TOKYO • The top bureaucrat at Japan's education ministry has resigned over a string of bribery cases involving its officials that have rocked the ministry.
Mr Kazuo Todani's resignation comes on the heels of two other former senior ministry officials who were arrested and indicted over the bribery cases.
His departure marks the second time a vice-education minister has been forced to resign in less than two years.
Following the arrests of the two former senior officials, the ministry launched a probe - led by a team of lawyers - into the scandals.
The probe, which was expanded to all ministry employees, subsequently revealed that Mr Todani and two bureau chiefs were wined and dined by former corporate executives, likely in return for favours, in violation of the code of ethics for national civil servants.
Mr Todani, who was disciplined yesterday for his involvement in a bribery case, apologised to the public for adding to rising mistrust in the ministry.
"I take my punishment seriously and am deeply sorry for causing public mistrust," he told a press briefing.
Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi also apologised for the scandal, stating that he would work to restore faith in the ministry.
"I want to apologise sincerely. We will work to regain trust," said Mr Hayashi.
Mr Todani took over from Mr Kihei Maekawa, who himself was forced to resign in January last year after the ministry came under fire for its inherent practice of "amakudari", or descent from heaven, a practice in which senior ministry officials are helped by ministry insiders to land plum jobs after they retire.
Such practices, which incense the public here, are in violation of the national public service law. Last year alone, 43 ministry officials were reprimanded for being involved in helping retired public servants secure lucrative jobs.