution by saying, ‘Such a thing is a matter of course,’” Azuma said.

The manual also warns LDP members that a reporter could be within earshot, even at a private meeting, and that anyone can take pictures with a smartphone and post the shots. The manual also says LDP members must never use foul language, even to a close reporter.

Robert Campbell, a researcher of Japanese literature, criticized LDP lawmaker Mio Sugita for a magazine article she wrote last summer that discriminated against sexual minorities and called them “unproductive.”

Campbell, who is gay, accepted the existence of such a manual for politicians because they are conveying their views to society.

But he is also concerned that LDP members will separate their comments into ones made behind closed doors and official ones given in public.

As a result, they may hide their true feelings about a particular topic, such as the LGBT community, and focus on words that are acceptable in society, leading to “fake politics” and putting voters at a disadvantage.

“Young politicians especially might handle such topics with kid gloves because they think they should refrain from speaking on such topics,” he said. “Land mine-like awkward issues are the very topics I want politicians to study hard and talk about so that such actions will lead to the design of policy.”

(This article was written by Shinobu Konno and Masayoshi Hayashi.)