The governor of Tokyo resigned yesterday after he admitted receiving an undeclared US$500,000 from a hospital tycoon ahead of his election, in what he claimed was an interest-free, personal loan.
Naoki Inose, who was elected head of one of the world’s biggest cities a year ago, had faced weeks of intense pressure over suspicions that the money amounted to a bung and an attempt to influence policy.
“I have decided to resign from the post of Tokyo governor,” Inose told a hurriedly arranged press conference. “I intended to fulfill my duty of explaining to the city assembly, people of Tokyo and people of the nation, but regrettably I could not clear doubts over me. It’s solely because of my lack of virtue.”
Inose, who lost his wife to cancer earlier this year, was a key figure in Tokyo’s successful bid for the 2020 Olympics and said his resignation was partially aimed at avoiding a negative impact on preparations for the Games.
Writer-turned-politician Inose admitted last month that he had received ￥50 million (US$500,000) from the political family behind the huge Tokushukai medical group before running in last year’s gubernatorial election.
He did not declare the sum in his campaign accounts, but insisted that it was not any kind of slush fund.
Under Japanese election law, campaign treasurers must report all income related to electioneering. Those who violate the law can face prison terms of up to three years or fines of up to ￥500,000.
Inose has cut an increasingly lonely figure over the past few weeks as the furor around him swelled.
He has been grilled by a hostile assembly on several occasions, with the media picking apart his physical appearance and his stuttering performance, focusing on the beads of sweat that dripped down his neck.
Inose said he paid back the “loan” after the investigation surfaced in September. He said he was only able to return the money after the probe because he had been busy running Tokyo’s bid to host the Games and attending to his dying wife.