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TOKYO – The governor Tokyo has triggered public outrage for flying first-class and staying at up to $1,800-a-night suites in Europe and America during official overseas trips.
Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe and his entourage spent a total of 213 million yen ($2 million) on eight trips in his first two years in office, an investigation by a group of opposition lawmakers found. He also is being criticized for using an official car and a driver to travel regularly to his vacation house at a hot springs resort outside Tokyo. At a news conference Friday, Masuzoe said he will stop using the city car for his hot springs visits and promised to seek ways to cut back on spending.
Masuzoe argues that the upscale travel is needed to make the governor of Japan's largest city look prestigious overseas. He has promised to review and disclose his finances after his office received thousands of angry calls and emails.
Some examples of his spending:
$1,800 SUITES IN LONDON, PARIS
His priciest hotel room was a 198,000 yen ($1,820) per night suite at the Conrad London St. James during a 2015 trip to London and Paris to observe World Cup rugby. (Japan is hosting the 2019 World Cup.) That's nearly five times the maximum allowed for the prime minister and Tokyo governor for travel expenses under the law for civil servants, although he is allowed to spend more if authorized by the city's human resources department, which he did. Before three nights at the Conrad, he stayed two at the almost equally expensive Paris Le Grand. Masuzoe also spent 2.7 million yen ($24,400) flying first class.
The investigation by the opposition Communist Party found that Masuzoe spent an average of 27 million yen ($244,000) on his first eight trips, more than former Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, himself known as somewhat spendthrift. Ishihara averaged 17 million yen on 28 overseas visits during his 11-year tenure. The large size of Masuzoe's delegations — nearly twice that of Ishihara's — is the main reason for the higher costs. The total cost of the London and Paris trip alone, which included 19 staff, came to more than 50 million yen ($463,000).
FIVE-STAR HOTEL IN WASHINGTON
Masuzoe has acknowledged that he stayed at the Intercontinental The Willard Washington D.C. at a rate of 150,000 yen ($1,390) per night on his ninth trip, which was not part of the Communist Party investigation. He also stayed at the Kitano New York, a favorite of Japanese Imperial families and celebrities, and spent more than 2 million yen to fly first class to New York, where he rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, and Washington, where he attended cherry blossom events.
AIRPORT VIP ROOM
In a rare luxury for a Japanese governor, Masuzoe started renting VIP rooms at airports while waiting for flights. During a 2014 trip to Berlin and London, he spent 1.27 million yen ($11,700) on airport VIP rooms. The trip with a 20-member delegation to the 2012 Olympic venue in London and "friendship" city Berlin was by far the costliest at 70 million yen ($642,000) for five nights. Tokyo is hosting the 2020 summer Olympics.
Former London Mayor Boris Johnson and his staff spent 38,000 pounds ($55,100) on a four-day visit to Japan in October, according to the London mayor's office, about one-tenth of Masozue's five-day mission to London and Paris last year. The costs for Johnson's trip were posted on the London mayor's office website following a public information request by an independent Tokyo lawmaker. Johnson flew business class for 3,842 pounds ($5,570), and used British Airways "On Business Points" on his return. His accommodation, with a complimentary upgrade to a suite, totaled 689 pounds ($999) for four nights, less than the one-night room charge for Masuzoe.
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Also at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/mari-yamaguchi