TOKYO - Japan's industry minister is set to resign over claims she spent political donations on make-up, local media reported Saturday, in a blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's bid to restart nuclear power.
Yuko Obuchi was named as the country's first female minister of economy, trade and industry - a powerful portfolio that includes oversight of the energy sector - in September.
She was the most prominent of a new wave of women picked to leading Cabinet positions by Abe, and seen as a possible future prime minister of Japan.
But she is now facing claims that, over the five years to 2012, her political funding body spent more than 10 million yen (S$120,000) on things unconnected to politics, including cosmetics and accessories at a department store.
Obuchi has told sources close to Abe that she intends to resign the ministerial post as the prime minister returns from an Asia-Europe summit in Italy on Saturday, the Nikkei business daily reported.
Obuchi's political funding body also spent 3.62 million yen in a boutique run by her sister's husband, the Mainichi Shimbun daily has reported, citing receipts it had obtained.
Other newspaper reports claimed a separate Obuchi group had spent some 26 million yen on theatre tickets for supporters.
Political funding rules in Japan do not explicitly bar much aside from outright bribery. They are generally interpreted to allow for spending on the running of offices and promotion of individuals.
"I am aware that I cannot possibly ignore this issue by saying I did not know," Obuchi told a parliamentary committee on economy and industry on Friday, promising to have a thorough investigation.
Obuchi, the daughter of a former prime minister, has rock solid political credentials and appeared unlikely to suffer any lasting damage from the episode.
But if she resigns, it will be the first such political blow to Abe since he took power in December 2012.
The 40-year-old was the highest profile woman among five to be named to the cabinet during a recent reshuffle.
Her promotion was seen as part of an effort by Abe to bolster women, amid a campaign to increase their participation in the general work force.
With her clean-cut image, Obuchi had been tasked to convince a sceptical public on the necessity of nuclear power.
More than three years after the disaster at Fukushima, where a tsunami sent reactors into meltdown, the Japanese public remains unconvinced of the safety of the technology.
Echoing Abe, she has said the resource-poor nation should be realistic about its energy needs.