İrem UZUN -TDO- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to cancel a government-funded cherry-blossom viewing event in 2020, the top government spokesman said Wednesday. Shinzo Abe’s move to shut down the 2020 party comes after criticism that the cost of the cherry blossom event had spiraled and has been misused for political purposes.
Hosted by prime ministers almost every year since 1952, the springtime social event was originally meant to honor sportspeople, celebrities and other citizens who have excelled in their fields, but critics say it is increasingly used to reward the government’s political supporters. Voters from Abe’s constituency in Yamaguchi prefecture have even been offered bundled travel packages to go to Tokyo and enjoy river cruises on the weekend of the festivities, the Asahi Shimbun journal reported.“Mixing personal affairs and public activities is something that should never be done by a prime minister who has political authority,” the Mainichi newspaper said in an editorial, adding that “There is no denying the fact that the ruling bloc as a whole has become numb to intertwining public and private activities”.
The amount of money spent on the event has almost doubled under Mr. Abe's administration, as has the number of guests. Japanese news agency Kyodo said about 18,000 people took part last year, up from 7,000 to 10,000 a year before Mr. Abe took office in 2012.In a surprise announcement, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that the government had "listened to various opinions" and decided to cancel next year's party.The government would "clarify the criteria for inviting guests and make the invitation process transparent", he added.