TOKYO - Japan's agriculture minister died Monday after hanging himself just hours before he was to face questioning in a political scandal, officials said. The suicide may have dealt a powerful blow to the increasingly beleaguered government ahead of July elections.Toshikatsu Matsuoka, 62, was found in his apartment Monday unconscious and declared dead hours later. Matsuoka's death comes just ahead of upper house elections, and as support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet is plunging.
An autopsy showed that he died after hanging himself, according to a Tokyo Metropolitan Police official who spoke on customary condition of anonymity.
The minister was found hanging from a door in his apartment earlier Monday, and he left a suicide note, according to local media reports.
Matsuoka had faced heavy criticism over a scandal involving suspicious bookkeeping practices in his offices, and was scheduled to appear before a parliamentary committee Monday afternoon for further questioning.