New Japan minister hit by S&M bar scandal

New Japan minister hit by S&M bar scandal
Newly appointed Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yoichi Miyazawa (L) answers a question on his scandal at the economy, trade and industry ministry in Tokyo.

TOKYO - Japan was hit Thursday by a third political scandal in a week after its new industry minister - whose predecessor resigned in disgrace over misspending - admitted that his underlings had spent office cash at a sex bar.

Harvard graduate Yoichi Miyazawa, a former top bureaucrat in the finance ministry, immediately distanced himself from the brewing scandal, saying he wasn't present at the club in the city of Hiroshima.

But he acknowledged that some staff at his political office had billed 18,230 yen ($170) as entertainment expenses during a visit to the club in September 2010, Jiji Press news agency said.

The venue's shows depict women being tied up with ropes and whipped.

"I came to know of that through a media report, and it was true," Miyazawa told reporters in Tokyo on Thursday.

"It is also true that I myself was not there," he added.

It was not immediately clear if Miyazawa - a nephew of late prime minister Kiichi Miyazawa and a cousin of Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida - would step down.

On Tuesday, Miyazawa was tapped to replace industry minister Yuko Obuchi, who stepped down over claims she misspent political funds, while Justice Minister Midori Matsushima also quit after days of allegations that she had misspent money in what opponents insisted was an attempt to buy votes.

The double resignations marked a blow to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's proclaimed gender reforms, while commentators said his administration could be in trouble if their replacements did not have solid reputations.

Abe himself was forced to resign in 2007, only a year into his first premiership after several of his ministers were hammered by political scandals.

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