Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe said Thursday that his entire cabinet would pull out all the stops to regain the trust of the public, with the remarks coming a day after Japan's Olympics minister resigned for making a derogatory comment related to the recovery of an area devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
"The whole of our cabinet will make utmost efforts to regain trust and work toward the recovery of the disaster-stricken areas," Abe told a press briefing on the matter.
"We should sincerely accept this criticism. All cabinet ministers need to take the situation seriously and be even more diligent," Abe, whose ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has been under fire for a series of gaffes and scandals by its ministers ahead of local and national elections.
Former Olympics minister Shunichi Suzuki, 65, was selected by Abe to replace Sakurada, 69, who found himself in hot water after he said Wednesday that the reelection on an LDP lawmaker is "more important than the recovery" of the Tohoku region in northeastern Japan.
The region was hard-hit by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster that also led to a monumental nuclear crisis in Fukushima Prefecture, with people from the areas affected blasting Sakurada's remarks as being insensitive and hurtful.
Abe said that Suzuki, who was elected from one of the areas affected by the triple disasters, will oversee the delivery of a successful 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
Opposition parties, however, have been taking aim at the prime minister and the ruling party for acting too late.
"It came too late. The prime minister bears responsibility for having kept Sakurada in a ministerial post despite criticism that he was not fit to hold it," said Kiyomi Tsujimoto, the Diet affairs chief of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.
The LDP's coalition ally Komeito also took aim at Sakurada's latest gaffe.
Sakurada's remarks "irritated people in the disaster-hit areas and should never be tolerated," said Natsuo Yamaguchi, who heads Komeito.
Sakurada has previously been under fire from the public and opposition parties for prior blunders, including remarking in February that he was very "disappointed" at swimming superstar Rikako Ikee's leukemia diagnosis.
He made the comments just hours after the 18-year-old six-time gold medalist at the 2018 Asian Games announced she had been diagnosed with Leukemia.
"She is a potential gold medalist, an athlete of whom we have great expectations. I'm really disappointed," Sakurada said.
In another embarrassing gaffe, Sakurada said during a parliamentary session that while he has heard of the Olympic Charter, he has never read it.
Sakurada, who doubled as the government's cybersecurity strategy chief also admitted last November in another widely-publicized blunder that he had never used a computer.
Since Abe returned to power in 2012, Sakurada has become the eighth cabinet minister to resign under the current administration.
Contributing to the growing notion among opposition parties and the public that Abe's ministers and their deputies have a propensity for indiscretions, was deputy land minister Ichiro Tsukada tendering his resignation last week.
Tsukada controversially remarked in a speech that a project to upgrade a road in southwestern Japan was carried out as a personal favor to Abe and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso.
Tsukada, 55, said the project to upgrade a road could link Abe's constituency of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture and Kitakyushu in Fukuoka Prefecture, the constituency of Aso.
The road became dubbed the "Abe-Aso Road."
Tsukada remarked that the project to upgrade the road was as an unrequested favor to Abe and Aso, as the two senior politicians cannot talk about matters related to their own constituencies.
Executives of six opposition parties or parliamentary groups agreed at a meeting in the Diet on April 3, to demand that Tsukada resign as a vice land minister.
The Abe administration has previously been plagued by influence-peddling scandals related to operators of educational institutions believed to have close ties with Abe himself and, in at least one instance, also with his wife Akie.