TOKYO (TR) – Hiroko Otsubo, deputy director-general at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, earlier this month revealed in the Diet that nearly 2 million yen in taxpayer money was spent on overseas trips that critics say were private in nature, reports the Sankei Shimbun (Feb. 20).
At the Budget Committee of the lower house of the Diet on February 20, Otsubo said that a total of 1.85 million yen was spent on connecting rooms at hotels for her and advisor Hiroto Izumi, an advisor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The trips were taken to Myanmar in July, 2018, India and China that September and the Philippines that November.
The stays extended for between two and three days. The purposes of the trips were to attend health-related conferences.
On February 7, Otsubo told the same committee that her position at the ministry required her to make the trips for business.
She added that Izumi was once hospitalized prior to making an overseas trip after he fell down. “As I hold a medical license, it made sense that I accompanied him,” she said, according to the Asahi Shimbun.
During a session of the committee on February 10, independent opposition legislator Kazunori Yamanoi
said, according to the Mainichi Shimbun, “Connecting rooms on all four trips. Such rooms are said to be places for families to stay because you can go freely between them. Surely these were social trips between a man and woman funded by tax money.”
The matter first emerged in a report appearing in the February 13 issue of weekly tabloid Shukan Bunshun. The article included a floor diagram for a hotel showing two adjacent rooms used by Otsubo and Izumi. The article also includes a photograph of Izumi feeding Otsubo at a table with a spoon.