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Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe Steps Down Amid Spending Scandal

Tokyo’s governor has stepped down amid revelations he had used taxpayer money to buy art online and fund spa holidays with his family.
Image: Yoichi Masuzoe steps down as Governor
Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe speaks at a plenary session of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly at the prefectural parliament building in Tokyo, Japan, on June 15 2016. Masuzoe handed in his resignation after receiving criticism on his usage of political funds.Kyoshi Ota / EPA

TOKYO — Tokyo’s governor resigned Wednesday after admitting he used thousands in taxpayer money to fund family trips and artwork, the latest embarrassment as Japan's capital gets ready to host the Summer Olympics in 2020.

Yoichi Masuzoe used the city’s official car to travel to his summer home at least 49 times, expensed at least two family trips to a resort spa and bought traditional Japanese art on the internet, according to a series of articles in Shukan Bunshin magazine.

Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe on Wednesday.KAZUHIRO NOGI / AFP - Getty Images

The 67-year-old quit hours before a no-confidence vote had been scheduled in the Tokyo assembly. The vote was later canceled. Masuzoe's resignation will go into effect June 21, according to public broadcaster NHK.

According to a May 10 report in Shukan Bunshin, Masuzoe expensed 237,755 yen ($2,239) to pay for a trip to a spa in 2013. The following year he spent 133,345 yen ($1,255) on a similar outing with his family, the magazine reported.

Between September 2012 and December 2013, Masuzoe spent some $13,256 in public funds to buy artwork, national daily Mainichi Shimbun reported.

The spa trip and the art purchases happened before he became governor and while he was a parliamentarian, according to the reports.

The resignation was the latest in a series of scandals to rock Japanese politics ahead of the 2020 Olympics. Masuzoe's predecessor also resigned over a funding scandal just months after Tokyo won rights to host the Games.

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On Monday, lawyers Masuzoe appointed to investigate his own conduct concluded that while no laws had been broken there were several cases where the use of political funds was inappropriate.

Masuzoe, an author and television personality, apologized for the spending at the time.

"I deeply apologize for causing worries for the people of Tokyo," he told a press conference, according to Reuters. He said there was "no limit to his embarrassment" and he had reflected deeply, adding he would repay the funds from his own pocket and donate the art.

Masuzoe won the election for Tokyo governor in 2014 with support from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling party.

Reuters contributed.