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Japan is calling Tokyo’s former governor “cheap” for spending public funds on a $4 comic book

A book vendor is engrossed in a comic book as he waits for customers at his road-side booth in Beijing, July 10. Comics, both locally produced and illegally pirated from Japan and elsewhere, are hugely popular among children and adults in the Chinese capital. The comics cost as little as two yuan (12 US cents) each and range in subject matter from fantastic historical tales to zany modern day adventures.
Spoiler alert.
By Chi-An Wang
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The governor of Tokyo has stepped down in the wake of a spending scandal that’s being referred to as the “cheap incident” in Japan.

Yoichi Masuzoe, who has reported total assets of ¥347 million ($3.3 million) (link in Mandarin), was accused of spending taxpayer money on lavish overseas business trips involving luxury hotel rooms and first-class flights. He also was alleged to have spent political funds on family trips and art bids (paywall), with purchases including a lithograph and an etching, costing around $670 and $790 respectively, in online auctions.

Not everything was so luxurious though: the Crayon Shin-Chan comic book he listed on an expense report (link in Mandarin) supplied in response to the public furor over the spending cost only ¥400, or about $3.80.

Since the scandal broke (paywall) a week ago, Japan has been rebuking Masuzoe as sekoi, meaning cheap or petty.

“He stole public expense and bought comic books? He is obviously sekoi,” says Shinichiro Yamada, a fashion student and writer who has lived in Tokyo for six years.

Google searches for both “sekoi” (せこい) and “Yoichi Masuzoe” (舛添) shot up after the scandal broke.

Masuzoe, who earned a monthly salary of ¥1.4 million, listed total expenses of ¥4.4 million ($41,000) on the report meant to account for his unusual spending.

He announced his resignation plans on June 15. Masuzoe is the second Tokyo governor in three years to resign because of a scandal; in 2013, Naoki Inose stepped down after admitting he took money from a hospital connected to a vote-buying scandal.

Masuzoe had planned to attend the Rio Olympics in August and was supposed to accept the official handover of Olympic hosting duties at the closing ceremony. (The 2020 games are in Tokyo.)

The election to pick the next Tokyo governor is scheduled for July 31, The Japan Times reports.

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