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Friday, July 20, 2012

Hashimoto admits affair, doesn't deny 'cosplay'


Staff writer

OSAKA — Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto has admitted to an extramarital affair with a club hostess prior to entering public office, confirming the revelation the day before a weekly tabloid magazine published a detailed account of their relationship Thursday.

News photo
Toru Hashimoto

The popular Hashimoto, who plans to support up to 300 candidates in the next Lower House election, said late Wednesday that the article in Shukan Bunshun magazine detailing his relationship with the woman in 2006 was generally true.

The article in Shukan Bunshun, which also revealed last autumn that Hashimoto's father was a gangster, was described by the mayor as containing truths and distortions. While refusing to comment on specific details, he did not deny the allegation that he asked the woman to engage in "cosplay" fantasy games that, she told the magazine, included dressing as a flight attendant and were slightly sadistic.

The magazine article does not identify her by name and instead uses a pseudonym.

"I want people to read and judge the article as the story of somebody who dyed his hair and did these things before becoming Osaka governor in 2008. I did have dinner with the woman, and I wasn't a saint before I became governor," he told reporters Wednesday.

Hashimoto, who has seven children and won an award in 2006 for best father from the Father's Day Council, Japan, said he had not yet revealed all the details of the relationship to his family.

According to the article, the affair began in 2006, when Hashimoto was a popular lawyer and TV celebrity. According to the woman, it ended amicably about six months before Hashimoto was elected Osaka governor in 2008.

The immediate political fallout from the scandal was unclear. Most commentators in Osaka were predicting there would be little damage, noting previous stories about Hashimoto's family connections to the mob had no negative effect on last November's mayoral and gubernatorial elections, which Hashimoto and his allies won.

"Unlike, say, 20 years ago, there's less political fallout today in Japan when a politician gets caught in a sex scandal," said Osaka-based freelance journalist Yuji Yoshitomi. "Look at the ruling Democratic Party of Japan. They made Goshi Hosono as environment and nuclear disaster minister, despite the fact he'd admitted to an affair with a popular television newscaster."

But while Hashimoto continues to get national attention, the sex scandal is the latest in the series of political bumps locally that could foreshadow trouble for his camp in a national poll.

Earlier this month, a candidate backed by Hashimoto's local Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka) lost the Habikino mayoral election in Osaka Prefecture by a wide margin to a candidate jointly backed by the DPJ and the Liberal Democratic Party. It was the first time a candidate backed by Ishin no Kai lost an election since the group was formed in 2010.

Exit polls revealed voters were concerned Ishin no Kai was simply interested in cutting social welfare services and had no plans for improving care for the elderly or education.



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