Junichi Komoto, a member of the popular comedian duo Jicho Kacho, apologized Friday for letting his mother continue to receive welfare benefits after his career took off.
“My way of thinking was too naive. I sincerely apologize for that,” Komoto said as he bowed in apology at a news conference at Yoshimoto Kogyo Co.’s Tokyo office in Shinjuku Ward.
Komoto said he plans to return the money his mother received for the past few years.
The news conference was held more than a month after the weekly gossip magazine Josei Seven reported about his mother’s case, but without identifying Komoto by name.
The article criticized “a popular comedian with an estimated ¥50 million in annual income” for not providing enough financial support for his mother.
Komoto was soon identified on the Internet as the comic in question, which drew wide media attention.
According to Komoto, his mother, who reportedly lives in the city of Okayama, began receiving welfare benefits about 14 or 15 years ago when she quit her job due to ill health. Back then, Komoto said, his annual income was less than ¥1 million and he couldn’t provide her with any financial support.
His mother continued to receive welfare benefits until April, when she asked to be removed as a recipient.
Komoto said he began sending some money to his mother about five or six years ago and increased the amount at the beginning of this year. Her benefits were reduced by the same amount he provided.
Komoto said the amount he provided was decided together with a local welfare office.
“I didn’t want anyone to know that my mother received welfare benefits. I was ashamed of that. I was doing my job thinking I need to help her get out (of the welfare benefit program) as soon as possible,” Komoto said.
Under the Civil Law, direct relatives such as parents, children, brothers and sisters have a duty to support their family members.
When a municipality receives an application for welfare benefits, it asks for the annual income of the applicant’s family and whether they can provide financial support.
The questionnaire, however, is nonbinding and municipalities have no way of determining if the answers are accurate, according to an official in Tsuyama, Okayama Prefecture.
In case an applicant doesn’t have a child, brother or sister, the local government will turn to other relatives, such as a nephew or a niece, the official said.
If family members with a high income decline to support an applicant, the municipality will ask them why, but this is extremely rare, the official said, mostly because welfare applicants rarely have well-off relatives.