• Kyodo


Another ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker quit the party Wednesday following a report that he visited a luxurious Tokyo nightlife venue despite government calls to avoid unnecessary outings under a state of emergency to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Lower House member Takaki Shirasuka, 45, apologized at a news conference for his recent stay in the members-only lounge until late at night. The visit came after three fellow party members left the LDP earlier this month following public anger over their visits to Ginza hostess bars.

The latest development reported by the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun is set to deal a further blow to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's administration, which has been criticized for its handling of the pandemic.

"I apologize from the bottom of my heart for visiting the venue while the state of emergency is in place," Shirasuka told reporters. He also said he will not run in the next House of Representatives election, which must be held by October.

Shirasuka, who was accompanied by a woman, stayed at a French restaurant in Tokyo's Akasaka area on the evening of Feb. 10 for two hours until around 8:20 p.m., Shukan Bunshun reported on its website Wednesday.

He then moved to the lounge in the capital's Azabujuban district by taxi and stayed there between 8:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., according to the report.

The government declared the state of emergency, the second of its kind, in January for Tokyo and some other prefectures and extended it through March 7, urging people to refrain from nonessential outings and restaurants and bars to close by 8 p.m.

Jun Matsumoto, former acting chairman of the LDP's Diet Affairs Committee, and two other party lawmakers who accompanied him gave up their roles in the LDP or the government and quit the party on Feb. 1 for visiting two hostess bars in Tokyo's Ginza district on the evening of Jan. 18.

"There is no excuse. It is inevitable (for Shirasuka) to leave the party," a senior party lawmaker said.

Shirasuka, a third-term Lower House member representing a constituency in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, formerly served as a parliamentary vice education minister.

Kiyohiko Toyama, former acting secretary general of Komeito, the junior coalition partner of the LDP, resigned from the Diet on Feb. 1 following a similar visit to a Ginza hostess bar late at night on Jan. 22.

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