Japan's vice minister of reconstruction is under fire for crossing a puddle piggybacked by another government official during his recent visit to a town devastated by a deadly storm.

Shunsuke Mutai headed a government team's visit to the northern town of Iwaizumi earlier this month to assess damage from the storm, which killed more than 20 people in the region.

Mutai, who had apparently forgotten rubber boots, was shown in television footage smiling on the back of an official wading through a puddle. The scene triggered sharp criticism on social media, with Mutai accused of not taking his job seriously.

The case resurfaced over the weekend when his boss, Reconstruction Minister Masahiro Imamura, apologized over the incident.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga criticized Mutai on Monday for lacking sensitivity.