Japanese junior minister resigns after making inappropriate remark over piggyback ride

Mr Shunsuke Mutai, parliamentary vice-minister for reconstruction, was seen riding on the back of a younger man over a large puddle of streaming water while visiting the hard-hit northern town of Iwaizumi.
Mr Shunsuke Mutai, parliamentary vice-minister for reconstruction, was seen riding on the back of a younger man over a large puddle of streaming water while visiting the hard-hit northern town of Iwaizumi.PHOTO: YOUTUBE

TOKYO - A Japanese junior minister, who was criticised last year for getting a piggyback ride across a large puddle in a typhoon-hit town, resigned on Thursday (March 9).

This came after Mr Shunsuke Mutai, who was parliamentary vice-minister for reconstruction, again drew flak after he made inappropriate remarks concerning his gaffe one day earlier.

The lawmaker from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had said at a fund-raising event in Tokyo that the "boot industry really made some money", claiming that his blunder led to the government buying more rain boots for officials to borrow.

His joke was slammed by both sides of the political divide on Thursday, as he was "strongly cautioned" by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Disaster Management Minister Jun Matsumoto. Mr Suga also told a news conference that it was "extremely inappropriate".

Last September, Mr Mutai, 60, had been visiting Iwaizumi town in Iwate Prefecture, where flooding and landslides from Typhoon Lionrock killed 19 people - including nine at a nursing home.

He was pictured clad in a blue shirt and black dress shoes as he crossed a large puddle on his colleague's back - ostensibly because he had neglected to wear rain boots.

 

His offhand remark - "I'll be in trouble if this is caught on camera" - was captured on camera footage that was leaked to private broadcaster TBS.

Mr Mutai apologised after the incident blew up. And he had to say sorry again on Thursday, telling reporters at the Diet building that he will "deeply reflect" on his actions.

Other politicians also chimed in, with LDP junior coalition partner Komeito lawmaker Yoshio Urushibara calling Mr Mutai's behaviour "really pathetic" and "unforgiveable".

Ms Renho, who heads the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) also called the remark "shameful" and "unbecoming of his responsibility as a parliamentary vice-minister".

Even though Mr Mutai told reporters earlier on Thursday that he did not intend to resign, he eventually tendered his resignation later the same day.