I was speechless when I first saw the video showing Mr. Ryutaro Nonomura, a 47-year old Hyogo Prefectural assemblyman screaming and crying at a press conference. I had never seen a politician having a hysterical tantrum in public, especially when you think that Japanese culture values emotional restraint.
So my first question was: What was Mr. Nonomura crying over?
Mr. Nonomura is accused of misspending over 3 million yen for “business” trips. The visits themselves are not illegal but he did not provide any receipts for this trips. There is also the question of the sheer amount of his trips; 195 one-day business trips 2013 alone and the most frequent trip destination was the Kinosaki “onsen” hot-springs resort.
Politicians taking a little extra on the side is nothing new in Japan. If they get caught they usually will do the appropriate mea culpa in public, bowing profusely and the matter is usually forgotten about.
There is no doubt that he was under enormous pressure but he seemed to be handling the situation well. To answer the interviewers’ questions on the routes he has taken for the trains and the pricing of these tickets, Mr. Nonomura continued to give vague answers and kept saying, “I don’t remember.”
Then something must have happened to Mr. Nonomura, as he suddenly broke down in tears and started to scream at reporters. There are much speculations as to whether Mr. Nonomura cried hysterically in order to gain sympathy from public or not, his full-blown tantrum made him an instant YouTube viral hit.
My American friend was watching this video and she was laughing but then asked what do Japanese people think of Mr. Nonomura’s outburst during the conference. Interestingly Japanese public reaction shows a mixed responses to this incident.
Local residents of Hyogo prefecture expressed serious concerns about Mr. Nonomura’s allege misuse of public money while others strongly feel that he brought shame upon Japanese people and the Japanese nation as a whole.
Japan is a shame based society and many Japanese citizens have joined the western media in order to make fun of Mr. Nonomura. A couple of popular Japanese comedians were strongly encouraging Mr. Nonomura to pursue a career in comedy.
I do not believe that Mr. Nonomura is the only politician in Japan who has misused taxpayers’ money for personal gains in recent years. Political corruption has been an issue with Japanese politics for decades.
However, I do believe that something must have happened behind the scenes that led to the resignation of Mr. Nonomura. Reputation is everything with Japanese political system so the Hyogo assembly will most likely use this opportunity to recover their damaged reputation by singling out Mr. Nonomura and filing a criminal charge against him.
Japanese people are reserved because Japan is repressed. I can even say that Japan is oppressed in some ways and working adults in Japan tend to feel enormous social pressure. So Mr. Nonomura might have lost control due to the stress.
Mr. Nonomura campaigned heavily on a platform of social improvement and in between sobs he did try to get his message out.
“I finally became an assembly member … with the sole purpose of changing society … This Japan … I want to change this society … I have staked my life … Don’t you understand?”
I truly hope that he can come back to the political scene one way or the other. If politics wouldn’t take him back, he can always try comedy.