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Ex-wife accuses Ichiro Ozawa of fleeing nuke disaster

Publication Date : 20-06-2012


The wife of political kingpin Ichiro Ozawa has divorced him, according to a Japanese magazine, citing a letter in which she chided his unbecoming behaviour during last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster.

In the 11-page letter addressed to Ozawa's supporters late last year, Kazuko Ozawa, 67, said he fled his Tokyo home for fear of radiation from the nuclear fallout instead of returning to his constituency in Iwate prefecture in north-eastern Japan to help his constituents.

"As I saw him abandon people in Iwate who had supported him for a long time, I realised that Ozawa is not a person who is good for Iwate and Japan. Therefore, I divorced him," she wrote.

Many of the coastal areas of Iwate prefecture were badly hit by the March 11 quake and tsunami, which devastated large parts of north-eastern Japan.

Iwate itself, however, suffered no radiation issues as it lies more than 200km north of Fukushima prefecture, and therefore well outside the 30km evacuation zone around the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant.

Ozawa, 70, returned to his home district, Oshu, on March 28 and visited the disaster-stricken areas in Iwate only on Jan 3 this year.

A photograph of Ozawa's handwritten letter was reproduced by the weekly Shukan Bunshun, which carried the letter in its entirety. The weekly sold a record 700,000 copies of the issue when it came out last week.

The letter does not say when Ozawa filed for divorce. However, she changed her address last July.

In Japan, a woman who is divorced often retains her former husband's surname legally because she loses her maiden surname once she gets married.

It was clear from the letter that Ozawa had long wanted to divorce the veteran politician.

She told constituents she discovered eight years ago that Ozawa had an illegitimate child with a woman, presumably a bar hostess, before they got married.

Advised to marry someone with money as it would be good for his political career, he tied the knot with Kazuko in 1973. She was the daughter of a wealthy supporter of the late premier Kakuei Tanaka. The couple have three sons.

Tanaka was the mentor of Ozawa when the latter was with the Liberal Democratic Party.

Ozawa said that when she confronted her husband over the illegitimate child, he did not apologise but instead told her he could give her a divorce any time she wished.

Observers said that it is not so much the divorce but the damning accusations that could ruin his political ambitions.

Fearing radiation, he initially ran away with his secretaries, the letter said. He allegedly threw away fish and vegetables given to him by fishery and farm cooperatives and, at one stage, insisted that his food be cooked only with mineral water.

He also sent a secretary to urge her to evacuate with their three sons, according to Ozawa, but she refused.

None of the key television networks have reported the latest Ozawa scandal. Among the national dailies, only the Mainichi Shimbun has reported it.

According to a columnist in the Mainichi, Ozawa's supporters in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) had warned television executives that they would not appear on their programmes if the networks went ahead with the report.

Ozawa, one of Japan's most well-known politicians, is very much in the news because of his opposition to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's proposed use of a sales tax increase to rectify Japan's burgeoning fiscal debt.

His opposition could lead to a split in the ruling DPJ, undermining support for Noda.

Ozawa's office has dismissed the alleged account of his post-March 11 behaviour as "baseless".

His former wife, however, has not denied the Bunshun report.


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