Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has released an apology for his former aide’s homophobic comments.

On 4 February, the economy and trade official Masayoshi Arai was fired from his secretary position after he was heard making disparaging remarks about LGBTQ+ couples.

According to Reuters, Arai claimed that people would leave Japan if the country legalised same-sex marriage. He also said that he wouldn’t live next to LGBTQ+ couples.

“His comments are outrageous and completely incompatible with the administration’s policies,” Kishida said before announcing his aide’s termination.

In response to the backlash and his firing, the former secretary released his own public apology stating: “I caused trouble due to my own opinions. It is not desirable for any officials in posts like mine to say such a thing.”

He also confirmed that the PM disagreed with his harmful comments.

A couple of weeks after Arai’s firing, Kishida and his newly appointed Justice Minister, Masako Mori, met with an array of LGBTQ+ groups to apologise for the official’s actions.

“I apologise for sincerely for making all of you here, and many other people feel uncomfortable,” the PM said.

In addition to his apology, Kishida reportedly held an open forum in which attendees gave insight into the issues that LGBTQ+ people face in the country.

After the meeting concluded, Pride House Tokyo leader Gon Matsunaka gave further information about their discussion with the PM.

“We expressed our wish to have more opinions from the (LGBTQ) community absorbed, and our stories heard,” Matsunaka told reporters (per NBC News).

Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation’s executive director Yuichi Kamiya echoed similar sentiments while also stating that a move towards equal rights would “drastically accelerate”.

Kishida’s apology came a few days after a public opinion poll showed that a large chunk of Japan’s population supported same-sex marriage.

According to the poll – which the Kyodo News agency released on 13 February – nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of respondents favoured marriage equality.

The findings also reported that 64.3 per cent of the surveyed individuals called for new laws that promote a better understanding of sexual diversity in Japan.

Lastly, the survey also asked respondents about their opinions regarding Arai’s anti-LGBTQ+ remarks – which resulted in 57.7 per cent of people calling his comments inappropriate.

A total of 424 households and 636 mobile phone users participated in the survey.