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Thursday 21 August 2014

Japan politician weeps amid quiz

Published 03/07/2014 | 09:37

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Ryutaro Nonomura, 47, was filmed bursting into tears, uttering nonsensical phrases and banging on the desk (AP/Kyodo News)

A Japanese politician has burst into tears during a press conference over questions about his spending on trips to a hot springs - and a video of it has gone viral.

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Ryutaro Nonomura, 47, was filmed bursting into tears, uttering nonsensical phrases and banging on the desk.

"To change Japan and society, I'm putting my life on the line," the Hyogo Prefectural assemblyman says in a choked voice, stopping mid-sentence, sometimes sobbing so loudly he is shouting.

One site for the video has already drawn nearly 640,000 views.

His news conference on Tuesday followed a Kobe Shimbun newspaper report that raised questions about Mr Nonomura visiting the hot springs 106 times last year, using public money.

Such visits were not illegal and had been reported to the assembly office, but cost three million yen (£17,500). Calls are mounting for him to give an explanation.

Hyogo legislators get 500,000 yen (£3,000) a month for expenses, including travel, but the spending is supposed to be for official travel, research and other costs related to the activities of elected office.

Mr Nonomura, who does not belong to a major political party, was found to have gone to other day trips, racking up expenses, including visits to Tokyo and the south-western city of Fukuoka.

Of his 195 day trips, ones to the "onsen" hot-springs resort town of Kinosaki, which lies outside his precinct, were the most frequent.

The appalled public response is also due to the fact Japanese politicians are generally reserved. Outbursts are considered unsightly in a conservative culture that favours quiet personal styles.

Mr Nonomura's behavior has been widely seen as extreme, perhaps even a sign of illness.

Hideaki Asada, of the Hyogo Prefectural assembly office, said the assembly was now on a summer break but the local government believes Mr Nonomura owes the people an explanation of his spending.

"Many people are starting to demand that he resign," Mr Asada said. "He is usually not that emotional."

Press Association

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