National / Politics

Tokyo governor Yoichi Masuzoe apologizes but remains defiant in face of funds scandal

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

Embattled Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe, who has been under fire amid allegations that he repeatedly used political funds for private purposes, apologized Friday but maintained his actions were within the law.

“I would like to offer my deep apologies from the bottom of my heart,” Masuzoe told reporters during a news conference at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government office.

The weekly Shukan Bunshun magazine earlier this week reported that Masuzoe paid a total of ¥371,100 to a resort hotel in Kisarazu, Chiba Prefecture, on two dates in 2013 and 2014, which he expensed as “conference fees” despite staying at the facility with his family.

The expenses were paid through his political fund group Global Network Kenkyukai.

Masuzoe admitted on Friday that family members were at the resort, but said he used the occasion to prepare for the Upper House and Tokyo gubernatorial elections, saying the topics discussed at the hotel were “urgent” and “highly important.”

He said family members were there because he had promised his children he would spend time with them.

Questioned about three receipts from a tempura restaurant that totaled ¥52,505, Masuzoe failed to confirm whether the two visits in 2013 and one in 2014 were related to work. Masuzoe said that the expenses would be amended.

He said the resort expense was reported on his fund group because his accountant might have misunderstood what purpose the money was used for.

Masuzoe has also been accused of listing purchases of artwork worth over ¥9 million as “supplies” and “expendables” in expense reports between 2012 and 2014.

He said he purchased some of the artwork as part of his diplomacy to show hospitality to visitors from overseas. Among art-related items, some of which Masuzoe said he offered as gifts, were historic ukiyo-e woodblock prints.

Masuzoe said that from now on he would respond to public expectations and put more effort into “doing my best to make Tokyo the world’s best city” and the 2020 Olympic Games the world’s best such competition.

He also vowed to work hard to prove his commitment.

Masuzoe said he had deeply reflected on the trouble he had caused.

“Having caused so much distrust, as a politician I feel embarrassed,” he said.

From 2001 until 2013, Masuzoe served as an Upper House lawmaker. He became governor of Tokyo in February 2014.

Masuzoe, who has since early April also been faced with criticism over expensive business trips and privately using an official car, said he would no longer use the government car.

He also vowed to reduce the number of visits to his villa in Yugawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, saying his health had improved and he no longer needed to travel there to work.