TOKYO – Yoshitaka Sakurada, tapped to be the minister in charge of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, is a carpenter-turned-politician known for his humble start and interest in education.
The 68-year-old started out as a builder while attending Meiji University and founded a construction company in his 20s.
He later transitioned into politics, first at the local level in a city council in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, and then at the Chiba prefectural assembly, finally moving onto national politics in 1996.
Sakurada formerly served as senior vice minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology and also headed a task force on education reforms at the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
He values Japan’s history and tradition, and his political credo is to rebuild the country’s education through ethical education and constitutional amendments.
A karate hobbyist, he sparked controversy in 2016, saying that women forced into wartime Japanese military brothels were “prostitutes by occupation.”
He retracted the remarks after they drew a swift rebuke from South Korea. Many Koreans worked as so-called comfort women.