Japan has had no luck with their Ministers of Agriculture lately. First, Toshikatsu Matsuoka was investigated for embezzlement of public funds; his political election organisation had submitted receipts for reimbursement of non-existent outlays. He committed suicide just the day before he was to be questioned on corruption charges. Then his replacement Norihiko Akagi resigned after only a few months when investigated for the same kind of embezzlement. Takehiko Endo managed a whole eight (8) days in office as Akagi's replacement before it came to light that a farming association headed by him also had misappropriated funds. Masatoshi Wakabayashi, the replacement, is a sort of eternal understudy in this role; he's been getting this cabinet post several times as a previous minister flamed out. This time it lasted for all of nine days, when the entire Abe cabinet fell.
With the end of the Abe era - and what an era for anyone with any interest in politics as spectator sport! - things looked to slow down even at the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Wakabayashi stayed on as Agriculture minister under prime minister Fukuda and managed to stay out of trouble; that is in itself a respectable achievement for a minister of Agriculture and probably the reason he keeps popping up there. But in the recent cabinet reshuffle he was replaced, by Seiichi Oota - perhaps Fukuda thought the ministry had grown too quiet and low-profile, what with rising food prices, whaling controversies and a number of homegrown and foreign food scandals making the electorate unhappy. In Oota he apparently got what he wanted. In short order he called the Japanese public "noisy" about the tainted Chinese dumplings (hint: don't insult your voters), and today Okumura-san reports that he seems to have done exactly the same thing as his predecessors, misappropriating government funds for his own political operation.
It can't be coincidental. It is, I think, way past time to conduct a thorough examination of the Agricultural ministry - the buildings, not the people. With four ministers all self-destructing in such a transparent manner there has to be something in the water, or in the food at their cafeteria (well, food safety is an ongoing problem here...), or some neurotoxin in the wall paint perhaps.
Either that, or Wakabayashi has an agricultural Mad Scientist alter ego that has developed a carrot-powered Stupid Ray and is aiming it at the Agriculture ministry corner office whenever he is replaced as minister in order to reclaim "his" ministry. I would not entirely rule it out, however; anyone check where he actually goes between stints as a Minister of agriculture?