Japan mayor quits over 99 sexual harassment allegations

Mayor Hideo Kojima wiping away tears as he speaks at a press conference in the town of Ginan, Gifu prefecture, on Feb 28. - PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP): The resignation of a Japanese mayor facing 99 allegations of sexual harassment sparked anger on social media on Friday, after he denied some cases and wept at a press conference.

An official investigation accused Hideo Kojima, the mayor of a town in central Gifu region, of several incidents of harassment, including touching a colleague's breasts and buttocks.

The 74-year-old said Thursday he would quit, a day after wiping away tears in front of reporters as he described his brother scolding him.

He denied some of the allegations detailed in a report by an independent committee, including that he had hugged women employees in incidents witnessed by others.

"I didn't do it," he said in televised comments, explaining that his gestures may have looked like a hug, but were not.

"The report lacks neutrality and I want them to investigate more carefully," the mayor said.

According to broadcaster NHK, Kojima said he had not read the whole report, which alleged that he would tell subordinates that "his hands were fair and smooth... to force female employees to touch them".

The report said he would also "show off his legs by rolling up his trousers, and tell them to touch".

Some workers used disinfectant spray after being touched, the report said, also detailing inappropriate remarks and demands such as asking an employee to bend over.

No criminal case has been publicly launched against Kojima, who will leave his post on Tuesday.

The probe, launched following reports in the weekly Shukan Bunshun magazine, said the mayor had often patted women workers on their heads.

Kojima said this had been meant to "express gratitude".

The news was trending on social media platform X on Friday, with many users expressing anger.

"He shouldn't be crying. It's the employees who will want to cry," one wrote.

"If you say patting someone on their head is just a form of communication, then do it to older men," said another.

During its investigation, the committee even conducted a survey among 193 workers in Kojima's municipality.

Of the 161 who responded, around 53 percent of men and 58 percent of women said the mayor had done something that made them feel uncomfortable.

The global #MeToo movement was slow to pick up in Japan, where many victims are said to be too scared to come forward, but a handful of high-profile cases have recently forced a reckoning. - AFP

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