Japan’s finance minister, Taro Aso, was roundly denounced today after he said that Japan should take a cue from the Nazis in changing the country’s constitution. His aides say the remarks were taken out of context and that he didn’t mean to praise Nazi Germany but, well, see for yourself:“Germany’s Weimar Constitution was changed before anyone noticed. It was changed before anyone was aware. Why don’t we learn from that technique.” He was speaking at an event organized by the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, a conservative think tank that came under fire recently for denying that Japanese soldiers forcibly recruited “comfort women” during WWII.Japan’s nationalist leadership is no stranger to controversy. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution, and Aso and others in his conservative, hawkish government share this goal. Aso himself has been caught saying some pretty weird things: Japan should let its elderly citizens die instead of using expensive taxpayer-funded life-support systems, and “a good country is a country where rich Jews would want to live.” What does that mean?Some officials and even Prime Minister Abe have gone on record with inflammatory statements that have enraged foreign governments. Abe has repeatedly suggested that he would rescind Japan’s official statements of apology for Japan’s conduct during WWII, for example. South Korea’s government responded to Aso by saying his his remarks “obviously hurt many people.” China, too, is surely displeased by the signs that Abe’s rather batty government is forging ahead with a plan to modify the constitution and remilitarize the country. At a time when Japan’s top career diplomat is visiting Beijing in an attempt to settle everyone down, Aso’s references to Nazi Germany will only make China and other neighbors more alarmed.