Photo/Illutration Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, left, meets with reporters while his executive secretary, Masayoshi Arai, stands by. Kishida fired Arai on Feb. 4 for making disparaging remarks about sexual minorities. (Koichi Ueda)

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida fired a key aide who made disparaging remarks about sexual minorities.

Speaking off the record with reporters on Feb. 3, Masayoshi Arai, who served as an executive secretary in charge of media relations for Kishida, said he would not want to live next to gays and other sexual minorities.

Addressing the hubbub that erupted, Kishida told reporters the following day: “My administration has made clear that it is seeking to establish a sustainable and inclusive society in which diversity is recognized. The comments by Arai go completely against that stance.”

Kishida visited Ishikawa and Fukui prefectures on Feb. 4, and initially Arai was to accompany him. However, he was told to remain in Tokyo.

In Sakai, Fukui Prefecture, Kishida told reporters he had no choice but to let Arai go.

Kishida added that Sadanori Ito, director of the Personnel Division at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, would replace Arai.

During a Feb. 3 meeting with reporters, Arai said he loathed even looking at sexual minorities and indicated that all executive secretaries under Kishida were opposed to same-sex marriage, an issue that is much in the public eye.

Arai met again with reporters later the same day and retracted some of his comments, especially those that he realized could be considered as discriminatory.

Arai was a career bureaucrat in the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry before being named an executive secretary to Kishida when the latter became prime minister in October 2021. Arai served in the role of spokesman for Kishida, often writing his speeches and meeting with media representatives on a regular basis.

His comments came two days after Kishida himself said at a Lower House Budget Committee session that he was not enthusiastic about allowing same-sex marriages because it could fundamentally “change society.”

Arai is not the first individual associated with the Kishida administration to stir controversy with comments about sexual minorities.

Mio Sugita resigned as parliamentary vice minister for internal affairs and communications in late December for a string of offensive remarks about sexual minorities, including one about how they were “unproductive” members of society.

She had also claimed that sexual discrimination does not exist and that women would never become equal to men.

Four ministers under Kishida have resigned due to various scandals, including one who repeatedly “remembered” his ties to the Unification Church only after media reports surfaced.