In May, Japanese lawmaker Hodaka Maruyama took a trip to the islands off the coast of Japan, where he visited the home of a Russian family and did as many of us do while enjoying another's hospitality: He drank—at least 10 glasses of cognac, to be exact, as reported by the South China Morning Post.
And while most people might also say regrettable things after drinking that much of anything, most people aren't legislators whose words are as closely scrutinized, and Maruyama was quoted as saying, "Do you think there is any alternative to war [to recover the islands]?" (Later, he also claimed to be "immune from arrest," and said, "I want to go out to grope breasts.")
When it comes to global diplomacy, his comment about war has become a point of tension over the past month. The islands in question were four in the Kuril chain off the coast of Hokkaido, where Maruyama was visiting and whose ownership has been disputed between Russia and Japan since the Soviet Union occupied them in 1945. Although the Soviet–Japanese Joint Declaration of 1956 ended Russia and Japan's official state of war, the territorial dispute over the island chain has continued. "Japanese media states that the terms of the 1956 accord would hand over Shikotan and the Habomai islands to Japan, a sensitive notion inside Russia, where the ceding of any territory to Japan would likely be met by protests," CNN wrote in January.
Today, the lower house of Japan's governing body passed what Japan Times described as a "rare resolution" asking for Maruyama's resignation. According to the resolution, the legislator is "not qualified as a Diet member," and his comments were classified as "unthinkable" and in violation of the "pacifism enshrined in the Constitution." Despite the passage of the resolution, however, Maruyama must still decide to quit, wrote the SCMP.
He has apologized for his comments, but Maruyama has thus far refused to resign, although he was expelled from the Japan Innovation Party shortly after the incident, and public opposition has continued from all sides. "It's outrageous for a Diet member to have made such remarks and it's also an extremely grave issue from a diplomatic standpoint," said Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui. Even Russian politician Konstantin Kosachev reportedly called the comment "the worst [he] had heard" regarding the situation.
As the resolution states, Maruyama's comments "seriously hurt national interests," especially since, as Japan Today wrote, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been attempting to resolve the island dispute.
Perhaps this should serve as a reminder to us all to think before we drink.