Japan Cabinet Minister, Facing Scandal, Hangs Himself

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Japan’s agriculture minister, Toshikatsu Matsuoka, killed himself on Monday, just hours before he was to face parliamentary questioning about a political finance scandal, government officials said.

Toshikatsu Matsuoka was about to be questioned by Parliament.
Suicides have a long and often romanticized history in Japan, where they have been seen as a face-saving escape from public humiliation. But analysts said Mr. Matsuoka’s suicide could deal a fresh blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose popularity ratings have fallen amid the tinge of scandal and growing questions about his leadership.

Mr. Matsuoka, 62, was found unconscious in his Tokyo apartment after having hanged himself, and died in a hospital, the chief government spokesman and other officials said. While they did not disclose details, the national broadcaster NHK and other news media said he was found hanging from the hinge of a door in his living room. They reported that he was discovered around noon, when his political secretary went to look for him because he was late for a meeting.

His suicide was the first here by a serving cabinet minister since at least World War II, according to local newspapers.

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