Ex-minister blames his blood group for outburst after Fukushima disaster


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The Independent Online

Politicians typically blame stress, overwork and "personal issues" for being forced to step down early, but Ryu Matsumoto may well be the first to cite his blood group.

Japan's Minister for Reconstruction said yesterday that his type-B blood made him abrasive and outspoken, as he tried to explain a politically disastrous visit to the country's shattered north-east that forced him to quit just a week into his new job.

Mr Matsumoto sparked uproar when he gave the busy governor of quake and tsunami-hit Miyagi Prefecture a humiliating dressing down for being a few minutes late. After wagging his finger at a stunned Yoshihiro Murai, Mr Matsumoto then jokingly warned watching journalists that if they reported the incident their companies would be "finished".

In tones akin to a schoolmaster berating an unruly child, he also told the Iwate governor, Takuya Tasso, that the government would withhold financial aid from areas "without ideas" for reconstruction. Both prefectures have lost thousands of people and are struggling to house thousands more left homeless by the earthquake and tsunami on 11 March.

Footage of the Miyagi meeting was quickly leaked online, forcing the minister to quit just over a week after he took office. Yesterday, a teary-eyed Mr Matsumoto, who was appointed by Prime Minister Naoto Kan, said he was sorry for offending the people in the disaster-hit areas. "I thought I was emotionally close to the disaster victims, but ... my comments were too harsh," he said.

The 60-year-old politician attempted to salvage something from the disaster by tapping into a popular cultural belief in parts of Asia that blood types are an indicator of personality. People in Mr Matsumoto's type-B group are considered creative and strong, but also hot-tempered and unpredictable.

The explanation left most people cold. "I think he made the right decision to go," said Yoshiko Oikawa, who lost her family home when the tsunami struck the coastal city of Ofunato in Iwate. "He seems to look down on us."

The resignation has added to the woes of Mr Kan's government, which has been painted as bumbling and inept.

Few political analysts are looking to the Prime Minister's blood group for an explanation of his stubbornness: type-Os are famously flighty, unreliable and fond of being the centre of attention.