A Japanese politician who made headlines over his quest to take paternity leave quit on Friday after confessing to an affair with a bikini model while his wife was pregnant.
Kensuke Miyazaki, 35, shook up Japan’s conservative political scene when he sought to take a month’s leave to help his then pregnant wife, a first for a male Japanese lawmaker.
His bid drew criticism from many politicians in a country where fathers taking time off to care for children is rare.
Shamed Kensuke Miyazaki apologises for his actions during a press conference in Tokyo today
Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Kensuke Miyazaki bows to show his contrition at a Tokyo press conference announcing his resignation
Miyazaki caused controversy by taking paternity leave to assist his wife after she gave birth – a rare move in the country’s deeply conservative political establishment
Miyazaki, however, won the backing of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who supported his trailblazing idea.
On Friday, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker announced his resignation after a weekly magazine revealed his affair with the 34-year-old woman while they were in Kyoto, his constituency.
Miyazaki’s mea culpa was televised nationally with lunchtime news showing the disgraced politician bowing deeply to convey his contrition. Friday’s evening newspapers followed suit with the same photo being splashed over front pages.
The admission of his affair triggered outrage online, but politicians were at pains to point out that Miyazaki’s fall from grace should not detract from the debate on paternity leave.
‘The issue of men taking vacation or paternity leave should not be rejected or devalued because of this sort of thing,’ said Japan’s Education Minister Hiroshi Hase, who could not resist a thinly veiled swipe at Miyazaki, adding: ‘We reap what we sow.’
Miyazaki and his wife Megumi Kaneko, a fellow LDP parliamentarian, at the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo last year
Health, Labour and Welfare Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki insisted the scandal would have no bearing on government policy.
‘It is an individual case,’ he told local media. ‘It is not something which will have any influence on issues of policy.’
Miyazaki met the woman – also a professional kimono dresser – when she helped him and other politicians dress up in ceremonial garb for the opening of Japan’s parliament last month.
The sexual relationship happened several days before Miyazaki’s wife – fellow politician Megumi Kaneko – gave birth to their first child.
‘I have done such a cruel thing to my wife,’ he told a press conference.
‘I’m deeply, deeply, deeply sorry that what I’ve been advocating [on paternity leave] was contradicted by my careless actions. So, I have decided to quit.’
Miyazaki had faced vociferous calls for him to step down.
‘To think he was lobbying for paternity leave while [having an affair],’ fumed Yukio Edano, secretary general of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan. ‘He has tarnished the debate.’
Paternity leave is rare in Japan, with only about 2.3 percent of men working at private companies taking time off.
Abe wants to increase the proportion to about 13 percent by 2020, as he moves to boost the number of women in the workforce to kickstart the struggling economy.