Japanese Mayor Facing 99 Harassment Allegations Resigns

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An official investigation accused Hideo Kojima, the 74-year-old mayor of a town in the central Gifu region, of several incidents of harassment, including touching a colleague’s breasts and buttocks.

The resignation of a Japanese mayor who was facing 99 allegations of sexual harassment has sparked outrage on social media after he denied some cases and wept at a press conference.

An official investigation accused Hideo Kojima, the 74-year-old mayor of a town in the central Gifu region, of several incidents of harassment, including touching a colleague’s breasts and buttocks.

Kojima announced his resignation on Thursday, a day after he wiped away tears in front of reporters as he described his brother scolding him.

He denied some of the allegations detailed in a report by an independent committee, including that he had hugged female employees in incidents witnessed by others.

“I didn’t do it,” he said in televised comments, explaining that his gestures may have looked like a hug but were not.  

“The report lacks neutrality and I want them to investigate more carefully,” the mayor said.

According to the broadcaster NHK, Kojima admitted to not reading the entire report, which alleged he would “force female employees to touch” his hands, claiming they were “fair and smooth”.

The report also stated that he would roll up his trousers to show off his legs, “telling them to touch”. He would also make inappropriate remarks and demands, such as asking an employee to bend over.

Some workers even resorted to using disinfectant spray after being touched, the report said. 

No criminal charges have been filed against Kojima, who will leave his position on Tuesday.

The investigation was launched following reports in the weekly Shukan Bunshun magazine. The probe said the mayor had often patted female workers on their heads. Kojima said this had been meant to “express gratitude”.

The news quickly gained attention on social media Friday, with many expressing anger towards Kojima’s actions.

“He shouldn’t be crying. It’s the employees who will want to cry,” one user wrote.

Another said: “If you say patting someone on their head is just a form of communication then do it to older men.”

During the investigation, the committee conducted a survey among 193 workers in Kojima's municipality. Of the 161 respondents, approximately 53% of men and 58% of women stated that the mayor had done something that made them feel uncomfortable.

While the #MeToo movement has been slow to gain traction in Japan, a few high-profile cases have recently brought the issue to the forefront, forcing the country to confront the problem of sexual harassment.