Japanese finance minister Taro Aso has a history of gaffes that would make United States Vice President Joe Biden blush. However, even he outdid himself when he insulted Japan's elderly, saying that he wished that they would simply "hurry up and die". He also called elderly individuals who are no longer able to feed themselves "tube people".
The subject is a sensitive one for the island nation. Today, nearly a quarter of the nation's 128 million population is over the age of 60. That number is set to rise to 40 percent over the next 50 years, the Guardian reports. TIME magazine adds that, in only 20 years, seniors will outnumber children aged 15 or younger by 4 to 1. In addition, since children born today in Japan have a life expectancy of 83 years, the state is struggling with developing methods of balancing welfare for the elderly with the needs of its younger workers. The country recently rolled out an unpopular tax hike that would double sales tax to 10 percent over three years, a move backed by Aso's Liberal Democratic party.
However, the comment is startling for a country that shows so much deference to its elderly. The 72-year-old Aso, who also serves as the deputy prime minister, has only been part of the new government for a month. The comment will likely serve as an unwelcome distraction for the prime minister Shinzo Abe, who resigned from his term in 2007 after only a year - due to a number of gaffes stated by members of his Cabinet.
Aso added that he has written a note to his family stating that he would not like end-of-life care. "Heaven forbid if you are forced to live on when you want to die. I would wake up feeling increasingly bad knowing that [treatment] was all being paid for by the government," he said during a government meeting.
Aso later apologized on television, saying that his comments were made from his personal belief system and did not reflect any considered government policies.
It is not the first time that Aso has made headlines for gaffes; he made fun of Alzheimer's patients and angered the country's doctors when he said they had no common sense. He also stated that penniless young men are unfit for marriage, Japan should be a country where the wealthiest Jewish people want to live and once told American diplomats that they would not be trusted in Middle East peace talks because of their blond hair and blue eyes.