Japan’s education minister has been accused of using an official ministry car to attend a “sexy yoga” studio, the latest in a string of scandals to hit the government.
Yoshimasa Hayashi, 57, a veteran politician and minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology, reportedly spent two hours at the Tokyo studio, according to the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshan.
The publication said the studio’s female staff, many former hostesses, offered customers private yoga classes followed by oil massages and was run by a woman who was a former porn actress – claims which she later denied.
The politician reportedly told sources that he attended to improve his “health” but conceded that the visit “could invite misunderstanding concerning the distinction between private and public matters,” according to Kyodo News.
“I apologise for creating confusion amid a tense parliamentary situation,” Mr Hayashi told reporters. “As the government is facing severe rebuke and criticism, I will serve the public in a more disciplined manner.”
Following his apology, the Education Ministry said that Mr Hayashi’s actions in attending the yoga studio were not in violation of regulations, as he visited in between public duties.
The president of studio also denied that she was a former porn actress and demanded an apology from the weekly magazine, telling media: “I firmly deny the article which presents an indecent image and is completely different from the facts.”
The incident is the latest in a flurry of high-profile political scandals to rattle the government of prime minister Shinzo Abe, whose public support recently slipping to 30 per cent.
Confidence in the government has been increasingly tested by several cronyism scandals, including a still-simmering row over the controversial cut-price sale of cut-price to a nationalist school operator with ties to the prime minister’s wife.
Last week, Junichi Fukuda, 58, the highest-ranking civil servant in Japan’s Finance Ministry, also resigned after being hit with allegations that he had sexually harassed several female journalists.
The scandals coincide with a particularly sensitive time for Mr Abe – whose political future depends on being reelected party chief in September – as he also faces having to adjust to the recent fast-paced diplomatic developments surrounding North Korea and its pending high-level summits.