A close aide to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida came under fire Friday over his discriminatory remarks about sexual minorities, saying he would "not want to live next door" to an LGBT couple and that he would "hate even to see them."
Masayoshi Arai, an elite bureaucrat who serves as executive secretary to the prime minister, quickly retracted the comments after they were made public by the media.
Before taking back his words, Arai had said that if same-sex marriage is introduced in Japan, it would "change the way society is" and "there are quite a few people who would abandon this country."
Arai made the remarks during an off-the-record conversation with reporters at the prime minister's office regarding Kishida's cautious position about legally recognizing same-sex marriage.
"We need to be extremely careful in considering the matter as it could affect the structure of family life in Japan," the premier said at a parliamentary session in late January.
Later Friday, Arai spoke to reporters again, telling them on the record while withdrawing the remarks, "I apologize for having used expressions that may cause misunderstanding."
"I feel sorry for (causing any issues for) the prime minister, as he does not think like that," the secretary also said. "I caused trouble (to the prime minister) due to my own opinions."
"It is not desirable for any officials in posts like mine to say such a thing," Arai said.
Japan remains the only Group of Seven country that does not recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions, as many members of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, led by Kishida, have opposed the concept.
The Sapporo District Court ruled in March 2021 that the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, but the Osaka District Court ruled it constitutional in June 2022.