Kanji Kato, a 72-year-old MP in Prime Minister Shizo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), said newlyweds should raise at least three children.
The minister in charge of women’s empowerment on Saturday lashed out at his remarks.
“It was a terrible gaffe,” Seiko Noda, who is also internal affairs minister and a senior member of the LDP, said in a speech, according to local media.
Giving birth is different to making products, she said, adding: “The number of children won’t increase by just making such remarks.”
Earlier this week Kato reportedly told a group of LDP members: “I ask bridal couples to bear and raise more than three children for sure.”
Kato also said he often told young women that if they do not get married and have no offspring, they will end up in a care home run with the taxes of other people’s children.
Kato later retracted his remarks.
Rapidly-greying Japan has one of the world’s lowest birth rates and authorities are trying out several policies to encourage people to have more children.
Last year about 941,000 children were born in Japan, the lowest since the national survey started in 1899.
In 2003, former prime minister Yoshiro Mori drew fire for suggesting childless women should be denied welfare payments in old age.
Mori said: “Women who have not had a single child get old after their wonderful free life and then ask for public money (in welfare). That doesn’t make sense at all.”
In 2007, then-health minister Hakuo Yanagisawa infamously referred to women as “child-bearing machines”.