Japan’s ‘paternity leave’ LDP lawmaker embroiled in adultery allegations


Staff Writer

An LDP lawmaker who created a stir in conservative Japan by filing for paternity leave when his child was born now stands accused of flagrant double standards over an alleged extramarital relationship with a model.

Lower House member Kensuke Miyazaki is alleged to have had a rendezvous with the woman days before his wife gave birth.

Miyazaki is married to fellow LDP lawmaker Megumi Kaneko.

Scandal sheet Shukan Bunshun, a weekly magazine, said Wednesday that six days before Kaneko gave birth to a baby boy on Friday, Miyazaki spent the night with the model, identified as Mayu Miyazawa, in Kyoto Prefecture, which contains the area he represents. The magazine alleged Miyazawa traveled from Tokyo to Kyoto for a tryst with the lawmaker at his condo.

Phone calls Wednesday to Miyazaki’s office and an email inquiry seeking comment went unanswered.

The allegations are uncomfortable reading for those who saw Miyazaki’s stand on paternity leave as a timely challenge to the notion, widespread in Japan, that men’s duty is to their work before their wives.

The lawmaker explained why he planned to take paternity leave in a blog post in December: “I wanted to take a step toward changing our society in which male participation in child-rearing is significantly underdeveloped and women alone are saddled with its duties,” he wrote.

As the first ever lawmaker to seek paternity leave, Miyazaki suffered criticism from various quarters, including from senior members of his conservative party.

To others, he seemed a devoted husband and crusader for female empowerment. In him, they saw the hope of change in Japan’s entrenched “men at work, women at home” mindset.

Meanwhile, Miyazaki’s alleged adultery, if confirmed, could be damaging to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has characterized drawing more women into the workforce as a linchpin of his growth strategy. Abe also reportedly lauded Miyazaki for his stand on paternity leave by declaring: “That’s what a politician should be.”

Yukio Edano, Secretary-General of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, said Wednesday he was “infuriated” by the news.

“To think he was pushing for prevalence of paternity leave while (having an affair). . . . As a party aiming to increase the number of men who take such leave, we feel our goal is tarnished by his action.”

“Lawmakers are required to have the highest ethical standards. He needs to explain to the public about whether allegations are a fact or not,” Yoshio Urushibara, chairman of the Central Secretariat of LDP’s coalition partner Komeito, said the same day.