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Justice Minister Minoru Yanagida, one of Japan's top government officials, has acceded to pressure to resign over a joke he made about his job being easy. Yanagida had said that speaking before Parliament was easy because he only had to use one of two answers to every questions: "I won't comment on individual cases," or, "I'm acting in accordance with the law and the evidence."

Yanagida had taken office only two and a half months earlier. The BBC describes his resignation as part of the ruling party's crumbling popularity due to the poor economy:

Plenty of Japanese politicians have been felled by gaffes before, says the BBC's Roland Buerk in Toyko, including a tourism minister who resigned just four days into his job for saying the Japanese did not like foreigners.

But the latest resignation comes at a bad time for the prime minister, adds our correspondent.

There is widespread public discontent with the struggling economy.

Falling support for the centre-left government has complicated efforts to enact the crucial $61bn (£38bn) stimulus package, which the government hopes will stimulate the economy.

A certain tendency for Japanese government officials to resign under the slightest pressure predates the country's recent economic downturn. There are a number of theories as to how this tendency developed, but oft-cited explanations include the inherent frailty of Japan's near-single-party system and a political culture that is unusually sensitive to personal scandal.

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