Japan Minister Aide’s Bondage Bar Spree Adds to Abe Scandals…

Japan’s trade minister said he was ashamed to find out an aide spent political funds in a bondage bar in the latest scandal to hit Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet after two resignations earlier in the week.

Yoichi Miyazawa, who has been in the role for just three days, said yesterday a staff member claimed expenses for a visit to the bar in the western city of Hiroshima, and that he had never visited or heard of the bar himself. The 64-year-old, who is charged with overseeing nuclear restarts, also said he held 600 shares in Tokyo Electric Power Company Co., which operated the Fukushima plants at the center of the 2011 disaster.

“I heard about this on the news and to be honest I was surprised,” Miyazawa, a former Finance Ministry bureaucrat, told reporters in Tokyo. “Political funds should not be used at that sort of place. It’s inappropriate.”

Miyazawa replaced Yuko Obuchi as minister on Oct. 21 after she resigned along with another female cabinet member over alleged breaches of electoral funding laws. The revelation yesterday could prove damaging to Abe, whose first 2006-2007 stint as premier ended after a series of scandals in his cabinet led to four resignations and a suicide.

Kyodo News, citing spending records, said 18,230 yen ($171) was spent at the bar in 2010. A copy of the document on the Internal Affairs Ministry website showed that amount had been spent at a bar named Mazan. Customers at the establishment can take part in live shows in which women in underwear are tied up with rope, Kyodo said.

Ratings Dip

The scandal could cause Abe’s relatively stable approval ratings to dip ahead of a decision later this year on an unpopular sales-tax increase, according to political analyst Koichi Nakano. A poll conducted by Kyodo on Oct. 18-19 showed voter support fell 6.8 percentage points from the previous month to 48.1 percent

“Abe’s iron grip on power is showing signs of loosening,” said Nakano, professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo. “Regardless of whether Abe loses another minister or not, his legislative agenda is clearly disrupted by the series of allegations.”

Miyazawa’s predecessor Obuchi resigned this week after only six weeks in the cabinet. She said she would focus on clearing up suspicions that her support groups subsidized trips to the theater for voters and bought goods from a company run by a relative.

Midori Matsushima resigned as justice minister the same day after the main oppositionDemocratic Party of Japan accused her of breaking campaigning laws by handing out paper fans to voters.

Democratic Party lawmakers have also questioned Defense Minister Akinori Eto over a revision to a financial report by his political funding group.

Abe’s resignation in 2007 led to a series of short-lived premierships and the toppling of his Liberal Democratic Party by the Democrats, who held office until he won the Dec. 2012 general election. Source: Bloomberg