Japan 'piggyback' official steps down

Japan 'piggyback' official steps down
Shunsuke Mutai, parliamentary vice minister for reconstruction, was criticised last year for being carried over flood waters while inspecting deadly typhoon damage.
PHOTO: AFP

Tokyo - A senior Japanese politician criticised last year for being carried over flood waters while inspecting deadly typhoon damage was out of a job Friday after joking about the incident.

Shunsuke Mutai, parliamentary vice minister for reconstruction, in September visited the devastated northern town of Iwaizumi where 19 people were killed in Typhoon Lionrock.

Mutai was seen being carried piggyback-style by a younger man over streaming water while leading a central government damage assessment team.

He apologised at the time but on Wednesday joked at a fundraiser with supporters that the "(rubber) boot industry made money" - implying that sales rose as people saw the need for such footwear.

On Friday, Yoshihide Suga, the government's top spokesman, said it accepted Mutai's resignation, which had been proffered the day before, over the blunder.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.Photo: Reuters

"We thought it was extremely regrettable as his comments were inappropriate, raising questions over whether he sincerely reflected on his behaviour last year," Suga said.

"We sincerely apologise to the Japanese people," Suga said when asked about the timing of the resignation - the eve of the sixth anniversary of Japan's massive earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster on March 11, 2011.

In September, Mutai, clad in a blue work uniform and black shoes, was apparently trying to avoid getting his feet wet.

Most other accompanying officials wore long rubber boots for protection.

"I'll be in trouble if this is caught on camera," Mutai was seen saying on after being put down.

Despite stepping down as a vice minister, Mutai remains a member of parliament.

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