'Better than hitting Tokyo': Japan minister quits after tsunami comment

He later retracted the comments, telling reporters he just meant the damage would have been greater had the quake hit Tokyo.

His remarks were widely reported across the country, including in the Tohoku region, immediately drawing criticism from users on social media.

Imamura came under fire earlier this month over his outburst and a suggestion during a news conference that those who left voluntarily following a meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant should fend for themselves.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe accepted Masahiro Imamura's resignation Wednesday. By then, it was too late.

"It's only natural for the minister to resign", said a woman, 76, from the town of Namie-also close to Fukushima Daiichi-who has been taking shelter in temporary housing in the Fukushima Prefecture city of Nihonmatsu.

Yoshinori Oguchi, the Diet Affairs Committee chairman of junior coalition partner Komeito, said Imamura's comment was "simply unforgivable". If it hits places near the Tokyo area, it would have been an unimaginable disaster.

With Abe scheduled to leave for Russia on April 27 for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Abe administration moved quickly to control the political fallout and avoid a vacuum from Imamura's resignation.

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Abe said he will replace Imamura with Fukushima native and veteran politician Masayoshi Yoshino.

"The remarks are outrageous", said a 75-year-old man who has been evacuated to a temporary house in the city of Fukushima, the capital of Fukushima Prefecture, from the Nagadoro district in the prefectural village of Iitate.

He said during a press conference regarding the government's decision to delegate help for those who chose to evacuate from the quake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that "it is such people's own responsibility, their own choice not to return".

He made the comment at a party for lawmakers on Tuesday.

It was not the first time Imamura has courted controversy.

Members of the ruling coalition had other concerns about the latest development.

The day after making the statement, Inada corrected herself and said she had represented Kagoike as a lawyer over a civil lawsuit.

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