Kiyohiko Toyama, former acting secretary general of Komeito, the junior coalition partner of the Liberal Democratic Party, has admitted to visiting a hostess bar in Tokyo’s posh Ginza district late at night on Jan. 22.
The visit triggered an outcry from the public, who have been requested to refrain especially from outings in the evening under the state of emergency in effect in the capital and other areas, reports Kyodo News.
The development, which came along with similar recent visits to two Ginza hostess bars by Jun Matsumoto, former acting chairman of the LDP’s Diet Affairs Committee, has given the opposition camp more ammunition to attack Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s administration.
Matsumoto and two other lawmakers who accompanied him to the bars — Takashi Otsuka, an executive of the lower house steering committee, and senior vice education minister Taido Tanose — offered to leave the LDP over the matter.
Their party also recommended their departure, the most serious reprimand after expulsion.
Suga sacked Tanose from the senior vice minister post after criticizing his visit to the bars as “inappropriate” in a meeting with him at the premier’s office, Tanose told reporters. Upper house lawmaker Hideki Niwa was chosen to replace Tanose.
“It is extremely regrettable, and as a government we apologize to the people,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato over Tanose’s action.
Otsuka and Tanose earlier decided to give up their posts in parliament and the government, respectively, although the three scandal-tainted politicians will all remain as lawmakers.
Matsumoto had said earlier that he had gone to the hostess bars alone and apologized Monday for hiding the fact that the two junior lawmakers had accompanied him.
Jun Azumi, Diet affairs chief of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, asked Suga to explain to the Diet about the visit by the three lawmakers.
Toyama has also drawn fire after it was recently learned that he used his political fund management body to cover the roughly 110,000 yen ($1,050) cost of visits to nightlife establishments including “kyabakura” hostess bars in the Kyushu region, western Japan, by his state-paid secretary and himself in 2019.
The former senior vice finance minister was elected in the Kyushu constituency. The expenses for the visits to the bars, where hostesses typically engage in more intimate contact with guests, were originally booked as restaurant trips.
Toyama apologized for the incidents on Monday, telling reporters, “I have deeply hurt public trust in politics by my inappropriate behavior and the scandal involving my fund management body.”
Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi also apologized for “causing strong political distrust among the people.”
“Our party will work as one to restore trust,” he added.
Toyama, the 51-year-old Komeito member, has won a seat in the House of Representatives four times from the Kyushu district under the proportional representation system, after serving two terms as a House of Councillors member.
The political party, which is backed by Japan’s largest lay Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai, had intended to field Toyama in a constituency in Kanagawa Prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, in the next lower house election that must be held by October.