The governor of Shizuoka Prefecture said Wednesday that he decided to step down from his post believing he has fulfilled his duty in opposing Central Japan Railway Co.'s high-speed maglev train and contributing to its delay.

Gov. Heita Kawakatsu abruptly said Tuesday he will resign at the June prefectural assembly, without elaborating. His decision came amid a backlash over a gaffe saying civil servants being inducted into the prefectural government were intelligent people, "unlike those who sell vegetables."

At his press conference on Wednesday, he declined to retract those comments but said, "I am truly sorry for hurting the feelings of people working in the primary sector."

Shizuoka Gov. Heita Kawakatsu speaks at a press conference in the prefectural government building in Shizuoka, the capital city of Shizuoka Prefecture, on April 3, 2024. (Kyodo)

Kawakatsu has long been opposed to the railway company's Linear Chuo Shinkansen project to link Tokyo and Osaka with trains traveling up to 500 kilometers per hour, citing concern over the environmental impact. The maglev shinkansen will run through the northern part of Shizuoka Prefecture.

JR Central said last Friday that it gave up its plan to launch the high-speed train in 2027, pushing back the schedule possibly to 2034 or later.

"Since the maglev issue reached a turning point, I have achieved a major objective of my duty," Kawakatsu said, adding that criticism of his gaffe is another significant factor for stepping down.

Kawakatsu said Monday during an address to new employees of the prefectural government that "everyone here is a brainy and intelligent person, unlike those who sell vegetables, take care of cows or create things."

Since then, the prefectural government has been flooded with related messages of protest and complaint, with more than 1,700 as of 5 p.m. Wednesday.

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