A local Japanese legislator has become an Internet darling after an overwrought, sob-filled apology to his constituents over potential corruption was posted online.
Forty-year-old Prefectural Assemblyman Ryutaro Nonomura, who represents the southwestern prefect of Hyogo, was accused of spending more time in Japanese famed hot springs than serving his constituents. According to Kobe Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper, Nonomura escaped to the hot springs 106 times during 2013.
His trips were paid for by public funds, but not illegal; the Sydney Morning Herald notes that Nonomura spent three million yen on visits to a preferred resort in the hot springs in the past year, but legislators receive a stipend of Y500,000 a month, just under $5,000, for expenses aside from salary. He made a total of 195 trips using taxpayers’ dollars in the entire year. The trips were reported through the proper budget channels, but Japanese citizens, nonetheless, questioned what appeared to be an excessive use of public funds for leisure. Nonomura appears never to have given a reason for the trips, nor was there any overt political reason for the legislator to visit that resort on so many occasions.
Nonomura had an answer to their questions, but apparently, it was not what his constituents expected. It also did little to clarify his behavior. The legislator delivered a public response to these allegations, in the form of a series of over-the-top shouts, excessive use of gibberish, and wailing sobs. He was seen screaming and, at one point, pounding his fists on the dais before him.
The Guardian notes that the press conference lasted three hours and included such choice explanations for his behavior as, “I finally became an assembly member … with the sole purpose of changing society. … This is Japan. … I want to change this society. … I have staked my life. … Don’t you understand?”
This press conference lasted three hours.
Japanese media appear not to have understood. The footage of Nonomura’s apology, according to the Japan Times, has been playing on Japanese television “on a loop,” and Japanese social media users have been less than sympathetic to Nonomura’s theatrics. Twitter users seemed to agree the display was unbecoming and embarrassing, with one user joking that Nonomura reminded him of a particularly obnoxious elementary school classmate.
The BBC notes that despite the intensity of Nonomura’s apology, he has yet to give an explanation of what he was doing in the Japanese hot springs 106 times last year.