Hashimoto's party includes "comfort women" issue in election pledges

The Japan Restoration Party pledged Thursday to "make historical facts clear" about the controversial issue of Japan's wartime military brothels as it unveiled its campaign platform for the upper house election next month.

In addition to reforming the agricultural sector as well as the broader governing structure in Japan, the party said it will "make historical facts clear (about the wartime brothels) and protect the honor of Japan," after co-leader Toru Hashimoto came under a barrage of criticism for saying the wartime "comfort women" system was necessary to maintain military discipline.

Hashimoto later sought to clarify his comments, saying he did not personally view "comfort women," a euphemism used in Japan, as necessary but was describing thinking at the time.

The party said in its campaign platform that it will "take on challenges head-on" and "create Japan's future by fighting the opposition force", as it hopes to recover following its disastrous showing in last Sunday's Tokyo metropolitan assembly election.

The campaign platform focuses on five pillars, including getting rid of vested interests in the agricultural sector, lowering corporate and individual income taxes, and streamlining Japan's system of government.

The party vowed to amalgamate multiple prefectures to create several regional administrative blocs across Japan, an idea that Hashimoto, who doubles as Osaka mayor, had first proposed for the Kansai region around Osaka.

With an eye to amending the U.S.-drafted pacifist Constitution, a long-held goal of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Hashimoto's party said it aims to revise Article 96 first to lower the legislative hurdle.

It also proposed allowing leaders of local governments to double as House of Councillors lawmakers by lifting a constitutional ban.

The platform states the Japanese public should be allowed to elect the prime minister directly, and the two chambers -- the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors -- need to be combined into one.

The upper house election is expected to be held on July 21, with its main focus on whether the ruling bloc of the Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito party will be able to secure an overall majority in the opposition-dominated house.