National / Politics

Paternity leave trailblazer Miyazaki quits over affair

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker and paternity leave trailblazer Kensuke Miyazaki on Friday quit his seat after admitting to an extramarital affair in a major blow to the push for reform to child care leave.

Speaking at a news conference, where he also gave a deep bow, Miyazaki said, “I am sorry that I have deepened voter distrust of politics by doing something that deviated from my promise.”

“I have decided to step down as a lawmaker.”

In December, Miyazaki made worldwide headlines after announcing he would take time out once his wife, fellow LDP member Megumi Kaneko, gave birth in what was believed to be a first for a male lawmaker in Japan.

The move attracted pushback from members of his own conservative party, but was supported by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

However, Miyazaki’s image as a devoted husband was this week in tatters after tabloid Shukan Bunshun ran an article Wednesday alleging he had an affair with a bikini model, identified as Mayu Miyazawa, just six days before Kaneko gave birth to a baby boy on Feb. 5.

Miyazaki, who was elected from the Kyoto No.3 district, said Friday he was the one who initiated the tryst in Kyoto with the model, whom he said he had met in early January.

In a further revelation, the lawmaker also acknowledged without elaborating that the model was not the only woman he had cheated on his wife with since marrying in May last year.

“I did something very cruel to my wife,” he said. “I will spend the rest of my life making it up to her.”

Sayaka Osakabe, the founder of Matahara Net, a support group for pregnant working women who have experienced unfair treatment at work, told The Japan Times Friday that Miyazaki’s scandal may aggravate unfounded public prejudice against male workers who want to take paternity leave and give some of Japan’s most conservative employers a good reason to mock, or even harass them.

From now on, “it’s possible that you file for paternity leave, only to end up being ridiculed by your boss who may joke you’re trying to use such leave as an excuse to commit adultery,” Osakabe, who had met with Miyazaki to discuss the paternity issue, said.

Miyazaki said at his news conference that he was “deeply sorry” that his “reckless behavior” may sway public opinion against men who want to take child care leave.

But he also reaffirmed his stance on the need for greater male participation in child-rearing.

“Times have changed … We should no longer make women alone juggle the burden of working, giving birth and then raising the children,” he said. “As a lawmaker, I wanted to set an example and change the atmosphere in society.”

Abe, who has made drawing more women into the workforce one of the linchpins of his Abenomics growth strategy, has not commented on Miyazaki’s resignation so far.

But he previously said of the lawmaker’s decision to take paternity leave, despite opposition from some senior party members: “There may be divided opinions but (what I’m doing is always) supported by half and opposed by the other half.” He went on to add, “That is what a politician is about.”

Public opinion also appeared to support the move as an attempt to change the nation’s entrenched “men at work, women at home” mindset.

Miyazaki, though, who tendered his resignation to the Lower House, said Friday he hoped to “make a comeback” to the world of politics, acknowledging that he faces an uphill battle.

“I perhaps don’t even deserve to harbor such a wish, but it is true that I still have a passion for my nation and the society,” he said, adding he believes the LDP is the best party to lead the nation.

A by-election is expected to be held in April. Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Kenta Izumi expressed his intention to run for Miyazaki’s electoral district.