TOKYO, April 21 (Xinhua) -- Scandal-hit, nationalist school operator Moritomo Gakuen on Friday applied for bankruptcy protection as it has incurred hefty debts related to the building of an elementary school that was shuttered before opening.
Local media quoted informed sources as saying that the embattled operator had applied for protection from its creditors through court-mediated rehabilitation.
Moritomo Gakuen initially purchased a plot of land in Toyonaka city in Osaka Prefecture at a cut-price rate from the local government. It acquired the 8,770-square-meter piece of land last year for 134 million yen (1.22 million U.S. dollars), equivalent to just 14 percent of its actual appraisal price.
The now former head of the school operator, Yasunori Kagoike, is facing a criminal complaint filed against him accusing him of illegally receiving government subsidies for building the school on the land in Toyonaka city.
Osaka City may also move to file a criminal complaint or a lawsuit against Kagoike, who is also being sued for not fully paying construction fees for building the new school at the site.
Osaka-based Fujiwara Kogyo construction company has filed a lawsuit with the Osaka District Court to claim for 400 million yen (3.66 million U.S. dollars) in overdue payments, with the total amount remaining to be paid standing at more than 1.6 billion yen (15 million U.S. dollars), according to the firm.
Koichi Fujiwara, the president of Fujiwara Kogyo, said after filing the lawsuit that he had not heard anything from Moritomo Gakuen and that he suspected that his firm would not have been paid even if the school had been opened.
The construction firm has been given approval from the Osaka District Court for the provisional seizure of Moritomo Gakuen's assets, including the land and buildings of the kindergarten it operates, as well as Kagoike's private residence in Toyonaka city, hence the operator's application for bankruptcy protection on Friday.
Kagoike, during sworn testimony given in parliament, repeated a claim that he was handed 1 million yen (9,200 U.S. dollars) by the wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Akie, as a donation, in a yet-to-be resolved scandal that has implicated the prime minister and other senior government officials.
Akie Abe is known to have had close ties with Moritomo Gakuen and has given a number of speeches at one of its schools. Kagoike has also claimed that he had paid Akie Abe 100,000 yen (916 U.S. dollars) for a speech she gave.
Akie Abe was set to become the honorary principle at the new school built on the cut-price land in Toyonaka city, although abruptly stepped down as the scandal implicating the government quickly widened and intensified.
Opposition parties have been vociferous in calling for increased investigation into allegations levied at government officials connected to Moritomo Gakuen and the shady land deal, and have called for Akie Abe to give testimony in parliament.
Moritomo Gakuen first made the headlines when a kindergarten it operates was found to have disseminated hate speeches against Korean and Chinese residents of Japan.
The school operator is also known for its controversial, nationalist curriculum and has been widely criticized for making kindergarten-aged children memorize the Imperial Rescript on Education.
The rescript, which demands devotion to the Emperor and sacrifice for Japan, was abolished after World War II, but reintroduced 15 years ago by Tsukamoto kindergarten.
The kindergarten, operated by Moritomo Gakuen, has walls inside which are lined with historical pictures of the imperial family, to which the students bow to as they pass in the corridor.
Video footage from a sports event at the school also showed young children raising their right hands and shouting: "Go fight, Prime Minister Abe."
The children, also in unison, are captured reciting militaristic slogans at the event as per the school's statute and overall ideology.
Instances regarding cases of child abuse at the notorious school are also under investigation.