Japan’s trade minister Isshu Sugawara resigned on Friday, less than two months after he was appointed, following accusations of violating the country’s election law.
He was under pressure to resign after reports accused him of gifting his Toyko voters expensive food items such as melons, oranges, crab, and royal jelly between 2006 and 2007, as well as offering a monetary gift during a recent wake.
Japan’s election law bans politicians from sending gifts or donations to voters in their home constituency, according to the BBC.
During the wake, he reportedly offered 20,000 yen ($184) to the family of one of his supporters — a Japanese custom known as “incense money,” a monetary condolence gift for families grieving due to a loss, according to Shukan Bunshun, a weekly Japanese magazine. The magazine published a photo allegedly showing Sugawara bowing and handing an envelope containing the money at a funeral on Oct. 17.
The magazine also printed a list of gifts sent by his office – including cod roe and oranges – while listing thank-you letters received from his voters.
Japan’s Trade Minister Isshu Sugawara speaks to the media at the parliament in Tokyo on Oct. 25, 2019.
Sugawara, 57, told the media on Friday he decided to step down from office and he was still looking into whether or not he broke election law.
“I don’t want my problems to slow down parliament deliberations,” Sugawara said.
If his actions are found true, the monetary gift would be in violation of the Public Offices Election Act and carry a 500,000 yen ($4,605) fine, according to the Japan Times.
Hiroshi Kajiyama, a former revitalization minister, was assigned to his position on Friday afternoon.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologized for appointing Sugawara following his actions.